Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_sub_nav_walker::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker_Nav_Menu::start_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 79

Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_sub_nav_walker::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker_Nav_Menu::end_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 79

Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_sub_nav_walker::start_el() should be compatible with Walker_Nav_Menu::start_el(&$output, $item, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 79

Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_sub_nav_walker::end_el() should be compatible with Walker_Nav_Menu::end_el(&$output, $item, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 79

Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_gallery_walker::start_el() should be compatible with Walker_Category::start_el(&$output, $category, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 154

Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method truethemes_sidebar_generator::init() should not be called statically in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 525

Strict Standards: Non-static method truethemes_sidebar_generator::get_sidebars() should not be called statically in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/extended/multiple_sidebars.php on line 60
Trip Planning Archives - Special Mouse - Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs Special Mouse – Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs
Special Mouse – Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs

Special Mouse Podcast

Posts Tagged 'Trip Planning'

New Food Allergy-Friendly Disney Menus with Allergy Free Mouse 073



It seems as though food allergies are really on the rise and in an informal survey that I conducted in the Special Mouse podcast Facebook group last week, I learned about some of the many food allergies our listeners have to manage on a daily basis.

For example, there were many who had allergies that are more common (such as tree nuts, peanuts, gluten or wheat, shellfish, eggs and milk) and many that are less common but just as problematic (such as red wine, lemons, bananas, mangos, chocolate, corn and even onions!) And, out of the twenty-something people who responded, eight have multiple food allergies. One mother shared that her son is allergic to 20 different foods! That is a lot to manage!

My featured guest on today’s show is Lizzie Reynolds from Allergy Free Mouse and we are chatting about the new food allergy-safe menus that have been popping up all over the Disney theme park and resort hotels restaurants, both table and quick service. We’ll also be giving you valuable tips for staying food allergy safe when dining with The Mouse!


(I decided to leave in an “interruption” by my son, Billy because — well — this is my life with a special-needs child!!)


The Disney Parks have completely banned the use of “selfie sticks.” If you’re not familiar, these are extendable metal sticks with a handle on one end and a clamp on the other end to hold a phone or camera in place so you take a picture of yourself.

Well, as of June 30th, they will no longer be allowed inside the parks. And, from what I’m told by Chrissie in the UK, that’s not just here in the U.S. but in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo as well.

Margo from Portland, Oregon says “They’ll need to stop selling them in downtown Disney Stores, then. We just saw them in a store there yesterday. I would be quite peeved if I bought something on Disney property and then was told it wasn’t allowed.” Totally agree, Margo!

Personally, coming from a safety standpoint, I’m in favor of the new policy. My hats off to the hard-working security staff who now, in addition to checking bags for guns, knives and bombs, must spend their valuable time (and ours) looking for selfie-stick contraband.

So, what do you think? Are you for or against the new policy?

Tweet me @SpecialMousePod or post your answer on the Special Mouse Podcast Facebook page!

Tip of the Week

I routinely get questions about how to use the alternate entrance accommodation for guests who plan to use a wheelchair or scooter for endurance challenges – meaning, they have the ability to walk and transfer to standard attraction vehicles — who also require the DAS accommodation for a cognitive disability. The same applies to those using the stroller-as-wheelchair accommodation for children with sensory issues who will also be using the DAS.

Often I hear people complaining that there is “no consistency” regarding the implementation of these dual accommodations at the attractions; that they read on a certain forum or FB group that someone had a different experience then they did.

I can certainly understand how frustrating it is not to be able to find a definitive answer about combining the accommodations, but the search, quite honestly, is futile because there really isn’t one answer. This is due to several reasons, (1) Some attractions have queues that are physically accessible to wheelchairs while others do not, (2) These are changing all the time as more and more queues are being renovated to make them accessible (3) Queuing procedures can change from park to park, month to month and even throughout the DAY according to the individual attraction, how busy it is at the park, even with the weather!

Listener Debi Dame visits the parks with her daughter who has both physical and cognitive challenges and she says, “We’ve been on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train several times and have been loaded 3 different ways now, even on the same day!”

So, my tip for you is to anticipate changes in procedure. Communicate your needs to the attraction Cast Members, follow their instructions and try to remain flexible. The only time you should object is if it is a matter of safety. Remember, you WILL get to ride, and the most important thing is to keep you and your family safe while queuing up and boarding.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks for listening!

Now you know that I rarely ask this, but, if you use iTunes to listen, would you kindly rate and/or review the Special Mouse Podcast? Reviews really do help boost the podcast in the iTunes directory, helping more people to find the show, and it’s easy to do.

