How to Plan Amusement Park Trips with Autism

Originally written by Isaiah Tien Grewal 

Visiting an amusement park can be an entertaining whole-day activity for the whole family, and the ability to immerse yourself in a positive, stimulating environment is one of the reasons why parks like Disney World are so popular for those with autism. 

Despite being filled with joy and magic, sometimes amusement parks can be overwhelming, busy and tiring. Being able to plan your day in advance can help neurodivergent individuals make the most of their trip. Izzy, the first person to use PS128 for autism, is a Disney fanatic who has visited Disney World many times. Let’s read his perspective for the best way to approach amusement parks like Disney World with autism.

Why is Disney World so Unique?

Amusement parks like Disney World captivate their visitors by allowing them to immerse themselves in a world of magic and wonder. For many, this can mean being able to relieve some of their worries and stresses, or in Izzy’s case, Disney World becomes therapeutic: 

“Walt Disney World is where I myelinate eating new things, break motor loops, and weaken my brain’s thinking about unwanted obsessions. My family gets to go at least twice yearly, and I am so thankful for the trips. Having Disney World as therapy and vacation is the best.”

As a result, amusement parks have become a haven for many neurodivergent children and adults alike. What makes Disney in particular so special is how well they cater for people with autism, Izzy explains: 

“Tons of great media about Disney World and autism already exist. Disney provides good summaries online about their services for Autistic guests, including this trip planning guide. Disney also provides these suggestions for accessing their Disability Access Service. Search online for blogs and articles from multiple sources—this article about autism at Disney World by AllEars is good.”

Izzy also appreciates that days at amusement parks like Disney are customizable to every individual. Since amusement parks are whole-day outings, it’s likely that there is something for everyone: 

“Your Disney day can be fast and furious fun, mostly meal highlights, a slow day around a pool, or some combination of those plans.”

Keep reading to see how Izzy plans for trips to amusement parks like Disney, as well as his restaurant recommendations.  

Amusement Parks and Autism

You can make Disney easy by planning a resort-only trip

Amusement parks are often filled with an exciting, positive atmosphere, which makes a day out at a place like Disney so heart-warming. However, for neurodivergent people, an amusement park can be more than just a day of rides, explains Izzy: 

“Disney was created to entertain and delight with much more than just rides. The most important consideration is that your Autistic loved one stays regulated and, therefore, happy. When autism ain't happy, no one’s happy, especially the autistic.”

Izzy also explains that an amusement park vacation doesn’t necessarily need to be filled with park activities; instead, you can make the most of on-site holiday resorts to find a balance between relaxation and fun: 

“Every one of Walt Disney World’s 24 resorts can be vacation destinations in and of itself. From my fave Disney Value Resort, All-Star Music, to my fave Disney Vacation Club Resort, Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary, each has beautiful pools, multiple delicious dining options, and many fun resort activities. Every day can be different on a resort-only trip, no park tickets required.”

“I have great memories of just walking around enjoying the resort amusements; taking the free bus to Disney Springs for lunch, sightseeing, and riding an Amphicar; and taking (free) bus, boat, and monorail rides to the Polynesian Village Resort to watch Magic Kingdom Fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant.

Resort stays not only provide accommodation, pools, activities and on-site dining options, but can also be an experience in themselves. Many amusement parks like Disney and Universal Studios have a variety of themed resorts where you can still experience the magic without being in an overly stimulating environment, Izzy mentions: 

“[Resorts are] wonderful experiences cause little anxiety since they (mostly) don’t cost anything beyond the resort's nightly rate, removing the pressure your autistic feels to “get your money’s worth” rushing around a Disney park. Resort-only trips are a nice option for first-timers.”

Planning Your Amusement Park Trips With Autism

Izzy has curated some of his best tips to ensure that a day out at an amusement park is filled with fun for people with autism. Whether you are visiting Disney World or another amusement park, you can read his advice on making the most out of your trip: 

Decide The Best Time to Visit

Planning is everything when it comes to visiting an amusement park, especially for a large park like Disney. Taking important features like weather, peak seasons, or any seasonal holidays or promotions (like Halloween or Christmas) into account is crucial to planning your trip. This way, you can be sure to avoid things like crowds, extreme heat or any other unexpected events as you explore the parks, explains Izzy: 

“Ponder the ideal combination of Florida weather, Disney seasonal pricing, and your family’s vacation time availability to figure out your best time to go. My mom uses this “Best & Worst Weeks to Visit Disney World” guide by Disney Tourist Blog and the Disney Vacation Club points charts to decide when we should go. 

We normally avoid the beastly hot months of June and July and the throngs of major holidays. My autistic sensory system doesn’t do well in heat or crowds. In winter months, my Dad and I are often the only ones in the pool which is hilarious fun. Depending on the time of year, things can feel different, so be sure to pick the best days of weather and crowd levels for your autistic.”

Pick Your Top Three Must-Dos

It's easy to get over excited when planning an amusement park vacation, and end up adding way too many things to your ‘must do’ list. Spreading yourself too thin and rushing around the parks would make anyone easily exhausted, but for autistics, it could mean risking sensory overload: 

Make the most of your time by doing less, not more

“Resist the urge to spend long days in the park if it might cause your autistic sensory overload. The best thing we do as a family is choose our “top three must-dos” for each park day. Plan lots of time to walk and enjoy any sights slowly; also plan time for stimming and transitions. The goal of vacation is to enjoy fun with each other, not cram as much as possible into the day.” 

