Walt Disney World - To walk Or To ride, The Question Answered
by, 11-12-2011 at 07:49 PM
A couple of weeks ago, I shared my very personal struggle with whether or not to rent a wheelchair on my trip to Disney World. After years of a steady decline in my physical abilities, I finally came to the realization that I needed to give a set of wheels a try or risk not being able to enjoy WDW fully any longer.
I'm back from my trip, and I can absolutely tell you that deciding to rent a scooter was one of the best decisions Iíve made and I wonít hesitate to do it again! I was able to easily keep up with the two teenagers I was traveling with from morning till the parks closed at night without over-doing it. Itís been many years since I wasn't completely worn out by late afternoon on a WDW trip and forced to head back to my room early, so this was very refreshing. A new lease on life!
The rental process was simple and painless for me. I chose to rent from an off-site company, Walker Mobility, from which I received no compensation for trying their company (so I can speak of them objectively). I opted for an off-site company to ensure that I had my scooter available when I needed it (you can't take Disney scooters with you from park to park) and didnít have to worry that there may not be one available when I arrived at the park. I made the reservation by calling the toll-free number for Walker Mobility prior to my trip and received an email confirmation the same day. The email instructed me to click on the links provided, to read and accept their Payment Authorization, and to review and approve the Waiver & Assumption of Risk forms. My credit card was not charged until the day before my scooter was delivered at WDW. The company representative that I spoke with on the phone was courteous, knowledgeable, and answered all of my questions fully. So far, so good.
I arrived at the Boardwalk Inn around 11:30 am for check-in, where my scooter was waiting for me as promised. I only had to ask for it. I had a standard scooter, which was recommended to me based upon my height and weight by the company representative on the phone. It was red with a small basket on the front, a cup holder, and pocket on the seat back. In the basket was the charger and 2 small plastic covers (looked like shower caps) to cover the steering unit. Knowing prior to my arrival that rain was forecast, I brought a gallon zip top bag for the charger and a few dollar store ponchos for the seat.
The steering unit had handlebars for steering, a toggle type lever (looked like a small pry bar from the hardware store) that made the scooter go. To go forward you pressed the right side forward and to reverse you pressed the left side forward. There was also a button for the headlight, a button for the horn, which wasnít very loud, and a speed control dial. The speed dial had a turtle on the far left and a rabbit on the far right (which, for most of my trip I kept in the middle), using the toggle switch to control the speed as needed. This took some time learning how to do. The scooterís charge lasted a full day just as the advertisement stated. You just need to remember to turn it off if youíre not moving to preserve the battery life.
Throughout the trip I visited all four theme parks, used the Friendship boats, the monorail and the buses. Overall, the experience was fabulous! Sure, there were some negatives, but not enough to deter me from having one of the best trips I've ever had at WDW.
Due to my disabilities, I also asked for a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) at Guest Services in the first park I visited. The GAC allows me use of alternative entrances at attractions if one is available. Accessibility at each attraction was much easier than I expected. I am able to walk short distances and transfer from the scooter, which means I still have full access and only need to park my scooter nearby. At some of the attractions, such as Test Track, a cast member would move my scooter closer to the exit after I boarded the attraction. In every case this happened, the cast members told me exactly where to find my scooter. For theater type attractions like Itís Tough To Be A Bug, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and other shows, seating was usually in the rear of the theater with the exception of Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and a few others where seating was in the front. Often in these locations I was offered to transfer from the scooter to a theater seat or remain in the scooter at my discretion.
For the most part, cast members and guests went out of their way to assist me by holding gates open for me, doors, stopping foot traffic so I could pass and helping me access higher shelves in stores. Cast members in transportation were fantastic about verbally guiding me on and off the vehicles.
The newer busses are very maneuverable and have seat belts for the person in the scooter. I felt very secure and even safer than if I had been seated like the other passengers. However, the old RTS busses still in the WDW fleet are not so scooter friendly. The loading and unloading process is difficult and there is a tighter area in which to move. It was on one of these busses that I had the worst experience of the trip; the lift gate broke after my scooter was loaded. It happened at the closing of Magic Kingdom on a Saturday night. The next wheelchair could not be loaded, the transportation supervisor had to be called and guests became increasingly agitated as we sat there for about 30 minutes before it was finally decided to load the bus and drop guests ending at the Boardwalk Inn. Once everyone unloaded I sat on the bus for about 45 minutes waiting for the mechanic to arrive and fix the lift gate. Both the mechanic and driver were gracious and apologetic while I waited and worked as quickly as possible to fix the problem. I understood that with the older busses there are more potential for problems and the team did everything to fix it. For everyone's sake, I hope these older buses will soon be removed from WDW's fleet.
Prior to this trip, Iíd been warned about guests walking in front of the scooter, which wasnít as bad as expected (perhaps because I was on the lookout for it). No more people walked in my path without looking than did when I was on foot. The issue, when it did happen, was that the scooter canít dart around or out of the way quickly so I was forced to stop suddenly, causing pedestrians behind me to run into the scooter or practically fall over me. The other issue I noticed was that when I was in the scooter, I was about half as tall as most guests, and they would inadvertently cut me off from my party. Again, the scooter isnít as zippy in a crowded place due to its size, so catching up was a bit difficult at times. Iím sure this gave the impression of a rude scooter driver, as Iíd try to get around other guests to reach my group. The other thing I wasnít prepared for was the vinyl seat. Even in October it became quite warm and sticky so Iíd suggest bringing a towel to cover the seat so you donít get too sweaty. Despite these negatives, they were all easily dealt with and did not ruin my trip.
So, for anyone considering a scooter to make his or her trip to WDW easier to deal with, I say go for it! Give it a try and see if it helps make your trip easier. Even my doubtful sister, who was with me on this trip and has 2 autoimmune diseases, decided sheís getting one for her next trip. We shared my scooter during this trip so she could rest and I could stretch and both found we could enjoy the parks longer with much less pain and fatigue. My next trip is in January and Iíll be reserving my scooter soon. I just hope I get another red Cadillac!
I'd like to thank you all so much for the kind comments on my last column. It sure was a difficult decision for me to make and your comments, as well as the support of my family and friends, really helped me take this big bold step. I'm so glad I did.
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.