When I was pregnant with my son, I envisioned a life of adventure. Where he and I, side by side, would set out on quests that would take us to places far and wide. We would sight-see our way through big cities, visit historic monuments, eat like the natives and have a passport stamped with amazing memories.
At six-months-old, I put Kellan on his first plane ride to visit family and friends in NYC (we lived in Los Angeles at the time). Then three months later, we were off again, this time we were moving our lives across the country, back to New York. He was great both times, and I felt like that vision I had of traveling together was coming true.
Then, two years passed (2014), and Autism paid our small family a visit. Noise started to become a major pain point. Crowds overwhelmed him. Food choices were limited (still are) and sleep was altered. Structure and heavy planning became our go-to. Visual schedules of what we were going to do that day and for how long, were set in place every time we would leave the house. Traveling anywhere outside of the tri-state area became non-existent. It was at that time that my vision of jet-setting with my son faded away.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017, there we were, walking hand in hand, on a warm summer night. He glanced up, pointed and said: “Mommy look, a plane”. I smiled and asked him: “Where do you think they’re going?”. He replied: “to see Mickey”! I smiled and answered: “Could be, Buddy”. Then out of nowhere, he said: “Mommy, when can we go see Mickey?”. And it was at that moment, where I knew he was ready. We were ready…to set out on our very first quest to the happiest place on earth: Disney World.
That was two years ago. And as I write this, we’re 5 days away from making that vision of mine a reality. It has honestly taken me those two years to save up for the fortune that is Disney World. It was important to me to plan, save and do it right, so while there, he and I want for nothing. I felt I had one chance to make this experience as seamless and effortless (for him at least) as possible. When I say one chance, I mean, if this doesn’t go as planned, and the experience becomes rocky, Autistics store that in their memory bank…forever. So this trip is a pretty big deal, as it sets the precedent for future adventures.
Disney is probably the best choice for our first trip together- especially since I am traveling alone with Kellan. It’s not only short in distance, but Disney really knows and respects Autism. Walt Disney World is well-equipped to handle a variety of guest disabilities. The company’s guest service is legendary, and the Cast Members (staff) are well-trained and eager to assist in any way possible. When I see recent news clips of staff coming to the aide of children with special needs (specifically, Autism), my heart swells. It makes traveling solo less of a worry, for I feel that I will have support while there.
To say we’re excited is an understatement. To say I am riddled with anxiety, also an understatement. Why? Traveling with Autism and the unpredictability of it all. Plain and simple.
Parents of Autistic children are master planners. We play out scenarios from every which way, and then make a well-thought-out plan for all that can go wrong:
- Kiddo experiences sensory overload while at the park…study the map of Disney like the best damn private eye there is, learning and circling all the special “break areas,” companion-assisted restrooms, and exits.
- Ipad is low on battery…have several battery packs in tow
- Kiddo only eats 3 foods…have them delivered to the hotel
- Turbulence occurs on the plane…pretend it’s a ride by throwing your hands up (and quietly yelling woo-hoo)
- Noisy buses too and from the parks…stay in a ridiculously priced monorail resort
The list of possible scenarios go on for days but as prepared as I am, I know at the end of the day, most of it is out of my control. All I could do is put my faith in The Mouse…and the excited 8-year-old boy who’s eager to meet him.
Send some magical travel vibes our way!
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways.
Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 8-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.