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Our fifth day of vacation started out a little different. We boarded the bus to a theme park as usual, but instead of entering the park, we took the monorail to the Polynesian Resort, for breakfast at O'hana with Lilo & Stitch, two of Sunshine's favorite characters. All four kiddos LOVED the monorail!
Our wait at the restaurant wasn't bad at all. All of the kiddos had delicious allergy-friendly food to eat. My only complaint about the restaurant was some of the chef's remarks in regards to paperwork we filled out. Disney's Special Dietary Needs Department gave us very specific instructions about how to prepare chefs for our children's needs, which we followed to the letter. This chef was not pleased with this process and made sure to express his feelings. I felt this was completely inappropriate. Still we all had a delicious breakfast, everyone ate well, and after our food arrived, we didn't see the chef again. Sunshine struggled a bit again, but after only one break, she did okay.
Lilo was first to arrive at our table. The kiddos had mastered character greetings by this point and everything went quite smoothly.
Disney Springs. Our first planned stop was the Character's in Flight balloon ride. Besides the Jedi Training Academy, this was the one other thing Bulldozer wanted to do at Disney World. Sadly, he was met with more disappointment as it was closed that day due to high winds. The poor kiddo. Thankfully, our next stop was the LEGO store, so he had something to look forward to.
Everyone raved about the LEGO store when we mentioned going, but personally, I wasn't all impressed. It was bigger than other stores, but it was packed. You couldn't move around. It was loud. Sunshine couldn't handle it at all and I ended up taking her and Princess outside while Jason helped the boys pick out new LEGO sets they had saved their spending money for.
By the time we were finished at the LEGO store it was time for lunch. All four kiddos were melting down at this point. Some were hungry. Some were tired. Some were hot. Some were just miserable. It seemed no matter how hard we tried to feed them well, hydrate them, and give them breaks, the hour before lunch was always miserable, no matter where we were. But then once they ate lunch, they were always fine.
We had reservations at the T-Rex. This had been one of Dinomite's restaurant choices. As we entered the restaurant, we realized this experience may very well put the kiddos over the edge. I can't even begin to describe how overstimulating this place was. Not only was it horribly loud, to the point that you couldn't hear the person next to you when speaking, but visually, it was crazy. Usually Bulldozer craves visual stimuli, but this place was a bit much for him. It completely freaked him out. I was seriously afraid that we would have to leave before ordering our meals. Thankfully the kiddos had their sound blocking headphones. Sunshine had her iPad as well. But even so, every single kiddo, besides Sunshine was on the verge of a meltdown, and Sunshine... She was ready to kill. (This is one of her classic RAD faces.)
Meteor showers made things even more overstimulating with lights flashing and thunder roaring. The ceiling in the ice age room we were seated in changed colors all the time as well.
I'm not quite sure when it happened, (perhaps after the third meteor shower?) but at some point, the kiddos acclimated to their surroundings, settled in, and decided to enjoy the experience, knowing that after lunch, we could leave. Sunshine behaved better in this restaurant than in any other one. Go figure. Once I realized the transformation, I couldn't have been more proud of my kiddos. I don't have sensory issues, and this restaurant was causing me to really struggle.
Our meals were delicious. Bulldozer was thrilled. Due to a lack of communication between the chef and the server, he was served two desserts. Lol. The only thing I wasn't pleased about was that the restaurant had no allergy friendly desserts for Sunshine. We had sent in our special dietary needs paperwork. We had spoken to a chef before our vacation. A menu was planned for her. But then when we arrived at the restaurant, the chef there said they had just run out of her desserts. Thankfully I had something on hand for her, but if I hadn't... This was NOT cool, especially since we had paid for her meal with a dessert included through our meal plan.
Everyone was beyond thrilled to leave the restaurant. Before our lunch, while everyone was melting down, I had worried that we might need to go back to the hotel for nap before the Halloween party, but now, it seemed everyone was feeling better and we were ready to go to Magic Kingdom. I had purchased tickets for Magic Kingdom separate from the Halloween Party tickets, so I could schedule fast passes for the remainder of the afternoon and early evening. The Halloween party didn't start until 7 PM. You could enter the park sooner, but if you didn't have a regular ticket, you couldn't schedule fast passes.
