Walt Disney World - To Walk Or To Ride, That Is The Question
by, 10-29-2011 at 10:36 PM
For many guests the idea of walking around the Walt Disney World Resort, which averages about 5 to 10 miles daily, is exhausting and for those with health concerns itís down right daunting. However, the thought of all those miles shouldn't deter you from visiting the big cheese at his Florida home. You can increase your mobility simply by adding a set of wheels (either manually operated or electric).
Even for people like myself who get along well enough at home, I have learned since my diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis (PA) one year ago that I can no longer walk the world without pain and exhaustion. This past February, my husband Eric and I went to WDW for 4 nights and 5 days without a set of wheels and boy, did I suffer through it! I was still in denial about my new diagnosis and trudged along as usual, each day becoming more tired in a shorter amount of time. On the third day, after we completed the Nature by Design Segway Tour, we met up with my cousins in EPCOT. It so happens that my cousin, Cameron, 19, also has PA. He was diagnosed at the age of 12. Cameron uses a scooter and a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) when he visits Walt Disney World. A GAC card allows him and up to 5 guests to use an alternate entrance at most attractions. Typically that means the FASTPASS entrance. For the afternoon, Eric and I were able to accompany Cameron and my cousins using his GAC card, which made it easier for me (as I am learning that standing for long periods is just as painful as too much walking). Around 5 pm we stopped for a break and I realized I was done for the day. I felt like I couldnít take many more steps without falling apart. So Eric and I went back to the room for a rest. Later that evening I was talking with Cameronís mom, who told me she could tell by how I looked that I was pushing myself too hard. What an eye opening statement that was for me!
Despite knowing my physical limitations, I have never seen myself as limited or disabled nor have I ever ďgiven inĒ to my PA except in rare cases of over doing it. It is not uncommon for me to go, go, go then just crash for a couple of days while I recover. My rheumatologists have warned me about how this is not healthy for me and can do more damage than good, but I am still in denial at times and donít always listen. I am visiting Mickey for 3 nights and 4 days this week after I depart from the Disney Dream (on the MiceChat trip). I know that isnít a long trip, but after a travel day to Florida and 4 nights aboard the Dream I know that I will have done more than I probably should . . . so, for the first time, I am getting a set of wheels. A very hard decision for me to make, one that made me confront my diagnosis and my personal needs.
In recent months, Iíve researched the topic and learned itís easy to rent a scooter or wheelchair while at WDW. They are available at all of the parks near the main entrance on a first come first served basis and may only be used only within the park it was rented. Wheelchairs cost $12/day or $10/day for the "Length of Stay" and there is no deposit. ECVs or scooters cost $50/day with a $20 key deposit that you get back when you return the key. Parks tend to have fewer scooters than wheelchairs, but you can be put on a waiting list by providing a cell phone number. When a scooter becomes available, youíll be contacted for pickup at the main entrance. If you want to rent at Downtown Disney, wheelchairs cost $12 plus a $100 refundable deposit and scooters cost $45 plus a $100 refundable deposit. The reason for the higher deposit is the Downtown Disney location makes it easier for the equipment to be removed from the premises (and thus poses a greater theft risk to Disney).
Lots of Walking at the WDW Resort
Many folks who need a scooter will find that having one for the duration of the trip will be an added convenience as it allows you full freedom in the world (to park hop and bring your wheels with you to your hotel). This is my plan for the trip, so Iíll have to rent the equipment from an off-site company, of which there are several. Having never rented a scooter before, I canít say which company is best, only that Iíve read good and bad things while researching. That said, a few of the more prominent ones you can investigate are:
- Apple Scooter Ė www.applescooter.com
- Buena Vista Scooters (has a location at the Boardwalk) Ė www.buenavistascooters.com
- Randyís Mobility Ė www.randysmobility.com
- Walker Mobility Ė www.walkersmobility.com
The average price per day for a standard 3-wheel scooter is $30, including free delivery and pickup at your resort. Most companies offer a brief tutorial on how to use the scooter, maintenance or replacement if needed as well as rental insurance for the equipment. A standard size scooter can be accommodated by most of the WDW buses, boats and monorail. They will fit through most all doorways and are suppose to be maneuvered easily. As someone whoís never driven a scooter Iíll have to let you know if I agree after my trip.
The decision to ride should have been a no-brainer for me, but I kept waffling because Iím only 45, I donít need on at home, Iíve manage before without it, I donít look like someone who needs it, itís really an inconvenience, etc. Plus, there have been the naysayers who tell me I donít need it or that Iím just being lazy. However, Iíve realized from discussions with my doctors and after my February trip to WDW that I do really need the assistance of a wheelchair. Age has nothing to do with it, nor does the fact that I do fine at home. At home, I donít walk 5 to 10 miles everyday or stand on concrete for long periods of time. I may look healthy to the average eye, but they donít know my medical history and besides, who cares what strangers think about you! Inconvenience? Maybe at first while Iím learning how to operate the scooter, but itís more inconvenient to have to stay in my hotel room from exhaustion than be out in WDW with my family having fun. I want to experience the magic of a Disney vacation and enjoy myself, not be a drag on my travel companions. I'm about to be set free on wheels and can't wait to see how this impacts my enjoyment of the Disney experience.
In preparation of my first wheeled trip to WDW, Iíll be packing a few extra items for my scooter. I found glow sticks at the dollar store that I can hang on the back of the scooter so others might see me better at night. I also bought a bright bandanna to tie onto the basket of the scooter so, hopefully, Iíll be able to identify it easily.
Once I get to my resort, I plan to practice driving the scooter around the grounds so I can become comfortable with it. My biggest fear is loading and unloading from a bus or boat so I called WDW Transportation to discuss my fears. The cast member assured me it isnít difficult and the drivers can give me verbal directions, but arenít allowed to load the scooter for me. The other thing Iím preparing for is the potential negative comments I may get from other guests about my using a scooter (we've probably all heard others express themselves in hurtful ways). I think that it will be a great chance to help others become more aware about hidden disabilities. As Pocahontas said, ďYou think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, youíll learn things you never knew you never knew.Ē
I'll be sure to let you all know about my adventure on wheels and if it lives up to my hopes. I'd love to hear the experiences of you wonderful readers. Have you used a wheelchair at the Disney parks? What were the advantages and disadvantages? Do you have tips to share?
Fishbulb was on the Disney Dream with my and will return next weekend with the final edition of his Aulani Hotel series. See you all again soon!
Laura is a Disney fan who lives in Illinois and has been visiting Disney Parks since 1990. She has been to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line numerous times since. Laura teaches a community education course entitled "Walt Disney World: Undiscovered" at her local college. When she's not busy planning her own Disney trips, Laura is planning trips for others as one of the Fairy Godmothers at Fairy Godmother Travel. Laura is a foodie, married to Eric with a college age son, Nic, and in her spare time works as a sign language interpreter. You can reach Laura or any of the other godmother travel agents at Fairy Godmother Travel.