You simply open your iTunes store app in your phone (or on your browser).

Type Special Mouse in the search box and click on it when it pops up.

Under the title you’ll see “ratings and reviews.” Click on it and leave your rating and or comments.

It’s as easy as that — thank you!

~ Kathy

Posted in: Podcast

Leave a Comment (0) →

Military Disney Tips – A Veterans Day Special! 053

Today we are celebrating Veterans Day in the United States. I’m honored to be participating in a project called Voices for Vets. More than 45 podcasts have committed to producing an episode dedicated to providing a voice for the stories of Veterans. These are stories of Veterans for Veterans… and you! Please visit the Voices for Vets website to listen to more stories from our country’s heroes.

Did you know? During the fall of 1918, sixteen year-old Walt Disney attempted to enlist for military service but was rejected because he was underage. Determined to do his part “over there,” Walt joined the Red Cross Ambulance Service and was sent overseas to France where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials. His ambulance was covered, not with camouflage, but with his own cartoons.

Walt Red Cross


Our feature Voices for Vets interview is with Steve Bell, creator of  A USAF Veteran and former Walt Disney World Cast Member, Steve continues to serve the military community by acting as their unofficial advocate to the Disney Parks and by helping them plan for, and save money on, their Disney vacations.


Some of the topics we discuss are:

– A little of Steve’s military service, both in the U.S. Air Force and in the Air Force Reserves.

– His experience as a Walt Disney World Cast Member.

– The origins of his website, created in 2008, for the benefit of active military and veterans.

– His advocacy for the military community regarding discounts. – The Disney Armed Forces Salute (resort and theme park ticket discounts for the U. S. military community.)

– The Shades of Green Resort, an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney property.

– The daily Flag Retreat ceremony at the Magic Kingdom and participation by active military and veterans.

Flag Retreat

World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Louis Lessure, 93, was visiting Magic Kingdom Park with his family when he was chosen to participate in the park’s daily flag retreat ceremony. (Disney Parks Blog)

– Steve’s best planning tips for military families planning to visit Walt Disney World.

– The impact of the Fast Pass Plus system on Military ticket discounts.

– Military dining discounts around Disney.

– What’s in store for the Military Disney Tips site.

Please visit Military Disney Tips and connect with Steve Bell on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Thank you for sharing this special Veterans Day episode with me. To all our Veterans, on behalf of the Special Mouse listening community, thank you for the sacrifices that you and your families have made to safeguard our freedoms. ~Kathy


Add text (3)

Posted in: Podcast

Leave a Comment (2) →

Planning Your Special-Needs Disney Vacation: Go With the Flow, Dude!




It’s kind of funny how Life changes. At this moment I’m sitting in a hospital room watching my son’s chest rise and fall in an easy rhythm of sleep. Today is the start of Day Three of inpatient neurological testing and while the experience has been challenging, it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. Today will be the kicker, though: eight hours of nothing-by-mouth-not-even-ice-chips, followed by the dreaded needle stick in his arm in preparation for an MRI. Dum Dum DUM!

But for now, my boy is hugging his pillow and sleeping peacefully and I sigh. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

A quick glance at the calendar reminds me that, hey! I shouldn’t be “wasting” my time scrolling through my Facebook feed; I’ve got a Walt Disney World trip to finish planning! It’s what — seven? No, FIVE months (!) until our vacation and, other than our resort reservation and a rough idea of which parks we plan to visit each day, I haven’t done much trip-planning at all. Kind of ironic since I host a Disney trip-planning podcast!

I chuckle, realizing that at this same point five or ten years ago I would have already created and revised several versions of our “Operational Plan,” as my husband used to call it, teasingly.  Oh, I was the consummate theme park strategist back then, list-maker extraordinaire, queen of the Excel spreadsheet, determined to ensure that our special-needs family would suck every last drop of magic out of our visit to Walt Disney World. How could things have changed so much in just a few short years?

Perhaps it’s not Life that has changed; I have.

I used to think a lot like MARLIN, Nemo’s Dad from Finding Nemo:


“It’s okay, daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you. I promise, I will never let anything happen to you…”

Well, perhaps I was never quite as neurotic, but like Marlin, but in the beginning of our Disney vacation story my motivation to plan the “perfect” trip came primarily from a place of fear. Fear that my son would not be able to tolerate the sensory onslaught of the theme park experience. Fear that his behavior would affect his — and thus our entire family’s — ability to enjoy the parks. Fear that we would miss out on some of the “must-do” shows and attractions. Fear that the experience would be so negative that my husband would refuse to come back. The fears, anxieties and apprehensions had the potential of escalating out of control, much like my son’s behavior.

