Ask a Fodor's Disney Expert: Special Needs, Annual Passes, and More

Posted by Leigh Jenkins on July 10, 2013 at 1:55:38 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Doing Disney right means more than just booking a flight and snapping up a pair of Mickey ears. You need to do a bit more homework to really knock the trip out of the park. So we turn again to our resident Disney expert to answer the real life questions that can make all the difference.

Want to ask our Fodor's Disney expert a question? Shoot her an email: DisneyExpert@fodors.com.

We're traveling with a special needs child and want to know how the Guest Assistance Card works?

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A: The Guest Assistance Card (GAC) was created to help special needs guests travel around the parks with ease. These cards can do a number of thing—make sure the hard of hearing sit closer to the stage at a show, make wait times shorter for those who can't stand or are in a wheelchair, or provide a shaded waiting area for those sensitive to the hot Florida sun. GACs can be obtained from Guest Relations inside any of the four major theme parks at Walt Disney World. A doctor's note isn't needed but can be helpful to the cast member issuing the card, as there are a number of different stamps that can be placed on the card and this will help them know what your family needs. The card can be issued for the length of your stay and is good for up to six guests. Be prepared to tell the cast member your name and what kind of assistance you are looking for, even if you do not want to state your specific disability. Also, make sure to check out the guide maps for guests with disabilities before you leave home.

Can you explain the PhotoPass and PhotoPass+ options—which to get and how to get them?

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A: While at Walt Disney World, PhotoPass cast members are stationed at strategic locations to take professional pictures of your family—in front of Cinderella's Castle, with Mickey, etc. All of these photos will be loaded onto a plastic card called a PhotoPass, which can be obtained from any PhotoPass cast member. Guests staying at a Disney resort will soon have PhotoPass on their MagicBand bracelets that combine hotel keys, park tickets, and other necessities into one electronic band.

Once you have a PhotoPass, you will use that same card for the length of your stay. The photos can be viewed at a kiosk in the park or online once you are home. PhotoPass+ allows you to purchase all your photos for one price. A discount is often offered if you purchase this option before you leave home, so check the Disney website. And then let Disney capture your vacation pics for you!

Are there blackout dates for annual pass holders? And can you combine those discounts with others?

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A: Disney offers a number of different annual passes, but the annual pass and premium pass do not have blackout dates. The seasonal pass, which is offered only to Florida residents, does have blackout dates, usually during holidays and summer months. The extras that come with an annual pass—such as dining and merchandise discounts, free parking, and special offers—cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. Annual passholders do receive a price break on the Tables in Wonderland card which gives a 20% discount at most Disney dining locations, plus a few extra perks!

Photo credits: Courtesy of Walt Disney World

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