Here is a list of my top 10 tips to maximize the fun and mitigate the baby drama during your visit to the most magical place on earth.
Throughout your travels and your stay, always have toddler hand sanitizing wipes on hand. Although Disney World is immaculately clean by virtually all standards, thousands of people walk through those park gates on a daily basis and obviously the more people there are, the more germs there are. Since babies and toddlers touch everything and often put things in their mouths, it’s good to clean their hands regularly. You don’t want a bad cold or the dreaded stomach bug to ruin your trip.
Bring Your Own Stroller
If you are traveling to Disney by plane, having a stroller to easily push your little one through the airport is a must. There is no need to be holding a child or worrying about them running away from you in a crowded airport as you balance luggage, your ID, and go through airport security. Umbrella strollers are a great option for travel as they are lightweight and easy to open and close.
Invest in a gate check bag for your stroller and check the stroller right at the gate before you board the plane. Then, you can pick up your stroller right as you exit the aircraft in the tunnel and push your child right out. Plus, you’ll use that stroller during your entire trip and won’t need to rent one. Although there are numerous rental services in and around parks, the rates aren’t much different than actually buying a stroller yourself.
Always Have Drinks, Snacks, and Even Some Never Before Seen Books and Toys On Hand
This is a rule of thumb for anywhere you go with infants and toddlers. It’s amazing what a snack, drink or something new can do to an unhappy child’s mood. Plus, you can plan an absolutely perfect day but something out of your control such as an overly crowded park, a longer than expected wait time at a restaurant, or bad weather can spoil even the perfect Disney experience for your little one. However, a snack, drink, or new item has the power to change all that in a snap and save your day from disaster.
Stay On Disney Property
Staying on Disney property is a huge advantage at any age but it is a lifesaver when traveling with a baby or a toddler. First, no matter where you may be on property, you are always relatively close to your hotel. Therefore, you have the freedom to come and go as you please which is an amazing advantage when traveling with an unpredictable baby or toddler. Plus, Disney does provide numerous hotel options from the amenity filled luxury hotels all the way down to the fun-filled value resorts. No matter where you stay you can count on your room to be very clean and in good condition.
In addition, staying on Disney provides you with full access to all forms of Disney transportation. You can save hundreds by not renting a car and Disney transportation will drop you off right in front of the park entrance. No more searching down aisle after aisle for your rental. Just walk a few steps past the exit to your bus stop and wait no more than 20 minutes for a ride. Lastly and most importantly, staying at a Disney resort hotel provides you with the ability to book your dining reservations up to 180 days in advance and to reserve your fast passes 60 days prior to even setting foot in the park.
Take Disney’s Magical Express
Disney’s Magical Express is really an amazing service. Not only does it transport you from Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort and back, but it also transports and delivers your luggage right to your hotel room for you so you can bypass the baggage claim entirely. This is such a great advantage for parents of little ones because as we all know, babies may be little but they certainly do not travel light.
How it works is, about 2 weeks prior to your scheduled departure you will receive Disney’s Magical Express luggage tags in the mail. On your day of departure, place these tags on each of the bags you would like to check. Go to the check-in counter at your departure airport and say goodbye to your bags. Magically they will appear in your hotel room upon your arrival. Please note that bags can take a few hours to arrive so definitely pack a carry-on with some necessities to get you by until your bags are delivered. Then, when you check out, you’ll receive similar tags at your resort hotel. The hotel will handle your baggage for you and you will just have to pick it back up when you arrive at your home airport!
Meet The Disney Characters Gradually
Some little ones really love meeting the Disney characters while others absolutely hate it. Before heading to an expensive character meal where you may find out that your child is a member of the latter category, visit a character or two in the park first and see how they react. If they do not like the characters, you can cut the character interaction short rather than being trapped in a restaurant setting.
Definitely still make advanced dining reservations for character meals. However, schedule your first character meal at least 48 hours after you meet your first character in the park. This way, if you find out that your child is not a fan of the characters you can cancel your character meal reservations without paying a penalty. Then, you can just enjoy some character free attractions and dining options for the remainder of your trip.
Enjoy Family Style Character Meals
Assuming your little ones like the characters, then you can plan to enjoy a character meal or two or ten. There is no shortage of character dining options in Disney World. All character dining experiences are somewhat unique in terms of food choice, theme, and character appearances. The majority of character meals feature buffet style dining but a handful of them are served family style which is a big advantage when dining with little ones.
Buffets are often difficult with babies and toddlers because you have to get up from your table, wait in line and maneuver through the restaurant either with little ones in tow or with them screaming for you from across the restaurant at your table. Plus, after you go up to the buffet a couple of times to ensure your little one has what they need, do you really feel like getting up again to grab something for yourself? Probably not. Instead, you’ll make do by eating the small remaining scraps off the kids’ plates. Family style meals remove the balancing act component of a buffet, gives adults and children alike more of an opportunity to eat a solid meal, and there is no difference in price.
Use Fast Pass Plus to Book Must See Attractions and Character Experiences
Waiting in line is pretty much a drag at any age but waiting in line with a baby or toddler can actually take years off your life and suck the fun right out of your trip. There are some amazing attractions geared especially towards your little ones in each of the 4 main theme parks as well as in the water parks. And if you’re staying on Disney property, you can make fast pass reservations for these must-sees 60 days prior to your trip. This drastically reduces and at times almost eliminates any wait time.
The Disney website allows you to sort the attractions for each park by age so check that out and then reserve times for the attractions you think your little one would like the best. You can reserve up to 3 fast passes in advance per day. The only restriction is that these 3 advance fast pass reservations must be in the same park. Also, note that children under age 3 do not need park tickets and as a result do not need fast pass reservations either. Just reserve fast passes for the people in your party that are age 3 and over and your little ones can just tag along.
Build Downtime into your Day
Babies and Toddlers might not be in the mood to enjoy the magic of Disney at some point during your trip. Also, the magic of Disney is a lot to take in and with little ones sometimes less is more. Therefore, it’s great to build in some forced breaks into your day. For example, maybe go to the Magic Kingdom for the park opening since most babies and toddlers are early risers anyway. Once there, go to your three reserved fast pass attractions, take a stroll along Main Street, and depending on the time grab lunch or a snack. Then, head back to the hotel for a nap or some pool time. After the break, you can decide if your little one can handle more fun or if you think it would be better to wait until the next day. Basically, if you only do as much as your baby or toddler can handle, this will decrease and potentially eliminate meltdowns which will make your trip a lot more fun for everyone.
Have a Backup Plan
There are some days in your baby or toddler’s life when they just aren’t having it. And if one of these days occurs during your Disney trip then accept it and change your plans. The last place you want to be is in the middle of a crowded theme park attempting to carry a screaming, tantrum throwing child towards the exit. Days like that can ruin your entire trip so stop them before they start. Choose a more mellow activity for the day. Go for a nice walk around the grounds of your hotel, have a pool day, etc. Then go Disney park crazy the next day when they feel up to it!