by Neverland Diva
Do you have questions? We have answers! Each week, a Diva or Devo will share some of our best tips with you as we answer five of your questions. This week, Neverland Diva shares with you her tips on some of your questions regarding traveling to Disney with babies and toddlers.
Before my children were even born, I thought about what it would be like to take them to Walt Disney World. I planned to take them as often as we could, and hoped to make their first trips within their first year! We have been on 3 family vacations in 4 years with our kids ranging in age from 7 months to 4 years. When I would tell people we were headed to Disney, I would hear the dreaded, “Why? They’ll never remember, you should wait until they are older.” Personally, I don’t believe there is a magic age to take your kids to Disney. Whether you are celebrating a first birthday or a high school graduation, you won’t regret a minute of the memories you’ll make! Below are some typical questions you may be asking yourself when considering Disney with babies and toddlers!
Am I wasting my time bringing a toddler to Walt Disney World? They’ll never remember, is it really worth it?
Vacationing as a family has always been important to me, some of my favorite childhood memories were traveling with my family and I want the same for my little guys! We choose Walt Disney World because it is a rare opportunity to experience Theme Parks, delicious food, an escape from the outside world and open arms for families of all shapes and sizes. There are very few restaurants that aren’t welcoming to children and so many attractions, shows and activities that allow families to really reconnect and spend some quality time together.
Traveling to Disney with babies and toddlers requires some thoughtful planning, patience and major flexibility. It’s a much slower paced trip, and you will likely not see as much as you did when you traveled as a couple. Keep your days simple and a bit open-ended, if your littles are having a blast at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground, let them run and play! If they wake up grumpy and need some downtime, spend the morning at your resort pool or playground; wait until after nap time to hit your favorite park! If you aren’t already aware of their presence, look up the location of each of the Baby Care Centers, located in each of the 4 Theme Parks! We used the Center at Magic Kingdom Park and it was great! There was a quiet area with rocking chairs and a room of extra large changing tables; much easier than the restroom!
Changing plans mid-day can get a little tricky if you have Advanced Dining Reservations, so you might want to make a few less sit down plans and a few more snack and quick service stops! Schedule your sit down meals for lunch or breakfast. This will save you a little money and some of the stress that can come with trying to drag an overtired toddler to dinner- we’ve all been there! Skip the Park Hopper or Water Park Fun and More option this time around, save some money and really explore one Park per day. Our little guys had a blast in The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, an attraction we would typically skip in favor of keeping your schedule, toddlers are just as happy to slow it down and just play for a while! The grandparents were able to take a break while watching the kids and my husband and I rode Dinosaur and Expedition Everest!
If your baby or toddler thrives on a schedule, try to stick to it as much as possible. Make times for naps and stick to your little one’s bedtime routine. Choose an on-property resort so that you’ll be able to hop on the complimentary transportation back to your resort. Perhaps plan to participate in evening Resort activities such as an outdoor movie, where your room is just a short walk away if things turn ugly! We found that on the first day, the kids were perfectly happy napping in their stroller! This allowed for some adult ride time and a relaxing cocktail! Don’t forget to take advantage of the Rider Switch Service, an excellent way to enjoy bigger rides while traveling with children who aren’t quite big enough to participate yet!
Take advantage of morning extra magic hours, little ones are typically awake early, go with it and hit some of the more popular rides at Magic Kingdom Park before the lines get crazy! Take advantage of Fastpass+ and choose your “must dos” and leave the rest to chance! On our most recent trip, my 4 year old chose the last few rides of the evening and it was really cool to see what his favorites were!
Travel with a “village.” If you have friends who enjoy traveling with little ones, plan a trip together and swap date nights, help each other enjoy a really magical experience! We chose to travel with my parents last year which was not only a huge help, but a dream of mine! Folding up the stroller and keeping everything organized each day was much easier when we shared the burden! Mid-trip, my mom and I did a few loads of laundry while the guys swam in the pool! We had fresh clothes for the second half of our week and the kids were so excited to swim under the lights! We didn’t need to spend every minute together, but the time we did was so much fun and made the trip a lot easier!
Do I need my own stroller/car set, should I rent one in the parks or from a local stroller rental company?
After three trips with kids at ages 7 months up to 4 years, I absolutely stand by my recommendation to bring your own stroller! We have easily gate checked a double and a single as well as our car set, I found it easier to use equipment I was already familiar with, and with kids under 4, it was essential for moving easily through the airport. That being said, if you prefer, you can rent a stroller and have it delivered to our hotel and picked up prior to leaving and have one less piece of equipment to load into your rental car or Disney’s Magical Express.
When traveling on the Disney Bus system, you will need to fold your stroller, which can be tough when you have a sleepy little one. This may be something to consider when choosing a Resort hotel. You may want to stay at a Monorail resort or Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, where you have transportation or the ability to walk into a Park. Wherever you choose to stay, a stroller is a MUST, you will walk many miles during your trip and will be carrying lots of extras to meet your child’s needs.
Should I bring snacks from home, use grocery delivery, what other essentials am I forgetting?
