Sunday, November 10, 2013

Disney Honeymoon Part Two: Getting Myself Around Disney World


I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do this whole Disney blog series. I originally was going to write about it park by park and I still may do that, but today, I want to go with what I think is most important and that is how I, Christine, a person with Sjögren's syndrome, and a lot of complications that come along with that, managed to get around Disney for eight days.


If you would like to read my first Disney Honeymoon entry, you can find it here: Disney Honeymoon Part One: Animal Kingdom Lodge.


Previously, I also wrote a blog entry, before going to Disney, that you can read here: To Scoot Or Not To Scoot, That Is The Question. It is the precursor to this blog entry about how I struggled with the decision about whether or not to rent a scooter for our trip.


As all of you know who have been to Disney know, they have a bus transportation system that runs throughout the Disney property. We did stay at a Disney property called Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL). I did quite a bit of research before we left to try and get an idea of how the bus system worked. I read a lot of commentaries, both positive and negative about the bus transportation system. Some people thought it was great, but a lot of people complained about it. There were complaints about the time it takes to travel from place to place, how long it takes for a bus to arrive, and disabled people taking up too much bus space. Yes, you would not believe how many people complained about that. See, each Disney bus has three available handicap spots for wheelchairs and scooters. When one is loaded on the bus, the regular seats get folded up and this results in less seats for walking people. People stated in the complaints that this meant that sometimes, they had to wait for another bus.


Now, my husband and I went during low season (end of September) so I only have one basis for comparison. However, I never saw anyone have to wait for another bus because the one they were waiting for was too full. I'm sure it happens, but it didn't to us. There are seats as well as rails to hang onto for people to stand. You can fit a lot of people in those buses. Regardless, I will say this: in a heartbeat and without a shadow of a doubt, I would prefer to NOT have this autoimmune illness and subsequent joint, temperature regulation, and fatigue issues and instead wait for a second bus to arrive. So I am sorry if the people who are able to do Disney on foot for a week feel put out. Actually, I am not sorry. I am just being sarcastic because this issue really fires me up.


Overall, I think the Disney bus system is a great way to get around. Yes, it does have its flaws. I found this most noticeable flaw to be trying to get from hotel to hotel. When my husband and I realized how long it would take to get to The Polynesian from AKL for dinner on our first night, we got a cab. It would have been about an hour and since we were traveling all day and exhausted, we thought it was money well spent. It ended up being cheaper than we thought because AKL comped us the ride to The Polynesian, which was about $22.


For us, the other bus issue was how far our hotel was from everything else. We could get to Animal Kingdom in five minutes, but on a Friday evening, it took us over an hour to get to Raglan Road at Downtown Disney and we could have lost our reservation for dinner because we were late. Luckily, we did not and from then on, we made sure to give ourselves more travel time. Honestly, the travel time from AKL did not bother me, except for the Raglan Road incident, and it definitely would not deter me from staying at AKL again.


The bus stops are right outside the hotel. For us, it was a minute walk from the hotel front door to the bus stop and about a five minute walk from our hotel room, as we were fortunate enough to have a room closer to the lobby. This is very important if you have a disability as some of these rooms are VERY far away from where you go to catch the buses. Try and put in a special request when you make a reservation. The bus stops are clearly marked with where to go for each destination. The buses run right from the hotel directly to the park and back with the exception of the water parks and Downtown Disney. There are stops in between for those destinations. I don't think we ever waited more than ten minutes for a bus to arrive to pick us up anywhere, except for maybe one or two times when we waited twenty minutes. All the bus stops I was at were shaded and had benches; both of which were a big deal for dealing with my autoimmune issues.


What you have to remember when dealing with Disney bus transportation is this: YOU ARE ON VACATION! Give yourself plenty of time to get somewhere, especially if you have reservations. Relax. Besides Downtown Disney and the water parks, the longest time it took us to get to a park or back was twenty minutes to Magic Kingdom. My husband and I used the time to talk about what we wanted to do that day at the park or on the way back to the hotel, we would do a review of our day. I would also plan things from my iPhone, including making reservations. Or, we would just chat it up with other guests on the bus!


As I mentioned in my above blog entry, I did rent a scooter for the eight days we were at Disney. I have one thing to say about that:


BEST DECISION EVER!!


