One of the best parts about visiting Disney with a toddler (aside from them being free if they’re under 3!) is that so much of the experience is new and exciting to them. Even if you’ve been to Disney yourself a hundred times before, there’s nothing better than seeing it through your child’s eyes for the first time. Whether you’re visiting Disney with a younger or toddler, each age and stage comes along with a new experience.
A trip to Disney World with toddlers certainly isn’t the most relaxing vacation, but with a little planning and a few breaks, you can have the best time while still keeping the Disney Magic alive. Keep reading for our tips for the best Disney vacation with young kids.
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1. Stay on Disney Property
After years of staying off property at Disney for several years, we’ve found that staying on Disney property is definitely worth it if you can fit it into your budget. Disney transportation makes it easy to get to the parks, and staying close by also means that it’s easier to take breaks during the day. (Whether for naps or if you all need to re-charge.) If you’re looking for a great resort for Disney with toddlers, Art of Animation has some of the best Disney theming. Be sure to read our Art of Animation review for more information.
If a Disney property is not with in your budget, we recommend this Sheraton resort in Orlando as an alternative. It’s close to Disney and offers larger rooms at an affordable rate.
2. Bring A Stroller to Disney With Toddlers
Unless you have an older toddler who absolutely refuses a stroller, we highly recommend bring one with you. There’s tons of walking in Disney, and you don’t want your day to be cut short by a tired toddler. The other advantage is that you’ll have a place to store all the stuff that comes along with visiting Disney World with kids.
Keep in mind that Disney has two stroller guidelines when bringing your own stroller.
- Strollers can’t exceed 31″ x 52″
- Wagons (including stroller wagons) aren’t allowed in Disney Parks.
Our favorite stroller for travel is the GB Pockit+. It’s super light, folds small, has a recline feature and also accommodates adapters for infant car seats. The Summer Infant 3D Lite is also a great option for an inexpensive yet sturdy lightweight stroller with a recline feature.
I don’t recommend renting a stroller at Disney unless you forget a stroller or want it as a backup for an older toddler you didn’t bring one for. They’re hard plastic and pretty uncomfortable.
3. Pack the Essentials for Your Day in Disney
Below are a few key items to bring for your day at the Disney theme parks.
- Sunscreen: Even if the forecast is calling for clouds, Florida is (almost) always sunny. Our favorite sunscreen for little ones when we’re on the go is this spray sunscreen for babies.
- Clothing Change: This is something I tend to forget as my son gets older and thankfully out of the diaper blowout stage. The last thing you want to do is have to go home or spend more money on a new outfit if your kid gets too wet or messy. If you’re visiting in the cooler months, layers are also critical. You never know if that Florida sun will make things warmer than planned!
- Snacks & Drinks: The rules at theme parks have changed over the years. You can bring food and drinks (within reason) inside the parks with you. It definitely helps to ward off any hangry toddlers and saves money when you’re already spending so much on the parks. Note: As of March 19th, you can no longer bring loose ice in your coolers into the Parks. Only ice packs are permitted going forward.
- Portable Fan: If you’re there in the summer, consider bringing a small fan from home versus shelling out tons of money for a Disney one. We have this fan that you can easily hook onto a stroller.
4. Get to the Park Early
Toddlers usually have the most energy in the morning, so take advantage of those early wakeups and get to the parks when they open! The opening show at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are a fun way to get excited about the day. Plus, the ride lines usually are the shortest first thing in the morning.
It’s also Florida after all, so early mornings mean that hot sun isn’t in full swing yet as well!
5. Do at Least One Character Meet and Greet
The characters are located in designated areas throughout the parks, and I definitely recommend taking your child to see at least one character in person. Even for the littlest kids, the photo op is worth it alone! Most of the characters are entertaining and well trained at how to approach the kids depending on their age and reactions. Whether it’s holding your child’s hand, playing games, or getting down to their level, the characters at Disney are great at engaging with kids.
Character meet and greets often fill up throughout the day. Consider using a FastPass+ selection if there’s a character your child really wants to see.
Note: With recent health and safety changes, character visits at Disney World are currently unavailable. You can still catch the characters throughout the parks and from a distance!
6. Use Rider Switch for the “Big Kid” Rides
One of the great things about Disney World is that there are so many rides that kids can do regardless of their age or height. Magic Kingdom alone has over 30 attractions without height requirements!
