Friday, September 21, 2012

Toddlers and Disney World: 10 Must Know Tips

Since my book published in January of 2014, this post has been modified.  It is now a chapter preview, to read all my best advice on bringing toddlers to Disney World order my book on Amazon!


Chapter 18:  Toddlers and Disney World

Having four kids, we've taken a baby or a toddler on just about every trip to Disney World. We've dealt with the strollers, snacks, diapers, hand wipes and tantrums. Below I've listed my 11 MUST KNOW tips for any family taking a baby or toddler to Disney. These tips will calm your “should I be taking a toddler to Disney?!?” nerves. I promise.
            Before I begin, let me say that Disney World was built around the concept of families. They have made life as easy as possible for parents. Every park has baby stations, complete with nursing areas and necessities for parents. And yes, your toddler will LOVE the trip. I can't promise you they'll remember it when they are fifteen, but they will go batpoop crazy over that huge, moving Mickey Mouse.
            1. Start your day EARLY. This tip revolves around the concept of naptime. You can't bring your toddler to Disney World and fly by the seat of your pants. While you may be able to go all day, your baby or toddler will need a nap after lunch. Even if your child doesn't nap, they will need the downtime. Tired, over-stimulated kids are a recipe for Disney World disaster.
            Get up and out early; preferably when the parks open. Hit the rides and shows, and after lunch, you'll be able to head back to your hotel for a dip in the pool and a siesta. We like to push our baby or toddler in the stroller by the pool, and usually he/she falls asleep.
            Hubby and I then sit in our pool chairs, next to a stroller covered in a blanket (see tip 4) and chill by the pool watching our other maniacs swim.
            2. Pack your cooler. Disney allows outside food, and this tip will save your wallet and your crying hungry toddler. Pack yogurts, dry cereal, cookies, fruit snacks and plenty of drinks. Don't forget diaper wipes, diapers and a clean onesie for babies.
            We turn our cooler into our diaper bag. We bring a cooler with large side mesh pockets and a zipper pocket in front. For babies, pack bottles filled with water. We pre-measured powder formula and poured into individual snack bags. Need a warm bottle? Keep those bottles with water in the side mesh pockets of the cooler. Store the individual powder formula bags in the front zipper. Pour, mix and voila, a warm bottle on a shady bench while your husband (or wife) takes your older kids on Space Mountain.
            Many parents question whether or not bringing food in will be a hassle. If you’re on a budget, it’s more than worth the extra bag in the stroller. You’ll be going through bag check at every park, and as long as you don’t back the entire kitchen the small cooler won’t weigh you down.
            3. Bring a good stroller. I don't care if you have a three year old or four year old who walks every store in the mall. You will want and need a stroller. Not only will your kids get tired, you'll want to move quickly from point A to point B. Every parent knows toddler legs don't walk quickly. A stroller will also hold your cooler and any purchases.
            For babies and toddlers, a stroller that fully reclines is ideal. Even if your two year old hasn't napped in a stroller since he was an infant, he may shock you and pass out as you motor your family to the next attraction.
            I don’t recommend renting strollers in Disney World. They are expensive and you’ll want a stroller for more than the theme parks. If you’re concerned about leaving a stroller outside rides and attractions, don’t be. There is a designated area for strollers and an attendant watching over everyone’s baby chariots. The most annoying thing about having a stroller in Disney World will be finding it after every attraction.
            I promise.
            4. Bring a baby blanket. We use a baby blanket for sunshade. Or nursing. Or diaper changing on a bench. You get the idea. Pack several if you won't be able to do laundry. One year our five year old daughter caught the stomach bug in Disney World. We were able to push her fully reclined (see tip #3) in the stroller, baby blanket shading her, while the other kids enjoyed the parks.
            It’s all about being prepared.

