About Amy J. Hughes

Amy Hughes is the Owner of Up and Up Travel, a Special Needs Travel Agency dedicated to helping families, individuals and groups enjoy the Disney Parks, Resorts & Cruise Lines. As a wife and mother of a neuro-diverse family, Amy is passionate about helping families travel. Amy is a former Disney Cast Member, has been featured on the Special Mouse Podcast Roundtable, a featured writer with Evansville Parent Magazine, and blogs regularly on the joys and challenges of travel with Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can contact Amy at amy@upanduptravel.com.

New Offers – December 28th

Disney release two great offers to end 2016 just this morning!

dta660x250_ssm_usSummer Meal Offer

You can enjoy one meal per person, per night at select Walt Disney World® Resort quick-service dining locations when they buy a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Walt Disney Travel Company room and ticket package at a select Disney Value Resort hotel for arrivals most nights May 30-Aug. 24, 2017 when they book by Feb. 12, 2017.


Fun & Sun Room Offer

When you stay at a Walt Disney World® Resort hotel, they’re always in the middle of the magic. And with this great travel offer, it’s even easier to bask in the enchantment! You can save up to 25%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels for stays most nights Feb. 20-June 10, 2017.

Plus, you can get one more day added to their ticket when you upgrade to a Magic Your Way® room and ticket package with a minimum 4-day Ticket.

  • Book by Feb. 26, 2017 for stays most nights Feb. 20-June 10, 2017
  • Book by March 30, 2017 for stays most nights April 9-June 10, 2017

Ready to get the magic started?  Click here to get a no obligation quote fromone of our travel consultants


shutterstock_436681159I’ve sat here for 4 days and stared at a blinking cursor off and on for several fronts: status bars, email replies, blog entries.  All deleted.  All ended before they began really.  All because what was once a place that I looked back on and forward to with fondness has been changed somehow, in just the span of a few hours.

Politicians and News pundits, Celebrities and Talk Show Hosts, well Intentioned Friends and Family Members all swirling through our living rooms, our smartphones, social media apps…  All weighing in on a week I would like to pretend hasn’t changed us.  But it has.  It would be simple to join the chorus of people on either side of a political argument vying for more control or against, for more rights or status quo…  But the bickering I see is simply pointless.  It’s POINTLESS.  There are lives lost, families grieving, friends gone, bodies altered in ways that they did not expect Saturday evening when they ventured out to go clubbing or go on vacation.  This is not the time to try and win a debate.

Why do we have to make everything solution based?  Why do we have to be the smartest guys in the room?  Why can’t we just look at each other and love a little bit more instead of pointing fingers of blame at this institution or that law, or this political party, or this or that or the other thing.  It’s quite simple what took those 50 lives: Hate.  It’s quite simple to me what over time will help heal us: Love.  Just love one another, grieve with people, offer a shoulder, a hand, a pint of blood, a time where there are no agendas, where we aren’t filled with such agitation it makes me want to avoid people all together.

This isn’t a political argument, please don’t turn it into one.  It’s simply a call for healing.  A call for time to process what has happened to our very World, to our fellow humans.  We in the Autism Community especially know you cannot begin to problem solve until the processing is completed.  That’s all I’m saying… Love one another a little bit more, pour of yourself into the very humanity that binds us all.  That’s how we win this.  The more we bicker the more those filled with hate ultimately win.  Don’t give into it.  Do give of yourself to those around you who are hurting, or want someone to listen to them.

Life in all of it’s glorious forms is so abundantly precious, so beautiful, such a gift.  That fact is oh so much more palpable this week, isn’t it?  Don’t let that fade, do embrace it in all of it’s heartbreak. Let this week change you.  Let it better you.  Let yourself feel the loss of not just one nightclub, but a shopping center in Tel Aviv, an airport in Belgium, a Christmas Party in San Bernardino, a concert or cafe in Paris, numerous city squares, hotels, marketplaces in the Middle East.  We are a world united in loss it seems, but also one united in compassion, in love, and hopefully in faith that the goodness of man far outweighs the evil that has saturated our World.  That is my fervent prayer and I see it born out in the countless number showing up to donate food, water, their very blood.  In average citizens all the way up to major corporations reaching out to those in grief in substantiative ways. The profoundness of a simple prayer shared over and over.

Walt once said:

“Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil.”  

And I think that is the most important lesson we can teach ourselves too as we move forward.  Good can and indeed does triumph, the strongest things in our lives are good, beautiful and wondrous to behold.

This week has changed us, there is no question.  But the way you personally answer: “How has it changed me?” makes all of the difference.


Ten Questions With Maureen Deal from Autism At The Parks


11096522_10206492090012113_7151693489647224709_nWhen we first began Up & Up Travel, one of the first people I reached out to was Maureen Deal.  Her site: AutismattheParks.com  continues to be an invaluable resource for families planning and traveling to the theme parks in Orlando, Florida.  As well once you get to know Maureen you know just how passionate, and wonderful, of a person she is not only helping other families with Autism.  I asked Maureen if I could interview her for our blog this month, especially in light of it being Autism Awareness Month, and she responded so positively I was blown away.

I cannot encourage our readers to make great use of her site, her knowledge and her passion for helping families!

1.)     What brought you to Orlando?

