Do’s and Don’ts for Disney World with Toddlers
First off, I should probably mention the fact that I spent a mere day and a half in Disney parks on our recent vacation to Florida. We spent a few hours at Animal Kingdom, and probably around six hours at Magic Kingdom. Despite having a relatively small amount of time in the parks I think I spent enough time to compile a useful list of things to consider if you’re planning a trip to Disney World with small children. I have links to blog posts about my time in Disney at the bottom of this post if you are interested in reading more.
1. Do arrive early
The theme parks open at 9 a.m. It’s a good idea to be there before they even open. That’s because everyone tries to arrive early. Any time you’re there it is going to be crowded, so don’t think that if you get there early you’ll avoid crowds and lines. However, if you are there when the parks open the lines should be shorter than they are in an hour or two.
I would like to add that if your kids typically sleep in late you might not want to throw their whole schedule off just to get there early since it’s going to be crowded anyway. The best reason to get there early if you have young kids is that you’ll have more time to go on rides and see the many attractions. You’ll need that extra time in the Magic Kingdom. If your kids typically nap at a certain time you should try to get back to your hotel so they can nap at their normal time. That means the sooner you arrive at the park, the more time you have there.
2. Do bring a stroller
I don’t care how much your toddler may walk at home, a stroller is a must. We used a double umbrella stroller for our two kids (aged 3 ½ years and 20 months at the time) and it worked great. The Disney theme parks are huge and require a ton of walking. It’s hot there, too. Kids get worn out and tired and cranky. Strollers are a huge help at that time. If your child feels like walking for a while you can use the stroller for storage and throw your stuff in it to lighten your load.
3. Do listen to your kids
Your kids are the reason you’re in Disney World so listen to their needs and wants when you’re there and your vacation should go much smoother. If your child really wants to go on a ride or see an attraction then do it. Otherwise it’s much more likely that you’ll be dealing with unhappy children throwing temper tantrums. The same goes for what they don’t want to do. You might think your son will love the Peter Pan ride, but if they say they absolutely don’t want to go on it, then don’t bother with it. Also, keep tabs on your kids to try to tell if they’re getting hungry, thirsty, or tired. If you can take care of those needs before they are starving or overtired it will be a very good thing. If your kid is very tired let them take a nap. You can always leave the park and come back later.
4. Do use Fastpass+
If you don’t know what Fastpass+ is, do some research and find out everything you can. It essentially gives you the opportunity to cut in line for a few rides that you really want to go on. You can use Fastpass+ on your smart phone using the Disney App. when you’re in the park so you change things up on the fly.
5. Do dress appropriately
This one goes for kids and parents. Dress smart. Wear comfortable clothing and give special attention to your footwear. Wear sneakers, not heels or flip-flops. Wear a hat and sunglasses, because it is most likely going to be very hot and sunny. Don’t forget the sunscreen, too. Check the weather forecast; you may want to bring umbrellas, raincoats, ponchos, or sweatshirts. If you’re hot or cold, you can bet your child is too.
6. Do have a plan, but be flexible
You don’t want to arrive at The Magic Kingdom or any other Disney theme park without a plan. If you walk through the gate and look at a map of the place for the first time you won’t know what to do or what to see. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in Disney. You should at least know what areas of the park you want to spend most of your time and have a couple of attractions or rides in mind.
You also have to be flexible. Weather can derail your plans and so could a temper tantrum or two from little ones. You don’t want to have too strict of a plan to try to adhere to or else it will be very easy for it to fall apart. Be ready to change up your Fastpass+ options and find rides with shorter lines so you can see more.
7. Do account for travel time
All of the Disney theme parks may be within a couple miles of each other, but traveling between them takes time. You can expect a lot of traffic. If you’re driving yourself you will park in what is likely the largest parking lot you have ever seen. Then you have to walk or take a shuttle to the gate. You can take the monorail between some parks and can take a ferryboat between others. Disney shuttles buses can aide in transportation as well as taxis and public transportation. Whenever you are taking any form of transportation besides for your own car you can expect to have to wait for at least a little while before departing for the park.
1. Don’t overdo it
Do not try to see and do everything while you’re there. It’s impossible. You’ll drive your family and yourself crazy in the process. It’s very tempting to try to do it all because you figure you probably won’t be back for a while. Don’t do it though. It’s not worth it. If you overdo it you’ll have one very miserable child (or more than one) on your hands. Cranky kids make cranky parents.
2. Don’t miss the parade
The Festival of Fantasy Parade in the Magic Kingdom was awesome. I highly recommend it. I think it takes place every afternoon. It is a big time parade with several floats showcasing Disney’s most popular characters. There were the girls from Frozen, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Belle and the Beast, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and even a fire breathing dragon. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were at the end of the parade. Our toddlers loved it! As a result, we loved it, too. It truly brought out the little kid in all of us.
3. Don’t forget to eat and drink
Bring snacks and water. You only have so much time in the parks, so I know you want to do as much as possible, but don’t forget to eat and drink. Especially remember that for your kids. They’ll be so excited that they probably won’t think about eating or drinking, so that’s your responsibility. You might not want to sit down and waste too much time eating, but there are plenty of places in Disney that have very fast service so you can get in and out and back to enjoying yourself in a short amount of time.
4. Don’t wait in line forever and miss out on other attractions
Like I said earlier, use Fastpass+. You don’t want to spend your whole day waiting in line. If you can’t use Fastpass+ for some reason or you don’t have one available at the time, then you just have to be smart about your time. Don’t wait in a long line when there are a couple of other things to do nearby with much shorter lines. I know, sometimes your kids just have to go on the ride with the longest line. If that’s the case, wait in that long line. Just don’t do that all day long. There are plenty of things to see and do there that won’t require a long wait. If you have the Disney App. on your smart phone you can actually check current wait times so you know where to go and what to avoid.
5. Don’t forget to take photos
I was a victim of this “Don’t.” It’s easy to forget to document your day in Disney. Photos of your children enjoying their first trip to Disney can be priceless. Disney actually offers the Memory Maker Photo Package, which entails photos being taken for you and automatically uploaded to a website so you can choose which ones you want. It’s a bit pricey, but it will help you cherish your Disney memories for years to come.
6. Don’t spend the entire day in a park
Know what’s a good way to drive your child crazy? Get to a theme park early and stay until it closes. That is way too much for a toddler. You’ll see. You might get lucky and they’ll survive a day. Try it again and you’re guaranteed a bad time. Just think of how your kids are at home. I’m sure it’s not go go go all the time. If your child naps at home, let them nap on vacation. Or if they can handle quite a bit, go to a park early then go back to your hotel for lunch and some time by the pool to relax for a while. Then you can always go back to the park for the evening. But do everyone a favor and break up the day.
7. Don’t forget why you’re there
If you’re in Disney World with toddlers your kids are probably the reason you’re there. Don’t forget that. Your time in the park should revolve around your children’s enjoyment. Let them do and see what they want. If they’re happy it will make the trip better for you. Try to relax and enjoy yourself, Disney World is a magical place. Embrace the “Happiest Place on Earth” and make some memories that’ll last a lifetime.
My previous Disney posts: