Touring the World on ECV: The Czarina Report
In October 2004, AllEarsNet®'s friend, the Czarina, toured WDW by scooter, also known as an Electric Convenience Vehicle or ECV. This is offered as a personal experience of a 10-day trip, and an update to the excellent advice already available on Beth Floro's Wheelchair/ECV FAQ.
Medical background — well, I have had surgery on my knee, leaving me with very little cartilage and fairly severe arthritis. I can walk, but not for long. I become a tad irritable after an hour of trailing around the parks, and turn into a snarling, hideous beast after two hours. In fairness to myself and the Czar, I use a scooter.
For several years I have been renting the ECVs available in the Disney parks, and have had fairly good luck with them. They are the behemoths of the industry — very large, slow, and stable (4 wheels). Here are a few tips on using these scooters:
1. Arrive early! The parks do run out of scooters. If you have slept in, dial 0 on your resort phone and ask to be connected to Stroller and Wheelchair Rentals in the park of your choice. Ask if they still have scooters (or wheelchairs) available. They will usually tell you what your chances are if you arrive within an hour or so; however, they will no longer hold a scooter for you, as they used to in the past.
2. Epcot is the best chance for renting a scooter later in the day. They almost never run out of scooters before 10:30 a.m. or so. Be aware that scooters may be rented at two locations — one near Spaceship Earth at the main entrance, and the other at the International Gateway.
3. Be wary of taking a WDW rental scooter into an attraction queue that has sharp turns (example: Mickey's PhilHarmagic). It can be done, but it isn't easy. You will need a calm head and some practice to do it without crunching. NOTE: This is NOT the case with the lighter 3-wheeled scooters available from many outside rental companies. They turn on a dime and will get through any queue with ease.
4. All WDW scooters are not equal. They have been rented many, many times. None are speedy, but some are super-slow. Some are very stiff to maneuver. Try out a couple and pick the one that suits you.
For this trip, I decided to rent a scooter from an outside source. Several years ago, I rented one from Care Medical. Their service is fine, and their standard scooters cost $30/day, which is the same as the WDW ones. My only quibble with CareMed is that they do occasionally require recharging in the middle of the day, which is inconvenient.
After some research, I rented a Revo 2004 scooter from Scootarama. The cost was $25/day. They have two types of scooters. Type I is for folks 300 pounds and under, Type II is for folks over 300 pounds. I found the service to be excellent — they will deliver to your hotel room, and they also picked the scooter up from bell services after I had left.
I loved the Revo! It was light, stable, very maneuverable and best of all it NEVER needed recharging during the day. I used it from 7 to 12 hours a day for ten solid days, and recharged it only at night in my hotel room.
Two things about my situation required some planning: I didn't have a car or van to transport the scooter, and to be honest, I just didn't want to put the scooter on a Disney bus under any circumstances. This was kind of chicken of me, I know. But in my experience, most Disney bus drivers take what seems like forever to secure the scooter in the bus, and some drivers don't seem very good at operating the wheelchair lifts at all. I just couldn't face the (usually unexpressed) impatience of my fellow passengers.
Folks who use the wheelchair lifts on buses have my sincere respect; I'm just not one of them, or not yet.
However, I don't have a problem with using the monorails. The portable ramps have been improved lately; they are now wide enough to use without trauma. Backing out of a monorail car (which you must do to transfer) is a little bit of an adventure, but I had no serious mishaps.
CONSIDER THE EPCOT RESORTS! That's the biggest tip I can give anyone in my situation — stay at an Epcot resort! Unfortunately, there are no budget or moderate resorts in this area, but the Swan and Dolphin quite often have big discounts; and of course there are always the usual seasonal or Passholder savings too.
Staying at an Epcot resort (the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan or Dolphin), you can scooter to MGM and Epcot without using any other form of transport than your own wheels — furthermore, you will enjoy the trip. I had a great time traveling along the watersides, waving to the Friendship boats and looking at the mallards, anhingas, ibis and other waterbirds. The walkway to the Studios is particularly fun, because not many people use it. It's a great way to begin or end the day. Using the Revo, I frequently went to both parks in one day — another advantage of the 20-mile charging distance they have. Anyone who can go more than 20 miles at Disney World in one day gets a tip of the hat from me!
What about the Magic Kingdom? Well, remember you can always go by bus if you don't have my squeamishness about it. But if you do, here is the SuperSecret way. OK, it's not that secret. NOTE: This only works if you have a Park Hopper or Annual Pass ticket.
1. Scooter to the International Gate entrance of Epcot and go in. Proceed through the park to the front exit in Future World (stopping for snacks or attractions as the mood takes you) and exit. You can then get on the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
2. Once at the TTC, you have the choice of the Magic Kingdom monorail or the MK ferryboat. If crowds are large, I recommend the ferryboat; no CM will have to get a ramp for you and you will get on the boat just like everybody else.
This process may sound complicated, but believe it or not it is very fast most of the time. The whole trip never took more than 25 minutes. If you consider that the WDW buses from the Epcot resorts often stop at 5 different hotels plus a waterpark on their way to the Magic Kingdom, you see how efficient it is. One night, we managed to watch an 8 p.m. Wishes show, and get through the huge crowds exiting the MK and over to Epcot in time for the 9 p.m. Illuminations.
And what about the Animal Kingdom? Well — I left my Revo at the hotel and rented a Disney scooter.
A few other tips:
Be alert! Observing the behavior of your fellow guests is key. People — kids especially — jump in front of you. People read maps while they walk, or gaze at the wonders around them. Thinking "What an idjit!" will only make you crazy. Remember — YOU are the one with the heavy equipment. It's just another form of driving. Enjoy, and be defensive.
Use the "bob and weave" technique to get around clumps of people, but be conservative. Darting out from behind something at warp speed may be hazardous to somebody's health.
Park either in the designated stroller/wheelchair areas, or somewhere out of the way of traffic. I know this is obvious, but it's easy to forget it.
When in a queue, don't tailgate. It makes people nervous. In the dark, give yourself plenty of room to maneuver; and if you can't (as in exiting Epcot after Illuminations, for instance) go at a very slow, very steady pace and you'll just be plodding along like everybody else. Blend in.
Scootering is great! It gives you the chance to do much, much more than you otherwise would. It forces you to stop and smell the roses, or the Main Street Bakery anyhow. You will meet good people who will open doors and gates for you. Be grateful, be careful and enjoy!