As we rode the bus to Magic Kingdom, Sunshine was having a really hard time. She seemed to be in a lot of stomach pain and made sure everyone knew about it. I tried to calm her as best I could. When we arrived at Magic Kingdom we headed straight to the bathrooms. Sure enough she had a bowel movement that exploded out all sides of her diaper, including the front. Thank goodness for an extra pair of clothes kept in a gallon size Ziploc bag in each backpack. The bag was so important to have on hand for her soiled clothes. It was at that point that everyone changed into their Halloween costumes. Jason was helping the boys in the men's room.
Once everyone was dressed and ready for fun, the kiddos rode on the Tomorrowland Speedway first. Bulldozer drove, while I pushed on the gas pedal. Sunshine was with us. Again, due to jerking she didn't have the best time, but she made it through. Dinomite and Princess went with Jason. Dinomite drove. I'm guessing his ride was a little less jerky. Bulldozer tends to over compensate when having turned too hard, or too much. Lol.
The kiddos also rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Sunshine had more diarrhea, right as we were loading in the handicapped area. Thankfully the cast members were fabulous about it, let me change her in the nearest restroom and come right back to get on the ride. I was elated that Sunshine told me before her Halloween costume had become soiled.
It would seem, and later confirmed, that by this ride, Sunshine finally understood the concept of rides and started to enjoy them. There was no screaming. She even had fun. I was so excited! All of the kiddos enjoyed this ride a LOT. I was excited to see pictures were taken as we exited the ride. They're super cute.
As we excited the ride, we saw Buzz Lightyear! Even more exciting was the short line to meet him. By this time the Halloween Party had officially started. Buzz Lightyear has been one of Bulldozer's favorite characters for years. He went through a Toy Story obsession a few years back. It was fun for him to meet one of his heroes. The other kiddos enjoyed meeting him too.
We let all the kiddos get a picture with Buzz. I love how Bulldozer's looking up to him in this picture, studying him. He was so cute.Hocus Pocus show. Little did we know how packed and impossible it would be for all of us to see it. As we were trying to figure out what to do, we learned that there was reserved handicapped seating for the parade that followed. The cast member said if we wanted a spot, we had better reserve it now (an hour in advance), or we probably would lose it. Jason ended up taking Dinomite to see the show, which he really couldn't see anyways, while I stayed with Bulldozer, Princess, and Sunshine, reserving our front row spots for the parade. The three kiddos ate some snacks, as we decided to completely skip dinner that night, after eating so much at breakfast and lunch. They also played on their media devices. We could hear the music from the show, which was enjoyable. In all honesty, the down time was great for them. The kiddos had so much fun watching so many other people walk by in so many fabulous costumes. So many adults and children were dressed up.
Mickey's Boo To-You Parade was well worth the wait. The kiddos had watched it on youtube, so they knew what was coming and weren't frightened by anything. Seeing it up close and in person was amazing. The headless horsemen went through first.
And then came the parade. Disney included some pictures of the characters in the parade as part of our Memory Maker package. I'm sharing those photos, as it didn't occur to me to take pictures as the parade went through.
There were a few "scary" parts, but the kiddos were prepared for them and did great.
After the parade we HAD to go trick or treating. The lines for the candy were quite long before the parade so we had skipped them. Sunshine was not willing to be patient any longer. She was thrilled to have cast members throw handfuls of candy into her bag, even though she couldn't eat any of it. From there, we headed to another ride, but paused for a picture first.
I took the three older kiddos on the Mad Tea Party. Sunshine stayed with Jason. I already knew she wouldn't enjoy it, and didn't want to spoil her positive experience on the Buzz Lightyear ride. The best part about the Halloween party was that there were no lines for rides! It was incredible. Instead of planning on one ride per hour, we could easily pull off two, plus trick or treating etc.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Everyone went on this ride. Dinomite is afraid of heights so he joined Sunshine and I. We stayed low to the ground, except for the last time around, and both kiddos loved the ride. Jason took the adventure riders Bulldozer and Princess and had a blast.
By the time we finished those two rides, it was time to find a place for the fireworks. Completely by accident we discovered places to watch the fireworks from behind the castle, by the carousel. We couldn't see the pre-show with lights and characters on the castle, but that was okay, because we knew Sunshine wouldn't do well with it. We weren't crowded at all and had so much fun where we sat. The coolest thing was that fireworks were all around us, not just in front of us. There was a time when the entire sky appeared to be bright as day, because they were everywhere.
