A few weeks ago, I traveled all the way to Disney World with my husband and two sons. ( ages Almost 3 and 9 months) When I told people that we were planning this trip, the most frequent response was “You’re Crazy” And I will admit, I never thought that I would take children, this young, to Disney. ( My husband travels often for his job, so we found ourselves with free flights and hotels with his points…We thought. Why not?)
And I will say, this trip was a challenge. But, it was also a wonderful experience. If you want a vacation for relaxation, this is not for you. But watching your kids “live the magic” is great. Seriously, we were so lucky to have gotten to take our children to Disney.
We visited Disney for four straight days. Day 1- Animal kingdom. Day 2- Epcot. Day 3- Magic Kingdom. Day 4- Magic Kingdom.
Here are some tips for you. Some of these tips are broad, and others are very specific. Hopefully they help you if you plan to take your young kids to Disney.
Twenty Tips for a smoother trip to Disney with small Children
1) Pack clothes in Plastic Bags – I can’t tell you how happy I was that I did this. I actually packed Every outfit we took to Disney in an individual freezer bag. We also, each took an extra outfit, in plastic bags, on the plane with us. So when my 9 month old threw up all over me just 10 minutes after take off, I simply pulled out our extra outfits and put the dirty clothes back in the bag. ( OMG this was actually not as bad as it sounds!). Plus, this made dressing in the morning and organizing our clothes sooooo much easier.
Here is a picture of our luggage.
2) Use Amazon Prime to send items to your hotel We did not stay ” on property” and did not use a Disney meal plan. We hoped that we would only have to eat 1-2 meals at the parks though. Before leaving on our trip, we ordered a bunch of healthy snacks and breakfast items on Amazon Prime. We also sent each boy a Mickey stuffed animal ( MUCH cheaper than in the Disney shops) Every morning we ate baked oatmeal before leaving for Disney, and brought snacks with us for the kids. ( Fruit and vegetable pouches, granola bars, some fruit snacks). I called our hotel beforehand, to make sure they would accept a package for us. It worked out great.
Here is a picture of our kids with their Mickey Stuffed Animals
3) Bring your own ponchos Before leaving on our trip, I purchased 4 -.99 cent ponchos at Target and packed them in our luggage. They took up hardly any room and we were happy to have them. ( as is rained a bit every day we were there). I must say, I did have great satisfaction in knowing we were ready. ( I also decided that ponchos must be Disney’s #1 selling item.) My family didn’t have to pay $10 a pop for our ponchos!
4) Wear your baby If you are bringing a baby to Disney that is of ” Baby wearing age”. I highly recommend that you wear your baby at Disney and in the airport! I have a baby carrier , but I hadn’t worn my baby since he was about 6 months old. A few weeks before leaving on our trip, I broke out the carrier, and wore him around town just so I could get used to it again. Wearing baby J made going through airport security much easier. Also, when we walked around Disney, he just napped in the carrier, no fuss. ( my husband and I switched off with the carrier)
5) Limit Disney Dinner Reservations Did you know that after you buy your Disney tickets, you can hop on their website and make dinner reservations at any Disney restaurant? So Cool. My husband and I have eaten at various restaurants in Epcot, and we made dinner reservations to eat at the Wilderness Lodge on our trip. But did you know, if you don’t show up to your reservation at a Disney restaurant, you still get charged $10.00 per person? I felt a lot of pressure to show up to our reservation on time. If you have small children, I would maybe make 1-2 dinner reservations at the most. Small children can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to get charged for a meal you didn’t even eat! That being said, our dinner at Disney’s Whispering Canyons Cafe was fabulous!
6) Dinner at a Disney resort You can take an On Property” Disney shuttle to your dinner reservation at a Disney resort. After dinner, you can take a shuttle bus to Downtown Disney and find a shuttle back to your hotel, if your hotel has shuttles. Also, I would recommend dinner at a resort on the same day you visit Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, because those parks close at 7:00PM
7) Nap at the Park If you think your kids can, I highly suggest napping while you are at the Disney Parks. It will take longer than you think to get around Disney world. If you go home for a nap, it will take at least an hour to get back to your hotel, and at least another hour to get back to the park. I don’t know about you, but I felt like we paid enough money for our tickets, we were going to get our money’s worth. Every day after lunch, my two year old curled up in the stroller and fell asleep. My 9 month old either fell asleep in the stroller or the baby carrier. My husband and I either walked around, and took turns going on some rides or found a quiet place to chill for a while. I felt like we saved lots of time this way.
8) Take Advantage of Disney Baby Centers Did you know each Disney Park has a Baby Care Center? They are small air-conditioned areas that each have a changing table room, a family rest room, and a room with chairs and a T.V that plays Disney movies. There are also supplies you can buy. ( Formula, Bottles, Diapers, snacks etc) . Do you know how many people were actually in these areas? Um. hardly anyone! I couldn’t believe it! Twice, I took my 9 month old into the baby center just to chill when he needed it. Taking your little ones to ” hang out” for 30 minutes can help keep them calm.
