One of the best parts about visiting Disney World 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 older 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 toddlers.
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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. We also love the Zoe Double Stroller for Disney with two toddlers. I don’t recommend renting a stroller at Disney unless you forget a stroller or want it as a backup for an older toddler. They’re hard plastic and pretty uncomfortable.
Pro Tip: If rain is in the forecast, waterproof stroller covers are great for keeping the kiddos and your stuff dry. Stroller hooks are also an awesome way to make items readily available and not take up extra space in storage.
Research Rides Before You Go
The great thing about Disney World is that there are tons of rides without height requirements. That said, when it comes to toddlers there are several rides with minimum heights ranging from 32-40″ which can make a pretty big difference in which rides your toddler can do. We recommend checking their height against some of the popular rides, so you have an idea of which rides your toddler can and can’t do in advance. (There’s nothing worse than a kiddo being set up for disappointment when there’s a ride they really want to do!)
Another way to get your toddler excited for rides is by watching them on YouTube. This is especially great for kids who are a little more cautious when it comes to rides like our older toddler.
Stay on Disney Property
After years of staying off property at Disney as adults, we’ve found that staying on Disney property is definitely worth it with young kids. 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.
Staying on Disney property doesn’t have to break the bank! In addition to Art of Animation, there are other value resorts like Disney’s All-Star Movies resort that offers fun Disney theming at an even lower price point.
If you prefer to stay off property for the extra space, we recommend this Sheraton resort in Orlando as an alternative. It’s close to Disney and offers larger rooms and condos at an affordable rate.
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 a necessity!
- Snacks & Drinks: 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: You can no longer bring loose ice in your coolers into Disney World. Only ice packs are permitted.
- Portable Fan: If you’re there in the summer or warmer months, a portable fan is a must have at Disney World. We have this fan that you can easily hook onto a stroller.
Be sure to check out these things to buy before going to Disney World to help you further prepare.
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. The ride lines usually are the shortest first thing in the morning and you can squeeze more in before it gets too hot.
If you’re staying on property at Disney World, they typically offer extra morning hours as well. Be sure to check before your visit.
Meet the Characters at Disney World
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.
Character visits at Disney World have recently been introduced. While the characters keep a little more distance than in the past, the interactions are still just as fun! You can also find characters at cavalcades and character meals as well.
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. There are so many rides at Magic Kingdom for toddlers alone that over 30 attractions don’t have 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.
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. While “Disney tired” makes it pretty easy for most kids to fall asleep in the stroller, there are plenty of options to find a quiet space if they have trouble falling asleep. At Magic Kingdom, for example, there’s area in Liberty Square behind 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 are the best at Epcot with a toddler given all of the food and beverage choices!
During our last trip to Disney with toddlers, our 14-month-old even fell asleep in the stroller at night during her normal bedtime of 7pm. She even slept through the entire fireworks at Magic Kingdom while her older brother got to enjoy them.
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. If your toddler is still napping at the time of your visit, 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. We did this on our last trip to Disney World with toddlers, and it worked out great for everyone. Our youngest napped while our older toddler got to take a break from the heat and excitement of the day.
Take Advantage of Baby Care Centers
Baby Care Centers are great with young children for a number of reasons. You can feed your younger toddlers at a highchair 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.
Don’t Miss the Parades
While some of the nighttime shows can be a little too late for some 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. You can still catch a character cavalcade at Disney World though, which is quicker but a fun way to see the characters!
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 most magical 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.
Be sure to also commemorate that first Disney trip with a My First Visit Disney button. They’re free and available at the parks, resorts and Disney Springs.
Build Non-Disney Days into Your Itinerary
If you’re spending a week in Disney World or more, we definitely recommend taking a break from the parks when you’re visiting with littles. 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
- Spend time enjoying your resort pool
- Go resort hopping at Disney World
- Drive to the beach near Orlando for a day if you have a rental car
- Go miniature golfing (passes are included with Disney World Magical Extras)
- Visit local Orlando attractions like ICON Park (includes The Wheel and SeaLife Aquarium)
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
- Complete Guide to Epcot for Toddlers
- 11 Fun Things to Do at Animal Kingdom with Toddlers
- How to Prepare for a Day at Walt Disney World
- The Best Resort in Disney World for Toddlers
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