My husband received a job offer in 2007. One of the reasons we looked at
Orlando was how wonderful our son’s experience at Disney had been the two
times we previously vacationed here.

2.)  Have you always written, or was it a found talent?

It’s a relatively new skill for me. I started writing for the Orlando
Informer website in 2012. Dan Hatfield was the owner at that time and
provided excellent mentoring and advice about my writing. Also using my
husband’s feedback, I’ve been able to (hopefully) improve my writing over
the last few years. It is much easier for me to write facts than to evoke
emotion but I am continuously trying to improve.

3.)  You are an autism parent as well as writing for other autism parents
and those with autism.  What got you started down that path of providing
this unique perspective?

The old saying “do what you know” is really how I got started, along with
my brother’s encouragement. When we moved here in 2007, my son was 13 and
my family and I would visit one of Orlando’s theme parks every weekend.
Because of our experiences and the accommodations available at the parks
for guests with disabilities, I found I could help others make their
vacations better for the entire family.

 4.)  What impact(s) have you seen for your family on touring the parks

Because we live locally, we can enjoy Orlando’s theme parks often. Due to
his autism, our son is not able to experience many of the things his
typical peers may experience. The theme parks are an incredible outlet
where we can have fun together as a family and our son can enjoy himself
just like anyone else. We are frequently recognized by cast members at
Disney and team members at Universal, especially at our son’s favorite
attractions. The CMs and TMs are genuinely happy to see us and it makes us
feel that extra special magic of the theme parks. Even though the parks
are 45 minutes from our home, we still like to take a mini-vacation about
once a year and stay close to or on property in order to get the full
experience and spend longer days at the parks.

5.)  Outside of the parks, what takes up your time?  Where are your passions?

Now that my son is an adult, I’ve been focusing on his needs and teaching
him more life skills and job skills. I have also been working on improving
and expanding the services provided by my website. I’m an avid reader,
HGTV fan and addicted to cruising as much as my budget will allow. I also
have embraced the minimalist’s philosophy that experiences and
relationships are more important than things. For the last few years my
family and I have been donating/selling/tossing unnecessary items that we
don’t love and focusing more on our family’s meaningful experiences.

6.)  How long have you administered Autism at the Parks and what have been
your greatest challenges/joys in sharing this blog with the rest of us?

I created AutismAtTheParks.com in 2012. I wanted a website that guests who
are visiting Orlando with a family member with autism or other disability
could go to for information they might need related to their Orlando
vacation, not just a couple of blog posts in a general information
website. The greatest joys I’ve experienced with my website have been the
families that say my website has genuinely helped their family have a
great vacation and all the wonderful people I have met in person or
online. I’ve learned so much from other parents and theme parks fans and
truly enjoy the interactions in this wonderful community.

7.)  Can you share a story of your favorite memory from touring the
Orlando Parks: WDW or Universal?

There are so many great experiences but one comes to mind almost
immediately. A few years ago, my husband and son were at the Beauty and
the Beast show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (I was at home). This live
show was a favorite of our son’s for several years and he was very
enthusiastic in his enjoyment of the show, with his excited shrills and
happy flapping of his hands. One day after the show a CM approached my
husband and asked if they would like to meet some of the cast of the
production. They escorted my husband and son backstage and were met by
Belle and the cast of performers for a private meet and greet. My son and
husband were very honored and excited to meet the cast and they presented
my son with an enchanted rose. It was truly a magic experience that we
will never forget.


8.)  Now the million dollar question, which park do you like the most?

That is really a tough question for me, since I love each park for their
unique features not to be found anywhere else. If I had to choose only
one, it would have to be the Magic Kingdom. Even though I’ve visited that
park many times, I still get excited when I see Cinderella’s Castle and I
enjoy so many of the classic attractions and shows the park has to offer.
It is still a magical place for me.

9.)  When the GAC changed to DAS, how did it end up working out for your

It was tough changing from the GAC to the DAS and on crowded days we still
struggle. My son always chose what he wanted to do next by pointing on the
map or indicating he wanted to ride an attraction for a second or third
time. Now his choices are limited and rather than letting him control
attraction selection, we as his parents have to decide ahead of time what
we will be doing with the FP+ reservations and scheduling our times.
Although we still try to focus on his preferred attractions, our
experience at Disney is much less spontaneous and more structured and
inflexible.  Due to their accommodations we are able to be more flexible
and spontaneous at Universal and visit there as frequently as we do

10.)  Best piece of advice you would give to parents or individuals
planning a trip to Orlando?

Just a few tips:
1) Visit my website at www.AutismAtTheParks.com and click on the menu tabs
for detailed information and tips for Orlando’s theme parks.
2) Start a walking program two to three months before your vacation in
Orlando. You’ll walk at a minimum 3-5 miles in a day and fatigue is a big
contributor to meltdowns (for all family members, not just those with a
developmental disability).
3) Invest in Body Glide. It is used by runners to prevent blisters and
chafing in any area that may rub-for example, the bottom of your feet,
under your arms, legs, etc.
4) Study the park maps available online and become familiar with what you
can do, especially if you’ve never visited before.
5) And finally: don’t sweat the small stuff. Realize it is impossible to
see every single thing on one vacation but try to have an enjoyable
vacation with your family.