You’ve made the decision to take your little ones to Disney World. You’re ready to experience the magic through their eyes – the hugs with Mickey Mouse, their awe as they watch the parade come down Main Street, and their first spin on Dumbo. But where do you stay? What do you do? How do you ensure that your time at Disney with your infant or preschooler is everything you’re hoping it will be?
Traveling with little ones can be overwhelming, no matter how exciting – schedules are disrupted, a new environment is at play, and normal naps or bedtimes can often be unrealistic. However, there are things that you can do to ease the transition from home life to vacation. Here are a few suggestions from a Disney “been there, done that” MVP mom of two.
Think “Ease, Ease, Ease…”
My first suggestion is to stay somewhere with easy access in and out of the theme parks. In Walt Disney World, there are five main forms of transportation – bus, boat, monorail, Skyliner, and walking paths. My experience is that if you can stay at a location that offers at least one mode of transportation other than the bus, the easier your trip will be. Resorts at all levels (Value, Moderate, and Deluxe) offer at least one form of alternate transportation to the bus.
Looking for a super quick and easy in and out? Try my favorite: the resorts in Disney’s Boardwalk area – Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Beach Club, or Disney’s Yacht Club. These three resort hotels offer a quick and easy walk into both Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks.
Prepare for the Weather
Florida weather may be unpredictable, but the great part about Disney World is that so many attractions are inside (“hello” summer A/C and rain shelter on wet days!). However, as you travel from point A to point B, it’s helpful to prepare for the elements.
Here are my favorite tips: pack an all-weather rubber shoe like Crocs or Natives for your little ones. Orlando can be rainy, and no one likes to walk around in wet shoes! In addition, have a stroller fan (or fans!) available to provide extra airflow on hot days. You can also come prepared with cooling towels to assist. Traveling to the Walt Disney World Resort in the winter months? Layers are your friend! That way, as the day warms, you can shed the extras without having to travel back to the resort for a wardrobe change.
Utilize the Baby Care Centers
Did you know that each theme park has its own Baby Care Center complete with nursing rooms providing rocking chairs for breastfeeding mothers, bottle warmers, diaper changing stations, and extra supplies? They do and they’re amazing! These centers offer parents a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle and focus on the baby for a bit. Just ask any Cast Member to help you locate the Baby Care Center when you enter the park – they’ll be happy to direct you.
Don’t Underestimate Your Little Ones!
Every time I work with a family with young children, I always offer parting words of advice before their arrival at Walt Disney World. Don’t underestimate your child! I can’t tell you how many times parents tell me that their child won’t ever sleep in the stroller (I was also one of those moms when my first son was 11 months old!), or must eat precisely at 5 p.m. That all may be true, but it also may vary in Walt Disney World!
With so many unique sensory experiences for young children and a vast amount of input all day long, they may just surprise you! Some non-stroller nappers will surprise you with a two-hour stroller nap, while others may be fine with a later dinner reservation if they have a hearty snack beforehand (and trust me, Disney has no shortage of snack options).
After sending hundreds of families to the Walt Disney World Resort, I can tell you that children generally do much better than we, their parents, might expect! And speaking of underestimating, don’t underestimate just how much your little ones will be able to do, either. Walt Disney World isn’t your typical theme park. Fewer than 25 attractions out of the hundreds at Walt Disney World theme parks have height restrictions! Lap-riding is the norm here and as long as your little ones are happy to do it, you’re permitted (and encouraged!) to have them do so. My youngest son boarded Pirates of the Caribbean at just four months old!
Schedule, Plan, but Savor the Little Things
The Walt Disney World Resort is a vast place. From resort hotels to theme parks, from mini-golf to fireworks cruises, waterparks, and more, it’s impossible to think that you’ll fit everything into one trip! That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a plan. You’ll most likely want to schedule a few special meals (“hello” Disney Jr. breakfast at Hollywood and Vine!), or experiences like the Bibbibi Bobbidi Boutique (scheduled to return to Disney World later this year), or Main Street Barber Shop for the tiniest members of your family.
However, I urge you to not overschedule. The best moments happen when you don’t expect them. An impromptu hug from Elsa walking down the street, the giggles from riding Mad Hatter Tea Party over and over again, or getting covered in a Mickey Ice Cream Bar are all part of the magic – AND the fun! Let your child lead the way. Savor the family moments. As a mom myself, I think experiencing the magic through your child’s eyes is far better than experiencing it yourself.
Oh, and one more thing – did I mention that children are FREE (yes, really!) at Disney World until the age of 3? That’s right. Until a child’s third birthday, there’s no need to purchase a ticket for our smallest friends – they simply get to walk through those magical gates and enjoy everything the park has to offer! In addition to not needing a theme park ticket, they’re also able to plate-share at restaurants, meaning they can eat from an adult’s plate, therefore not requiring the purchase of a separate kid’s meal. High-five, what a perk!
For more tips and tricks, I urge you to reach out to me or your Magical Vacation Planner. Each MVP is well-versed in the latest and greatest resorts, parks, and experiences information and can’t wait to help your family maximize your Disney Vacation Experience!