We will most definitely return for another Halloween party at Magic Kingdom. Everyone had the time of their lives. Our only issue was so much walking, to the point where everyone's feet were about ready to fall off. Thankfully no one ended up with blisters at all on our trip, and the kiddos were fit enough to pull it off after all of the walking we'd done before we left. All of the kiddos ended up with so much candy.
Next time we go, we'll plan our route a little more in detail. It's so hard to choose what to do with so many characters out, so many short lines, and opportunities to get so much candy!
This was the first year that Bulldozer could actually eat most of his Halloween candy, as he's grown out of his peanut and tree nut allergies. He was thrilled to be able to keep all of his candy. However, Sunshine could not keep hers. We were told before our trip to go to City Hall in Magic Kingdom to exchange her candy for allergy friendly treats before leaving. Once again we had filled out Special Dietary Needs forms that were supposedly sent to City Hall before hand so they would be prepared for Sunshine. When we arrived , I asked for special treats for her, I was shown a chart of other candy to choose from. She was allergic to all of it. They weren't quite sure what to think of that. Thankfully I had done my homework and spoken to a million other reservations specialists who all said something different when I asked how allergies are handled at the Halloween Party. One of them had mentioned that gift cards would be provided for those who couldn't have the candy. When I suggested this, the woman was a bit surprised, but she talked to her supervisor, had me fill out a form, and sure enough, Sunshine was given a gift card. I had never known how much to expect, but was very surprised to see that she was given a $25 gift card. Both Sunshine and I were overjoyed by this. Jason was excited because he was able to keep her candy. Lol.
We could have stayed a little later at the Halloween Party, but wanted to catch the buses before the crowds, so we headed out about 11: 30 PM, instead of midnight. It made the trip back to the hotel much easier. All of the kiddos were exhausted, and all but Bulldozer fell asleep on the bus on the way back to the hotel. Princess fell asleep on a complete stranger. Lol. I love this picture of Sunshine below for two reasons. First, she rarely ever falls asleep anywhere else but in her bed. Second, she still has her princess crown on. She was 100% determined to keep that crown on all night long, and she did it, even in her sleep. Lol.
Dots at one time and ended up gagging and then vomiting all over her bed. Yeah. Gotta love that girl. She has quite the gag reflex and vomits often at the table for kicks. In her defense I had said to hurry up and finish your candy, because it was time to go to bed. She just took my instructions a bit too literally. Oh well. We did get that straightened up quickly though. Like I mentioned before, the kiddos were asleep by 1:30 AM. Jason and I made it to bed at about 2:00 AM. It was definitely a late night but SO worth it!
Lessons Learned from our Day at Ohana's, Downtown Disney, and Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
1. Plan 90 minutes to travel from your hotel to another hotel for a meal reservation. It will take that long.
2. The Special Dietary Needs Department at Walt Disney World is wonderful, but that doesn't mean things will go perfectly at every place you eat. Staff are human with their own opinions, whether appropriate or not. Things happen, and sometimes even with all of the planning, meals don't go as planned. This is the same when it comes to special events like the Halloween Party. Just remember you are your child's best advocate. If you have paid for the meal plan and/or the Halloween Party, they are going to take care of you. They have an obligation to do so. Don't hesitate to speak up.
3. Avoid T-Rex restaurant if your children have sensory sensitivities, even if they are huge dinosaur fans. I promise you will thank me!
4. Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is well worth the money and perfect for children with special needs. It requires a separate ticket, but you can get into the park as early as 4:00 PM with it, even though the Party's official start time is 7:00 PM. It's cooler outside, because it's in the evening. The lines are short and sometimes non-existent. I can't think of any better way to go trick or treating, especially when Disney World will accommodate all special dietary needs. And the parade is amazing, as long as your children are prepared for it ahead of time.
5. One of the best ways you can prepare your children and yourself for Disney World is to practice walking long distances before your trip. This will save you in so many ways. You will walk A LOT when in the parks.
6. Take advantage of handicap seating for parades and shows if you have your stroller tagged as wheelchair. It's well worth it!
7. If staying late at night, try to leave about 30 minutes before the parks close to beat the crowds, especially if you are taking a bus back to your hotel.
8. Plan on late nights. There's really no way around it.
For more lessons learned while on vacation in Disney World with four special needs children, be sure to read the posts below!