Colorful Counties

Practical travel tips for a hassle-free vacation help seniors find the magic at Walt Disney World Resort.
By Elinor Van Gelderen

Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom Park is calling to your inner child, but there’s hesitancy in answering the call because you’re no longer a young person. Can a mature traveler make a trip to Orlando, Fla., and explore the Magic Kingdom? Absolutely.

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In Title: Dozens of Disney characters, dancers and performers star in the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade in the Magic Kingdom. Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World Resort photo

Above: There are plenty of rides seniors can enjoy in the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World Resort photos

Below: Beverly Wellen, left, and Elinor Van Gelderen get ready to enter the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in the Magic Kingdom. Photo provided by Elinor Van Gelderen

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My friend and I–both 75 years old with health problems–not only made the trip, but the experience was a dream come true. We did it at our speed, and so can you.

It was my friend’s dream to see Cinderella Castle, the Magic Kingdom Park’s centerpiece and gateway to Fantasyland, one of seven themed areas in the Magic Kingdom. Although I had been to the park while living in central Florida in my younger days, I wanted to go back. We decided to do it and started to make plans.

It’s important to plan your trip from beginning to end, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. These travel tips can help to make your trip to Walt Disney World Resort easier.

Strategies for seniors

Decide on dates for travel and how to get to Florida. Airlines love flexibility, and you may access cheaper rates if you can be flexible a day or two for your departure and return. I also checked fares on the Internet and found good pricing for us. Click on www.AAA.com to look at available air service and fares. If you cannot do that, use a travel agent to book air, lodging and car rental. I used AAA to help us find a motel.

Pack lightly and take one suitcase if possible. We were gone a week and used a medium-size suitcase that was checked. Pack makeup and medicines in plastic bags for your carry-on bag. Be mindful of the restrictions concerning liquids; three-ounce plastic containers are permitted. For people with medical conditions, items like diabetes supplies, oxygen and walkers are allowed through security. A full list of what to bring onboard and what to check is at the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site, http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel.

Park your car near the airport and take a shuttle to the terminal. AAA members can save 12 percent in New Orleans at the Park ‘N Fly lot. Once at your airport’s terminal, travelers who have trouble walking or who tire quickly can ask for a wheelchair when checking in for their flight. We have done this several times. In Orlando, the skycap told us it was almost a mile from the flight gate to the luggage area. It was helpful to have him take us.

Inside Magic Kingdom

When you enter the Magic Kingdom parking lot, write down the parking area’s name and row where the car is parked, such as Pluto row 11. Then board a tram that drops passengers off at the park’s gates. Upon returning, guests get off the tram when their parking area is called then walk to the row and their car.

For guests staying at a Disney hotel on site, take a ferryboat to the park instead of the monorail if you have trouble walking. It’s an uphill trek to board the monorail.

Scooters are available to rent at the park, but they go quickly, so get there early. Once inside, turn right to locate the scooter rental area. We couldn’t have made it through the park without scooters.

Guests entering the park are given a map. Decide where you want to go and make a plan.

Attendants at the attractions were helpful and assisted us in getting on and off moving cars found at many of the rides. If you’re not sure a ride would be appropriate for you, an attraction usually has a sign posted near the beginning of a line for people with medical conditions–such as heart problems–that recommends they not proceed. Just eliminate these rides; there are many other things to see and do.

We enjoyed The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, both in Fantasyland. Nearby, the newly refurbished attraction, “it’s a small world,” was a delight. A wonderful 3-D film with special effects, “Mickey’s PhilharMagic,” is shown in Fantasyland’s Concert Hall and features many beloved Disney characters on a 150-foot-wide screen.

In Liberty Square, make a point to see the Hall of the Presidents. Each Audio-Animatronics figure of a U.S. president is so lifelike. The attraction reopened in July with a figure of President Barack Obama. The nearby Haunted Mansion was a lot of fun, and while you’re in the area, take a cruise on the Liberty Belle.

While visiting Frontierland, enjoy a comfortable auditorium and the antics of bears at Country Bear Jamboree. By all means, see the enhanced Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Adventureland that reopened in July with the wily Jack Sparrow and his nemesis, Barbossa.

Food is available everywhere at the park. If you wish to dine at a restaurant, make your reservation early in the day. Food courts are in each section of the park, as well as carts that offer many selections. Sit under an umbrella and watch the world go by.

Take in one of the parades. We saw three, including Disney’s Celebrate a Dream Come True. We couldn’t get up to the parade line but still were able to sit on our scooters and see everything.

At the end of the adventure, we realized the trip was worth the money and effort, and it was satisfying to manage without the aid of our families. We recommend visiting the Magic Kingdom to senior travelers. We’d certainly go again.

Elinor Van Gelderen is a new contributor from Menomonee Falls, Wis

Jan/Feb 2010 Issue

Disney Home

BEFORE YOU GO

AAA sells discounted Walt Disney World tickets for stays ranging from three to 10 days. There are Magic Your Way packages at Disney resorts that allow AAA members to construct their unique getaway. See your AAA Travel professional or click here for details.

For independent travelers, AAA travel counselors can assist with Orlando hotel accommodations, rental cars and attraction tickets. Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides or click here to order online.

Contact the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 972-3304 or visit www.orlandoinfo.com/seniors for travel discounts available to seniors.

Order free information about AAA travel packages through online Reader Service found at http://southern.ai-dsg.com


 

Seniors explore more at Disney World
By Deborah Reinhardt

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Guests of all ages can explore exhibits and activities geared toward gardening and outdoor fun at the 17th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The event will be March 3–May 16 this year. Diana Azlucky/Walt Disney World Resort photo

Mature travelers interested in seeing more of Walt Disney World Resort might consider exploring:

  • behind-the-scenes tours. At Epcot, get a look at the Future World greenhouses during “Behind the Seeds.” A “Backstage Safari” is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  • entertainment options. Cirque du Soleil at Downtown Disney West Side combines acrobatics with wonderful music and effects in the show “La Nouba.” Dinner shows, including a perennial favorite since 1974, “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, are crowd pleasers. Disney’s BoardWalk is an entire district for dining, entertainment and recreation.
  • special events. Spring-time brings the International Flower & Garden Festival to Epcot, this year March 3–May 16. Baseball fans can catch the Atlanta Braves in their 14th exhibition season at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The International Food & Wine Festival will be at Epcot in the fall, usually near the end of September through the first weekend in November.
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Through the late afternoon and evening, the atrium lobby is filled with music by the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. More dancing is available at the elegant Atlantic Dance ballroom at Disney BoardWalk with music provided by a disc jockey.
    Disney resorts, parks and entertainment venues offer so many choices, a guest can stay on property and have plenty to do for the entire vacation.

“It is more convenient for seniors to stay on property because they can use Disney transportation between parks, resorts and Downtown Disney,” said Lynn Elliott, AAA senior auto travel counselor in Evansville, Ind. Resorts all have ADA-accessible rooms, and Disney transportation accommodates wheelchairs and scooters, she added.

 

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