Eventually, I found myself following the advice of Marlin’s travel companion, DORY:


“We just keep swimming!”

This has actually become somewhat of a mantra for Disney-loving special-needs parents.  No matter what, we tell ourselves, we have to keep going — we have to just keep swimming. There’s a little problem with swimming constantly, however. It requires a tremendous amount of energy, especially during those times that are so stressful they make you feel like you’re caught in a rip current. If you panic and try to fight the current by swimming toward shore, you will exhaust yourself and perhaps drown.

When I feel like Life is pulling me out to sea like a rip current, I’ve found that the best thing to do is to act like CRUSH and go with the flow…

Crush with turtles


Okay, so I’m not 150 years old, but I have been living on the special-needs-mom timeline for the past 14 years and have been a Disney trip-goer for ten. I’ve learned a thing or two about vacationing with my family, not the least of which is that you can plan and plan and plan some more, but there are always – and I mean always – going to be unexpected variables that will affect how swimmingly our day and even our entire vacation will go. I learned that, incredibly, I cannot prevent anything “bad” from occurring during our Disney vacation.

Let me repeat that:

I cannot prevent anything bad from occurring during our Disney vacation!

It seems like common sense, but it was a difficult lesson for me to learn. Why did I spend so much precious energy chasing after something that is impossible to achieve? Marlin tied himself up into knots worrying about bad things happening to Nemo — why?

Because he had been hurt deeply, of course. He lost his wife and all but one of his children. Like a panicked swimmer caught in a powerful rip tide he felt completely out of control when he was unable to prevent the tragedy. He vowed never to let that happen again. Funny thing is, by holding on too tightly to Nemo he caused the very thing he feared the most!

When something “bad” like a disability or illness or some other form of personal hardship befalls us, it’s natural to respond the way Marlin did. We feel out of control and in response we become control freaks — not all of us to the same degree, of course. But control freaks, nevertheless.

Over the years I discovered that the more I tried to plan, schedule, structure and otherwise “bullet-proof” our Disney vacation, the more things would fall apart anyway! My husband would become irritable, my children would balk and I would find myself in tears halfway through the week wondering what had gone so terribly wrong.

I was holding on too tight; I had to learn how to relax and to be more flexible. As I relaxed, so did my family and we had a much better vacation because of it.

Come to think of it, the more relaxed and flexible I am about my son’s autism, the better our family is able to adapt and cope with it.

So, if you are making preparations for your special-needs Disney vacation and feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop your frantic paddling and kicking. Try floating your way out of that rip current and taking leisurely swim back to shore. Try to go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o.

Lyrics to ‘Go With the Flow’ from Finding Nemo the Musical:

Focus Dude


He lives!

What happened?

You took on the jellies, mini man. You saved Little Blue!

Little Blue? Dory! Is she okay?

Catch me if you can! Hi Crush!

Kowabunga dude!

(Gasp!) I gotta get outta here! I gotta find my son! I gotta get to the E.A.C! Hey! How do I get to the E.A.C!?

You have travelled far
Ya must be swimmin’ under a lucky star
You’re exactly where you’re meant to be
So grab some shell and surf the E.A.C with me
Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it)


(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it)

Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

(Go with the flow)

Don’t be a high-strung fellow
Kick back and keep it mellow
Woah woah woah
Go with the flow
Jelly-man, Offspring.


Offspring, Jelly-man.

Jellies? Cool!


Well, what are you waiting for? Jump on him!


(gasp!) Oh my goodness!

Kill the motor dude
Why don’t you take it slow?
Let us see how Squirt does flyin’ so-ho-lo

Woah! That was so cool!
Dad, did ya see what I did?

Well I’ll be a sea-monkey’s uncle!

You’re such an amazing kid

Jellies, huh?

It’s awesome
You’re eggs’ on a beach then


They find their own way back to the big ol’ blue

All by themselves?
But what if they’re not ready?
I mean how do ya know?

(how do ya know?)

Well ya never really know
But if they’re ever gonna grow

Then ya gotta let ’em go
Ya know?

Just go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it.)

Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

(Rip it, roll it, curl it. Ride inside it, twirl it.)

Go with the flow

Go with the flow

When you’re raising sons and daughters
Try surfin’ the muddy waters
Woah woah woah!

Go with the flow
Go with the flow
Go with the flow

Get ready for Sydney, dude! You’re exit’s coming up!

Oh wait I forgot. How old are you?

Hundred and fifty, dude. And still young!

~ Lyrics courtesy of

You can enjoy this number from Finding Nemo the Musical by clicking on the link.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kathy

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →