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Disney World with toddlers

Many families wonder whether it’s worth it to take very young children on an expensive trip to Disney World.  Having taken Stink to Orlando 3 times in her first 3 years I can say that there are plenty of activities at the parks to keep little ones happy.  But like all trips it takes some planning and flexibility.  Here are 5 tips and tricks to help plan your vacation at Disney World with toddlers.

Disney World with Toddlers

1) Know YOUR Child

If your toddler is scared of the dark, steer clear of rides that might be too dark for them (Peter Pan or Spaceship Earth are good examples).  Are they scared of loud noises? Skip the fireworks.  Schedule your time at the parks based on when your child’s attitude is best.

We first took Stink to Disney when she was just 11 months old, an easy baby who was happy to be anywhere as long as her belly was full and she had a place to nap.  We were at Magic Kingdom during the opening ceremony and stayed until after the fireworks without a single meltdown.

By the third trip our days at the parks were a little trickier.  Stink was a full-blown toddler whose attitude could change at the drop of a hat.  She had a perfectly good routine which we stuck to but we made one big mistake: trying to do as much as we could in the mornings while the lines were low.

You see, Stink is NOT a morning person.  Our mornings at home are spent in front of the television in our pajamas; after naptime is when we venture out of the house.  Running around the parks early in the morning caused Stink to become super sensitive to things that wouldn’t otherwise bother her in the afternoon.  Rides like Nemo terrified her and she was indifferent to character meets that should have put a big smile on her face.

Disney World with toddlers
Stink hated the Nemo ride because the line was too dark and the shark scared her

2. Use the Baby Care Centers

There is one Baby Care Center in each of the 4 Disney parks and I highly recommend using them for feeding, nursing and diaper changes.  There is a small kitchen with a microwave, sink, and a water dispenser for thirsty moms and dads (or for filling bottles).  One room has multiple changing stations, another has high chairs with a small television and books.  Private rooms are available for nursing.

Unfortunately strollers aren’t allowed inside the Baby Care Centers so this isn’t a place to bring a napping child.  It tends to be pretty loud and crowded anyway, especially after events like parades and fireworks.  If your child falls asleep and you need a cool place to relax then stroll around an air-conditioned store or building.  My favorite places are the Big Top Souvenirs in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland and the Bijutsu-kan Gallery in Epcot’s Japan.

3.  Split Your Fastpasses

If you’re traveling as a family with young children this tip can be a lifesaver.  Kids under the age of 3 don’t need a park ticket and therefore don’t need to sign up for Fastpasses.  Brandon and I have been signing up for different Fastpass+ rides so that we can take Stink on 6 rides or character meets without having to wait in line.  The downside is that only one parent goes on the ride with the child while the other parent waits.

We used this trick for mostly character meet-and-greets.  Those lines tend to move much slower so a 15 minute wait for a character can feel twice as long as a 15 minute wait for a ride.  Rides with short lines like the Teacups and Carousel were ones we did as a family.

4.  Don’t Bother Buying Souvenirs

On this past trip we bought most of Stink’s Disney souvenirs before we even left.  Some were bought online at Disney Store with a coupon code or sale, others were trinkets we found at our local Dollar Tree.  All of them kept Stink happy and we were able to wrap the bigger items and surprise her with a gift or two each day.  Things we bought at the park were limited to foods and other consumable items, and emergency stuff like new shirts for Brandon and Stink after a restroom mishap.

Disney World with toddlers
Souvenirs from Disney Store. These were the ones we wrapped
Disney World with toddlers
I grabbed all this stuff at the Dollar Tree

5.  Take it Slow

Stink’s favorite part of Disney World on almost every trip has been the performances, something I completely overlooked when planning our vacations.  Her favorite group is the Mariachi Cobre band in Epcot’s Mexico but she never turns down an opportunity to dance.  Just check out her moves in the video below.  She even got a shout-out from the band director!

Take it easy at each park, giving enough time for relaxation and spontaneity.  Don’t focus on riding as many rides as possible or seeing as many characters as possible.  With little ones it can be completely random things they enjoy, like a splash fountain or the animals at Animal Kingdom.  Sign up for your Fastpasses to ensure your munchkins get to experience a few rides and characters, then let the rest of the day be flexible.  Trust me, they won’t know they’ve missed a ride or two at the end of the day!

What are some tips you’ve learned from taking young children to Disney?

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