by Fancy Free Diva
When you’re traveling to Walt Disney World or Disneyland with a toddler, especially one who has graduated from pureed baby food to finger foods, but maybe not one who’s ready to order off the full-fledged kids menu at restaurants, there are some things you might not think about packing that will make your trip so much easier! Fancy Free Son will be 14-months-old on our next trip to Walt Disney World, and these are things we’ll definitely be bringing with us. Traveling to WDW with toddlers on our previous trips was a learning experience for me. The first time we went, when Fancy Free Daughter was 15-months-old, I over-packed. On our next two trips, when she was 2 and 3, I had learned what was necessary and what wasn’t. Now that Fancy Free Son has graduated to finger foods (he was exclusively nursing on our last trip), I’m revisiting my list of what worked and what didn’t.
Here are 5 things you should make sure to have with you:
This is the Coolest. Thing. Ever. It’s a completely cloth, collapsible highchair that fits onto almost every kind of chair. (Note: We have never encountered a chair that it didn’t fit on, but that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily fit every chair.) Now, you might be wondering why you’d need to bring this with you; after all, every restaurant will provide you with a highchair upon request. While you may not need or want to carry your Totseat into the parks with you every day, I promise it will come in handy in your resort or hotel room. Many hotels will not provide guests with a high chair at no charge (the exception is a DVC resort room equipped with a kitchen). In addition, high chairs take up a lot of room. The Totseat, on the other hand, fits over one of the chairs already in your hotel room, so no extra space is needed. That way, if you need to make sure your toddler has a place to sit while you have an in-room breakfast before hitting the parks, or if you just need to keep him or her safely corralled for a moment, the Totseat will work perfectly. We found and purchased ours on Amazon.com for under $30. Click here for a link to the product listing.
2. Table Toppers
At most Disney restaurants, the highchairs do not have trays for your baby or toddler to eat from. That means that he or she will eat off the restaurant tables, especially if they’re at the finger foods stage. I’m not a paranoid germaphobe, but the idea of eating food straight off a table that thousands of people before me have used, even if it has been cleaned in between, makes me feel a little icky. That’s why we use Table Toppers whenever we eat out. They’re disposable plastic place mats that have adhesives on the back to stick right to the table. That means no little hands can crumple it up or throw it to the floor. We always buy the Disney-themed Table Toppers, and they come with learning games, like shapes, colors, or numbers. At the end of the meal, you can just unstick the Table Topper and dispose of it. They’re easy, clean, and fun. You can purchase them at your local Walmart or Target in the baby feeding section.
Tip: We also always keep baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and Lysol wipes on hand, just in case of messes. You can get small packs of Lysol wipes in the travel section of most store, like Walmart, Target, or Walgreens. Our local Dollar Tree had some great packages of Disney-themed wipes, too. Our favorite hand sanitizer comes from Bath and Body Works. Fancy Free Daughter loves the way they smell.
3. Sippi Grips
Sippi Grips are awesome! We hook them around cups and toys to make sure they do not fall to the floor or ground and get dirty. Ours has a Velcro closure on one end that attaches to your stroller or highchair, and the other end has a second Velcro closure with a grippy section that attaches around the toy or cup to hold it secure. How many times does your child drop his or her cup during a meal? Fancy Free Son likes to make a game of it: he drops his cup, squeals excitedly, and waits for Mommy or Daddy to pick it up for him, then repeats, again and again. The Sippi Grip prevents his cup from actually hitting the floor and getting dirty or needing to be cleaned off. It saves us a lot of work and a lot of trips to the restroom during meals to rinse things off. We purchased ours on Amazon.com for under $10. Click here for a link to the product listing.
Note: We use our Sippi Grips in the park for his toys, too. We have two, so one goes around his favorite toy, and the other goes around his cup. That way, neither gets lost.
4. Child-sized utensils
The restaurants at Walt Disney World have a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to silverware and utensils, and those big silver forks and spoons (or even the plastic ones) can be unwieldy for little hands. We learned that lesson on our first trip. Ever since, we have picked up a set of the Take-n-Toss plastic utensils to bring with us. They’re inexpensive and colorful, but best of all, they’re the perfect size for little hands. You can find these at your local Walmart or Target in the baby feeding section.
5. Disposable Bibs
If your child still uses bibs, then you might want to think about bringing some disposable ones with you on your next trip. On our first trip, we packed bibs from home and Ziploc baggies. When our daughter was done eating, we stowed the bib in the Ziploc bag and rinsed them out at the end of the night in the hotel sink. Not only was that a pain, but sometimes, depending on what she had spilled earlier in the day, it was pretty gross. We almost always travel to WDW in the summer, so imagine a bib with spilled yogurt on it, in a plastic bag for 12 hours in 90 degree heat. Disgusting. For our next couple of trips, we brought some of these disposable bibs, and we loved them. Fancy Free Daughter didn’t need to use one at every restaurant, but they sure came in handy when we wanted to protect her princess dress from having spaghetti dropped on it. Best of all, we could just throw it away after. No scraping, rinsing, or carrying it around in a hot park bag all day. We found these at our local Walmart in the baby feeding section for around $5.
We always bring a sippy cup of water into the parks with us, but toddlers often drink a lot of milk, too. We love the official Thermos bottles that keep drinks cold for up to 12 hours. Thermoses come in handy when your toddler hasn’t finished all of his or her milk at a meal, but you know they’ll want it a little bit later. You can pour what’s left into the Thermos, knowing that it will be cool and safe for a lot longer than it might be in a sippy cup that’s stuck in a cup holder on your stroller in the hot sun. Thermos bottles also come in Disney designs.
When it comes to eating with toddlers at Walt Disney World, it’s also helpful to do some practice runs. If you’re not used to eating out with your small children, start getting them (and you) acclimated to restaurants before your trip. Head to a family friendly location, and bring the things you think you’ll need. Depending upon how the trip goes, you can adjust your expectations, adjust what you’ve packed, and help prepare your children for the restaurant environment. For example, Fancy Free Daughter sometimes has a hard time waiting for our food to arrive. I always try to have a small snack in my bag to tide her over while we wait. I also keep a sticker book or some flashcards to keep her entertained. The dollar bins at Target or the Dollar Store are great places to find things for you to stow in your bag to entertain the kids while you’re waiting. All of the Disney table-service restaurants have kids activities on the menu or placemat, but most of those activities are designed for older children, not toddlers.
Our family also has instituted a “no electronics” rule at the table. When we eat, no one is allowed to be on the phone or playing games; we actually interact with one another. This has helped us become closer, but it also gives us a chance to talk about the next step in our plans or our favorite parts from the day so far.
Remember, too, that Walt Disney World restaurants are extremely accommodating to kids. With the exception of some of the signature dining locations, you’ll almost always see (and hear) small children. Knowing that you’re not alone if you’re getting frustrated about a million dropped Cheerios definitely helps.
For more tips about dining with infants and babies at Walt Disney World, check out this article by one of our guest writers.