Are you planning to stay at Give Kids the World Village as part of a Make-A-Wish trip to Orlando?
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.
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.
Here are our tips for making the most of your stay at Give Kids the World.
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 in the orientation meeting.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Walmart is just down the street
You will have to drive past Walmart every time you come or go from Give Kids the World. It's a convenient place to pick up water bottles, snacks, band aids or anything else you need during your stay. This store has a large Disney section for bargain souvenir hunters.
Visit the Gallery of Hope
Find a quiet moment to walk through the Gallery of Hope, which tells the story of GKTW's founder, Henri Landwirth. Learn more about the children each venue is named after, salute the volunteer photos, and learn what plans are in the works for Give Kids the World.
Use GKTW's photo services
Volunteer photographers are on hand at character greetings and special events to take photos of your family. These photos will be burned to a disk before you leave the resort.
You can take your own SD photo card to the Welcome Center to have your personal photos burned to disk. You can also borrow a camera from the Welcome Center to use during your stay if you would like to.
Plan for your IAAPA World Passport for Kids
When you leave Give Kids the World Village, you will receive a World Passport for Kids from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. This passport entitles your wish child and immediate family complimentary single-day admission to any of the 200+ participating amusement parks throughout the world. The pass expires one year after your stay at Give Kids the World.
You will receive a list of participating parks and instructions on how to obtain admission. Two parks near our home were on the list. We also planned a Fall Break trip to San Diego so we could visit a couple more. We did not receive special treatment at these parks like we did during our Make-A-Wish trip. That was fine with us because we were just happy to be there.
Here are some of the destinations we have visited that participate in the IAAPA World Passport for Kids program:
- LEGOLAND California Resort – Carlsbad, California
- San Diego Zoo – San Diego, California
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park – Escondido, California
- Lagoon Amusement Park – Farmington, Utah
- Most or all Six Flags Amusement Parks
Consider giving back to Give Kids the World
Most of Give Kids the World is staffed by volunteers who made our stay that much better with their cheerful service. They served our food, cleaned our villa before and after our stay, and staffed the activities.
The beautiful villas and venues would not be possible without the donations of many. All of the food at Give Kids the World has been donated by Perkins and Boston Market.
Our family returned to volunteer at Give Kids the World in 2017. We completed a four-hour shift at the Candy Land party in the evening. Kids generally need to be over 12 years old to volunteer, but they'll make an exception for Wish kids if they are old enough to be helpful. My 10-year-old son was allowed to volunteer at the party.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the grounds, enjoying a meal and soaking up the spirit of Give Kids the World. Wish families are welcome to return periodically for a visit.
Thank you to Give Kids the World Village, Make-a-Wish and many volunteers and donors who made our stay here a special experience!
Because we wanted to see lots of photos before we arrived, here are a few more photos of Give Kids the World Village: