I grew up in the Midwest (Cincinnati/Pittsburgh) and can still remember the excitement of arriving in Orlando for a Disney vacation when I was a kid. There is something so magical about the happiest place on earth that it immediately catapults me back to feeling like a kid again.
Growing up a Disney lover, you can imagine the excitement I felt to bring my son to Disney for the first time! Let me throw in a disclaimer here – I am very aware that my son likely will not have any memories of these expensive trips to Disney. While we are doing them for him to an extent, they are more for our enjoyment and to do something fun with him. If we didn’t already live in Orlando, we definitely wouldn’t be doing these trips to Disney until he was maybe a litttttttle older :).
Whether you are headed to Disney with an older kid and a Toddler, or like us, you just want to have some fun with your kid, below are some tips on how to make your trip to the Mouse’s house more enjoyable.
Get to the Parks EARLY
When I say early, I mean rope drop (aka be standing at the entrance at opening time). There’s nothing like the heat and humidity in Central Florida. Especially if you are coming from out of town and aren’t used to our lovely “tropical” weather, get everyone up just a little early to be some of the first people in the park when they open. Trust me – THIS IS GOOD ADVICE! The lines are shorter, and the sun has not yet made you (or your toddler) feel like you just got out of the shower.
Pro tip: if you are staying at a Disney resort, you get the added bonus of extra magic hours, meaning a different park each day opens an hour early for you! You can read more about extra magic hours here.
Stock Up on Supplies & Snacks
I suggest packing your diaper bag with lots of snacks/supplies. Bonus points if you want to bring a cooler with milk, formula, fruit, or yogurt to keep your toddler cool. May I also suggest throwing some waters in that cooler…unless you are ok paying the $3.00 per water bottle.
By supplies I mean TONS OF SUNSCREEN. You are going to want to reapply sunscreen on your little one probably every few hours. This sun is no joke folks!
Pro tip: Bring something COLORFUL to mark your stroller. You have no idea how tricky it can be to find your black stroller in a sea of a thousand black strollers. Notice the bright pink ribbon in this terribly fuzzy photo above!
Buy Disney Gear & