Disney with Diabetes

by Leighann on August 20, 2012

Join me this week as I share some experiences traveling this summer with diabetes.

When I began planning our trip to the Children With Diabetes annual Friends For Life conference I decided that it would be a shame to be in Orlando and not take Q to Disneyworld. No, it isn’t the week long Disney vacation that we would love to take our entire family on one day (and NOT in July!). But why not let Q have a little taste.

I got busy buying tickets online to be picked up at the will call window, making a lunch reservation at the castle with the princesses, and securing a spot at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for a little makeover. I figured Q was at the perfect age for those activities and by the time we return as a family she might be too old to appreciate that special attention.

I knew we would be heading to Disney early in the morning after we arrived so I packed a gallon sized ziplock with many of the items we needed and put it in my carry on bag. This way I wouldn’t be scrambling to find all the things we needed when we got to the hotel.

What I brought to the park:

  • Sunscreen
  • Camera (Photopass photographers will take your picture with your own camera IF it has a strap.)
  • Empty water bottles (Get it filled at most of the restaurants and snack bars.)
  • Ponchos (Purchased for a couple of dollars at Target. We needed them!)
  • Receipts (Will call park tickets, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, lunch with the princesses)
  • Snacks
  • Band-aids
  • Extra socks
  • Small towel (borrowed from the hotel)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • Autograph book and pen
  • Diabetes supply bag
  • Frio cooling wallet
  • Low blood sugar treatment

I carried everything in the Alpha Sherpa backpack (read my review of the Alpha Sherpa backpack).

Keeping Insulin Cool

When we went to a more local amusement park a few weeks before this trip, we chose to leave our insulin in the first aid station in their refrigerator. For this trip I had a back pack with an integrated cooler and a Frio cooling wallet so I had planned on just carrying the insulin, but was going to play it by ear.

As we went through security to enter the park, the security woman was patting down the contents of my backpack. At the bottom of our diabetes supply bag, she felt the plastic glucagon container. I remarked “diabetes supplies” expecting to pull it out to show her. She didn’t question it, rather, without skipping a beat she asked if I also had insulin to keep cool. She told me where the first aid station was, that there is always a licensed nurse on duty, and that they would be happy to store my insulin to keep it cool.

As we were talking she told my daughter to take two steps to the right so that she could get a good view of Mickey and Minnie and the other characters because the train was about to pull up to open the park for the day. I loved this security person…so helpful on so many levels!

Fast Pass and Guest Assistance Pass

I am sure you have heard of the Fast Pass and the Guest Assistance Pass. The Fast Pass is a free service available to all Disney guests. Basically you insert your ticket into a machine and are given a return time. When you return, you enter a shorter line and have a 10 minute wait, give or take. Many of the rides in the Magic Kingdom use the Fast Pass system.

The Guest Assistance Pass (GAC) is given to guests with a medical condition that requires accommodations. If you want to obtain a GAC, you go to City Hall (on the left after entering the Magic Kingdom), tell them what specific accommodation you or your child needs, and ask nicely.

Diabetes does not automatically get you a GAC. Be prepared to tell them the issue and how they can help resolve it.

For my daughter, I know that she sometimes doesn’t do well in extreme heat. It was in the upper 90’s the day we were there. I told the cast member in City Hall that if possible I would like to avoid standing in long lines because the heat can affect her blood sugar. I didn’t want to have to leave a long line to treat a low blood sugar.

We received a pass that stated that we should be provided a shady area to wait. I thought this was a great compromise.

The GAC does not mean that they will part the line and take you right to the front. We were told to go to the accessible entrance or the Fast Pass entrance. I presented the pass each time and most often we were sent in with the Fast Pass ticket holders. This allowed us a shorter wait.

Yes, it is absolutely true that you could use the free Fast Pass system and get return wait times. For us using the GAC made the day run more smoothly. We did use the Fast Pass system a couple of times, like to see Mickey & Minnie, which is inside. We couldn’t use the GAC for Dumbo because the wait was inside in the air conditioning. And if the projected wait time was short, we didn’t use the pass at all.

Carb Counting

I brought snacks along with us, as I do on every outing. Late morning we stopped for ice cream and I’m happy to report that the Mickey-shaped ice creams bars have nutrition information on them. We had a late lunch at the castle. I didn’t ask for nutrition information because I have heard and read that most of the restaurants don’t have it. I just estimated as I do when we go to most restaurants when we travel.

I know some parents are very uptight about counting every single last carb. I do this at home to my best ability using a scale, reading labels, and consulting the CalorieKing iPhone appicon. But when we are out and about I just do my best educated guess and if I’m off a little, I correct and move on. I’m not going to let diabetes, and specifically carb counting, consume my time or my energy if it doesn’t have to. It was more important to experience lunch with the princesses with my daughter than to be nose down looking up carbs.

Disney Cupcake

The kids’ dessert at the castle is the choice a build-your-own sundae or cupcake.

Disney Cupcake

She probably should have chosen the sundae because she didn’t eat the entire cupcake. But she did enjoy decorating it!

And totally unrelated to Diabetes, if you are celebrating, stop by City Hall on your way in. Q got a button that announced it was her first visit. They also had buttons for family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

And after about an hour Q turned to me and asked, “Why does everyone keep calling me princess?” I replied, “Because at Disney, every girl is a princess.”

Overall I think our day at the Magic Kingdom went very well. We had no major issues regarding diabetes. She had a slightly low blood sugar late morning, which we dealt with. And she was a little high after lunch, which we also dealt with. It was a very hot day and we tried to stay hydrated by filling our water bottles. We were definitely worn out after trekking all over the park.

Our fireworks watching plans were derailed by a thunderstorm, but that was probably the only bad thing. And we all know that while we can try to control diabetes, we can’t control mother nature!

Further Reading

Packing Supplies

Disney With Diabetes

Packing Snacks (Coming Soon!)

Flying the Friendly Skies (Coming Soon!)

More posts about travel

More posts about Friends For Life

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annie August 20, 2012 at 9:43 am

Thanks for sharing! We took our first disney trip the fall before Jack was diagnosed and planning another for next fall and I’ve wondered about how we’d work this out at such a big park. I will say – I feel much more confident going since he got the Omnipod this summer – I can’t imagine carrying around insulin and syringes all day.

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2 Leighann August 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm

For us the insulin pump has given us so much more freedom. This was very noticeable at Disney because we ate when we were hungry and not when the clock dictated. This is the third amusement park we’ve been to since being on a pump.

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3 Emily August 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

Love This: “And after about an hour Q turned to me and asked, “Why does everyone keep calling me princess?” I replied, “Because at Disney, every girl is a princess.””

Glad to hear you had such a good time and things went smoothly.

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4 jenni@talkinghairdryer August 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

Just a quick note: The “Fast Pass” is limited to one per person at a time. If it’s 10am and your “Fast Pass” isn’t good until 2pm, you can’t get another “Fast Pass” until 2pm.

So you couldn’t really use the “Fast Pass” the same way you use a “Guest Assistance” card.

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5 Leighann August 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Great point! I really feel like the GAC helped make our day run more smoothly.

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6 Lisa August 20, 2012 at 11:55 am

Thank you for this! We leave in 2 week for Disneyland, our first trip with the kids, let alone our first trip since diagnosis. I needed this as I’m a little nervous! Thanks again.

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7 Leighann August 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

You’ll do great! Just relax and enjoy the experience. Being prepared may help you put diabetes in the background. I hope you have a great time!

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