Tips for Give Kids the World Village

Posted By Allison on Jun 28, 2013


This post may contain affiliate and sponsored links. We donate 10% of our sales commissions to charity.

Give Kids the World Village is a special place. It is a non-profit organization that provides “weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations” to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Volunteers and donors play a huge role in the success of this special resort. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information about how anyone can visit Give Kids the World.

Our family had the chance to stay at Give Kids the World for a week after my six-year-old son made a wish to visit Disney World through Make-a-Wish. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in November 2012. After two surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy and many weeks in the hospital, he is cancer-free! His wish trip to Florida was a celebration for our family.

Here are our tips for making the most of your stay at Give Kids the World.

Give Kids the World

1. Review the GKTW website in advance

Here is a link to the vacation planning section of the GKTW website. It will give you more information about your arrival and stay at Give Kids the World. Our family especially enjoyed the pre-arrival videos.

If you want even more advance information, you can download a PDF of The Village Guide, which every family receives as a spiral-bound book in the orientation meeting.

Give Kids the World

Our villa and rental car

2. Plan around the GKTW schedule

Give Kids the World hosts special events every day and reviewing the schedule before our trip helped us plan our theme park visits around our top priority events at Give Kids the World.

The pony rides were at the top of our kids’ list. We also had a great time at the Halloween party, which was attended by many of the characters from Universal Studios. The parties were great because they were fun, but not too crowded after a day in the theme parks. We also made sure to hit the morning character greetings at Give Kids the World because the lines were a lot shorter than in the parks.

3. Pack light

Each villa has a washer, dryer and laundry soap. I recommend 2-3 easy care outfits per person, plus what you wear on the plane. Don’t spend any more of your cash on airport luggage fees than you absolutely must, because…

Give Kids the World

Don’t miss the character greetings most mornings

4. Bring an extra suitcase

Between the surprises for our kids that were delivered to our villa every day and the souvenirs we purchased in the parks, we needed the largest suitcase we own to get them home.

If you have suitcases that fit inside each other, pack the smaller suitcase inside the larger one and fill the smaller bag with your clothing and personal items. That way, you won’t have to check an empty bag at the airport.

Give Kids the World

Old Elmer, outside the Castle of Dreams

5. Save time to enjoy Give Kids the World

Give Kids the World will give you 3-Day park hopper passes to Walt Disney World, 2-day passes to Universal Orlando Resort and a one-day pass to Sea World at your orientation. You can swap those for passes to LEGOLAND, Gatorland, or many other attractions in the Orlando area.

With that many fun places to go, it would be easy to skip all the fun things going on at Give Kids the World. That will be a mistake. All the other guests are families who are there for the same reason. Our kids made friends everywhere at the resort. The volunteers went above and beyond to make our visit special. Everyone at Give Kids the World is happy.

Our strategy was to visit the theme parks during the day and return to Give Kids the World by dinner time each evening. That gave us time to relax and enjoy the pool, arcade, spa and parties.

NEXT PAGE>> 5 More Tips for Give Kids the World

Allison on EmailAllison on FacebookAllison on InstagramAllison on Pinterest
Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

57 Comments

  1. Fabulous information! I wrote a few tips for another family I knew: We LOVED universal! My kids ranged in age from 3 to 14 so we had a variety of interests and were able to fulfill them all. First of all I am SO glad we brought our own double stroller. You can rent them for free at the parks but the rentals are hard plastic and don’t have much room for extra stuff and it is quite a trek to get from your car to the park at universal and disney. At the airport you can check your stroller at the gate when you get on the plane and it will be waiting for you at the gate when you get back off, that was quite handy. We took snacks (apples and jerky and trail mix) and water bottles and we are so glad we did. They have drinking fountains but they are kind of sparse and hard to find. They don’t allow coolers but they do allow backpacks and every bag gets searched on your way into every park.

    Universal/Islands of Adventure: has a huge rope playground and a small splash place at Jurassic park. They also have a really fun water zone at Curious George land and a really cool ball factory. All of my kids loved the ball factory. In the Feivel playground there is a water slide that my 5 and 3 year old loved. Universal does not have very many rides that little kids can ride except for Dr. Seuss land. The most awesome thing about Universal is the pass from GKTW gets you escorted to the front of every line. We split up and played at the playgrounds while the big kids/one adult went on the big rides with the special pass. Go to Harry Potter world first thing in the morning, it fills up fast. When you go to the ride in the castle bring all of your kids in with you, they have a child swap room so one adult sits with the kids while the other rides. If you like HP at all do not miss that ride. My 5 year old (wish kid) LOVED the hipogriff ride, we did that one several times.

