My mom, Terri, has two autoimmune diseases: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Rhematoid Arthritis (RA). Because of this, walking for long periods of time (especially in the hot sun) causes her pain, dizziness and exhaustion. We have visited Walt Disney World many times and each time, she did her best to explore the parks on foot. However, as her diseases progressed, walking became more and more difficult for her. She tried to walk slower and take more breaks, but we could still see the pain in her eyes. My mom is a selfless and caring person, so she felt guilty. She felt she was holding us back and letting us down. She saw us changing plans to accommodate her and so she started making excuses to stay behind in the room to prevent any inconveniences.
Time for a Change
I noticed her attitude change, and explained that she was neither an inconvenience nor letting us down. I don’t see her as a woman with two diseases. I see her as my loving mother. My family and I love spending time with her and were so sad to see her missing out on the fun. I spoke with my Dad and we approached the subject of an electric scooter, or electric conveyance vehicle (ECV). At first, she declined. She was embarrassed because she thought she would be the only one using one. She thought getting around would be difficult and using Disney transportation would be a hassle.
We continued to encourage her, stressing how much easier and more enjoyable her vacation would be. She looked back on the previous year, remembering all the fun she missed out on and all the pain she experienced pushing herself past her limit. She agreed and decided to use an ECV.
The Renting Process
There are many different ways to rent an electric scooter. Walt Disney World offers ECV rentals. The cost to rent one in the parks is $50 a day with a refundable $20 deposit. Unfortunately, I immediately saw several problems with using WDW as a vendor. First off, it is a first-come, first-served basis. I had spoken with a Cast Member who said the scooters easily sell out by 11 a.m. Reservations cannot be made in advance, so there was no guarantee my Mom would even get a scooter. Secondly, the scooter cannot be taken outside of the park. My mom needed something she could use all over Disney property. Finally, the cost to rent the scooter through Disney was more than we were looking to spend, especially if we could only use it during park hours. The search continued.
The wonderful internet (seriously, how did we do anything before the internet!?) produced an overwhelming number of options for scooter rentals in the Orlando area.
As I browsed, I noticed that 90% of the vendors offer free drop off and pick up to your hotel. In addition, the products through each vendor can be used at Orlando area attractions such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Now, here’s where things get tricky.
Some of these vendors are Disney Featured ECV Providers. This means:
– You (the renter) do not have to be present when the company drops off or picks up the ECV. All you need to do is pick up/drop off at Bell Services (although some non-preferred vendors offer the same perk, so it’s a wash).
– The company has full access to all of the parks. Should your scooter break down, you do not have to push it to the front entrance of the park. Someone from the company will enter the park and bring you a new one.
Below are a few Disney Featured ECV Providers. Prices are based on a standard scooter that does not disassemble:
Apple Scooter $150 for 5 days
Buena Vista Scooters $155 for 5 days.
ScooterBug Mobility Rentals $155 for 5 days
Best Price Mobility: $150 for 5 days
Here is a selection of non-prefered vendors:
Walker Mobility $185 for 5 days
Sun Mobility: $115 for 5 days
Scootarama: $200 for 5 days
So at the end of the day, why should you pick a Disney Featured ECV Provider over a non-preferred provider? The only “one-up” they really have over all the non-preferred vendors is that they can enter the park if your scooter breaks down. That’s it.
For me, it really came down to which website provided the following information in a clear and concise way:
– What hotels they deliver to
– If you (the renter) have to be present at drop off and pick up
– Detailed product information
We decided to go with Apple Scooter. I felt the rental price was very fair and making a reservation was super easy. About one month ahead of time (although from the website, it looks like you can book as late as two days in advance), I filled out Terri’s personal information, selected our hotel from the list provided and clicked on the dates and times we wanted the scooter delivered and picked up. For those wondering, we picked out the Pride Victory 10 Super Deluxe Scooter.
Apple Scooter, as well as most of the other vendors, does not require a deposit. However, the companies do have a cancellation charge should you cancel the order after a set date. This varies from vendor to vendor. BuenaVista requires a 48 hour cancellation policy while Apple Scooter states you can cancel at any time, as long as the scooter has not already been delivered.
Note: We stayed on-site, so transportation to WDW resort wasn’t an issue. However, if you will NOT be staying on Disney property, consider a transportable scooter that can be disassembled to fit in the back of a car or van.
The day we arrived at the BoardWalk Inn, my dad walked over to Bell Services and inquired about Terri’s scooter. (Side bar: It’s SO weird using my mom’s real name, instead of “Mom.”) A Cast Member immediately went to the back and retrieved it. When the CM came back, he showed my Mom how to use the ECV. It was beyond simple. Holding down the right handle moved her forward while the left handle moved her backward. A small knob adjusted the speed and a charger was waiting in the front basket. It took a little trial and error, but soon Terri was speeding around the lobby ready to go!
