If there’s one thing I learned while taking our children to Walt Disney World it’s that people will always have an opinion, especially when they think your kids are too young. I always hear things like, they won’t remember… It will be too difficult… They can’t ride anything…I’ve heard it all. I just smile at them and think, “bless their heart.” Is it work taking small kids to Disney? Yes. But with a little research and some planning, your trip will be just as magical as any other trip. No matter which park you visit or resort you stay at, there’s something for everyone in your family. Here are some ideas to help make your Walt Disney family vacation with small children, a magical one.
My oldest son, who will be 6 in August, went to Disney for the first time when he was 5 months old. He has no recollection of that trip and I wouldn’t expect him to, but his father and I do. I remember every second of that vacation. Including the time where he was up at 5:00 am and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so my husband put on the baby carrier and we decided to stroll the resort. We were at The Polynesian and it was just so peaceful at that time in the morning. The normal hustle and bustle of a Disney resort hadn’t started, the sun was rising and it was so quiet that we even heard the coffee brewing at Kona Cafe. That early morning walk will always be one of my favorite memories, just the 3 of us. The look on your child’s face when they meet their first character (it’s either sheer happiness or sheer horror, both just as memorable), giving them their first Mickey ears or Mickey balloon, their first Disney stuffed animal and watching them see the castle for the first time are so precious and something that as a parent you’ll remember forever.
1. Go During Off-Peak Times
One huge advantage of traveling with kids under 5 is that they’re not yet tied down to a school schedule. The upside to this is you can visit when schools are in session, and the parks are significantly less crowded.
2. Plan Ahead
This seems like an obvious one, but I mean- really plan. When you’re a Disney Resort guest, you can make dining reservations 180 days before your arrival and Fastpass plans 60 days from your arrival. Normally I hate planning anything, but I make sure to do these two things before our trip.
You can see all of the ride requirements online, so you can plan your Fastpasses accordingly. The great thing about Disney is that little ones, including my son when he was 5 months old, can ride anything that doesn’t have height requirements (and most of them don’t). The bigger rides do, so be sure to check here, https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/preschool/, for all height requirement information.
I can’t stress enough, you need to download the My Disney Experience App. Look at it while you’re home, learn the ins and outs of it. The app will become your best friend while you’re on your Disney vacation. It tells you everything from bus schedules, wait times for attractions, you can make or change any reservations you’ve made and add more Fastpasses as you use the ones you originally scheduled. During our trips, I try to detach from my phone, but I do use it when I need the app (which is most of the time).
I can’t stress this enough, don’t over schedule yourself. You will be frazzled and your kids will pick up on that energy and become frazzled themselves.
Plan on doing a park early in the morning for a few hours, then go back to your resort and explore it a little. Whether you’re at the Grand Floridian or an All Star Sports, all Disney resorts are beautiful and have amazing amenities and you should experience everything your resort has to offer. We like to take the kids to the pool for a few hours. This is usually when the Florida sun is at its strongest and we’d much rather be in a pool than a hot theme park. Do you know what else is great about swimming? It takes all that toddler energy and captures it in a bottle, leaving them no other choice but to go back to the room and give into Mr. Sandman. Without fail, your children will return to the room and want a nap. Once everyone is rested and recharged, we grab something quick to eat at our hotel and go back into the parks for a few hours.
Always bring a stroller. It can be a double-wide or your basic umbrella stroller, as long as it follows Disney’s stroller requirements, bring it.
Disney World is not like your local mall. My oldest at 4 years old wasn’t in strollers at home, but he was in Disney World. Think of how much walking it is and how your feet hurt as an adult, can you imagine a 4-year-old? You can also rent a stroller, but I’ve heard people say their child wasn’t used to it, so they weren’t comfortable. You can check your stroller for free on all airlines, so if you’re able to bring one I strongly recommend bringing your own. Strollers are not permitted in lines. If you have a child that fits in a baby carrier, be sure to bring that too. You’ll want to wear the carrier and put your little one in it while standing in line.
Within 5 minutes of being in the parks, you’ll quickly realize strollers almost outnumber the people. The stroller parking areas are so crowded that they have Disney cast members standing there, directing people where to park and often rearranging the stroller areas. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve come off a ride and our stroller was parked in a different spot. Whether you tie a Mickey balloon to it or slap a big red bow on it, plan on putting something on your stroller that will help you to quickly identify it from the rest in the bunch.
4. Baby Care Centers and Air Conditioning
When you need a calm place for feeding your baby or changing them, go to your nearest Baby Center. Each of the Disney parks has these centers, which are equipped with rockers, swings, high chairs, toys, videos, and essentials such as baby food, formula, diapers, and wipes available for purchase. My favorite Baby Care Center is in the Magic Kingdom. It’s tucked between Casey’s Hotdogs and The Crystal Palace.
Certain rides can also provide a cool and peaceful respite for nursing or napping. For example, in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, the Carousel of Progress and Tomorrowland Transit Authority are both dimly lit, with soothing motions that lull kids to sleep. If your child conks out in the stroller, use the downtime to shop in one of the gift shops. You won’t want to bring an awake and alert child into a gift shop, so do it while they’re sleeping.
5. Enjoy The Moments
Although I hope the tips above and any others you read online help, don’t overwhelm yourself. You know your child and what works for your family and what won’t work. Disney World is very accommodating to everyone, especially little ones. If your child starts to meltdown in public, take a look around, there are probably 5 other meltdowns happening around you (what’s that book from Reese’s Book Club called, oh yea- Little Fires Everywhere. Meltdowns in Disney are little fires everywhere).
Like I said, your child might not remember everything (if anything at all), but you will. The look on each of my son’s faces when they saw the castle for the first time is a look I’ll never forget. My son getting his first pair of Mickey ears, the BB8 version, is a moment I will never forget. They’re only little for so long before the world we try to protect them from slowly becomes their reality. People have this assumption that your trip won’t be as magical with little ones, but I strongly disagree. Children are at their most magical when they’re at Walt Disney World. If this article didn’t convince you take your little ones, consider this- Ages 3 and under are free at Walt Disney World. That should be reason enough!
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