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Navigating a Disneyland Trip With a Special Needs Child

by Eugenia Lazaris

Nov 8, 2019

Chloeklein | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Who doesn’t love a Disney vacation? While it may be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland and its counterparts around the world can pose a host of overwhelming challenges for visitors with special needs. Large crowds, long lines and loud noises all have the potential to ruin a well-planned vacation for children easily affected by these overwhelming stimuli.


Special needs should in no way stop your family from enjoying anything together and theme parks like Disneyland go to great lengths to accommodate people of all needs. One of the best ways to ensure things go as smoothly as possible is by planning ahead. Start off by checking out Disney’s Attraction Details guide before you head to the park. This helpful guide lists which rides have specific features your child may be sensitive to, such as flashing lights, loud noises or periods of darkness. Knowing which rides are appropriate for your child’s specific needs not only helps take the guesswork out of the equation, but helps avoid potential disasters.


Disneyland. Photo: Cheryle Myers | Dreamstime.com


When you arrive at the park be sure to visit Guest Services right away to see if your child qualifies for the Disability Access Service which helps them (and their families) to access rides with much less wait times than traditional queues. Be aware this service requires a registration process that involves having your child’s photo taken.


Familiarize yourself with the various “quiet areas” around the park. These are locations that are great for taking a time out when the commotion of the park gets to be too much. There are a few spots throughout the grounds that tend to be quieter and offer some calming comfort, such as the base of Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland and the first aid station on Main Street. You can also head to Critter Country where you will find things less hectic near the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction.


While there is no off-season for Disneyland — the park’s popularity and Southern California’s year-round sunshine keep it busy all year long — some days are worse than others. Plan your visit on one of the days the park is less likely to be filled to capacity — avoid weekends, holidays and traditional school breaks. That way you have a better chance of hitting the park on a day when the crowds aren’t as intense and overwhelming.


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