    Disney: The GKTW pass to disney is still awesome, but it just gets you in the fast pass line so sometimes you wait a little bit. The longest line we waited in was to see the three main princesses inside a big building. Cinderella, Aurora, and Rapunzel were together in there and the normal line was over 2 hours! Our line was about 1/2 hour cause it was fast pass. If I went again I would go find those princesses first thing while everyone is rushing to the rides (at magic kingdom). All of the other princesses and characters you don’t have to wait in line to see, you just show the person in the blue shirt your GKTW badge and they bring you right up. That part is AWESOME!! Put your photopass card inside your GKTW pass pouch so it is always handy, we got over 200 photos from that thing. Some of the rides will let you put the ride photos on that too. Magic Kingdom has a lot more rides that you can all ride together than Universal does.

    Epcot: we went to Epcot by default on Saturday afternoon cause the magic Kingdom parking lot was full. We were surprised to find a few princesses at Epcot. And we LOVED the Finding Nemo aquarium and talking to Crush. Do not miss that it is so funny! You could easily do Epcot in half a day, it is more sight-seeing and character greetings than rides. Epcot has a tram to Magic Kingdom. If you want to go to Hollywood or Animal Kingdom from one of the other parks (without driving and parking again) you have to ride a bus, we did that to Hollywood, but we weren’t sure if it saved us any time.

    Hollywood Studios: We weren’t that impressed with this one, we only stayed a couple of hours, long enough to do the hotel ride that drops you, my five year old liked that one, the rockin rollercoaster, and the toy story mania which was totally fun!!

    Oh and don’t forget to take a large empty suitcase. We took an empty suitcase and backpack and still stuffed everybody’s suitcases to the max. You get SO MUCH STUFF!

    Don’t forget sunscreen and umbrellas and/or ponchos. The weather is kind of unpredictable but if you are prepared you can continue to have fun while everyone else runs for the exit. We also took a big beach towel with us that doubled as a blanket– it was so handy for the rides/playgrounds that get you wet. We were glad we brought swim suits for the littles cause they had dry clothes to put back on after curious george water playland.

    You can see our trip at http://www.tysonsbravebattalion.blogspot.com/2013/02/make-wish.html

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the tips, Amy! From our experience, they are spot on. I’m planning to write some additional posts for Disney, Universal, etc. and I hope you won’t mind if I refer back to your tips when I do.

      Post a Reply
      • Feel free to use any of it any time or even move the whole comment if it works better in a different post.

        Post a Reply
    • Is there passes available for typhoon lagoon?

      Post a Reply
      • Typhoon Lagoon is not listed in the current Give Kids the World Guide. Aquatica and Wet n Wild are on the list.

        Post a Reply
  2. What a beautiful experience for you and your family. Looks like everyone’s Disney dreams came true!

    Post a Reply
  3. Do you know if kids can volunteer there too, Allison? I’d love to volunteer at Give Kids The World as a family during our next visit to Orlando!

    Post a Reply
  4. I don’t know if there is a lower age limit, but we saw kids scooping ice cream and helping refill drinks and carry trays in the dining room with their families. Contact Give Kids the World directly for more information.

    Post a Reply
  5. One more thing for volunteers. I heard (not from an official source) that there is a waiting list for volunteers, so check with GKTW early if you’d like to add a volunteer day to your Orlando vacation. Thanks, all!

    Post a Reply
  6. Hi Everyone. We (my wife and son) are going to GKTW on the 28th Feb 13 thanks to the fantastic people at Make A Wish as 5yr old son suffers with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. We are traveling from the United Kingdom , 9hr flight to what looks like a simply magical place!!

    Thank you for such and informative reviews. An empty case was something I didn’t think about! Virgin Atlantic charge £65 ($40) for an additional case so I will travel light!

    Any other advice for Non-US citizens you can think we will need to know?

    Thanks

    Richard

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Richard,

      Yes, GKTW is magical and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time! I don’t have any advice specific to non-US visitors , but I welcome tips and comments from other readers who may have some. Enjoy your trip and I wish your son the best with his treatment.

      Post a Reply
  7. I have a quick question. We will be traveling to Give kids the world in April. We are thinking of extending our trip a few days. Do you know if the tickets to the theme parks can be used for a few days after your week at Give Kids the World?

    Post a Reply
  8. The tickets from Disney World, Sea World, and Universal all expire two weeks after they are given to you. Give Kids the World also offers free tickets to other area attractions such as Gator Land and Busch Gardens if you ask them.

