Visiting Disney World With Type 1 Diabetes

by on September 26, 2016 12 Comments

Filed under: Health and Fitness

img_4361This post was written by Jacqueline Clark, frequent visitor to Disney Parks and a member of the Moms Panel. Enjoy!

When our 11 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) this past May, our world was forever changed. Type 1 isn’t the diabetes you hear about on TV. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease which requires round the clock monitoring. You can’t take a vacation from the constant managing of Type 1, but you can (and should) take your vacation to Walt Disney World!

A frequent visitor to Walt Disney World since the early 1970’s and a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, it has been a place of joy my entire life. Our 3 children first visited Disney World as infants and consider it their second home. So when our newly diagnosed daughter asked if we could go there after she was released from the hospital, I decided we would make it a fact finding trip. We needed to see for ourselves that Disney can continue to be our happy place with T1D.

fullsizerender-1 Walt Disney World does a fabulous job with special dietary requests. Sadly, carb counts are not provided on the menus or by the chefs. Of course, any prepackaged foods will provide the necessary carb counting. If you are not familiar with T1D, it is necessary to count the carbs in the food you eat, every time you eat. After you “do the math,” you must bolus (take insulin) for the food you are about eat. Our daughter decided she would make a Diabetic Disney Guide (pictured). Thanks to the free wifi available across Walt Disney World property, we were able to Google and estimate the carbs counts for the any of the food she ate. Want to dose for a Mickey Bar? You’ll find the carb count for that right on the package. It’s 31 carbs. What about a churro? Good ol’ Google helped us find that it has about 24g of carbs. There are many restaurant chains who provide carb counts. I am hopeful that Disney will follow suit sometime soon.

On this first trip post diagnosis, we decided to stop by the First Aid Station inside Magic Kingdom Park. If you need First Aid, by all means go. You will find them near the entrances to each park. My advice would be to skip a trip there for Type 1 basic care however, and here’s why…

img_6051All they can really do is store your insulin and I really don’t think you’ll want to do that. Instead, invest in a Frio cooling wallet and you can keep your insulin with you at all times. You don’t want to have to trek across the park each time you need a dose of insulin. If you want a cool place to test, there are plenty of options around. Our endo recommended avoiding the bathrooms. Don’t be shy about grabbing a corner inside the lobby Mickey’s PhilharMagic, for example. There is no reason to go to First Aid to test. And if you do, they will ask you to go to an exam room for testing…not magical. Granted, if you are using a pump, you may find some value in having an exam room to change your infusion set. We are not there yet.

T1D is not something to be ashamed of and there is no reason to hide when testing your blood sugar or bolusing. Test when and where you need to do so. It’s important to test often because heat and activity can throw your blood sugar seriously out of whack. Keep a water bottle handy at ALL times. Dehydration will do a number on your sugars as well. Thrill junkie? Adrenaline can make the body resistant to insulin. If all the walking and bolusing gives you a “low,” don’t let it sneak up on you. When in doubt, check check check!

Packing!

As with any other vacation, I suggest you pack at least double the supplies you would normally need for your #T1Disney vacation. Split those supplies into 2 carry-on bags. That way if one gets lost, you still have some of the supplies you need. Remember to get a note from your endocrinologist for the TSA. This will allow you to bring “low” snacks like juice boxes, supplies and ice packs through security. Speaking of ice packs, you will need those to keep your unused insulin cold while you travel, so don’t forget that ice pack!

fullsizerenderTidbits

  • Call Mousekeeping and request a sharps container. You can also request one at the front desk of your Walt Disney World Resort.
  • Bring a measuring cup or two to better assist with carb counting. Walt Disney World sells these amazing ones with Mickey, Minnie and the Gang (pictured) that collapse for ease of storage in your bag.
  • Bring double what you’ll need for the day in the parks. You’ll thank me after you’ve dropped an entire container of test strips.
  • Consider obtaining a DAS “card.” (Disability Access Service). When heat and exercise wreck havoc with your blood sugars, which can be dangerous, this service allows you to wait in a cool or relaxing place of your choice. You are given a “return time” and can visit that attraction without waiting. Please DO use Disney’s FASTPASS service in combination with this.
  • Remember to bring low snacks that won’t melt. Glucose tabs are our best friend.
  • Don’t hesitate to speak with the chefs about your Type 1. Although carb counts are not readily available, the chefs were helpful with adjusting servings to include extra protein and lower carb foods.
  • Search out fun places to relax like the Kidcot Fun Stops inside World Showcase at Epcot Theme Park. They’re for adults and kids of all ages who enjoy a break, Type 1 or not.
  • Call your endo before you travel to Walt Disney World. He or she has the final say in your medical decisions.

