Success on Disney Trip? Hinges on One’s Legs


Here’s the preferred method of going about–in comfort and shielded from the sun.  She’ll get help on all the rides, too.


Going to Disneyworld this year…or planning to? I‘m going to give you the benefit of what I‘ve learned, since I just came back from a 6-day visit (my 4th. over a lifetime.) The last time I was there was 7 years ago, when Husband and I did a one-day solo tour (just to see how it felt ‘without kids’); we were in the area, and we said “Why not?” Because of that, I’m kind of an expert on Disney and know, too, how it affected me this last time.

The years have made a difference as to how I run the hurdles in that magical mecca of ‘All Things Fantastical.’

First off, there are two major groups thronging the gates of Disney–ambulatory and those in motorized or push vehicles (strollers). As we Baby Boomers  age, fewer of us are capable of the major athletic endeavor Disney demands: Long lines, standing, only to be dumped into arenas where one watches 360 degree, omnivision shows, standing or leaning against a bar.

Result?: Feet and legs scream a day or two into the experience and each day sees legs less resilient. Whereas, in the first days it took ‘til the last hours to feel the punishment, by days 5 and 6, we were all hobbling about, after only a couple of hours (younger ones, too.)

Reason? There’s a paucity of seating in the Magic Kingdom  or Epcot, aside from the rides or concession stands. I found myself hunting for anything to sit on, even faux rock borders (everything’s ‘fake‘ at Disney) for respite; many others did the same.

We suspected some took wheelchairs at the front gate only because they’ve ‘been here’ before.

On future rides, we took advantage of Fast-Pass, meaning we pumped in our admission tickets, got them back, and were assigned return time, enabling us to jump the line. Only wrinkle? It meant we needed to come back to that section from whatever distant point we were at–a minor inconvenience.

Crowds were down from their usual, for we went in a week of fewer visitors to Disneyworld, right after Thanksgiving and just before Christmas (Hint–a good time to go).

Did Disney, Epcot, Universal Studios, (Isn’t that where Casey Anthony allegedly worked in a photo shop?) Animal Kingdom  live up to expectations? Yes, but then again, we were with little ones (6-year-old twin grandsons and their 3-year-old brother) whose excitement was contagious. In all, we were a party of 9: the kids, their parents, my younger daughter and her boyfriend.

They all loved the thrilling rides.

My clear-cut favorite park? Animal Kingdom, a place where seating is afforded (note my qualifier?), with beautiful lush natural greenery providing backdrop (as opposed to neon or plastic). It has a less frenzied pace, and the shows are terrific, too. We especially liked the 3-D “A Bug‘s Life” in the Tree of Life exhibit (Wow! That’s something!) and a bird show that defied anything I ever thought about those winged creatures. Then, too, we went on a 20 minute African safari on the plains of the Serengeti (oddly enough, the animals are real and so is the safari vehicle/driver.)

Against my better judgment, my crew got me to go on the Mt. Everest ride where my spinal column was rearranged, but I said “What the heck?” It was the last day. I could afford to take a chance.

After all, I reasoned: I’d only have to crawl through the gates at the Orlando Airport. Ironically, another sign at the airport gate told us we’d be waiting “15 minutes from that point,” as if it were a park ride line at Disney (airport humor?)

***My Disney Experience will be a two-part offering. In my next, I’ll describe our stay at Shades of Green, the hotel that accommodated all 9 of us, an option for people who served in the armed forces (my husband’s retired military.) This was a true highlight of our trip and tremendous cost-saver, as we got huge discounts on park tickets and food. I’ll tell you who qualifies and how…

Let’s share the wealth of our knowledge so we can all ‘stand it.’

Tips on How to Dominate Disney (or at least come out still standing):

(1.) Wear only comfortable sneakers (nothing ‘new’ as in ‘not broken in’) and consider buying interior gel-soles to cushion feet because they will burn two days out (just make sure you have enough space for them inside shoe)…

(2.) If Husband is willing beast of burden (relax–he loves this), suit him up with light backpack containing necessities of sunblock, crushable hats, light jackets, water…Leave heavy handbags back at hotel–too hard on shoulders.

(3.) Consider wearing camelbacks (those water pouch/bags I mentioned wearing on my bike ride post for when one needs to hydrate)…they can be worn in conjunction with backpack, usually over that or share the load..Husband does backpack, you do camelback. Put ice in it and then add water, so it’s cool for longer.

(4.) Fast-Pass  is a Godsend…Use it. Sign up for all in advance, then plot your day around your appointed times for rides, arranging your schedule based on them.

(5). Consider bringing with you those lightweight 3-pronged chairs (made of lightweight netting). Put in lockers upon admission to park and retrieve if your own legs are giving out. The lines KILL.

(6). If you know you‘ll struggle, take a wheelchair. Many use them as family base, putting all belongings, bags, small children in, when not engaged otherwise. You’ll get special attention in accessing rides (altho’ I was hard-pressed to see how such an impaired one got on to Mt. Everest ride so easily!) As I said, some of these people are Disney experts; they know how to beat the system.

(7). Bring lightweight ponchos for the “Soak-em” rides (there are several). If you buy them at the parks, you’ll pay $8.99 for something that cost about a quarter to make. We gave ours to a family that looked dry and we thought would appreciate our ‘donation.’

(8.) Finally, conserve energy for the ride home via the monorail or ferry or whatever, for there’s still “miles to go before you sleep.” It just looks bad seeing someone so broken that he or she is crawling in the parking lot, babbling incoherently.

Remember: It may help to consider a visit to Disney like WAR: As such, you need to plan your offensive well. The above list will help. How do I know? I wish someone had told me these things in advance.

Now, tell us about your own Disney Experience: “How did you find the parks?” “Any problems?” “What was favorite or least favorite?” Finally, you might want to print this post up or e-mail it to others who consider a Disney experience…They’ll thank you for it.






Husband and I (second row from front), I’m screaming, he’s holding onto his hat, as we slosh about on Splash Mountain. Daughter and little 3-yr-old Finn in front, hugging the floor. Other daughter, her boyfriend and the twins, in rows behind.

And my 3 little men are below with Mickey and Minnie, whom littlest one Finn felt sure were celebrities of the highest order…This was the only time he was mute, during the entire trip, starstruck as he was in their company.





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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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