    Post a Reply
  9. Hello. We are planning our make a wish trip. I recently heard that Disney had made some changes in their ‘fast passes’ and that wish kids may not get to go to the front of the line for rides. Do you know if that is the case? Wether or not they get a pass to the front of the line will make a huge difference in wether it not my kids can tolerate the wait/heat. Thank you!

    Post a Reply
    • The most recent Give Kids the World Village Guide, printed in October 2013, says that Make-A-Wish families can present their pass at the Fast Pass or Handicap line of any ride for immediate entry to the shorter line. Make-A-Wish families cannot go to the front of the Fast Pass or Handicap lines, but the wait is usually short and protected from the weather.

      Disney has made changes to its Fast Pass system, which limits the number of Fast Passes that most visitors can get. They have recently made changes to their Guest Assistance program too, which affects many visitors with disabilities. I don’t think these changes affect Make-A-Wish families because they get their special passes at Give Kids the World Village, not at the park. If you have any further questions or concerns, I encourage you to call Give Kids the World for current information.

      Post a Reply
  10. We are planning a GKTW make a wish trip at the end of April/beginning of May. We are trying to hit many of the attractions, since I don’t know if we will ever make it back to Florida. Just curious, did the GKTW badge save you hours of time at the parks? I’m wondering if we could see all the attractions at Magic Kingdom (no charater waiting, basic lunch) and still make it back to the Village for the evening entertainment.

    Post a Reply
    • Yes, our GKTW badge saved us hours of waiting every day. We didn’t have time to do everything, but we enjoyed all our priority attractions, and then some, and still made it back to GKTW by dinnertime. To make the most of your time, I recommend:
      * Review my post about Disney World and/or the GKTW Village Guide so you know what your badge gets you. All rides are included, character greetings are (officially) not. Both links are included in this post.
      * Purchase or borrow Disney World guidebooks so you can be familiar with the park map and attractions and identify your priorities. I like The Unofficial Guide to Disney World.
      * Arrive at the park before the gates open in the morning. Keep in mind that you have to ride a tram and a monorail from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom entrance. Lighter morning crowds means that you can navigate the park and get through FastPASS lines even faster.
      * Pack a lunch. You do not get front of line privileges at lunch counters, and lines can be long. Disney is pretty good at getting people through, but you’ll save time and spending money by picking up provisions from Walmart the night before.

      Heavy pre-planning and early morning arrivals may not work for every family, but it worked for us. We don’t know if we will get back to Florida either and these tips helped us make the most of our time. KJ, I’m sure you will have a great trip!

      Post a Reply
  11. Your information was so helpful! Thank you! We are going to GKTW in May for our son’s Make a Wish trip. I’m sure I will refer back to this site a ton in the coming weeks. First question off hand- Did you rent a car or was transportation taken care of?

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you, Annie! I am sure that you will have an unforgettable trip. A rental car was provided for us. A GKTW volunteer met us at the airport and helped get us to the rental desk, where the car had already been reserved and paid for. We extended our trip and were able to use the same car for three extra days. We made arrangements through our local MAW chapter to pay for that portion of the rental with our own money.

      Post a Reply
  12. Thanks so much for taking the time to post such informative information. We’ve just submitted our MAW trip and are looking to go in October. I wouldn’t have thought of half of this stuff on my own!

    Post a Reply
  13. Hi,
    We have been to GKTW as a guest with a returning family and were blown away. As a result, we recently purchased a vacation rental home along Bass Rd (Waterford Way) with GKTW in mind, and we’d love to be able to offer it for rent to returning families. It is our hope that we will be able to give back to the community and to volunteer at GKTW in the upcoming years. We are a two minute (or less) drive or a ten minute walk from the front gates.
    Here is the info for our property.

    http://www.utopiavacationhomes.com/details.aspx?PropertyID=55014

    Post a Reply
    • That’s wonderful! I’m sure that returning families and relatives of wish families will be interested in this information.

      Post a Reply
  14. Does it vary by chapter/MAW state.. Or do you know if the spending and food money is given on a prepaid card? And do you have a set time to use it? Like, I know the park passes can only be used during your visit (it is my understanding that even if we extend our trip a couple days, the park passes will expire and are only good the week we are staying at GKTW), but if we have spending/food money left can we use it, say for lunch on our layover on the way home? Or for lunch when we extend our vacation? Thanks so much for your website! It is helping me tremendously in planning our upcoming trip!

    Post a Reply
    • Every state/region has its own Make-A-Wish chapter, so the amount of spending money given to wish families or other details may vary. We received our spending money in a check before the trip and were told that if we had any left over after the trip, it was ours to keep. You may want to check with GKTW on the expiration of park passes. They do have an expiration date, but you may still be able to use them for a short time after your week at GKTW has ended. Happy planning!

