Planning a trip to a Disney destination is VERY exciting. Many, including myself, have idealistic visions of walking into the Magic Kingdom, and strolling hand in hand along Main Street. Your senses are bombarded with wonderful music, amazing smells, and Cinderella’s beautiful castle is in your sight! The family photo is a “MUST DO” with the castle in the background! It sounds magical, but in my family not always realistic. My family is not typical, and that is our reality. My oldest son was born with Fragile X Syndrome, the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability and the leading known genetic cause of Autism. I also have 2 typically developing children. Obtaining what many may think is a “simple” task, typically involves significant planning, prompting and encouragement. We are pleased if we get a photo with all 5 of us looking at the photographer, and if we were all smiling, that would definitely exceed our expectation.

How many times in your life did you anticipate an event happening a certain way, but in reality that wasn’t what happened? Not even close to your vision? How did you handle that? Did you adjust your expectations? Were you disappointed or were you appreciative for the events that did occur?

As a parent of a special needs child, I have always had to be prepared, planning and anticipating the next step. In reality, anticipating the next 10 steps!! Great training for becoming a travel specialist!! Yet, even with the ultimate plan in place, there is a lot of unpredictability that can occur. A ride breaks down, as we approach the pool an unexpected storm pops up, or heaven forbid the monorail is not running!! Your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist is here to help you prepare, prioritize and develop realistic expectations.

Here are a few questions to start the discussion with your family and your MATM travel specialist!

What are your expectations and goals?

  1.  Are you an early riser or a night owl?
  2. What attractions, characters, and dining experiences are your priority?
  3. Are you interested in enjoying all experiences together?
  4. Is spending time at the resort pool, watching the night time outdoor movie, taking an afternoon nap, etc. part of your expectation?
  5. What would an alternative option be if despite all of your planning, your plan simply didn’t work out the way you anticipated? What is plan B?

In my family, we try to set realistic expectations. It is NOT realistic for us to be able to be at the park from open to close. Realistically for us, 3-4 attractions are my son’s limit before we provide a high interest “reward”. That can vary from a snack, a ride on the monorail/bus, or enjoying a meal. My other children are not always agreeable to leaving the park so soon. My son with fragile X can become overwhelmed by all of the sensory input of the park, yet he wants nothing more than to be there. Please note, I am sharing this because despite the hard work and challenges, we have many wonderful memories and have developed new eXpectations. We will frequently divide and conquer to allow our son to leave the park in a positive state of mind, while allowing our other children to experience more attractions. We will typically rejoin each other back at the hotel to allow for swimming or a nap, and then return to the parks late afternoon/early evening.

Success is a relative measure, and the simpler your goals, the greater your experience of success! Although my experiences/challenges are related to having my feet in both worlds (special needs and typical), setting realistic expectations and goals applies to everyone. This is not intended to be a blog about life lessons, but when we were told our son had a diagnosis, we had a choice. We could dwell in what we can’t do, or we could celebrate what we CAN do! We choose to celebrate and recognize our incredible privilege of being able to travel and enjoy the Disney Parks. Although we may enjoy the parks for shorter durations and strive to make sure we leave the park before a dreaded meltdown occurs, we have had the privilege of experiencing a lot of Disney Magic over the years. If we aren’t able to tolerate waiting in a long line for an attraction, or we don’t obtain a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants, we have a choice, feel the disappointment, or move that to the top of our list for a future trip. Do you know what that means? It means I am planning my next Disney trip before I even finish the trip I am on!!! YEAH!!!

Everyone sets expectations and goals, even when we don’t vocalize them. For my family, shared experiences and time spent together is our simple and ultimate goal. No matter what we “accomplish” during our vacation, our trip was a success because we have created memories to last a lifetime!

The Me and The Mouse Team is ready to help you plan for success!!!

Missy Zolecki
Travel Specialist