It’s no secret that as lovely as the BoardWalk Inn is, the hallways are about 10 miles long. You should have seen her face when she realized she no longer had to waste energy walking around the hotel. For the first time in a long time, she was leading the way! She had a huge smile on her face as she breezed down the hallway without breaking a sweat.
Things were going well at the BoardWalk, but Terri was still nervous about transportation to the parks. How long would it take to load the ECV? Could she still take the boat over to Epcot or Hollywood Studios?
The worry was completely unnecessary. When using boat transportation from the BoardWalk, the captain ‘parked’ the boat so close to the dock that Terri could just drive the scooter right on board. When it came to bus transportation, the drivers were so professional and efficient. There was never a situation where there was more than one scooter waiting to board, so there was always room for Terri’s ECV. The bus driver lowered the bus down a few inches and pressed a button to release the ramp. There are the options to push the scooter onto the bus or drive it on yourself. Being her first time, Terri asked the driver to manually push it on and strap it in using the appropriate restraints. He took care of everything and we were all so grateful.
When we arrived at the parks, Terri’s anxiety of being the only one with a scooter melted away. She saw so many people making use of ECV’s and wheelchairs. It was truly a regular occurrence. The walkways in the shops were wide enough to take the scooter indoors and there were even designated areas to park the ECV (and strollers too) if she wanted to experience an attraction or go eat at a restaurant in the park.
Although Disney strives to make each attraction as accessible as possible, there are still experiences that exclude the use of wheelchairs and scooters (Think Tower of Terror and Mission: Space). My mom fortunately still has the ability to stand and walk short distances, so she was able to take part in everything she wanted, including Spaceship Earth and Pirates of the Caribbean. I know this is not the case for everyone using a scooter, so Disney has provided a list of accessible attractions as well as a list of attractions where wheelchairs and scooters cannot be used.
Terri’s scooter guaranteed a battery life of 16 miles (roughly 6-8 hours). The Cast Member at Bell Services assured us that it would last throughout the entire day but told us we would still have to charge the scooter every night. We were staying in a one-bedroom DVC villa at the BoardWalk, so Terri would park her scooter in the kitchen. The charger used a three prong plug, so any outlet could be used. The only thing I noticed was that the charger made a quiet buzzing noise when it was plugged in, but it didn’t affect the quality of the charge.
There are no designated charging stations for electric scooters at Walt Disney World but as the battery life is so good, I doubt you’ll ever need to charge it in the parks. To keep an eye on your battery life, most scooters have a light-gauge: A green light indicates a full battery while red represents low battery life. On the off chance your charger is defective and your scooter does die while at the parks, non-preferred vendors will bring a new one to the park entrance, while the Disney Featured ECV Providers will bring a brand new scooter right into the parks, free of “charge.”
Important Notice: Electric Scooters CANNOT get wet! I know Florida weather can be unreliable, but it is very important to take cover in the event of a rain storm. The water may cause the scooter to malfunction and it will stop working until all the parts are completely dry.
Looking back on the experience, Terri found only one drawback to using an electric scooter. She noticed that guests frequently cut in front of her when the park was busy. Because she was technically operating a small vehicle, she often felt frightened that she would hit or run into someone. Funny enough, the insurance included in the scooter rental only covered loss and damages. None of the websites offer any coverage should you hit another human. The terms and agreement simply state that the company and its employees are not responsible for any injuries than may occur while the scooter is in use. After talking about it, we realized that the exact same thing happened when pushing a stroller. It seems like people were in a hurry and didn’t want to wait behind anything with wheels, so they were always cutting us both off.
Terri found that at the end of the day, the pros WAY outweighed the cons. First the first time in years, she had an amazing time, free of exhaustion and additional pain. She did every single thing she wanted, went to every park and didn’t feel held back despite her limitations. Every concern Terri had prior to using an electric scooter had been proved wrong. Using the ECV was easy as pie. Getting the vehicle onto a bus or boat was not as time consuming as she had imagined. Finally, she didn’t feel like an outcast as many other guests were also using electric scooters. She appreciated the support and encouragement from her family and said if you’re thinking about using one for the first time, “Just go for it. You’ll have more energy and be able to enjoy the things you really want to do.” I gotta listen to her. After all, Mother knows best!
Have you used an electric scooter at Walt Disney World? Are you thinking about using one for the first time? Let me know in the comments!