I went to Disney with my husband, a three year old and six year old 40 years ago and now, years later it is still one of our fondest memories. Disney was only a few years old when we first visited. The Amtrak train ride overnight to Florida, staying at the Contemporary Resort, taking the monorail to Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Castle, seeing my little daughters faces as they experienced Disney a was priceless experience. Taking care of your little one’s needs at Disney can be a breeze if you plan ahead. We’ve pulled together some tips from other veteran Disney moms to help make your vacation to Disney with your little one(s) a success!
1. What to Pack
In a light weight bag, include a complete outfit for each day, as well as a few extras. Include shorts and long pants for nighttime if temperature drops. Have a comfy pair of velcro fastened shoes for your toddler and take a second pair just in case. Don’t bother with flip flops…little feet may get stepped on in all the crowds. A light jacket that is water repellant, a sweater and bathing suit are also necessary and don’t forget a hat to shade little eyes and to cut down on sun exposure. I remember both our kids had red nylon zipper jackets making them easy to spot in a crowd!
2. Stroller Rental
WDW rents strollers or you can bring yours from home. Additionally, there are also stroller rental companies in the Orlando area that will deliver your stroller of choice to your hotel. If your little one still naps, take a blanket to drape over your stroller for nap time. Also, have a clear plastic poncho handy to lay over stroller during rain showers. Check out: Should I Rent A Stroll Or Bring My Own To Disney?
3. Label Everything
Stroller, clothing, diaper bag, sippy cups, etc… use a good old sharpie to put your name on your personal items – it’s better than losing something forever. Disney World has a lost and found in case you lose track of something that another park visitor was nice enough to turn in.
4. Sleeping Stuff
Sometimes pixie dust won’t do the trick. Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to lull your little one to sleep and don’t forget the night light. Up to eight miles of fun a day ought to make your kids comatose but just in case…be prepared.
5. Mom’s Diaper Bag
Be kind to yourself and pack a lightweight bag preferably a soft thermal one and be prepared to have all sections of it inspected at the gate. Open zippers ahead of time and have your park pass handy. Stock it with freeze-ahead juices and water bottles to keep snacks cool longer!
6. Odds and Ends
Take plenty of pin-on pacifiers, wipes, diapers, powder, diaper cream, etc… (If Flying and you have a rental car, buy off site WDW. ) Don’t forget the sunscreen for all family members, especially little ones. Facial sunblock sticks are easy to apply and sunscreen won’t run into and sting eyes.
You are allowed to take food into WDW. Glass containers are not allowed with the exception of baby jars. Snacks in plastic baggies, juice boxes, water bottles, sandwiches, chips fruit, etc. are allowed. For meals, Disney restaurants all provide good, kid-friendly food. Your snacks just keep everyone happy and saves a little money between meals.
8. Baby Care Centers
In each Park there is a Baby Care Center where you can diaper, potty, and, yes, heat a bottle, if needed!
Do you have a wanderer? Explain to your little ones to stand still or to be able to identify a Cast Member and say “I Lost Mommy and Daddy.” Write your name, cell number and hotel name where you’re staying on a slip of paper and put it in their pocket or pin to their clothing. Buy a package of glow sticks at home and your toddler can wear one or two in the evenings so they’re easier to spot. When your child is riding a ride alone, stay close, know where the ride exit is, and go there before the ride is over.
10. Select Appropriate Rides
Slow rides, up in the air rides – you can ride together and enjoy these magical moments. Classics like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Carousel in Fantasyland, It’s a Small World as well as new rides like Kilimanjaro Safari are all wonderful experiences. There are however, other rides that may be scary or too intense for your child. To be safe, check with the Cast Member at the entrance to a ride or attraction and inquire about loud or sudden noises, darkness, etc…
11. Early Birds
Early risers that get to the parks 30 minutes or more before it opens can get on more rides in the first hour they’re there than the rest of the day combined. An added bonus to getting an early start is that you’ll be beating the heat. Check for early park openings during your stay.
Relax in your hotel pool or chill while your child naps. No nap? Reserve a special character dining meal in the parks or at a Disney resort – giving all of your party a much-needed rest after a morning at the parks. There is the Princess dining in Epcot, Winnie the Pooh for starters in Magic Kingdom, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy are also available at various locations – no matter who your little one adores, there’s an array of restaurant and character experiences to choose from. Be smart and reserve your table up to 180 days ahead of your visit – 1-407-939-3463.
13. Meet Disney Characters
The top activity at WDW for my granddaughter is meeting all her favorite Disney characters. Toy Story friends, Flick from Bugs Life, or Mickey, himself. Characters are not allowed to hold a toddler, but they do give hugs, pose for photos, and sign autograph books.
14. Harmony Barber Shop
Main Street USA has a particularly favorite feature – the Harmony Barber Shop. Here your child can get a haircut, and if it’s their first time, they’re treated to a pair of mouse ears and a certificate. Reservations and walk-ins are welcome for girls and boys of all ages. You might even be treated to toe-tapping music!
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15. Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique
Imagine a Disney princess salon where your little girl can get a tasteful, magical makeover. Fancy up-do’s, appropriate make up, nail polish and even a new gown depending on the option you pick. Boutiques are available at Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Schedule your appointment early in the day so your little princess has ample time to strut her stuff around the parks. Little boys are also welcome and can be transformed into valiant Disney knights!
16. The More The Merrier
Take Grandpa and/or Grandma, a favorite aunt, family friend or baby-sitter along on your trip. This could help make your visit more fun and easier especially when there are multiple youngsters in your quiver! Your child will have an extra hand to hold and there will be extra eyes to watch. Parents can have a night out on their own and swap a night with Grandpa and Grandma, too.
17. Steer Away from Shops
Don’t go into the gift shops if you have a Toddler-buyer! “No, not now,” “No, you cant have that” gets old pretty quick. Sneak in while your child is with another family member to buy keepsakes!
18. Pace Yourself and Enjoy the Moment
Keep in mind, WDW was not meant to be seen in a day or even a week, but rather over many visits. Disney is a destination that grows and changes just as your kids are growing. With each new Disney film – new characters are added to the Magic at Disney World Resort. So slow down and enjoy your visit, don’t stress out if you don’t get to everything on your list. Disney will always be there whether you’re roaming the parks in Florida or snuggling on the sofa enjoying the newest Disney movie. Let the magic continue.
Here are a few more articles to help you prepare for your trip to Disney World:
Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper