Tips for visiting Walt Disney World through Make-a-Wish

Disney World Make-a-Wish

Have you ever wondered which wish the Make-a-Wish organization grants most often? Over 40% of wishes granted by Make-a-Wish are Disney related. Many of these, including my own son’s wish, are to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

For kids like my son, Disney World has it all – Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, animals, and the undeniable Disney magic. My son’s Disney World wish includes a week-long stay for our entire family at a special resort called Give Kids the World Village, transportation, spending money, and admission to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.

We had a lot of questions before our June 2013 Make-a-Wish trip. Here are a few of the things we wanted to know:

So many parks, so little time

You will receive passes to the four parks of Walt Disney World, the two parks of Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. That’s seven parks in seven days, and you’ll be traveling on two of those days.

We had never visited Orlando before, so we purchased The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It gave us a lot of great information about both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando that helped us to decide which attractions were most important to our family. We also ordered the free vacation planning DVD from the Disney website.

Our strategy was to head for the parks early and return by dinner time each evening. This helped us beat the crowds and left us a few evening hours to enjoy the parties and amenities at Give Kids the World.

You will receive 3-Day Park Hopper passes to Walt Disney World, meaning that you have three days to visit four parks. If you want to see all four Disney parks in three days, we decided that Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were the easiest parks to visit on the same day.

Disney World Make-a-Wish

What your VIP pass includes

  • Free 3-Day Park Hopper passes to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom

The Park Hopper feature means that you can visit more than one park on the same day. You can use the passes on any of the days of your trip.  Your passes do not include water parks like Blizzard Beach.

  • Free parking 

Show one of your park passes to the parking attendant as you enter the lot. If you plan to visit two separate parks on the same day, drive your car from one to the other. Each Disney park has a separate parking lot and they are not close to one another.

  • Free stroller or wheelchair rental

Amy, another Make-a-Wish mom, recommends bringing your own stroller instead of using the rental. The rental strollers are made of hard plastic and don’t have much storage space. She also points out that the trek from your car to the front gate of the park can be a long one without a stroller. Read more about Amy’s Make-a-Wish tips at her blog: TysonsBraveBattalion.blogspot.com.

Disney World Make-a-Wish

  • Front-of-line passes for rides

This is the BEST, once-in-a-lifetime benefit of the trip. Your Guest Assistance pass allows you to use the FAST PASS line at every ride that has one and the Handicap entrance for rides that don’t have FAST PASS. So, you may have to wait 10-15 minutes in the FAST PASS line for some rides.

We visited during peak season and our Guest Assistance Pass saved us hours of standing in line and chasing for FAST PASSES. On the Small World ride, the Handicap line was long too, and the ride attendant walked us to a different entrance and put us right on the ride.

Carry your Guest Assistance Pass in the lanyard provided by Give Kids the World. You’ll need to show it to every ride attendant. Have your child wear his/her Give Kids the World button. You may want to dress him/her in a Make-a-Wish t-shirt too, but it’s not essential.

  • Free PhotoPass service

You’ll receive a PhotoPass card with your passes at Give Kids the World. Give it to every photographer you see in the Disney parks to collect great family photos of your trip. Also use it after riding attractions that take photos.

After your trip, follow the instructions on the back of the card to download all of those photos for free.

Disney World Make-a-Wish

Wish Lounge in Magic Kingdom

  • Entrance to VIP lounges

Wish families will receive passes and instructions to enter special lounges in Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. We visited the Wish Lounge in Magic Kingdom and it was a nice, quiet place to take a break for a few minutes. The lounges close early, so watch the time if you want to see them.

What your VIP pass DOES NOT include:

  • Front-of-line privileges for character greetings

That’s the official policy, though we were told by another Wish family that their Guest Assistance pass helped them skip the character lines. We had other priorities and didn’t try for ourselves.

Characters from Disney World, Universal, Nickelodeon or SeaWorld visit Give Kids the World nearly every weekday morning, and at other times as well. There was little or no line there to get our family photos with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Belle, Shrek, Scooby-Doo and others right before we left for the parks.

Disney World Make-a-Wish

  • Front-of-line privileges for meals

Disney is pretty efficient at moving people through long lines and finding them places to sit. However, avoid peak meal times if you don’t want to wait in line for meals. You can also skip the lines by packing your own picnic lunch or snacks into the park.