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43 comments:

  1. Your tips are so great!! We took our family of 7 (five kiddos)to Disneyland for the first time in May 2011, we went back again this April, and plan to continue going yearly as well!! In fact hubby and I are going by ourselves for our 1st solo vaca in Feb! It took us a long time to be able to afford a family vacation, our oldest was 16. It was the best time of out lives as a family, Disneyland really is the Happiest Place on Earth! Take your family, its so so worth it! Your tips are great and helped me the 2nd time,I only wish I had seen them the first time we went. I had heard about the rider swap for our 1st time, thank goodness-best thing ever!!! Thanks!!

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  2. Oh and forgot to say, so so agree good stroller is key! A must!!

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  3. *Snort* I forgot sunscreen on our last trip and paid $15 for a bottle. (In my defense, there was a FREEZE WARNING while we were there - who would have thought I would need it?!?!) I'm still using it because I'll be darned if a DROP of it is going to go to waste!!

    A different way to go with the label - we use SafetyTats which are tattoos with your cell already printed on them. They weren't expensive, even the older kids will wear them without much of a fuss, they last at least a day or more, and you get enough in a pack to last a couple of trips (even with 4 kiddos). I highly recommend them.

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    1. Thank you for the SafetyTats idea. I just ordered some for our trip!!!!

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    2. I wrote my cell phone number on my kids arms with a sharpie. I lost one of them at Epcot and was called in less then 5 minutes!

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  4. We just took our kids to Disneyland last month. I was a little nervous about taking my two year old twins and four year old but they did great. I'm so glad I knew about the outside food rule. We brought tons of snacks and lunch so we didn't have to spend a dime. I'd like to add that you should go during the week since it's not as crowded and little kids don't like waiting in lines. And since my kids didn't like the parade we were able to hop on 4 rides in under an hour.

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  5. Going to Disneyland to see the parade? Buy a plastic tablecloth purchased beforehand at a party supply store, think Disney themed for more fun and amusement and use that to mark your families spot on the parade route. Its easier than a blanket and we dispose of it after the parade.

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  6. Thank you :) People keep telling me we are crazy to be taking our son to Disney (he will be 7 months when we go) but at 2 months he knows who Mickey Mouse and I swore I would take my kids every chance we got (I did not get to go until I was 22 and I still cry when I see the castle- from excitement of course). I've never been with small children so this was a great list :) My brother and sister are going to help us out for the week so I did have a question - we have no young children that need accomp. on a ride but obviously the baby needs watching. Will they let us stand in line all together with the baby and two of us ride and the other two wait in line until our train returns and simply baby pass over the train or car or what have you? I am not sure if that even makes any sense....hahahhahaha. Thanks though!

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    1. You will be able to swap - but the way Disney does it is they give you a pass for the "waiting riders" to go through the fast pass line when the first two riders return. :)

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    2. That is how it works at universal and I like it much better. However at Disney you will not be able to stand in line with your family and the baby. You will go to the ride entrance with your family and get the swap pass, then wait outside the ride.

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  7. I made little tag necklaces from a Disney sticker stuck to paper, cut out and hard laminated for my kids to wear at Disney. Their name and our cell numbers were printed on the paper before it was laminated. Helped relieve my worry some about them getting lost. We got LOTS of compliments on the necklaces from other parents and even a few characters so my kids were happy to wear them each day. Plus the laminating keeps them protected from wet so they could swim with them!

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  8. Thanks for the info. We are going to Disney in Feb.2013 with an 8 year old daughter and 3 year old TRIPLETS!! I am so excited yet so nervous. Any other great ideas you have please let me know. Thanks Michelle Lester mlester921@yahoo.com.

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  9. we are getting ready to take our first trip with a 3 & 1 year old. Do you recommend a backpack harness? I've never used one or needed one.

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    1. I've seen families use them, but we never have. I think strollers are easy and we actually take two separate and each push one....makes life so much easier going through crowds. It's also great storage.

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    2. If your children are explorers like my daughter is....I LOVE HER MONKEY BOOKBAG/HARNESS. It gives her some freedom and you piece of mind. She loves wearing her monkey.

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    3. DO IT! It gives you piece of mind and your little one some freedom. I use mine a ton.

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  10. Great tips! We're taking our son for his 3rd birthday this October! We're excited!

