Ray Pilgrim (NDD#104) (11 Posts)

Ray grew up with Disney having visited Disneyland several times as a kid, and Walt Disney World once. He had always had fond memories of the trips, but really became a Neurotic Disney Dad when he started to take his kids to the Disney Parks. His oldest child has Autism Spectrum Disorder. So taking his kids to Disney took a little more planning and some lessons learned the hard way. To help others, he and his wife have created Disney for Families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (WDWAutism.com) to help others plan their magical trips to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line. WDWAutism also has planning aides to help families prepare for their trips. Rachel and Ray also produce a weekly Disney Parks planning podcast called Mouse Travel Tips.

Photo Credit: Ray Pilgrim

We are a Star Wars family, as well as a Disney Family.  In fact I am more of a Star Wars fan than a Disney fan.  We have all the movies and more.  So Star Wars Weekend is a combination of two of my favorite things.  I love going to Star Wars Weekend as there is so much excitement for a Star Wars Fan.  However, if you have a special needs member in the group there are three big problems; crowds, lines, and hot weather (there’s not much to do about that but stay hydrated).  With a little planning you can do it, and here are some tips we learned on our last trip to Star Wars Weekend.

Star Wars Weekend is popular, and it is probably the busiest I ever see Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  There is not much you can do about the crowds except maybe try and go on a less busy day.  Since Star Wars Weekends are held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we try to go on a Friday with the idea it cuts down on some of the crowds.  Going early does help, but there is still going to be a big crowd as many get there early to wait for a FastPass to the celebrity autographs and the Stormtroopers bantering among themselves on top of the entrance to the park.  Just be prepared for the crowd and do your best.

Now the lines to the attractions will probably be normal, but the lines to meet the characters can be long.  The Guest Assistance Card usually doesn’t help in this circumstance.  Talk to the cast members (always a good idea) and see what your options are. For us, the cast member suggested that one waits in the line and the other waits close by for when it is their turn.  I waited in the hour-long line to meet Darth Vader and when I got to the front, they joined me from the exit.  This was a good situation for everyone involved.

Here are some other tips that help for the trip.  We went with an extra adult to help so we could split up and do the things like have someone wait in line or help keep our son entertained while waiting in the small lines.  Plan out what you want to do and whom you want to meet.  There are many characters, and knowing where they are helps you from running all over the place.

Be prepared to do just the Star War activities that day and maybe come back on another Star Wars Weekend day to spread out and not over burden you and your special needs group member.  It is three days during the weekend and they hold the same events on the other days. So, you can run back to the resorts and have a nice swim in the pool. Also, realize that you will not be able to do everything. One of the best  events is the Star Wars Dance Off competition. I love it, but when Josh and I went last year I knew he would not be able to watch it because of the crowd.  I just ended up watching that year on YouTube and it was just as good for me.

Star Wars Weekend is one of my favorite times at Walt Disney World.  There is an excitement that is not really felt at other times.  It is a little bit harder when you have a special needs guest in your group, but it can be done.  Just be prepared with expectations and think about what you will be able to do.  May the Force be with you.


Contributed by: Ray Pilgrim (NDD#104) Ray is the DDL Special Needs Blogger. He is also the creator of WDW Autism.

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