Diabetes and fast tracking rides at Alton Towers

Alton Towers

Did you know…

…that someone with Type 1 Diabetes can avoid queueing for ages?
Until recently I didn’t but some people in the Twitter #DOC (diabetes online community) made me aware of it and (after having just returned from two days at the theme park) I’m really glad they did.

In general how does it work?

Once in the park you get a ‘special access’ wrist band which enables the person with Type 1 diabetes and three carers to use the disabled entrance to the ride, avoiding queueing in the normal ride queue.
In essence this means that queueing times is dramatically reduced, meaning you can get to go on more rides. You have to wait a certain amount of time between each ride so that you just can’t keep going on ride after ride.
Note that whilst it only allows 3 carers, on our first ride of The Smiler we had 9 of us ride with just two ‘special access’ passes. I guess some ride operators are lenient, others maybe not.

STOP PRESS – 22 July 2014: there’s quite a lot of reports within the last two weeks that only people with insulin pumps are getting a pass, which in itself seem ludicrous as they’ve got the ability to turn their basal down whilst queueing.

Getting over the guilt

These ‘special access’ passes aren’t only available to people with Type 1, they’re available to people who suffer many different issues.
At first the idea of using a pass like this seemed odd, like we were cheating the system, after all we don’t normally think of our Type 1 child as disabled.
For the first few rides I felt guilty, walking ably down the disabled ramp and getting on a ride in front of people who’d queued for ages.
But I thought about it and realised that for 2.5 years now we’ve ate, slept and breathed diabetes, worrying about hypos and hypers and hospital visits and preventing incredibly horrible future complications.
It’s about time then we got something out of this diabetes, and this ‘special access’ pass was it.
Guilt over.

Getting your wristband/card at Guest Services

Once you’ve bought your tickets and are within the park head straight to the Guest Services building, which is on the right just after you’ve gone down the steps.
In there let the staff view a letter from the hospital which mentions about the kid/adult having Type 1 Diabetes and they will put a ‘special access’ band around that person’s wrist. They will also give you a ride time card.
Note that one of our party didn’t have a letter but was wearing an insulin pump and she managed to get to a pass too.

Getting on a ride

Use the disable entrance. Do not go in at the Fastrack entrance, this is for people who’ve paid a premium to get on rides quickly and this entrance is not for ‘special access’ riders.
Each ride has a disabled entrance, which are often the same place riders exit from. Note that some rides has a ‘disabled’ entrance and a ‘wheelchair’ entrance so use the ‘disabled’ one if you can, or the ‘wheelchair’ one if not. Mostly though, they’re the same entrance and they’re usually easy to find. An exception to this though is Oblivion where you have to go in through the shop.
Once you reach the front of the disabled queue the ride operator will ask to see your ride time card and will write a new time in the next free box. Often this time will be one hour from the current time, although on several occasions it was only 30 minutes. After riding the current ride you will not be able to use this ‘special access’ method again until the card time has been reached.
The ride operator will get you on one of the next available rides.

Only one at a time

Presumably for safety reasons only one ‘special access’ riders is allowed on a ride at a time, so if you go with a group of you as we did, you will not be able to all ride at the same time.
This seemed like a small price to pay for the benefits you got.

Wait…and do it again

Once your ride card time has been reached you just go and do a different ride, or the same ride if you wish.
On Friday we managed to do The Smiler, Oblivion, Thirteen, Nemesis, Rita (twice), Air (twice), Blade, Submision, Congo River Rapids, Hex, Runaway Mine Train and some smaller stuff too. That’s a lot in one day and wouldn’t have been possible without using the ‘special access’ pass.

If you’re interested about whether this is available at other theme parks read this article: Fast tracking rides at theme parks for PWDs…and free tickets

UPDATE: 3rd July 2013
Amy’s pretty switched on and cleverly announced to her friends yesterday ‘if you’re going to a theme park soon you might want to take me’. What a good idea. 🙂

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