10 Tips to Make Going to Disney With Toddlers Easier
Are you thinking about planning a trip to Disney, but the ages of your kids holding you back?
I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say they are waiting to take their kids to Disney until they reach a certain age. They either don't think its worth it because they won't remember the trip, or the thought of dealing with a rambunctious toddler at a busy and hot park frightens them away.
If this sounds familiar, throw those fears aside! Some of my favorite memories of our family trips to Disney have been of our kids at age 3 or 4, eyes full of wonder and excitement at all there is around them.
My usually talkative 3 year old son was completely star struck meeting his favorite characters live and in person. He was literally jumping up and down after meeting Mickey for the first time, yelling that it was the best day ever. And my five year old son was beaming after meeting Chewbacca, proudly announcing to his younger brother that " Chewie is real!"
I'll also never forget my 3 year old daughter's face, after getting all done up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, talking to the princesses and telling them all about her life.
There is just this innocence and wonder at that age that magnifies the magic of Disney for the whole family.
It's not all cupcakes and rainbows of course, but with a little planning, patience, and lots of snacks it is possible to have a magical Disney vacation with your littlest ones in tow. Here are 10 tips to help make it easier for you.
Stay Close to the Parks
With younger kids, the quicker and easier it is to get between the parks and your hotel the better. For Disneyland, staying within walking distance is a must. The Disney properties are all within walking distance, as are several Good Neighbor hotels.
For Disney World stay at a hotel closest to the park you will visit the most. For many this means Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground are the closest.
Build Rest Time Into Your Itinerary
Disney is exhausting for anyone, let alone toddlers! Build time in your daily itinerary to head back to your hotel in the middle of the day for a nap or pool time. You will miss the hottest part of the day, peak attraction waiting times, and have enough energy to enjoy the amazing nighttime shows and fireworks back at the parks.
Decorate Your Stroller
Even if you don’t use a stroller at home anymore, you will want one at Disney. There will be a lot of them there so make your stroller stand out in the crowd.
Decorate the handle using ribbon, bows, cloth strips, a big sign with your name on it, and/or battery powered lights. Buy a balloon and tie it to your stroller so you can see it from far away.
Also, don't be alarmed if you come back to claim your stroller and isn't in the exact same spot you left it. Cast Members periodically move strollers to keep them organized and out of the way of traffic. If your stroller is decorated, especially with a balloon, it will be quick and easy to spot where they moved it to.
Bring Your Own Food
You can bring your own food and water into the parks if it is not in a glass container. Fill up your own water bottles with free cups of ice water from any restaurant with fountain drinks.
Many grocery delivery services will deliver to your hotel, or simply bring a small carry-on filled with snacks you purchased ahead of time. You can then use the empty suitcase to bring all your trip souvenirs home with you.
Measure Your Child's Height Before You Go
You can find a list of all rides with a height requirement on the Disney Parks website. Measure your child’s height on a hard, flat surface in the shoes they will be wearing in the parks. Then you will know what attractions your child can and cannot ride before you go, can prepare them accordingly, and hopefully avoid a park meltdown!
Watch Rides on YouTube
Watch as many rides as you can on YouTube before you go. This will prepare them for the ride and prevent them from getting scared in the middle of one.
This may be my number one preparation tip for kids! If you don't do any of the tips on this list, at least do this one. Trust me. You'll regret it if you don't.
Would your older kids be so carefree to get down like this at Disney without worrying about what other people thought? 🤣
Use Rider Switch
If your child is too short for an attraction, or simply doesn’t want to experience it, ask the Cast Member at the front of the attraction if you can use Rider Switch. This will allow the parent staying back with the child to experience the attraction, after the first parent has completed their ride, without waiting in line. It’s like a free Fastpass!
Put Together a Waiting Survival Kit
Download the Play Disney Parks app. It has games, music, and trivia that you can play to entertain yourselves while waiting in line or for a parade or show to start. Small bottles of bubbles, little lollipops like Dumdums, Ellen’s Heads Up Game app, and little toys from the Dollar Store are also helpful to entertain kids while waiting.
Baby Care Centers
Baby Care Centers are complimentary for guests and located at each park. Each vary but generally includes a nursing room with chairs, changing tables, feeding area with highchairs, a kitchen with microwave and sink, and a vending machine with baby and other essentials available for purchase with a credit card. Some are quite large and have TVs and playroom. They are great places to bring your kids when they need a break from the park.
Dealing with Lost Children
Purchase clothing tags with your name and cell phone number on them, like from NameBubbles or Mabel’s Labels , and place them on your child’s shirt. Teach your child to show the label to an adult if they get lost. It is also a good idea to take a picture of what your child is wearing each morning with your cell phone. That way, you can show it to a Disney Cast Member to help with locating your child faster.
Bonus Tip: Picking the Right Shoes
I am a big fan of Sketchers with memory foam insoles. They are lightweight and have the perfect cushion for walking all day in the parks. Keens are also great for kids. FYI, all kids -- even babies -- are required to wear shoes on rides for safety reasons.
I can't promise you that by following these tips you will prevent ALL meltdowns and toddler drama. But it will reduce them and help you be more prepared when they happen.
And if you are wondering, my kids do remember their first trips to Disney and talk about it to this day.
I am a travel agent with Magical Vacation Planner and can help you plan an unforgettable vacation with your family. Email me, head to my Facebook page, or set up time to chat if you’d like to start planning your magical vacation.
Or head here to download your copy of my free Disney Vacation planning worksheets.