This question comes from Melinda, who asks:
Hi! My family usually stays at WDW during the September off season. We have a 15 yr old that is autistic and a 4 yr old . We have never stayed during a busy season! Is it true that the parks close due to capacity and that a hopper pass is not needed due to the fact that it is hard to get from one park to another just because of the crowds?I would love to go at another time or stay at a delux hotel so were right near the MK but the value resorts are in our budget and they usually work fine. This leads to the other question is there a better resort to stay at with a special child like ours?
Melinda, thanks for reading Chip and Co and for your question; we appreciate it. When travelling with kids, as you know, having options to make your life easier is the key to a happy vacation. This is especially true if you’re travelling with younger children or a child with a disability, both of which you’ll be doing. The monorail resorts are incredibly convenient, but they’re pricey. One cheaper way to stay at a monorail resort, even when discounts aren’t available, is to rent Disney Vacation Club points from a DVC owner. They usually go for around $10 a point. Still pricey, coming in at around $2000 – $3400 a week for a one-bedroom at Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary Resort, but much cheaper than paying full price. I think DVC works well for all kids, but it’s particularly nice for parents whose children may want a lot of consistency. One nice benefit is that you’ll have a full kitchen where you can make your kids their regular meals; my kids are picky eaters so I love this. You’ll also have two bathrooms. If you want to rent from a different DVC resort, you’ll find rooms much cheaper; just send me an email if you want more information about renting points.
If you decide that convenience isn’t worth that kind of price (and honestly, it’s steep), there are still things you can do to make your trip easier no matter where you stay. When you make your reservation, make sure to mention that you need a room that’s located in a quieter section because of your child’s disability. Consider renting a car, which will give you a lot of flexibility. You may still want to take a Disney bus to the Magic Kingdom, as driving and parking at the TTC makes that trip fairly involved, but having your own car in Epcot, DHS, or in Animal Kingdom means that you can leave more easily in the event that someone needs a nap or a break from the parks.
Some resorts are just quieter than others and I think those are nice options for any family. Of the values, my personal feeling is that Pop Century is less frenetic. Of the moderates, which are a nice choice for a quieter environment, Port Orleans Riverside is especially nice at night. And you can’t beat the cabins at Ft. Wilderness for peace and quiet. As for deluxes, I like Animal Kingdom Lodge because it’s cut off from the rest of Disney. I know to some people that’s a drawback, but to me the feeling of going back to a real “oasis” at night is worth the small inconvenience of having to drive 4-5 minutes longer to get somewhere. I’m not one of those people who absolutely needs a Savannah view room, so I can save money by not getting one. I think there are enough public viewing areas that you won’t miss it. Because there are so many rooms at the DVC portion of this resort, you can get a one-bedroom or a studio standard or value view for a pretty good price, much lower than you’d pay at many other DVC resorts, so again, consider renting points.
One nice way to pick out a resort is to watch resort videos with your kids so they can get an idea of what is available and what they like. The only caveat I would add is to be careful about letting them see videos of resorts where you absolutelydo no want to stay! I made this mistake with my then-five year old. Fortunately, five-year olds have short attention spans and he forgot that he really wanted to stay at the Polynesian. Well, until we went past it on the monorail.
Finally, the park hopper issue. I think that a park hopper is only absolutely necessary during the busier times, so I would probably get it. It allows you to leave a busier park for a less crowded one. For example, during Christmas week, the Magic Kingdom will often close to capacity. Having the option of going over to Epcot or another park in the event that the Magic Kingdom is too crowded is a huge benefit. Also, if you sleep in and can’t go to your first park of choice, you can go to a less crowded park in the morning and then tackle the busier parks in the afternoon or at night if you want to. The only way I wouldn’t invest in a park hopper is if your older child is the kind of kid who decides he’s going to one park that day, and that’s it. Also, if he’s resistant to change, you might not want to park hop. Either way, don’t buy the park hopper until you’re sure you need it. It’s easy to add to your tickets during your trip if you find that you need one.
Here’s a few resources you may want to look at:
PassPorter’s Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs. This book is written by Deb Wills, who also runs All Ears. You might also like the community forums over at Passporter.
Disboards has an active disability forum that is friendly and helpful.
Hope this helps. Have a great trip.
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