Before Chris and I ever met, we were Disney fans all on our own — and making a trip to Disney was easy and sometimes spontaneous. Having grown up in Southern California and living less than 10 minutes from Disneyland, I always had an annual pass as an adult — this meant spontaneous hangouts with friends after work or a random Disney weekend just because we were bored.
Now, we have a 2-year-old and an infant and are planning 2 Disney trips this year on both sides of the country. When I say “planning”, I mean PLANNING. There is no room for ‘Oh, well. . . C’est la vie’ if you want to avoid tantrums and unnecessary trips to the store to get missing items
We’ve made two 12-hr road trips down to Florida for week-long Disney World vacations with our 2yo and both times took a lot of planning and browsing on Amazon to make the trip as easy as possible and pleasant for everyone (mostly for the parents 😉)
Without further ado, here are my best tips for going to Disney with toddlers:
1. Bring a stroller – You don’t have many years where you can take advantage of bringing in a stroller loaded up with all your stuff so you don’t have to carry them all day, so while your kid is of stroller age, bring one (or rent it). Not only can you put everything in it and wheel it around the parks, your infant will most likely need a place to nap at some point in the day. If you don’t want to carry him/her around while they nap for an hour, let them nap in the stroller and give yourself a break in the day too. ALSO, if you bring a bottle or snack container for them, I LOVE having this stroller attachment so you don’t have to keep grabbing stuff off the floor every time your toddler throws it on the ground. (I know you know what I’m talking about)
2. Keep Your Cool – If you’re going during the hot months (pretty much year-round for Disney World), bring some items that will keep your child and the rest of the family cool. Everyone knows heat and exhaustion can be dangerous, both for your body and for gentle parenting. My favorite cooling products include a spray bottle with fan attachment and a cooling towel filled with ice water. That cooling towel is so simple, but it feels sooo good when walking around in the scorching heat – especially, when walking through Epcot where there’s so little shade!
3. Use the Baby Center – Before having kids, I had no idea that there was a Baby Center in every park. There’s only one per park, but surprisingly, it’s usually empty! This is an area that’s set up for breastfeeding mamas, as well as formula-fed babies. You’ll find private rooms or a larger room for multiple families. (FYI, if there are multiple moms breastfeeding in the common area, men are not allowed in that space.) We like taking advantage of this space with our little ones because it’s a private space we can wind down and cool off, away from the crowd. You can find the baby center on each park’s map or just ask a cast member.
4. Plan out your rides – One of the things we had to get used to with a toddler was not being able to go on every ride as a family. Here are a few tips to still have a great Disney trip as parents:
- Know which rides your toddler can go on so that you can plan your day. All of the rides have some kind of restriction, including height. Lucky for you, we did the research and compiled a list of rides that most toddlers can do.
- Take advantage of the parent swap lines — all you need to do is stand in line like normal, then when it’s your turn, tell the cast member that you want to do a parent swap. One parent will stay with the child(ren) while the other parent goes on the ride. After that parent is done, they swap with the other parent. That way both parents still get to go on rides they love!
5. Keep Them Entertained – Bring things that will keep your toddler entertained in the lines when you wait for rides.
6. Keep Them Dry – Make sure potty-trained toddlers use the restroom before getting into long lines. AND go early before they “have to go NOW”. You never know how long those restroom lines are going to be, especially the women’s restrooms.
7. Buy Disney toys and trinkets Outside of the Parks – You’d be able to pick the toys out ahead of time and stick with a budget rather than have your toddlers go crazy in those Disney stores.
8. Bring Snacks and drinks – I’m sure you know this already, but snacks not only satisfy your toddler’s hunger, they also can be used as a distraction when the kids get restless in lines. Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, and other kid favorites are a MUST. For drinks, we like to bring Capri Sun or Kool-Aid pouches; we also bring our own insulated bottles with ice water too. Staying hydrated is good for you and lots of water will also help your energy level and mood.
9. Prepare for All Kinds of Weather for WDW Trips – If you’re going to WDW, no matter what season, you could be looking forward to scorching hot days or cool and rainy days. Consider getting a rain cover for your stroller or ponchos for everyone. For those hot days, make sure you have sunscreen and hats.
10. Stay on property – If possible, stay on property at one of the Disney resorts during your stay. It will make it a lot easier to travel to and from the parks. Additionally, some resorts come with the perk of getting into the parks earlier than the rest of the public.
The Most Important Things to Remember
I think the most important things to remember when going to Disney with toddlers is to be patient and flexible. If you expect everything to go according to your plans, it will get really frustrating. Plan the trip, but treat it more like guidelines so you at least have an idea of what to do in the parks. Kids will be kids — and the Disney parks have so much to take in that it probably is going to be overwhelming.