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Come with me to Orlando!

Growing up I always dreamt of going to America, but due to my condition always thought it was impossible. That was until UCFB’s global summit to Miami attracted my interest and with a lot of support from family, friends and even strangers the trip was made possible!

To make the most of this once in a lifetime trip we decided to go to Orlando for a few days to visit Disney World and Universal Studios!

Our adventure to the states started bright and early Thursday morning when we were dropped to Gatwick Airport. We flew with British Airways and the check in process was straightforward, apart from the system failing midway! There was a designated line for wheelchair users meaning we didn’t have to wait in the long queue. When booking the flights, we booked my chair on, giving them all the measurements so when we were at the airport, they just had to attach some labels and off we went.

There were two special assistance desks where we had to again check my chair in and make sure people would be at the plane door in time. A mistake we made was saying no to special assistance through security, meaning we had to wait in the queue while other wheelchair users were fast-tracked to the front! After the usual chaos of getting through security we were free to explore duty free… of course Weatherspoon’s was the first spot for breakfast!

We did almost miss our flight after the time was brought back to its original time, but after the initial panic we made it! Special assistance were great and escorted us from the lounge to plane door, they had strong knowledge of my chair, so I felt comfortable leaving it with them. We were first on, so I drove down to the door and was carried to my seat, there was an aisle seat available to transport me but there wasn’t enough side support on it so being carried was safer and easier.

This was my first long haul flight since I was a kid, so going into the plane I was a little apprehensive but British Airways were very helpful. The airline offers a comfort seat which is an extra seat for me at a discounted price which I paid half for. This came in great use; my left leg didn’t get the memo we were on vacation and was playing up for a lot of the flight, so I was often moving positions to get comfortable. For the rest of the flight, we entertained ourselves with films and sleep. As this was a long haul flight, we had food provided, I only tasted one of the chicken dishes which was really nice, but my Nan and Cousin were happy with the rest of the food especially for airplane standards!

Once we arrived in Orlando we were last off as we waited for my chair to be brought to the door. The process was much faster than I have had before, and all the British Airways staff were very helpful while we waited. I was happy to see my chair arrived in one piece, if you’re in a wheelchair you’d know the anxieties about a wheelchair and flying!

My first surprise of being in the US was the price of their baggage trolleys, we paid $7!! Once I got over the shock, we got our luggage and went through customs, there was an easy route through for us with a designated line for wheelchair users. Customs looks so intimidating when you’re walking up, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked lol. I was actually surprised how nice everyone is in America!

As we are travelling down to Miami halfway through the trip, we opted to hire a wheelchair accessible vehicle to make travelling easier and not have to worry about finding accessible routes. We hired the car Florida Van Rentals, and it was left at the airport for collection. The airport offers a shuttle to the car parks called Wally Park, because we needed an accessible van we had to prebook, but this was straightforward and when it arrived there was a lift for me to get in through. There was no seatbelt, so I had to be held but the journey thankfully wasn’t too far.

Once we reached the car it was very different to work out how we got my chair in, it took an hour, so it would’ve been beneficial to have someone there to show us the first time. When we have hired cars before in Portugal someone normally meets you, but it may have been due to the time we arrived. On route to the hotel I was in awe of the palm trees – that’s how you know you’re in Florida!

Our hotel was just a 30 minute drive and was located in Disney Springs. We stayed in the Hilton Buena Vista and our room overlooked Disney Springs; it was so pretty at night! I was again so surprised how nice everyone was! As we arrived in the dark there was a firework display in Epcot we could see from the room. We opted for a room with a shower so I could use it, they had basic shower seats, it didn’t support me so I needed to be held, but it did the job. The room was a little tight for an accessible room, but we were only there for three nights so did manage fine!

With a busy week ahead and jet lag setting in we had an ‘early’ night, I say early but we’d been up for 23 hours!

Come back tomorrow to hear all about Disney World!

Thank you for reading.

Ellie Xx

1 Comment

Wow, beautifully written Ellie

Cant wait to read more details of the trip 😍

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