I rented the scooter from a company called Walker Mobility in Orlando. Despite the fact that they are not an officially approved Disney scooter company, I would never use anyone else. The only difference is that you have to meet them when they drop off and pick up the scooter; rather than leaving it at bell services. It's worth it. They came highly recommended and I cannot say enough good things about this company. I also found they had the best prices. I paid $125 to rent the scooter for seven days. I rented a three-wheeled Go-Go Elite Traveller Plus scooter. I absolutely loved it because I had no experience with scooters and it was easy to navigate and it took sharp corners very easily. Other Disney guests commented on how well I navigated some of the lines for rides with sharp and frequent turns. It does have a weight limit of 190 lbs which luckily, I am under these days so I would highly suggest this scooter. The basket is a little smaller than the other scooters, but I am a big fan of traveling light at Disney so it really was not an issue.


I learned that there are some things which are important to have when renting a scooter at Disney. I always had a hotel hand towel on the leather seat to keep from burning my legs and I kept a trash bag in the basket to cover the scooter when it looked like it would rain. Sunblock is essential for your the top of your hands and a coil key ring for my wrist held the scooter key, kept it secured, and made the key easily accessible. I also always made sure I charged the scooter in our hotel room every night. The battery lasted me thirteen hours in Epcot one day without recharging.


Out of the eight days we were there, two were travel days and I used the scooter a total of two and a half days: one full thirteen hour day in Epcot, a half day at Downtown Disney, and a day at Hollywood Studios. Every other time, I walked. There were times where I pushed myself, but being with my husband and doing Disney on foot IS different than doing it in a scooter, so I wanted to do as much as I possibly could on foot. That being said, the time I did spend on the scooter saved me and made the trip possible. The day at Epcot would have been half as long, if it even happened at all. I was exhausted and in some pain from walking Animal Kingdom the day before.The sun and heat were tough that day and not having to use energy walking made the sun/heat much more tolerable for me.


During the days I did use the scooter, most of the time I would park it and walk around a small area, such as at World Showcase in Epcot. Other times, I would park it right outside an attraction and walk into line. Finally, there were times where I was hurting or so tired that I would drive the scooter right up to where I boarded a ride or attraction. The cast members are very helpful on letting you know how to proceed once you get to an attraction so I am going to say one thing and this is important:


DO NOT WORRY ABOUT USING YOUR SCOOTER AT DISNEY!!


I stressed out about this before the trip and it was not worth it. There are plenty of spots to park it, usually where the stroller parking is and like I said, cast members will direct you for everything else. Yes, Disney makes it that easy!


I had also stressed out about using a scooter on the buses. Again, a lot of worry over nothing. I will advise that if you have never used a scooter, go to a grocery story, Target, Walmart, etc. and practice on one of theirs before your trip. I practiced parallel parking at a store and that was invaluable as you have to parallel park your scooter on the Disney buses. If you are able to, some drivers will ask you to get up, sit in a regular seat, and they will do it for you. Regardless, you sit in a regular bus seat after you park the scooter anyways....if you are able to. I think there was only one time that I had some difficulty with the scooter and the bus, but I just took my time and it all worked out. I ignored the people impatiently waiting to get on the bus and did my thing. Scooters and wheelchairs board first and get off last. This was another reason I loved the Go-Go Elite scooter; it was much easier to get in and out of the small bus spaces. After one or two times getting on/off the bus, you will be fine.


One other issue to be aware of when using a scooter in Disney is other people. I am proud to say that even as a new scooter user, I never once ran into a person. But, you have to be careful. You can be the best scooter drive in the world, but people DO NOT pay attention to where they are going. I thought the bigger issue would be little kids but it was actually the adults I almost mowed down a few times. A lot of people have no problem cutting in front of you or ignoring you. Some people are just distracted by the awesomeness that is Disney.


There is a lot written online about people who use scooters at Disney and how they crash into people, don't watch where they are going, etc. I have to tell you that I did not find that to be my experience. On the days that I walked, my issue was people not paying attention when they were pushing their strollers. Have you seen the size of strollers nowadays?!? Some of them were the same size or bigger than my little scooter. I am not even joking. I found adults to be more reckless with the strollers than the scooters....by a long shot. And several times I was hit by a stroller while walking and when you have joint issues, that is not fun. But, I brushed it off and continued to enjoy my amazing vacation.


That's my story on the whole Disney experience via bus, scooter, foot, and taxi. I hope it was helpful. I am sure there are things I left out so please feel free to comment below or contact me with any questions.

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