  • Meal expenses

It worked well for us to eat breakfast and dinner at Give Kids the World and pay for lunch and snacks in the park with our spending money. Character breakfasts and restaurants requiring reservations were not a priority for our family. Make reservations well before your trip if it is a priority for yours.

  • Souvenir expenses

We enjoyed purchasing a few souvenirs in the parks. Disney World will hold your purchases and have them available for pick up near the exit at the end of the day.

Keep in mind that your children will also receive gifts at Give Kids the World, including the occasional Disney gift, each day. There is a large Disney souvenir section at the Walmart near Give Kids the World too. In the end, we needed the largest suitcase we own to get all our souvenirs home, and I didn’t feel like we bought much. Be sure to bring an extra suitcase.

Disney World Make-a-Wish

Prepare for changing weather conditions

We experienced both scorching sun and soaking rain during our days in the Disney parks. Prepare for unpredictable weather. We packed sunscreen and rain ponchos every day, and were grateful for both. We also packed plenty of water, including some frozen water bottles.

Our family may visit Walt Disney World again someday, but it will never be as special as our Make-a-Wish trip. We are grateful to Disney, Give Kids the World, and Make-a-Wish who made this memorable trip possible for our family.

 

Would you like more information about a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World? Here are more articles about visiting Orlando through Make-A-Wish.

You should receive spending money for food and souvenirs in the parks from Make-A-Wish. However, if you’d prefer to budget more of that money for character breakfasts, souvenirs, or to take home, we hope that the money-saving tips will be helpful.

We extended our Make-A-Wish trip by three days at our own expense. We spent that time on the beach in Clearwater, Florida. Here is what we recommend there.

40 comments

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  • We have a family member who is 34years old and is suffering with lou gehrig s disease. He has 3 small children. How can we make a wish for he and his young children to go to disney befor he passes? Where can we get the help for his family?

    • I am so sorry to hear about your family member. That must be a difficult situation for all of you. Unfortunately, Make-a-Wish only grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. I have thought that it would be nice if there was such an organization for adults, but I am not aware of the resources that might be available for this situation. I do know that Disney World will give guest assistance passes to anyone of any age who have health problems that need special consideration. You just need to visit Guest Services upon arrival at the park. Even if there is not a formal organization that grants wishes like this for adults, you may find that there are many individuals and businesses who will contribute funds to help this family to go to Disney World if you organize a fundraiser. Good luck!

  • My family will be in Disney World for my daughters Make-A-Wish. I was wondering about how much spending money will I need for this trip??? Any advice??????

    • It may vary from state to state, but we received a check from Make-a-Wish to cover expenses for souvenirs, food (outside of Give Kids the World), baggage fees, tolls, etc. The amount is calculated per person. We spent little, if any, of our own money. Enjoy your trip!

  • We are leaving for a wish in a few days. What were the rules to getting on rides that your wish child is not able to ride? I have two older teenage sons that might want to ride the fast rides, but my younger son who the for will not be able to ride those rides. We will all travel together as a family and not split up. Thanks for the info.

    • I don’t know if Disney has an official policy on this. We only did this on one coaster that my Wish child didn’t want to ride. My daughter and I used the button and guest assistance pass to access the Fastpass line while my husband and son waited. It allowed us to get through the line quickly and move on to attractions the whole family enjoyed. If you do split up, the group without the pass (and the Wish child) would not have special line privileges.

  • We would like to extend our trip – how does it work with the plane tickets and rental cars?

    • Work directly with your wish granting organization to extend, and let them know early in the process if you are extending. They may not be able to make changes after the trip is booked, and different wish granting organizations may have different policies about extensions. Make-a-Wish Utah made it easy for us. They just booked our return flight for the date we requested and had me send in a couple of forms to arrange our portion of the payment with the rental car agency. We were able to keep the same car.

      • Did you continue to stay at Give Kids the World when you extended or did you get your own hotel? Also if transportation is covered why did you get a rental car?

        • No, we had to find different lodging at our own expense. Staying at Give Kids the World was not an option. Unless you require special arrangements, your family will be provided with a rental car during your stay at Give Kids the World. Give Kids the World has a shuttle, but having your own transportation is the most convenient way to get to the parks and wherever else you would like to go on your wish trip.