Izzy also recommends adding in some dedicated quiet time in your daily plans, even if it means sacrificing some attractions to do so. Quiet time is essential for autistics to allow for some much needed recharging: 

“Allow quiet time in the hotel room for your autistic’s sensory system to recharge. The same goal of regulation also applies to park days. Having a blast on three rides makes for smiling memories more than passably amusing fun on ten rides.

Plan Your Meals 

Factoring in meal times should also be a part of your planning process. Many amusement parks will have accommodations in place to cater for autistic guests, so doing your research ahead can ensure you make the best choice for you. Izzy explains why the meal times at Disney are so special to him: 

“Disney restaurants are where I can practice motor skills for dining out and eating new foods with little anxiety because Disney is very experienced in hosting disabled guests. For me, just the chance to eat in such a variety of restaurants without the usual stress of prep for my mom is the reason I love Disney.”

Use a Vacation Planner

If it's your first amusement park vacation as an autistic, you can consider bringing in someone else to help you plan. Using a vacation planner who knows the parks inside and out will allow you to make choices with ease. Likewise, these planners will know exactly what types accommodations for autistics are in place, so you can make the most of your vacation, according to Izzy: 

“Finally, if no one in your group is the planning type, contact an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (paid by Disney to book vacations for you). Two Disney Planners I recommend specializing in booking vacations for special needs travelers are Take My Hand Travel and Autism on the Seas.”

Top Disney World Restaurant Recommendations for Autistics

Dining out in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful if you’re autistic. Since Disney is so accommodating to neurodivergent guests, there are options available for everybody. If you’re looking for some Disney Restaurant recommendations, you’re in luck, as Izzy has so generously shared some of his top picks: 

Counter service restaurants 

Sunshine Seasons

Located in the same building as one of my favorite rides, Soarin’, Sunshine Seasons in EPCOT serves a wide variety of foods you can get quickly. If your autistic is feeling overloaded by heat or hunger before 4 p.m., bring them here. My mom says the desserts here are great, so it's nice she can have a well-deserved snack while I munch on my same reliable dish of stir-fried shrimp noodles.

A seat on the far side next to the Living with the Land ride is our go-to spot for eating away from the crowds. And while you’re in the building, ride Soarin’ – you just let yourself get strapped into a captain’s seat and experience the thrilling feel of gliding.   

Docking Bay 7

Next to a fun ride called Millenium Falcon in Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, this cool place lets you eat under spaceships coming and going (they aren't really, but the sound effects are super realistic). Get my fave Fried Endorian Chicken Tip Yip dish and feel like a galactic fighter on lunch break. 

Intermission Food Court

Intermission Food Court is near my favorite pool

At All-Star Music Resort is that mouth-watering dish, Shrimp and Grits. I have eaten this dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner some days – it’s that good.  All-Star Music also has the funniest pool, so try a splash around after your meal. Get a family suite at this resort and have a blast during your relaxation hours.     

Buffet feasting

Hollywood & Vine

Hollywood & Vine has the most chill character buffet for autistics

The most chill character buffet is at the front of Hollywood Studios and everyone is sure to find something they like. From cute character interactions to plenty of space to stim if needed, this restaurant is a good choice for autistics just beginning to learn the motor for public dining. 

Chef Mickey

Dining here inside the atrium of the Contemporary Resort under the comings and goings of the Monorail Station is super fun. Book the last Breakfast Buffet seating time and you might end the meal with the restaurant all to yourself and near-private character interactions with Mickey, Minnie, and their friends.

Crystal Palace

The world of Winnie the Pooh and friends comes alive at this all-day buffet inside the Magic Kingdom. In general, everything here is wonderful, but some may find the chaos of all the excited children too much. On the other hand, happy stimming noises can be less noticeable in the din here. Altogether though, I think this place is worth a try at least once to see if it’s a can-enjoy meal option for your family. 


A vacation to a Disney resort or any other amusement park will be filled with joy and excitement. Parks like Disney have many accommodations for people with autism, meaning you can enjoy a day at the parks stress-free. To make the most of your vacation, make sure you plan thoroughly, and find a balance between excitement and relaxation to avoid becoming overstimulated. Use some of Izzy’s recommendations for resorts and restaurants to ensure you have a magical trip!

About the author:

Isaiah Tien Grewal, the first autistic user of the neurobiotic strain PS128™, has experienced a life-changing transformation over the years. PS128™ has empowered him to embrace more outings and engage with his surroundings like never before. Isaiah is also a Trainee in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Fellowship program at Stony Brook University. He holds an Undergraduate Certificate from Harvard Extension School and writes for He also contributed Chapter 39 of the book, “Leaders Around Me: Autobiographies of Autistics Who Type, Point, and Spell to Communicate,” edited by Edlyn Pena, PhD. When not working, he can be found at church, one of his grandparents’ houses, or Disney World.


Watch the video about Isaiah's life-changing experience with PS128 here

Also by Isaiah Tien Grewal: 

Restaurants for All: An Autistic's Advice

Nonspeaking Autism - My Point of View

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