Visiting Disney World with a toddler can be a challenge, but it can also be one of your most magical memories as a family. No matter what age your child is when you visit Disney World it will be special, and you will experience something new at every age.
We took my son for the first time over his second birthday. He was wide eyed and took in everything – the shows, the castle, the magic. He remembered a lot. He would sit in his room and look at the pictures in his autograph book. He would sing songs from rides and shows months after we came home. We went then again when he was two and a half and again over his fourth birthday. Those second two trips were all about the magic and characters. His little face would light up every time a character came his way. Everything was real and alive. Our next trip will be when he is 5, and I expect that one to be about adventure and trying new rides that he can now ride.
Every trip to Disney World is special and you will never regret taking your child no matter their age. While visiting Disney World with a toddler is a magical experience, it doesn’t come without its challenges. It takes a lot of planning, packing and realizing that it will be different than your previous trips. I’m here today to tell you about our experience and share some tips and tricks with you to make visiting Disney World with a toddler extra magical.
Don’t Pack ALL Those Diapers
If you are flying to Disney World, you definitely do not want to lug a box of diapers through the airport or check them on the plane. You can actually have all those diapers shipped right to your Disney hotel! All you have to do is order them online from some place like Amazon write in the address of your Disney hotel, your name, and your arrival date in the shipping address. When you get to your hotel, a cast member will bring it right to your room. So easy! But before ordering, make sure to ask your agent to call the hotel so you write the address they way they want you to. Remember, not to order too many diapers because whatever you don’t use you will need to get them back into your suitcase to come home. We’ve been there, stuffing diapers into ever family members checked and carry on luggage!
Take Your Own Stroller
While the park strollers are convenient and easy for bigger kids to get in and out quickly, little kids have a hard time getting comfortable and settling down for a nap if they need to. I know, you most likely don’t want to lug a stroller through the airport, but trust me, in a busy airport going through security strapping your toddler into a stroller is a lifesaver – you always know where they are! While dealing with a stroller on the busses can be a pain, when you have a toddler fall asleep on your lap you will want to have that stroller to get back to your room from the bus stop.
Take Your Own Snacks
There is no shortage of amazing food in Disney World. So, why bring snacks, especially when you are on the Disney Dining plan? My son is 4 now, and while he will eat any yummy snack from the park we get him now, it wasn’t always like that. There was a phase when all he would wanted was Goldfish crackers, and I know he isn’t alone. A lot of kids have their favorite things and you can’t always find them easily in Disney World. Make sure you bring enough. You can also have snacks shipped right to your hotel room. If you do forget something, always ask a cast member or check the baby care centers located in all four parks.
Organize Your Diaper Bag Well
Things get lost in that HUGE diaper bag all of us moms lug around Disney. Let’s be real, you carry EVERYONES stuff, including the things that belong to other adults. You are trying to find a pacifier or cheerios but its lost in the mess of diapers, clothes, and sunscreen. To be able to find things quicker and get through security faster, try separating everything in your big bag into smaller clear ziplock bags and label them, then keep it organized throughout the week.
Plan For Your Plane Ride
Let’s be real, a plane ride with a toddler sounds torturous. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m sure you already have toys, books, and snacks packed. But try new books and new toys to keep the occupied longer and snacks that are a special treat. Consider taking a flight at a weird time. I know it’s a little crazy and may not work for every toddler but, hear me out. We chose an early early morning flight. We woke my son up around 4 am and headed to the airport. He was exhausted and fell asleep 20 minutes into the flight and slept until we landed! If you have a potty-training toddler, don’t push the potty, just put a pull up on them. Don’t deal with the extra stress. And sometimes the high altitude messes with their little ears. If they are still young enough for a bottle or pacifier, make sure to keep one close by to help their ears pop. If they are a little older, try a lollipop or just eating/drinking in general, anything to make them swallow. Don’t forget, most airlines will allow kids to fly free until their second birthday if they sit on your lap. If you happen to go over your kids’ second birthday, like we did, you will need a one way ticket for them to fly home.
Plan For Naps and Rest Days
Getting up and moving first thing in the morning is hard, but it’s a good idea to get into the park early. Then, when it’s hot and crowded later, you can head back to your hotel for a nap. When we took my son, we went into the parks at opening then headed back to our room after lunch. My son got a good 2 hour nap with his dad in the room while I relaxed by the pool working on my tan. Then, we went back into the park for dinner and usually some sort of nighttime show in the evening. We all felt refreshed after a little rest back at the hotel. Consider getting Park Hoppers so you can go to a different park in the evening. Also, consider adding in a rest day where you spend it by the pool, at Disney Springs or at a water park. We spent our rest day at Typhoon Lagoon. It was fantastic! We played in the wave pool and lazy river all day! The food, especially the ice cream, was awesome! It wasn’t crowded and we didn’t have to wait in very many lines. The cast members were exceptional. We had a blast and it surprised us by being one of our favorite days of that trip.
Don’t Skip Out On Characters
One of the best things about visiting Disney World with a toddler is seeing them react to meeting their beloved Disney characters. Even if your kid isn’t a fan of the characters, don’t skip out on all of them Still do the character dining and maybe wait in short lines to see characters. Try having older kids or mommy/daddy go up to the characters so your little one sees there isn’t anything to worry about. Or try taking a family picture with your kid far enough away from the character. The characters are very intuitive and have a good instinct about when to approach and when not to. On my son’s first trip to Disney World, he started off our trip freaking out every time he saw a character, but by the end of the week he was running up to Mickey and giving him a hug. Don’t worry, it will happen!
Take Advantage of Rider Switch
When my son was little, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a brand new ride. We all wanted to get on it, but he wasn’t tall enough. No problem at Disney World! Rider Switch allows part of your party to get on the ride while the rest stay with your little one. The second party is given a return time, similar to a FastPass+ reservation, to return and ride the ride. It’s super simple to use! This is a fairly recent change to get away from using the paper cards. On our last visit, we went up to the cast member at the entrance to the ride, all of us including my son. She gave us what Disney calls “Rider Switch Entitlement.” At that time, it was a card. My husband sat with my son outside of the ride while I waited in line and rode with my mom. When she and I got off the ride, my mom took over watching my son while my husband and I went back to show the cast member our Rider Switch Entitlement. She sent us into the FastPass line where my husband and I got to ride with little wait. The concept is still the same, but the process has changed just a bit. It’s still a great service to make use of when you have little ones who can’t ride some of the rides everybody else wants to ride.
Find Play Zones and Shady Spots
Disney had lots of little hiding spots with areas for your kiddo to get out the wiggles or just rest in the shade. Be sure to ask a cast member, because that’s how the best secret spots are found! In Magic Kingdom, there is a fun little play zone in the shade under Splash Mountain and lots of misty fans. The misty fan by the Magic Carpets of Aladdin comes complete with spitting camels. In Epcot, there are dancing fountains for kids to play in (don’t forget a change of clothes). In Animal Kingdom, there is no shortage of shady spots to animal watch. In Hollywood Studios, there are lots of shows, some in the air conditioning. Our favorite for our toddler was the Disney Junior Dance Party. It was air conditioned and he got to get out of his stroller and dance and sing! ADORABLE!
While visiting Disney World with a toddler may seem daunting at first, it’s truly magical!! The one thing I can guarantee about is that there will be no shortage of memories made, your toddler will be in awe of everything they see, and you will be in awe watching your child experience it.
The best way to plan to visit Disney World with a toddler is to plan your vacation with one of the wonderful Starts With A Wish Travel Advisors. We all know all the tips and tricks to make visiting Disney World with a toddler a magical experience.