  • My family will be going to Walt Disney World for my daughters Make-A-Wish. I was wondering when did you find out the details of your trip. All we know is how long we get to stay and the date. We leave in a month. Thank you Lisa

    • I assume that timetables for different MAW chapters vary, but we didn’t find out the details and receive our travel documents until a week or two before our trip. We had scoured the internet so obsessively for information about this popular Make-a-Wish trip that by that time, we knew more than our volunteer wish granters about what to expect. How much you need to know before that meeting is personal preference. Research and pre-planning worked well for us, but the trade-off was that there were fewer delightful surprises. If you’re a planner, I recommend that you check out the links in my post about Give Kids the World Village. There are some fun planning videos from the GKTW website, and a link to the Village Guide, which you will receive just after arrival. It is chock full of helpful information for your trip.

  • My grandson and family have been granted a Make a Wish trip to Disney World and stay at Give the Kids the World Resort. As a grandparent, I have been welcome to stay at the resort free of charge and pay for my own flight, park pass, etc. Will I be able to get a Fastpass at Disney World?

  • Linda, I am a grandmother that went on my grandson’s MAW trip. I paid my airfare, and purchased tickets into the parks, but I stayed with the family at GKTW… The button/pass the wish child is given at GKTW is good for the entire party… it is different than the normal fast pass… you do not have to schedule what time to be at what ride, the group is just placed into the fast pass lane when you show the button/pass.

  • Hi we are leaving for Disney at 7-14 ho much pining money do they give u…??

    • The amount will vary from family to family and may vary from Wish chapter to Wish chapter. Give Kids the World suggests about $45 per person per day to cover off-site meals, beverages, snacks, fuel, souvenirs, tolls, baggage fees, tips and emergency funds. That’s about what we received in a check from our wish grantors a week or two before our trip.

  • My grandson is going to Disney for his make a wish, both sets of grandparents and his aunt and cousin are going along, so staying is not an option, any suggestions on how to do this? Are there shuttles to their resort for visitors? Best place to stay? Any tips would be great! Thanks!

    • That sounds like it will be a wonderful trip for your family! Give Kids the World welcomes visitors until 11 p.m each evening. I recommend that the extended family rent a car. The wish family will be provided with a rental car at the airport and there is no courtesy shuttle for visitors. At this time, I do not have hotel recommendations, though there are many hotels in Kissimmee and Orlando to choose from. Give Kids the World is located at 210 S Bass Road in Kissimmee, just off of Bronson Memorial Highway (Hwy 192).

  • Jason M. Sakowski

    My wife and I have 4 children, our 2 youngest are 2 1/2 year old identical twins who have both been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My wife and I would love to take them to Disney, however managing they’re diabetes is scary and extremely difficult. I don’t feel the need to ask the Make a Wish foundation for help financially, but my family could really use the benefits provided, such as fast pass and private lounges throughout the park to check sugar levels and administer insulin. Do you thing I’d be able to apply for those privileges for my children without any type of financial aid? Who could I contact?

    • Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS) Card is available to anyone who needs special accommodations in a Disney park, every time they visit. It can be obtained through Guest Services just inside the park gates. It is not the same as a Wish Pass, but it does allow guests with disabilities “to receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. Guest Relations at the front of each park will continue to assist Guests and provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.”

      The DAS Card program was revised a few months ago, due to abuse of the old program. Here is a link to the updated information: https://wdpromedia.disney.go.com/media/wdpro-assets/dlr/help/guest-services/guests-with-disabilities/Disney-Parks-Disability-Access-Service-Card.pdf

      Make-A-Wish is more than a financial aid program. Their goal is simply to grant wishes to children with life threatening illnesses, regardless of the family’s finances. Wish kids are thoroughly vetted by the organization and the Disney World wish experience is something that money can’t buy. If your children qualify for Make-A-Wish, I encourage you to look into this great organization further. Regardless, I hope that your family has a magical Disney trip!

  • from the first phone call from Make a Wish, to leaving to go on the trip, how long did the process take? Were they willing to work around your family’s schedules, or did they already have a specific date that you had to go?

    • It was about 6 months from the time we contacted Make-A-Wish to the time we left on our trip. My son made his wish in February, a few weeks after we contacted the organization. We chose the dates for our trip, which was in early June. We might have liked to go during Spring Break in early April, but our MAW chapter was not able to put the trip together that quickly.

