Toddlers are demanding, especially when traveling—yes even at the most magical place on earth. But if you head to Walt Disney World with the right expectations, pack your sense of humor, and take advantage of all the conveniences Disney has to offer, you won’t just survive your trip, you’ll see the magic through their eyes and have more than photos to hold onto forever.
Stay at a Disney Resort:
Convenience and proximity are key when you’re coordinating naps, strollers and little ones. If you can swing it, book in advance and stay on property at a Disney Resort, ideally one on the monorail since the Magic Kingdom will be your toddler’s home base. Not only is riding on the monorail magical in it of itself, but zipping back and forth throughout the day is easier than buses, boats or worst yet, paying to park and shuttles to and from a parking lot larger than most ZIP Codes. Also, they all have free pack n’ plays or cribs, so don’t bother traveling with yours. Also, many of the Resorts offer my favorite eats in the area, which is a plus for pre-kid foodie parents like me.
Leave your car seat at home:
Schlepping car seats on and off plane is a pain at best. Thankfully if you stay at a Disney Resort it includes free transportation to and from the airport on board the Magical Express, plus free transportation to all four theme parks, water parks and nearby Disney Springs.
Book your FastPass+ in advance:
If you stay at a Disney Resort, you can book your Fast Pass+ selections up to 60 days in advance on the MyDisneyExperience app. If you aren’t traveling with bigger kids and trying to book the must-do rollercoasters, book a key character meet & greet as well as some classic rides that often have lines like Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World or the new all-ages Rivers of Light attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Reserve a character dining experience:
As a parent, seeing my daughter meet some of her favorite characters was one of the most iconic things I looked forward to on our first Disney trip. In addition to using your Fast Pass+ for character meet & greets like we did with Mickey and Minnie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, another memorable (and air conditioned) way to get a lot of bang for your buck is by booking a character breakfast. Most are free for kids under 3 and cost adults around $39 per person, money well spent when we were able to meet Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Daisy at the Beach Club’s Cape May Café.
Don’t push through nap time:
Some people admittedly have more malleable kids than we do who will sleep in their stroller as you maximize your time at the parks, but we do not. That means we made the most of the mornings and headed back for a siesta in the heat of the day. Then after nap we either headed back to the Parks, hit up the Resort pool or took the free transportation to Disney Springs, a mecca of restaurants, shopping and entertainment that is like a chill, photo-worthy theme park without the admission price.
Sure there are lots of delicious sit down and grab-and-go foods at the parks like my favorite Dole Whips at the Magic Kingdom, but standing in line for them when your little would be thrilled with a pouch or pack of Goldfish just seems silly. So pack your diaper bag and stroller accordingly.
Enjoy your downtime:
Sure it’s Disney and you want to make the most of every minute, but some of your best memories will likely be at the resort pool or watching them fall asleep in record time because they’ve never been so exhausted from fun. Don’t be too beholden to a schedule, let them have a Mickey ice cream bar for lunch, and of course, take lots of photos. She will only ever have one first trip to Disney World and you won’t want to forget it!