9) Free Ice Water! When you are at Disney with little ones, you have to carry a lot of extra baggage. Instead of packing a TON of bottled water, take advantage of the free ice water at Disney Parks! Any food stand that sells fountain beverages will give you ice water, for free. And no, you don’t have to order something to get it.
10) Epcot is the most relaxing park You should still take your kids to Magic Kingdom and the rest. But, I must say, Epcot was, by far, the most relaxing park to take my kids to. First, it is twice the size as Magic Kingdom, which gives you more room to walk. And second, it tends to be the park where the adults go, so there are just less screaming kids around. When the kids are sleeping, you can take a walk around “the world” and enjoy an adult beverage to relax a little.
11) DON’T go to the park that has “Magic hours” that day When you read other blogs about Disney, they might tell you to take advantage of magic hours. NO! Don’t do it! EVERYONE else will also be taking advantage of those magic hours, and that park ( only one park has magic hours each day) will be super crowded! My favorite day at Magic Kingdom was when magic hours were somewhere else, AND it was also closing at 7:00 for a special event. We got to see so much more and just enjoy ourselves!
12) There isn’t much for small kids at Animal Kingdom This was a hard one for me to put on this list, because my favorite attraction was at Animal Kingdom. ( Finding Nemo the musical was outstanding!) But really, besides the Safari, there isn’t much for babies and toddlers at Animal Kingdom. ( remember, my kids are 9 months and 2 years old)
13) Stagger Indoor and Outdoor activities We went to Disney in late September, and it was HOT. In addition to drinking lots of water, we also tried to stagger indoor and outdoor activities. One ride out in the sweltering heat, followed by something in nice cold air conditioning.
14) Use Your Fast Pass on the Parade Once you buy your Disney Tickets, you can go online and reserve your fast passes for each day. Our favorite fast pass was for the afternoon parade at the Magic Kingdom. Instead of sitting around to reserve a spot, we walked up to the best parade viewing spot 5 minutes before it started and basically had it to ourselves. My two-year old loved this parade more than any ride. If you have small kids, I highly recommend this.
15) Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe – This is the best place to get a quick meal at the Magic Kingdom. Eating at Disney is so much fun, because the food is fantastic. Magic Kingdom is a different story though, mainly because it’s such a zoo, so you can barely enjoy it. If you are looking to just get a quick bite, it is worth walking all the way to Tomorrowland to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. It is the only fast service restaurant that is air-conditioned, plus is offers a nice variety and has plenty of seating. This is a relaxing option at the Magic Kingdom.
16) Find the Circus tent in the back of Storybook Circus- We had such a hard time finding a quiet place to sit down at the Magic Kingdom! There is hardly any shade at this park and we just needed to sit with the kids for a break. Walk to the back of Storybook circus ( between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) and find an almost abandoned Circus tent. There, you will find couches, a drinking fountain, fans and even a place to charge your cell phone! We had our kids nap here when we visited the magic kingdom
17) Talk about the rides before riding them Our first “Ride” we took our two year -old on was the “Finding Nemo” ride at Epcot. We just assumed he would love it. But for a two-year-old who has never been on a ride before- It was dark, scary and loud. He basically cried the whole time. From then on, we “discussed” each ride before going on them. We told him what he would see, and what would happen. By the end of our trip we had the little guy riding the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion like a pro.
18) Be Prepared for the “Disney Rush” This is not something we thought would happen. We figured that after 10-12 hours at a Disney Park, we would be carrying sleeping children to our hotel room and basically putting them right to sleep. WRONG! Every night, they had a case of the ” Disney Rush”. It would be 9 or 10 at night, and my two-year old would be running in circles in our hotel room and my 9 month old would be sitting in the crib singing! Over stimulation occurs at Disney world. Be ready to calm down the kids at night. Maybe a bath before bed would help.
19) Leave before the Fireworks This was a hard decision to make. The Disney light shows at night are spectacular. We chose to leave the parks right before the fireworks started. After 10-12 hours at a Disney Park, and with the kids in a decent mood, we didn’t want to jinx ourselves by staying for the show and then walking out of the park with 1000 other people and our small kids in tow. Instead, we left The Magic Kingdom right when the fireworks started, and watched them from the boat, and then on the dock. You can still hear the music playing from afar. We were then, the first ones on our shuttle back to the hotel. Great move for our situation. Do I regret not seeing the show up close? a little.
20) Character Meeting is fun during downtime When one child was sleeping, we would take the child, who was awake, to meet some characters. This way, we were doing something. This was best for when my older son was sleeping, because my 9 month old really enjoyed biting Mickey Mouse’s nose.
I hope these tips help you if you choose to take your young kids to Disney world. I am not going to lie. Disney with small kids is stressful. You’re NOT going to see Everything . There WILL be some meltdowns and you will Probably spend more money then you were planning on. ( Darn impulse buys at Disney!)
But, it will be a wonderful time and you will make some amazing memories together as a family. For me, my favorite part was watching my shy two-year old come out of his shell, and do things that were a out of his comfort zone. He went on rides, handled large crowds, stayed up late, and saw some ( sometimes scary) Disney characters. He has become much more outgoing seems much more grown up since our trip to Disney.