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.
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…
All 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!
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!
- 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!