Earlier this year we had the holiday of a lifetime in America. We spent 10 days in Florida and visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This was my first trip to Disney World and as much as I was looking forward to it (since I was about 5), I wasn’t sure how it would be with a toddler in tow. He loves Disney films, but I was worried the heat, the crowds and the sensory overload might be a bit too much for him. We did a lot of research before we went and learned a few things along the way.
So here’s my guide to having an awesome time at Disney World with toddlers:
Take A Pram Or Stroller
At home Ollie doesn’t use a pram that often, but in the Disney parks it was a must-have. We were doing around 20-24000 steps a day, and we were leaving the parks pretty early!
You have 3 options, take your own, buy one when you get there or hire one from the parks.
We couldn’t fit our bulky travel system in the car on the way to the airport, so we considered hiring one from the parks. At $15 a day it worked out much more economical to buy one while we were in the states. My sister-in-law picked up a lightweight stroller for $50 at Walmart and it did the job perfectly. It even folded up so small we were able to take it home and it’s replaced our regular pram for every day use! If you can, take one with a basket underneath to carry your drinks, snacks and suncream. Ollie’s even had a little tray so he could eat his snacks on the move.
Pack Plenty Of Snacks And Drinks
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN take your own snacks and drinks into the Disney Parks. There are plenty of places to buy snacks inside, but they aren’t always that toddler friendly. We found a couple of stalls selling fruit and Babybell but they were quite expensive.
We packed plenty of toddler snacks like cereal bars, breadsticks and pouches and replaced them at Walmart throughout the week. I also took Ollie’s bottle which I filled up throughout the day with water. Bottled water will cost you around $3 but you can get tap water for free at food service outlets if you ask. There are also water fountains dotted around the parks. I also took a little bottle of Robinsons Squash’d which was perfect as it saved us a fortune on drinks and didn’t take up too much room in the bag.
Get Organised And Sort Fast Passes
Although we were first timers, we went to the parks with American family who have been there done that so many times that they planned our days so perfectly. I’m not sure it would have been as smooth if we had been planning it! We had fast passes set up for all the big rides we wanted to do. The one exception was Pandora Flights of Passage at Animal Kingdom, because they were just impossible to get. If there’s a big ride you really want to go on, try to get there early and hit the big rides before queue times go crazy.
Plan For Nap Time
If your toddler needs their afternoon nap, you should try and factor this in. Ollie has started skipping his recently, but the Florida sun just wiped him out and he was sleeping 2-3 hours each afternoon. Luckily for us, he would fall asleep in his stroller, and we had family with us who were happy to stay with him or push him around so we could make our fast pass reservations.
If you’re wanting to be at the parks at night time, you could plan a little siesta in the middle of the day. If you’re stopping on site you could all go back to your hotel or villa and head back to the parks later on.
I personally think Disney’s Ride Swap is one of the best features for families with toddlers. Make sure to take your toddler with you in the queue or to the Fast Pass entrance if have them. The staff will then give you a ride swap ticket, which means one of you can go on the ride, while the other stays with the toddler. When one parent has ridden, they hand the ticket over and you get to skip the queue and jump straight on! This worked so well for us as it meant my stepson was able to ride all the big rollercoasters twice – once with me and once with his Dad.
Download The My Disney Experience App
This app is really handy for anyone doing the Disney Parks, whether you have a toddler or not. You can plan your whole trip in there, share it with the people you’re visiting with and see all your fast passes and restaurant reservations. It also shows queue times for the rides and has maps of the parks!
Check Out Toddler Friendly Rides And Activities
There is so much going on at every Disney Park that even if your kids are too small for the big rides, they can still have a magical Disney experience. From spotting their favourite characters to watching street acts or even making their own music, there’s plenty for toddlers to do.
You can see information about all the rides and attractions on the Disney World website and plan your trip in advance!
Animal Kingdom’s Safari was Ollie’s absolute favourite. Mostly because he thought the safari vehicle was a train…but he also loved seeing all the animals. There are also plenty of kiddie rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and even Pirates of the Caribbean if they’re not scared of the dark!
At 2 1/2 these are the things Ollie really loved:
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Drumming and making music
Watching street performers
Toy Story Mania
Look Up Character Photo Timings In Advance
If you’re wanting to get some photos with your favourite characters, look into the timings. The queues can get pretty big.
Take Multiple Changes Of Clothes
We always have a few spare changes of clothes in Ollie’s changing bag. However, on our day at Animal Kingdom, he was on his third set by lunchtime. One spilled drink and one nappy explosion later, he needed his fresh clothes for the third time and we hadn’t packed enough spares! We ended up buying him some clothes from one of the park shops and forking out $55 for a pair of shorts that were too big (even XXS) and a t-shirt which I actually love but could have done without buying.
Organise Some In-Queue Entertainment
We were pretty lucky that we didn’t have many queues for the rides we wanted to go on. Between Fast Passes and careful planning, the only 2 rides we had to queue over an hour for were Pandora Flights of Passage and Toy Story Mania. We got there early on both days to beat the queue times but understandably, Ollie was still bored after half an hour! The Disney Parks have free WiFi so entertaining your toddler with their favourite show on YouTube is always an option. We also packed a few favourite toys in our changing bag to keep him busy. If you’re really prepared you could make a few busy bags to take along.
Capture It All
My toddler absolutely loved his first trip to Disney World – so did I! And he hasn’t stopped talking about it since we came home. But I know realistically, he isn’t going to remember the majority of it as he gets older. I took plenty of photos and videos to show him when he’s older.