      Post a Reply
  15. Hi my nephew just received his make a wish to go to Disney World. While he and his family will be at Give Kids the World, I was wondering where my family should stay. We don’t want to miss this experience with him. Should we stay at Disney World or is there a place near GKTW that we should stay to be close to them. Great website ! Thanks you.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you! A past wish family has purchased a vacation home near Give Kids the World and would like to rent it to extended wish families. Look for a comment and link from Esther in the comments above. I have not seen the property or stayed there, but you may want to look into it.

      I’m sure that the Disney properties would be very nice. They are about 20 minutes away from Give Kids the World. I’m sorry that I am not familiar with other lodging near GKTW, but to help you find properties nearby, the address is 210 South Bass Road, Kissimmee, FL 34746.

      Post a Reply
    • We went in April of this year for my daughter’s Make a Wish trip. My parents came also and stayed at a Disney Hotel. We would just meet them in the parks each day. I did go pick them up and bring them to Give Kids the World one day. It was so much fun to show them around! They were able to get a free meal and have some ice cream with us!
      Something I wish that we had known: when you arrive at GKTW, the wish child is given a special tag to wear at the amusement parks (that allows you to go in the fast pass lines). It has the number of people in your family on the card. We later learned that we could add my parents onto the tag (as complimentary family members). That way they were also allowed to go into the fast pass lines with us. We didn’t do this ahead of time, so it took some phone calls to get it taken care of. If you get it taken care of before the trip, it would save time.

      Post a Reply
  16. We are going to Disney World through Make-A-Wish Wisconsin over the New Years break. We have been told many times that the parks are very busy. We want to set up some fastpass stuff early to make sure that our son gets to the top things that he will want to see but we cant set these up with out have purchased a ticket. Do you know what we can do? I am thinking it would be cool to have a character dinner thing (at least one) for him also, do you have any recommendations. Do you recommend us using a rental car or just going by the transportation through GKTW?

    THANKS!!!!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Cathy. I have also heard that Disney Parks are crazy crowded during the holidays, but that there are lots of special holiday celebrations going on as well. Your GKTW badge and wish pass will get you to the front of the line for every ride and show without advance planning. I would definitely call for reservations for character meals ASAP. It may already be too late, but they may help you out if you mention it’s for a Wish child.

      To navigate the crowds, I would get a guidebook to help you become familiar with each park and its attractions and plan your route through each park. I like The Unofficial Guide to Disney World, which includes Universal. They have pre-planned routes through the parks that work well. It will also review the park restaurants. I would recommend arriving at the park 30 minutes before opening every day. There will be lines even then, but with a plan and a Wish pass, I bet you’ll still be able to fly through your priority attractions in the morning before many visitors get out of bed. That will free up your afternoon and evening for parades, shopping, shows and less-crowded rides.

      I would definitely use the rental car. It will allow you to come and go on your own schedule and parking is paid for. GKTW has a shuttle, but it is only for families who do not have a rental car. It makes one round trip to each park each day, on a schedule.

      Post a Reply
  17. What do you do with your backpack if you all go on a ride together? Can you take it? Are there a lockers around? My 10 year old son is going to GKTW 2015, just got the clear from the doctors- he had a bone marrow transplant in sept 2013. Thank you:)

    Post a Reply
    • At Disney, your pack can ride in your lap or at your feet for every ride. At Universal, the thrill rides do not accommodate bags. Universal has lockers near those rides that are free for the time they estimate it will take you to ride. I didn’t like using the lockers because it was often so crowded and they slowed us down between attractions. However, if you want to carry a pack into Universal, it’s the only option. So glad to hear that you’ve been cleared to go. Enjoy your wish trip!

      Post a Reply
  18. We are going to Disney World through MAW this November and also staying a few extra days on the Disney property. GKTW offers plenty of meals throughout the day, although I was wondering what restaurants are favorites throughout the Disney property. We love trying new places! Thank you!

    Post a Reply
  19. Thanks for the tips! …. my son was just approved to have a wish granted

    Post a Reply
  20. Were you able to use your Give Kids the World Passport at Sea World San Diego? I didn’t see it a contact on the list.

    Post a Reply
    • We did not use our IAAPA passport at SeaWorld San Diego. I don’t see it on the list either. We did use it successfully at the San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND California.

      Post a Reply
  21. Hi there,
    We are going to GKTW this New Year’s Eve. I was wondering if there is any kind of shuttle service to the parks from GKTW? Or, is it a better idea to rent a car?

