My family is planning our second trip to Walt Disney World for this October and with the addition of a new bundle of joy since our last trip over a year ago, it will be a bit of different experience. Our baby’s first trip to Walt Disney World is sure to be filled with memories – admittedly more for me than him – and we want to make sure that they are all joyful and minimize the stress of a traveling to Disney with a one year old.
For a little perspective, here’s our situation: My husband and I took our two older children (and one on the way) in May of 2012 for our first family trip to Disney World. We spent 5 days in the parks and stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. It was a wonderful trip where we took minimal breaks and tried to get to the parks as early as we could and stayed as long as the kids would let us. Luckily, with a 6 year old and a 3 year old and their parents who believe that vacations are not meant for rest, there were virtually no meltdowns and we all had fun. Most of what we did then worked really well for us, so we’ll be repeating those and making adjustments based on our new family dynamic. I’ve put together a list of our best advice for making the most of your trip to Disney with babies in tow!
10 tips for enjoying Walt Disney World with Small Kids:
- We’ll be staying at Disney’s Pop Century Resort again. The strategy here is to go with a resort that we are familiar with and that isn’t going to break the bank to visit. We really won’t be staying there for more than sleeping and since the kids aren’t old enough to really appreciate beautiful hotels with extra amenities, Pop Century is the best choice for us. Staying somewhere we’ve been before will also minimize surprises, which we’re sure to have enough of while wrangling three kids in a theme park.
- Speaking of sleep – we’ll be taking breaks for naps. No, we didn’t do this last time, but the baby will need them and there’s no reason to ruin our trip with a cranky little one. Besides, naps will rejuvenate us all and maybe we can stick it out for the fireworks! We’ll probably consider letting the older kids swim instead, while baby brother (and dad) sleep. Either way, the break after lunch will be a great way to get some energy and excitement built back up for the afternoon.
- We’re planning for a good mixture of shows and standing in lines for rides. Ride lines can get tiresome, so we'll be sure to take an A/C and leg break by alternating rides and attractions.
- Rent a stroller to be delivered to your resort. There a ton of options for independent stroller rental places that will not only have a stroller waiting when you check-in to your resort, but will pick it up when you’re done! While Disney does have strollers for rent, they are hard plastic, don’t recline and have to be rented by the day for a hefty price.
- Try, but don’t stress about getting to the parks for “rope drop”. Yes, kids usually get up early anyway, but that doesn’t mean they can get out the door very quickly. We always plan to get to that day’s park when it opens, but if it doesn’t happen, we don’t stress. Going with the flow from the start will do wonders for ensuring everyone has a good time at Walt Disney World.
- Scope out food choices with large portions and big variety. We prefer counter service meals when on vacation at Disney because of the convenience and always try to find the restaurants that serve the largest portions with the most variety. Some of our favorites are the half rotisserie chicken at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, the honey chicken at Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe and the ginger Mongolian beef at Sunshine Seasons. All of them are totally share-able and will feed you and at least 1 or 2 small kids!
- Prep lots of pennies and gather quarters for the penny-press machines! They’re all over Walt Disney World and really help to fend off the “I-wants” that plague every family vacation.
- We always talk about the kinds of souvenirs we might want to buy before we leave (a t-shirt, vinylmation, Mickey ears, etc) so there are some expectations about what mom and dad might be willing to buy. We also let them buy a small souvenir early on and then tell them to keep their eyes open for what else they might want to get before we leave. Oh – And take advantage of package delivery – don’t lug stuff around if you’re staying on property. Disney will take care of taking it back to your hotel for you!
- Scope out characters that gather in groups. Think Epcot Character Spot, Disney Princesses at Town Square Theater, Pete’s Silly Sideshow, Animal Kingdom’s Adventurers Outpost, Pixar Place…the list goes on. You might stand in line a little longer, but you’ll be able to see 3 or 4 at one time and will spend less time trying to find one or two characters at a time to get signatures. Also, be nice and bring a really fat marker to make it easier for those large-fisted characters to grip!
- Make a plan! Buy a book or talk to your travel agent (ahem!) to learn more about the “can’t miss” Disney attractions and figure out how you’re going to see them all. We like to spend time before our trips talking with the kids about what they would like to experience. It adds to the excitement when you can stand in line saying things like “this is the one we read about!” or “remember watching the video on YouTube about this one?”
Armed with all of these tips, we’re so excited about our next trip to Walt Disney World with our family of 5 and hope this has helped you put together a better plan for your next trip with little ones too! And, in full disclosure, I am a Disney Travel Specialist and have tons more info to share, so contact me if you’d like FREE help planning your Family Vacation to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or on a Disney Cruise!