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  11. We are taking our son to Disney World in October right around his 3rd birthday. I have to say, with him being so close to still qualifying for a free ticket (vs. paying almost $300 extra dollars for a ticket for him just because he'll technically be 3), I am tempted to pass him off as the 2 year-old he was the week before. Since you've taken kids of all ages, do you know how strictly they follow those age guidelines? Are they going to want proof of any kind? This blog has been so helpful in planning our trip thus far- thank you for sharing your experiences and thanks in advance for your help with my question!

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    1. We went to Disney World the week that my nephew turned 3. Nobody questioned his age and you don't have to provide proof of anything.

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  12. Pre-purchase your passes, and so long as the child doesn't look too far off the age, there won't be Amy questions asked. I purchased my brother a child's ticket because he looked too young to be 12 at the time, and it worked out fine. Which was great for me, because money was tight for the trip! That allowed a little more for a souvenir! A three year old will be just don't try it with a four or five year old!

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    1. My son is 2 1/2 and looks like a 4-5 year old :( He's even in 4T-5T clothing. I'm hoping since my husband is tall~ 6'7" they'll not question us.

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  13. This has really helped me! We are in the beginning stages of planning our first family vacation to Disney for this fall! I am unbelievably excited( i've been 2x to WDW and 1x to WDL). I cannot wait for my children, then 7,3 and 18months to see everything( not to mention my hubby!!)

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  14. Taking my youngest princess in March. I've been countless time and my other 3 children have been, but this little one has not yet gone. She's been through so much in her little life (she'll be 3 on March 9) and I just want to do this for her. She just had surgery in November and has been through so many medical tests and doctor appointments since September of 2012... I just wanted to do something crazy and hopefully memorable. It is just the 2 of us going. We are literally going for less than 24 hours, on the week of her birthday. The only thing she wants to do is meet Belle! Do you have any tips for us. We will be flying in and won't get in until noon (earliest flight out) and then we leave at 8 am the next morning. Our flight is 1 1/2 hours, and the bus ride is about an hour to the resorts (we are staying on property for time's sake).

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    1. So glad you'll be enjoying WDW with your little one....even for such a short time. :) Belle is the feature princess at the Norway Princess Dinner in Epcot...there is also the new Be Our Guest Restaurant which is quick service until dinner. On your way into Magic Kingdom grab the park information for the day and see if there are any character spots that feature belle. :) Have Fun!!

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  15. We just did Disney World in August. There were 12 of us all together - 8 adults, a 13 year old, a 5 year old, a turning 3 year old, and a 14 month old. I would recommend staying somewhere with a kitchen. We ordered food from Garden Grocer and it was delivered to our room before we even got there. We made our own breakfast each morning and took snacks and bottles of water with us each day. Make use of the baby centers! I loved that we had a cool place for my son to nap and recharge during the day. Definitely use the Child Swap. FYI - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have them too. We didn't utilize the afternoon nap time, and that was a huge mistake.

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  16. Do you have any tips for bringing all the toddler stuff with you (diapers, snacks, etc) without taking up so much luggage space?

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    1. Mail it to your hotel in care of yourself, all the things you don't need for the trip down. shipping is cheaper than $50 per bag. Don't forget to print pre paid address labels home and tuck them in the box when you send it. The boxes will be empty(as I assume your going to use those diapers) for shipping all your souvenirs home.

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  17. A tip given to us by a friend who went to Disney often suggested we start at the back of the park first. It worked out really well. The majority of the people are at the beginning,where it is most crowded. Try it and see for yourself,

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  18. we're going in july for the 1st time, and also in a tight budget. is there any suggestions what i could buy before hand so we wouldnt need to spend ton in DL? we're taking our now 30m old son. and we're visiting DL for a day only! sucks, but my husband friends doesnt wanna spend a week at DL... im kinda mad also they dont want to plan anything before hand... im kind of a planner , i like to plan and be prepared for everything.. also another thing, strollers... should i take a lightweight stroller that my son is too big for it, and not comfy. or buy a new jogging stroller. im thinking to buy a new jogging stroller bc those cheaper ones are just too small for him and we've been buying 3 already,

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    1. Try to bring your own food. Decide, as a family, one restaurant you want to kind of splurge on. You can bring your lunch and snacks, even a couple subway sandwiches to save on time. Be careful of souvenirs. We're going in July and I plan on buying Disney stuff at any place that sells the brand cheaper, that way my kids can go crazy and get cool glowing, light, spinny things for night time. =)

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  19. and they ripped off like about 3-6m after...

