PassPorter's Walt Disney World for your Special Needs: The Take-Along Travel Guide and Planner, by Deb Wills & Debra Martin Koma
It would be fair to label me a cynic when it comes to evaluating the vacation opportunities afforded by either Disneyland in California or Florida's Walt Disney World. But now that I have read and reviewed two excellent guidebooks about these popular destinations, my outlook has softened considerably. The first was Louis Mongello's, The Walt Disney World Trivia Book, and the second is the brand new Walt Disney World for your Special Needs, by Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma. Unexpectedly, I have found this guide book to be incredibly useful and informative not only for special-needs visitors to the Disney resorts, but also for all travelers regardless of destination. The book provides fresh and unique ideas, tips, and suggestions for embracing the joy and challenges of travel in general. For visitors to any of the Disney resorts, this book is a definite must-read.
With incredible detail and focus, this guide addresses travel-related challenges faced by two dozen special-needs categories including mental health disorders, hearing and vision impairments, pregnancy, religion, and mobility disabilities. Especially compelling and helpful were the segments contributed by parents of special-needs children detailing what their experiences were like.
The book has been designed to be used for both pre-planning and on-the-spot logistics. Each of the profiled special needs is assigned a letter icon (like "G" for allerGies or "D" for Diet concerns). These icons appear throughout the guide alerting readers to specific features at each of the venues that should be either avoided or sought out by visitors with those health challenges.
In the first part of the book, the authors provide pre-planning tips for traveling to the amusement parks, special considerations to take into account on arrival, and then remarkably detailed suggestions for things to do and to avoid specific to each of the twenty-four profiled conditions. Even though I would not consider myself to be a "special-needs traveler," I was struck again and again by how useful this book will be the next time I travel anywhere. The tips about the pros and cons of different travel choices, especially tips about what to ask for when making reservations, are the best I have ever read in any guidebook.
Walt Disney World has twenty-four themed resort hotels, and this book provides an in-depth look at each one with drawings and schematics of all of the rooms, restaurants, and other guest services. This makes it easy for someone with special needs to quickly determine which resort offers the best combination of amenities and attractions for them. The authors also evaluated other hotels in the area and the Disney cruise ships with the same exacting detail. In fact, the section of the book on menu selection for restaurants throughout the greater Orlando area is nothing short of phenomenal. I would recommend this book for all travelers on that basis alone.
Beyond all the tips, suggestions, and local "intel," I think all travelers would benefit from reading this book at least once because it provides a real, "nuts and bolts" view of the scale of challenges that special-needs travelers overcome on a daily basis. I know that my one-time reading of this excellent guidebook will directly affect my perception and empathy towards people I see wherever I am -- on a holiday trip or not. This book has also given me a grudging appreciation for the behind-the-scenes commitment the Walt Disney resorts have made to serving special-needs travelers. PassPorter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs: The Take-Along Travel Guide and Planner surprised and impressed me, and I highly recommend it as a valuable tool for all travelers.