Disney with Toddlers: Tips from the Pros!marylweimer
What should we bring?
Which areas of the park should we tackle first?
And perhaps most importantly since we’re going in July, how can we beat that notorious Florida heat?
There are some great resources available online, but today I’m asking the experts to weigh in: parents who are self-professed Disney World pros.
They’ve all taken toddlers to Disney World and have some great ideas for making your trip memorable and fun with a toddler in tow.
Let’s see what they have to say…and if you have any tips to add, please leave them in the comments!
Get a Stroller! 1 of 8If your kids will fit in a stroller, get a stroller. They may be "too old" for a stroller at home, but not at Disney . Even if you have one kid, get a two-kid stroller it's like having a shopping cart.
Having a pen light or other small, unobtrusive light will come in handy for kids who get a little scared during any dark rides.
Stay on property at Disney. A big part of the point of Disney is the atmosphere, and staying on property immerses you in it. It also makes that essential mid-day nap/rest/pool break possible. If you are on property, buy the souvenir cup (every resort offers them) for everyone on the first day. The unlimited free refills for your entire trip mean free coffee every morning & free pop when you get back to the hotel every afternoon and/or evening.
It always helped our peace of mind to take a picture of our boys each morning before we left the room. That way, in case we were separated, we had that picture from that very day of both of them in the clothes they were wearing to share with WDW cast members in the event we needed to request an APB (the boys also both had cards on them with our names, room number, email, cell phone numbers, etc.).
Finally, if you miss out on a Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom, you have only yourself to blame.
-Robert, father of two and Disney fanatic
Know Your Kid 2 of 8That "dream" picture of your toddler with Mickey will be a nightmare if you've had to wait on line for hours in the heat and/or he's typically overwhelmed by new things - we may think that the character is adorable but your child might find him frightening!
Use "fast passes" - a timed entry to many rides that allows you to come back later and bypass the longer lines - a godsend if you have little ones as the lines can be up to an hour long!
Set limits re: souvenirs. Whether it's one small item per day or nothing till the last day, this is unavoidable - especially since many rides end by forcing you to walk through the gift shop! Plan ahead to minimize tears.
Bring your own snacks. Healthy snacks in pre-portioned bags are a must to get through a long morning or afternoon.
-Sheri Silver, Blogger and mom to three
Be Prepared! 3 of 8Traveling to Walt Disney World with younger children/toddlers does NOT need to be a scary thing! Make sure you know your own child's limitations before you get there, and you won't have unreasonable expectations of them. We always had mini flashlights, like keychain flashlights, that they could have. If they were on a dark ride, we would allow them to shine them on the floor - that way they weren't bothering anyone else, but had some light to see by. Loud rides, we tended to avoid, but if only part of the ride was loud, I'd simply plug their ears. For character greetings, I would NEVER make my child hug them, but I would often do it first, and they'd follow my lead.
Always have a change of clothes. Roll them so they're easier to get into your park bag, and pack them in a ziplock so the soiled ones can go into the ziplock when you change them. Disney is the land of messy snacks, and lots of water play areas, plus the excitement of it all can cause toilet accidents when you least expect it. Again, speaking from experience! Bubbles to blow during wait times in line, or just for fun.
Bubbles could solve almost any meltdown with my kids, just be respectful of the people around you - not everyone shares the bubble love.
Plan for relaxation time. For my family, it just never worked out for us to go back to our hotel in the middle of the day. Instead, we would scout out dark, quiet, air conditioned areas for some down time.
-Jennifer, mom of twin girls and 20+ time Disney visitor. (She's already working on getting her husband to agree to retire there!)
For Children with Special Needs 4 of 8Before you go, create a social story detailing the trip and experience for your special needs child. We watched some online slideshows, visited the Disney sites and generally previewed the entire trip from the airplane to hotel to parks online. By the time we were there, it was VERY familiar and this prepared all of us for FUN.
When you get there, get the Guest Assistance Card (which folks get right at the park). Go early as in get there before the park gates open. Bring all the essentials (change of clothing, sensory stuff for sensory breaks, a few fav toys or books, noise cancelling headphones, snacks, wipes, purrell, sunscreen and all your backup "save the day" stuff).Leave well before the meltown (there will be a big meltdown so get out before it happens). Do not leave the park when everyone else does. This means you may have to miss the parade or light show or split up from your spouse and other kids it's worth it.
-Laura Rossi, Special Needs Mom Blogger and mom to two
Plan, Plan, Plan! 5 of 8Buy The Unofficial Guide to Disney (our vacation would've been nightmarish w/o it) and join the forums at DISboards.com. Also, plan on leaving park midday every day for naps and swimming. Just do it. Extend bedtimes, rent a double stroller (don't ask, just do it. You'll see) from a company outside park (I have recs), pack lots of snacks and water bottles, and give in to all requests for ice cream. Always!
-Mary Kate, mother of seven DIsney-lovin' kids and blogger at Why Yes I Am Crazy Thank You For Asking!
Don’t be Skeptical 6 of 8Some parents are skeptical about taking younger children to the parks but Disney has thought of everything to accommodate parents with young children. Everything from stroller rentals, cool zones throughout the parks, attractions that are inside and out and the oh-so-famous character greetings can help your vacation be a success. They have a wide selection of attractions specifically designed for toddlers. Even the water parks with splash areas and mini slides are great ideas for toddlers and parents that wish to do a little relaxing while their children are having fun in the sun. Popular family-friendly restaurants with character interactions are another thing great for toddlers.This is a great way for toddlers to have a one-on-one experience with their favorite character. I would definitely recommend purchasing a hopper pass option with your park tickets.Allowing you to stay for a while at any park, leave to take a nap back at the resort and come back for round 2 or visit an entirely different park. The flexibility is helpful to parents with toddlers that might need a break in the middle of the day.
-Amanda Watson-Smiles, mom of one and super Disney fan.
Enjoy the Magic 7 of 8Take comfy shoes, use Fast pass, go one day for the countdown to opening of the Magic Kingdom and have fun... head to the back of the parks as soon as they open and work your way to the front ...you'll go against the grain. It sounds silly but it really is magical seeing your kids get so excited and I was quite impressed with the efficiency of the Disney machine - so so well fun, so friendly and helpful, so clean.
-Nicole, Blogger and mother of two
Don’t Push Your Child 8 of 8Expect to do very little , and they might surprise you. If you are at magic kingdom, go to the hall of presidents for naptime - cool, dark and relatively quiet! Take advantage of fast passes. They save our lives when we have an active toddler who isn't interested in waiting in line! Use them to plan your rides for minimum wait time. Plan your lunch and dinner before or after typical eating times (l before 1130 or after 1; d before 430 or after 6) to beat the crowds. The best most secret tip? The monorail. Another cool, quiet place where we have stollen a few naps. If you get on the Epcot monorail, it's about 8 minutes thee and back and you don't have to get off. It's awesome!!
-Amanda Austin, Blogger, mom to one and Disney season pass holder
Lead Photo Credit: The Consortium/Flickr
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