Tips for Surviving Universal Studios with IBD
Orlando is a pretty popular vacation destination so I wanted to offer up some tips and tricks about traveling to two of their most popular theme parks: Universal Studios and Disney World.
I recently went to both and today I will share with you some advice for going to Universal Studios and in my next post, I will talk about going to Disney World with IBD.
Using a disability pass to enjoy Universal Studios with IBD
The picture above is of Dan, my boyfriend who has Crohn’s disease, myself who has Crohn’s disease and a J-pouch, our friend Eric who has Crohn’s disease and an ostomy, and our friend Meg who has ulcerative colitis and an ostomy; holding our disability passes. We recently went to Universal together after a weekend where we were brought together to do some IBD advocacy events.
One of the things we made sure to do was go get our disability passes. For a patient with IBD, this is a smart thing to do. A disability pass makes it so you do not have to wait in long lines which is great if you experience urgency and need to rush to a restroom.
There is nothing worse (okay there is) than being stuck in the middle of a long line of people with no way out when you need to use the bathroom immediately. Not only is a disability pass useful if you have urgency but it helps if you have joint pain or abdominal pain that makes it hard to stand for long periods of time.
In addition to having Crohn’s disease, I have another illness called chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction which has caused digestive tract paralysis. Because of this I am in severe pain the majority of the time and have a lot of difficulty standing, so a disability pass helps a lot.
Our friend Meg was having a lot of arthritis pain on this day, so much so that she was having a lot of trouble walking, especially up and down the stairs, so the pass was very useful to her and to all of us with our own unique issues.
How do you get a disability pass?
- As soon as you get through the ticketing gates you need to go to guest services. They will ask you to explain why you would need a pass and then they write one out for you. The pass is free and easy to obtain.
- Once you have the pass you will go to a ride’s entrance and look for the “express lane” and there will be a person there. You just show them your pass and they scan it and then allow you to enter the line if the wait is under 30 minutes, which all of the rides were on this day. If the wait is over 30 minutes they will write down a time for you to come back and then you can get on. We didn’t have to wait any longer than 10 minutes for a ride but most of them we were able to pretty much walk right onto.
- The pass is for you but it will also allow the people with you to get into line with you. So if you go with your family or friends you will all be able to get into the express lane together so you don’t have to ride separately.
How many days are good to spend at Universal Studios with Crohn's?
Universal Orlando is actually made up of two parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. If you decide to just do one of the parks then one day should be sufficient. If like me you want to do both parks because you want to experience ALL of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter then you will need a ticket into both parks.
It is possible to do both parks in one day but keep in mind that it involves more walking and having to do a lot more than if you break it into a couple of days. I think that two days is a good idea if you do not want to rush and you want to be able to see and experience everything.
The importance of rest with Crohn's or UC
Resting is very important. Back in 2011, I went to Universal Orlando a few weeks after getting out of the hospital, and when I was still in a pretty bad flare up and I was also underweight. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty weak and having a lot of trouble walking around and doing things.
One of the things we did was spend 1/2 the day at the park and then go back to the hotel for a few hours so I could lay down and rest and then we went back to the park in the evening and I was feeling a lot more capable of completing the day.
It’s important to remember and accept your current limitations and adjust your expectations accordingly. The park has a lot of benches to sit down on which is nice so that you can take little breaks.
Universal Studios with an ostomy or j-pouch
Have an ostomy or j-pouch? No problem!
Here is a picture I took of my friends Eric and Meg checking out the seats to a roller coaster we were about to ride to see how the restraints would fit against their ostomies. They were able to ride all of the rides with no problem!
I definitely recommend checking out Eric’s website because he has some great content on being an ostomate and going to amusement parks. He’s a roller coaster enthusiast and does not let his ostomy hold him back!
I have a j-pouch and have been riding rollercoasters ever since I’ve had it and have not had any problems.
Tips if you’re on total parenteral nutrition
Here is a picture of me in the Hogwarts Castle at Universal Islands of Adventure in 2014. As you can see I had a PICC line in because I was on TPN for 9 months that year.
I didn’t want my TPN or my PICC line to hold me back from enjoying life because I had spent the first 3 months of that year in the hospital and having another emergency surgery and then going septic and then having other complications. So all I wanted to do was go on vacation and enjoy life!
I did ride all of the roller coasters with my PICC line in but this is up to your own good judgment. I felt fully confident that I could keep my line from getting bumped around or damaged in any way. I just wanted to put this here so that you know that you can still enjoy life even on TPN.
Using and finding the public restrooms
I recommend downloading the Universal Studios app to your phone. On the app you can locate all of the restrooms and it even has GPS to guide you right to them.
Other tips to enjoy the parks
I hope this helps you out if you’re planning a vacation to Orlando.
What is your comfort level disclosing your IBD to your employer?