Most of all, have fun on your #T1DISNEY vacation!

Posted on September 26, 2016

12 Responses to “Visiting Disney World With Type 1 Diabetes”

  • Great advice! All of these tips are also great for type 2’s. not all type 2’s need/use insulin, but the advice on frequent blood glucose checks and bringing plenty of supplies is an absolute must! I’m a type 2 who does use insulin, we went for our honeymoon in 2014 and had a wonderful time! And next time I’ll ask for a sharps box instead of bringing one!

  • This is a mom who has it all together and what great tips for a more enjoyable vacation. Please don’t forget to thank her for packing double — great idea and always be prepared.

  • Thank you for the T1D awareness (It’s not from eating too much sugar!) When my 3 year old was diagnosed with T1D last fall, we were six weeks away from a pre-planned Disney trip. There was no way I was going to cancel, and we went and managed fine (even though we were still pre-pump and CGM). We do not let T1D keep us from doing things we want to do. My daughter is also Celiac and Disney is absolutely amazing with gluten free dining. It’s the only place we can eat normally. We can’t wait to go back. Next summer we are going on the Dream for the first time. If anyone knows about T1D and the DCL kids clubs, please let me know! My daughter will be 5.5.

  • Hi. My daughter was diagnosed 6 weeks ago. I appreciate your insight.

  • I have had Type 1 diabetes for over 20 years now. In the Spring of 2014 my family and I visited Disneyland over Easter week. I asked at Guest Relations for a DAS “card.” (Disability Access Service) and was turned away. They told me that they are unable to give out DAS for diabetic visitors. They said “the best they could do” was that if I needed to step out of a waiting line to “deal” with my diabetes was that a Cast Member would be able to help me re-join my family to the point that they had progressed.

    • So sorry to hear you had this experience. I can assure you this is not the case at Walt Disney World. I would encourage you to ask for a supervising Cast Member if you should have any issues in the future.

    • by Larry Heidenberg on October 1, 2016, at 10:30 pm EST

      I’m pretty certain that the cast member both informed you wrong AND did you wrong, Jennifer. The reason that I say that is that Disney, like almost all other companies, is not allowed to ask you what your disability/diagnosis is. They are allowed to ask what ACCOMMODATIONS you need, but not what your diagnosis is.

      If you went up & just said that you have T1D, they might have said something like “I’m sorry… but what sort of assistance do you need?” Basically, you need to tell them what sort of assistance your require, not what sort of medical issue or disability you have.

      If you ever encounter this again, ask to speak to the supervisor or area manager. 99% of the time, they’ll clear everything up, relatively fast.

      • My family of four visited Walt Disney World in August of 2010. At that time I was not aware of a DAS program. I was using pump therapy at that time and while in the parks, checking my blood sugars many more times a day than usual because of the increase of walking and eating more carbs than my usual daily diet, and also watching for dehydration due to the humidity and heat index. It would have been much more enjoyable and less stressful to have been able to use the DAS card, it is impossible to predict when a low glucose crash can happen, especially when you are not in your usual life-routine. I was looking forward to getting a DAS when at Disneyland in 2014, especially because of the length of the lines that week, although Easter in CA is not as intense weather wise as August in FL! One medical advancement I have recently been able get through my insurance is a CGM and it is instrumental in showing me not only blood sugar level every 5 minutes but also the trend it is moving, either up, down, or level. So I know any future vacations, anywhere, will be less stressful due to this device. Thank you for the advice to ask to speak to a supervisor next time we visit either park. When I asked in CA though I was pretty much told that under no circumstance was I going to get a DAS due to being a diabetic. I did tell them I would benefit from the accommodation of being able to return to a ride at a specific time. I left the Guest Relations feeling really stupid for even asking about it.