Ahh, Disney. There’s nothing quite like a day in Disney. The smell of Mickey waffles fill the air in the mornings and a sky full of booming, spectacular fireworks close the nights. Going to Walt Disney World has been a huge part of my life with my husband. We have gone almost every year since we started dating back in 2001. We pretty much know the parks like the back of our hands, although I’m sure there is still tons of stuff that we are missing. Before we ever had kids, we had always talked about how cool it would be to take our own kids; what it would be like to see their faces when they meet Mickey Mouse for the first time.
In 2013, we finally got to share the experience with our little dude when he was 17 months old. His first trip to Walt Disney World was definitely awesome, but there were a few bumps in the road. Within the first two days that we were there, 4 new teeth decided to crash our vacation! Let’s just say, our little teether just might have been a little grumpy-pants. Although, seeing how excited he was when he spotted Mickey and ran up to him made up for everything. It was absolutely priceless!
Now that I have my own experience with going to Disney with a toddler, I would love to share some of my tips with you! If you have any more tips to add, please share them in the comment section!
1. Bring a Stroller
Walt Disney World covers a lot of ground and there is a ton of walking involved. I promise, bringing a stroller will make your life so much easier and your back and legs will thank you. You can also store your bags and other goodies in the section underneath, score! Also- it tends to rain a lot in Florida, so packing a stroller rain cover (or poncho) may be really helpful in keeping all your stuff dry while you ride.
2. Use a Harness
If you decide you don’t want to take your stroller, a harness will help out big time. Heck, even if you do bring a stroller, your toddler will probably want to run around and explore. I used to think harnesses on kids were kinda weird. Now that I’m a mom, I completely understand. It gives your child freedom and a little sense of independence while still staying close to you.
3. Pack Snacks and Lots of Water
You’ll want to bring lots of water and snacks while you’re at the parks. Unlike a lot of other theme parks, at Disney you are allowed to bring in snack food. Just let a security cast member know when you are entering the park. Goldfish, pretzels and fresh fruit are easy snacks to throw into your bag. Also, a squirt bottle of water is incredibly helpful on really hot days.
4. Stay at a Disney Resort or a Good Neighbor Hotel
If you want to have the complete magical experience, stay at one of the many super-cool Disney resorts. Staying close by and having constant transportation to and from the parks was a life saver for us when our son was not feeling well from teething. We were able to hop on a bus that took us back to Port Orleans to get some much needed rest before going back out. Plus, there are resorts for any budget and they all have restaurants, pools, and shops.
5. Keep the Season in Mind
Different times of the year have different price ranges. If you are going to Disney on a budget, plan your trip in an off-season, such as September or February. The lines will be shorter and the temperature will be cooler.
6. Get to Know Where Your First Aid Section Is
Boo-boos happen, so make sure you know where the first aid section is located before you enter the park. We had to go a couple of times during our vacations and they are very helpful.
7. Disney Childcare is Often Available
If you need a little time to go on rides that the little ones cannot, talk to a cast member about Disney childcare services. There are children’s activity centers as well as in-room babysitting often available.
8. Pre-Plan Your Schedule Around Nap-time
If you want to make the most of your day and not miss anything, you may want to plan a ride or attraction that is dark and air-conditioned during your child’s usual nap time. Something like the Hall of Presidents is a nice break for toddlers to doze off while the parents and older kids can enjoy it.
9. Get an Autograph Book
The characters are a like rock stars to little kids! Plus, it is a really fun souvenir that doesn’t take up room on the way home. We found an nifty autograph book that you can insert pictures of your child with the characters.
10. Take a Picture of Your Child Before Entering the Park
Just in case the unthinkable happens and you get separated from your child, you can show a cast member and they will direct you in the right direction to finding your little explorer. If you are in a panic, you may not fully remember what they are wearing.
11. Initial Your Toys
If you bring a stuffed animal on your trip, put your initials somewhere on the tag just in case it gets lost and can be easily identified. Also, it’s a good idea to do it to any new toys purchased (and hang on to the receipt, just in case!)
12. Stroller Tag
The rides have holding areas for strollers and sometimes there are a sea of strollers waiting for their owner’s return. Some families use id tags to easily identify their stroller to avoid any mixups from happening. Although, use caution if you decide to put your name on it. I would recommend creating one with a symbol or design rather than a name for safety reasons.
13. Have a Cast Member Take Your Picture
Along with the PhotoPass pictures, cast members will also take your picture with your own camera. If you decide not to purchase a PhotoPass package, this is a great way to still get everyone in the pictures.
14. Share Meals
You will usually get a lot of food in the restaurants that you won’t be able to take home with you, so instead of wasting it, share it with your kids! It will save you money, too!
15. Remember to Bring Sunscreen and Hats
Sunscreen and hats will be your best friend on those super sunny days.
16. Pack Light Weight Clothes and Good Walking Shoes
If you are planning on having your little ones walk in the parks, make sure to pack them light weight clothes and shoes that won’t cause blisters.
17. Stay Clean: Bring Baby wipes & Hand Sanitizer
If you have a toddler, you know that they love putting their hands in their mouths and they will touch every germ-infested thing imaginable. Remember to pack extra wipes and hand sanitizer to stay nice and clean.
18. Bring a Changing Pad
Speaking of being germ-infested, tons of babies get changed on the changing tables each day. Even though Disney does an awesome job with cleanliness, you can never be too careful.
19. Get Your Souvenirs at Disney Outlet Stores
A big money-saver is to buy souvenirs at the Disney Outlet Stores. They have lots of cool stuff that may not be in the parks anymore and are super cheap!
20. Utilize the Features of MagicBands
The new MagicBands are simply awesome, they will make your vacation so much easier! The are connected to all the vacation choices you can make with My Disney Experience. You use them to enter all the parks, unlock your hotel room and buy food and merchandise. Also, waiting in line is no fun with an anxious toddler, so the FastPass+ feature is pretty amazing.
Last but not least: Capture the magical expressions on your children’s faces as they see their favorite Disney characters. These pictures and memories will be far better than any souvenir that you purchase.