If you or your older kids want to go on a ride that younger kids aren’t tall enough for, however, this is where rider switch comes in handy. Just like it sounds, one person or a small group (typically up to 3 riders) can ride the rides while the other group stays with the child. Then they can switch without the second party having to wait in line again. Before using rider switch, the whole party has to show up at the line queue and inform the line attendant that they’re using ride switch.
Note: If you use a FastPass+ for the first group, the 2nd party does not need to use a FastPass+ to ride. This is a great way to make the most of your FastPass+ selections for the most popular rides.
7. Take Breaks When Visiting Disney With a Toddler
Disney can be tiring for adults and toddlers alike. While many people try to spend every day and all day at the parks to get their money’s worth, they often leave the trip completely exhausted. To avoid (or at least lessen) and overtired toddler meltdowns, we recommend building a few breaks into your itinerary. Below are a few options to consider for taking breaks at Disney World with a toddler.
If your toddler is still napping and you only have limited time in the parks, one option is to have them nap on-the-go.
If you opt to do this, try to find a quiet spot away from the laughing (and screaming) children to get them to first fall asleep. At Magic Kingdom, for example, there’s area in Liberty Square behind the cafe that’s ironically called Sleepy Hollow. It’s slightly further away from the crowds and is a great spot to sit and relax for a bit. The other parks also have quiet areas and open spaces to walk your child around. (Naps in Epcot are the best with all the food and beverage choices!)
Leave the Park for a Break
A mid-day break from the Parks is always a good idea, especially if you have multiple days in Disney and/or are planning to be there later at night. If your toddler is still napping, they can rest up in their own bed while you can also relax. If you’ve moved out of the nap phase, you can take advantage of the amazing resort pools before gearing up for Disney at night.
Take Advantage of Baby Care Centers
Baby Care Centers are great with young children for a number of reasons. You can a young toddler at a high chair or nurse them privately. You can also change a toddler’s diaper with access to things like changing tables and baby supplies like wipes and diapers. It doesn’t hurt to take a break from the overstimulation of the Parks, either! There is a Baby Care Center available at each of the Walt Disney World theme parks, and you can find more information here.
Build Non-Disney Days Into Your Itinerary
If you’re spending a week in Disney World or more, another option is to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the parks. Not only will it likely save you money, but you can also recharge to make the most of your days at the parks. Some options for things to do at Disney outside of the parks include:
- Explore Disney Springs or the Boardwalk
- Drive to the beach for a day (if you have a rental car)
- Spend time enjoying your resort pool
- Go miniature golfing (passes are included with Disney World Reservations)
- Walk around the different Disney Resorts
- Visit local Orlando attractions like ICON Park (includes The Wheel and SeaLife Aquarium)
8. Commemorate the First Disney Experience
If it’s your child’s first visit, be sure to get one of the “My First Disney Visit” buttons. They’re free and available at any Park. You pick them up at Guest Relations in either the Walt Disney World Parks or Disney Springs. Plus most gift shops have them as well. I’m also not usually big on souvenirs, but we also had to get our Donald Duck obsessed son a stuffed animal of his favorite character. Thankfully, that overpriced duck didn’t just end up shoved in a corner. He sleeps with it every night, let’s us know he’s awake by quacking at Donald in the morning : )
9. Don’t Miss the Parades
While some of the nighttime shows can be a little too late for toddlers to actually enjoy, the afternoon parades are a must-see. Typically all of the main Disney characters participate in the parades. There’s also music and dancing the entire time, and the parades are just the right length of time to keep your toddler’s attention.
Note: With DIsney’s updated health and safety changes, parades aren’t currently being offered at this time.
10. Take Lots of Pictures
One of our toddler’s favorite things to do is to look back at old pictures. (Especially for those trips that he may not fully remember.) This doesn’t just apply to Disney, but it’s especially important to catch those memories at the happiest place on earth. Disney has so many great photo ops throughout the parks.
You can also purchase a Disney Memory Maker to have professional Disney photographers take pictures for you at each of the parks. After taking pictures, the staff will scan your band/ticket or provide a card for you to purchase and download your chosen pictures. We recommend getting the Memory Maker, especially for a first trip to Disney with a toddler.
Please share in the comments if you have any tips or experiences from visiting Disney with toddlers. And if you’re currently planning your trip, we hope you have any amazing time!
- The Best Rides for Toddlers in Magic Kingdom
- How to Prepare for a Day at Walt Disney World
- 3 Places in Orlando to Experience the Magic of Disney at Christmas
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