Traveling to Walt Disney World (or any of Disney’s other destinations) can be overwhelming, especially if you have never been before. As someone who considers herself a “Mouse Expert”, here are some of my favorite tips for visiting Disney World with young children. This is not an exhaustive list, just my personal top 5.
Have a plan!
Simple in word, more difficult in execution, this is my number one tip. Whether you plan a trip on your own or use a vacation planner, it is important to make a plan and have it on your phone. I am not talking about a rigid itinerary where you are running from one location to the next. I am talking about knowing where you are going to eat (you can make reservations up to 180 days in advance), knowing what each park’s hours are, knowing if you will need to return to your resort for nap time, etc., etc. There are many vacations that can be enjoyed while “winging it”; Disney with young kids is not really one of them. As Scar would say, “Be prepared”.
Have realistic expectations.
If you are traveling with small children, especially those under three, know that you will move at a slower pace. You may not see and do every single thing on your wish list, but you will get to see your kiddos marvel when they meet Elena of Avalor or squeal as Tigger bounces them on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or clap when they take off on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. If you go in expecting a slower pace, you will be able to step back and enjoy the magic through their eyes rather than stressing about moving on to the next attraction. Just channel Elsa and “Let It Go”.
Use FastPass+ and Rider Switch to spend less time in line.
FastPass+ is a tool Disney offers that allows you to reserve 3 passes (per day of your trip) in advance to wait in a shorter line for a particular attraction. Rider Switch allows you and other adults in your group to enjoy an attraction that your little one may be too short or too afraid to ride. Just tell the cast member at the attraction entrance that you would like to use Rider Switch and they will give you a pass allowing one of you to ride while the other waits with little Johnny. After rider one returns, the adult that waited with little Johnny is allowed to ride without waiting in line all over again. Seriously, USE THIS!! You’ll be “One Jump Ahead” just like Aladdin.
Take advantage of Disney’s Baby Care Centers!
In each Disney park, both in Anaheim and Orlando, there is a Baby Care Center where you can feed, rock, or change your little one. These are super nice and comfortable and are also a great place to get out of the sun and just recharge for a bit. They have rocking chairs, high chairs, semi-private or private nursing areas, changing tables, and televisions playing Disney movies. Disney has also stocked these stations with a variety of “The Bare Necessities” that you can purchase if you forgot or ran out of something. (My son would be the one to run out of Puffs!)
Don’t let fear stop you.
Children are unpredictable, so you will likely experience a melt down at some point or an explosive diaper or a sudden hatred of apples even though your toddler loved them yesterday. That’s life and it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a vacation to Disney World. Those tough moments will pass and be overshadowed by their first ride on the monorail, their first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop, and their delight when they see the fireworks for the first time. Timon and Pumbaa said it best, “Hakuna Matata”.
Bonus: Children under 3 receive FREE admission to all Disney Parks and eat free at buffet meals! So, there are benefits to taking them while they are very young.
Being a mom is hard and that doesn’t go away while at Disney (they don’t have that kind of magic). But, Disney World was created for kids and kids at heart so go, take your little ones, and enjoy every single magical moment!
Rebekah is a Vacation Planner for all Disney Destinations. She lives in Birmingham with her husband of three years, 11-month-old son, and a crazy beagle. She loves all things Disney (obviously), Alabama football, cooking, and Mountain Dew.