      Policies may vary from MAW chapter to MAW chapter. Much of the work is done by volunteers and every wish family’s experience and situation may differ somewhat.

  • I have loved reading through all of the comments on here! My family met with our local Make-A-Wish committee today, my 3 year old little boy is battling leukemia, his wish of visiting Disney World will be granted sometime around May 2015…our family also includes a 2 year old and an 11 year old…the little ones are AVID animal lovers…I’m just wondering if there were any must-do activities you would recommend for kids of this age? I’m already feeling the stress of trying to make the most/see the most/experience the most of our week long trip!! :)

    • I’m sorry to hear about your son’s diagnosis. I hope that his treatment goes as smoothly as possible and that you’ll all enjoy planning your Make-A-Wish trip. For your animal lovers, you’ll want to spend some time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Sea World. Animal Kingdom has a safari “ride” with lots of real African animals. You can feed dolphins and enjoy all the shows and aquarium exhibits and SeaWorld. Both parks have some fun thrill rides for your older child. We only spent half a day in each of these parks, but they were a lot of fun!

      Readers, if you have any “must” activities for animal lovers on a Make-A-Wish trip, please add your own comments and suggestions!

  • Can the make a wish have someone travel by car from Kentucky other than plane?

    • You’ll want to ask your local Make-A-Wish chapter about that. I know that they fund a lot of their travel expenses with donated air miles, but I expect that they will do what they can to accommodate your travel request.

  • I filled out the nomination form online yesterday and I got a call from Make-A-Wish today. We are waiting to see what the doctor’s say, I love the Blog and the questions and answers. My daughter has no interest in Sea World or Universal, she only wants to go to Disney the whole time if she is approved, I wonder if that is possible? I am wondering how far the GKTW resort is from WDW? Thank you for this wonderul Blog.

    • The Disney tickets you’ll receive are three-day park hopper tickets. You may need to pay for additional Disney days on your own, but it never hurts to ask your wish grantors. Give Kids the World can swap the Universal and SeaWorld tickets for many other parks and attractions in the Orlando area. Give Kids the World Village is a wonderful place to spend your time if you don’t want to go to a theme park. You could also drive to the beach.

      Give Kids the World is located about 20 minutes from the Disney parks, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld by car. You’ll find detailed driving directions in the GKTW Village Guide that you’ll receive when you arrive.

  • Hi there! How long after the first meet with the wish granters did it take to hear back about anything? They came about 2 1/2 months ago to ask my daughter what her wish was ( disney of course! ) and told us we should here from them in a few weeks and we’ve heard nothing so far?

    • I don’t recall exactly how long it was, but it seems that we heard from them fairly soon after the wish to make travel arrangements. The timing of your trip may be different from ours. I’m sure that your wish grantors will be happy to take your call anytime you have questions or want to check on plans for your trip.

  • We are leaving for our daughters Make A Wish trip in about 50 days. We have been wonderful if there is a site that we can look at a park map to plan what attractions to go to and What not to go to. Our little girl has Cystic Fibrosis, and she going to Disney World for her 4th Birthday. At times she has a limited amount of energy especially in the heat. Please any ideas will help.. Thanks

  • Love reading all the questions and responses on here! We got the call that my daughter was approved for a wish last week. Just anxiously waiting for the call to set up meeting with the wish volunteers so she can tell them her wish, which is to see Disney World decorated for Christmas. Hopefully we get to that call for a meeting soon (the waiting is not easy haha!) but I’m very excited and grateful she gets this opportunity!

  • My 2 year old son had/has (won’t know until November for sure) an an extremely rare inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. It was removed in two stages and was the size of a football. He was nominated end of April and we leave for our MAW trip on saturday!! I also have a 6 year old and I haven’t told either of the kids where we’re going. I’m gonna wait until we get to the airport. Is there anyway we can give back the sea world pass? I think after walking around the parks for 4 days they would like a relaxing day at the beach before we go home.

    • You don’t need to use any of the park passes you don’t want. There are plenty of good reasons to spend your time relaxing at the beach or Give Kids the World instead. We just spent a few hours at Sea World – long enough to feed the dolphins and see the whale show. This will be such a fun surprise for your kids after all you’ve been through.

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