    Post a Reply
    • Wish families are provided with a rental car and free parking at the parks when they arrive in Orlando. GKTW has a shuttle, but it has a limited schedule and must be reserved in advance. Most families are expected to use the rental car.

      Post a Reply
  22. I have planned a trip for my daughter’s birthday to Disney,October 14.I recently got into a motor vehicle accident and I can barely walk and now disabled.My MRI reveals multiple level disc herniations.I suffer from sciatica and lumbar sacral dysfunction.Prolonged standing exacerbates my condition, therefore I need assistance for walking and I cannot stand on lines to long.I do not want to disappoint my daughter.Is it possible to receive a Make a Wish pass for the rides.To fulfill my daughter’s first trip to Disney.

    Post a Reply
    • Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World are specifically for children with life-threatening conditions and there is a long verification and planning process to grant a wish to go to Disney World. However, Walt Disney World attempts to accommodate all types of disabilities all the time. Visit Guest Relations inside the park gates when you arrive and they will probably be able to help you. Here is more information about the Disability Access Program: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/disney-parks-disability-access-service-card-fact-sheet/

      Post a Reply
  23. Thank you so much for all this useful information. My family is going to Disney through MAW in Feb & we are so excited ! Your tips will really help.

    Post a Reply
  24. Hi were going to GKTW but me or my partner won’t drive over there are there any transport that takes you to the parks

    Post a Reply
    • Driving a rental car is the most convenient way to get to and from the parks on your own schedule, but GKTW has a shuttle for families who need it. I recommend that you contact your wish coordinator or GKTW to get more details about your shuttle options. Have a great trip!

      Post a Reply
  25. We are in the beginning stages of planning son’s wish to Disney, can we extend trip?

    Post a Reply
    • Ask your Make A Wish team about extending. Different chapters have different policies about this. In Utah, it was no problem for us to extend our trip in 2013, but I’ve heard that our chapter has since changed that policy.

      Post a Reply
  26. Were you able to use your GKTW pass for meet and greets or just to ride the rides?

    Post a Reply
    • When we were there in 2013, the pass could not officially be used to skip the lines for character greetings. However, we met a family who did show their pass to at the character lines and were let to the front. So, it might depend on your luck with Disney employees. GKTW schedules character greetings at the resorts every morning, and there were short or no lines for those. Characters also made appearances at some of the evening GKTW parties. So, we didn’t take a lot of character photos in the parks, but we still came home with plenty of character photos.

      Post a Reply
  27. Hi everyone! This is such a fantastic post with awesome information, thanks to everyone who has contributed! We go to Disney World in May for our MAW trip and could not be more excited. Family members who found out about our trip purchased our family a set of Magic Bands, does anyone know if those can be used with the passes we’ll receive at GKTW, or will the kids just have to wear them for decoration? (I don’t think they can be returned.) Thanks!!

    Post a Reply
    • What a kind gift! I have not been to WDW since Magic Bands were introduced, but it looks like you could still use them for some things – you just won’t need them for tickets or FastPass+. It looks like they may still be handy for keeping restaurant reservations, your show schedule, your PhotoPass account, etc. I would sign up through the My Disney Experience link. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/ I bet that somebody at GKTW or Disney guest services could offer more tips for making the most of the Magic Bands. If other Wish families have experience with this, please share!

      Post a Reply
  28. We were able to use our GKTW pass to meet characters, that was a couple of years ago though. We just showed our pass to the character helper and they brought us to the character. Sometimes we still waited a little bit, but we never had to get in line. On a side note, the lines for characters were much smaller at Epcot center than at magic kingdom. I’m not sure if we were just lucky or if that is a trend.

    Post a Reply
  29. Thank you SO much! We leave tomorrow and all of the options were beginning to become overwhelming but your tips have helped me decide!

    Post a Reply
  30. I my Family will be going on our make a wish trip this November has anyone on here gone during that time of the year? I was wondering about the weather so we know what kind of clothing would be best…

    Post a Reply
    • The weather should be beautiful in November, with averages in the high 70’s (F). I would pack jackets or hoodies and rain ponchos just in case, but you should be visiting at one of the best times of the year.

      Post a Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Andrew’s Make-a-Wish trip | Living with Burkitt's - [...] am planning to write several articles for my travel blog, tipsforfamilytrips.com, about different parts of our trip. These will…
  2. Tips for planning a Disney World trip through Make-a-Wish - [...] Disney World wish includes a week-long stay for our entire family at a special resort called Give Kids the…

Leave a Reply