I haven’t used grocery delivery at WDW but have heard many wonderful reviews of the Garden Grocer! You can pre-purchase items online and have them delivered right to your Resort hotel! Babies, especially, may have some very specific dietary needs in regards to formula, baby food and cereal; things that can’t be left to chance. In this instance, I would highly recommend using the local delivery service or shipping a box of non-perishables to your resort prior to your arrival. I was breastfeeding when we brought our oldest son at 7 months, and this required bringing bottles as well as a breast pump and my favorite baby gift ever, a nursing cover! If you’re planning to nurse while in WDW, let me tell you that there were many quiet spots to take advantage of. There are many quiet benches scattered throughout the Parks, the Baby Care Centers and Resort Lobbies! I was even able to nurse during our dinner at Sanaa and I never felt out of place. It was very convenient having a fridge in our room so that I could pump and store milk for use in cereal and bottles. I was able to use hot water to heat up bottles and that worked great for us, but the coffee maker in your room can also be great way to heat up water to mix formula!
My oldest son was a picky snacker at age 3, and I wanted to make sure that we had everything he liked on hand for long lines, down time during transportation to and from Parks, and for pool days! You can purchase things from your resort gift shop, but there are no guarantees they will have everything you are looking for. Prior to leaving, I purchased boxes of fruit snacks, applesauce pouches and granola bars that I knew would make our kids feel like they were at home. I took everything out of the boxes, packed a few things in our son’s carry-on and several in our checked luggage. I was pretty happy with what I brought because at the time, our guys loved the applesauce pouches and I didn’t see them anywhere on property! Make sure and leave room for ice cream treats and Mickey pretzels, both major faves of ours!
To be on the safe side, I like to remember Baby Tylenol! We have traveled with a teething baby and it saved our lives! I like to bring our own sunscreen, baby shampoo, lotion, diapers and wipes! You can easily purchase extra diapers and wipes if needed, but they may not carry the brand you require. If you are worrying about fitting everything, take the diapers out of the box or package and line the bottom of your suitcase! Remember that you only need to have a bulk supply going down, not back, there will be plenty of room for souvenirs! I also like to pack extra plastic bags for soiled clothes, especially if this happens while you are at a Park!
How can I prepare my little one to meet the characters?
Talking about characters and watching them on tv can be very different than actually meeting them. When you plan a trip to WDW, especially with little ones, getting that perfect shot with Mickey Mouse is usually at the top of the list! It’s important to remember that even the most outgoing baby/toddler may be spooked. To prepare our boys for their trip at ages 1 and 3, we began by watching our favorite Disney movies and Disney Junior programming. We talked about Mickey and Minnie, Anna and Elsa and how we would be able to see them when we arrived at Walt Disney World! We read books featuring our favorite Disney friends and snuggled the many plush characters we have scattered throughout the house. Our 1 year old really lit up when we talked about Mickey and Winnie the Pooh and our 3 year old was over the moon for characters from Disney Junior, Cars and Brave!
Character meet and greet lines can be long and sometimes out in the hot sun. When traveling with small children, waiting in long lines can be tough. I found that booking character meals was a really fantastic way of getting an air conditioned break, some delicious food and there’s no standing in line! The characters come to you and if your children get scared or shy, it’s very easy to wave them by or use that as an opportunity to go back to the buffet. We loved that at Chef Mickey’s we could meet 5 characters rather than be in line for just 1 and we were able to get lots of different poses with the kids and grandparents!
If you wait in line to meet one of the many characters, you may want to be sure you have visited the restroom prior, have a snack or treat as well as a drink. I waited almost an hour to meet Winnie the Pooh and Tigger and some distractions were absolutely necessary! Don’t worry if your little one falls asleep, some of the most adorable pictures I have seen are of Princesses kissing sleeping babes.
You want this to be a happy and memorable experience for not only your little one but for yourself as well, lets face it, we bring them that young because we want to experience the magic as well. It’s best not to force them into meet and greets if they truly aren’t up for it, sometimes watching from afar, such as during a parade or stage show, can provide just as much joy for your little one. We traveled during the height of the Anna and Elsa craze, translating to 5 hour waits in Epcot to meet them. We had no chance. Our oldest kept asking and asking when we would see them. As luck would have it, the two sisters walked right passed us on our way through the Norway pavilion! His face lit up and then he immediately buried his head, he was so happy but became incredibly shy! As they walked away, he said, “Mom I want to see them again!” with a huge smile on his face! It was adorable and just the right type of interaction for him at that age and moment. I love that it happened without planning, it was pure pixie dust, a really special and memorable moment!
There are many ways to plan the perfect vacation and Disney is certainly not one size fits all. Think about your kids and their personalities, needs, what makes them happy; let that be your guide. The truth is, really young children won’t remember the trip but you will, and if Disney holds a special place in your heart, there’s nothing sweeter than sharing that love with your babies. Keep your expectations realistic and allow for spontaneity, as your kids grow the opportunity to take your time will disappear. I would encourage anyone who is on the fence to take a deep breath, listen to your heart and start planning!