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  20. I've read a blog where the family went to Walmart and shopped online for Disney apparel and toys to give their children as "going to Disney" gear. They said their kids didn't ask for souvenirs because they had new Disney stuff. And they saved a ton.

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  21. Hi! We're planning a trip in October & I'm so glad to have stumbled on your site. We'll be traveling with a (then) 4 year old & a 10month old. I'm happy to read that this will not be the total insanity I feared. You mentioned that you've stayed at/bought a timeshare property off-site, which is what we'll be doing as well. I am worried about leaving the parks to do naptime since the travel back & forth will eat up so much time...what do you think? We could potentially lose 3-4 hours at the parks each day doing this...
    Thanks!

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    1. Hi! We actually own a Disney timeshare, so most times we stay inside the parks. BUT - we have stayed outside in my parents timeshare a bunch of times too! We usually start with the kids early (as soon as parks open) and go until lunchtime. Head back, recharge, and head back out for a few hours around 5pm. We are always back in room by 9pm for bed. Don't worry about eating up time going back and forth...it is worth the downtime. Another option is to stretch parks until after lunch (2pm-3pmish) and head back for naps and early dinner...and stay close to hotel in the evenings. Trip will be great, no you are NOT crazy to bring kids (its DISNEY!) and remember to go at your child's pace as much as possible...when they start to tire...rest and have a snack...etc. Also, I would definitely do 2 strollers - we push our kids until they are 5-6 in Disney. Too much walking will make for some complaining/whining! :) HAVE FUN!

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  22. We are taking our 5 year old daughter the first week of June. It'll be the first time there for all of us. We are staying off-site in Kissimmee. I'm wondering about parking costs at the parks? We have a park hopper, so do you pay to park at all of the parks or just buy a pass that covers them all?

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    1. Parking is hefty, last yr it was $15/day. In my book I talk about options such as parking in downtown disney (which is free). One parking pass a day covers all parks.

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  23. One of my toddlers turns 3 the week before we go and he is off the charts, I've wondered this myself.

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    1. If your child is just three I would not buy a pass....we have never, in 13 years of taking our kids have any castmember inquire about a small child in a stroller with no ticket.

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  24. We are staying off site in a house and driving to the parks each day. Can you pay to park , then leave for a few hours (for naptime), then come back to the same park and use the same parking pass?

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    1. Absolutely! Your parking pass will have a date on it and it is good at all 4 parks all day.

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  25. I rented a double jogging stroller from a baby furniture supply rental store near Orlando. (They dropped it off to our hotel and picked it up when we were done.) My son was 3. We used every space in that stroller for cooler, diaper bag, hoodies etc. (There were 6 of us seeing the parks together.) A good stroller is key. It holds all your crap in one place is the best.....my little one will be 9 when we go back again. I will rent a single stroller just to hold all the stuff you need when doing the parks with a big family!

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  26. Not sure if you can help me out on this but my family of 5 will be in DW july 10 do you think if we arrive around 430pm 5ish that my lil girl will be able to get in the castle and maybe a ride or two before they close at 11 also will she be able to visit the castle without reservations or dinner?

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    1. You will definitely be able to get on a few rides, not sure if you are arriving at your hotel at 5 or the park, but either way you'll have time for a few attractions in the Magic Kingdom depending on how busy the park is. I don't think you will get in to dinner at the castle, that meal books up months in advance. But I always say it can't hurt to try! Also, look into reserving ride times with the new Fast Pass system if you'll be staying inside the parks. Have fun!

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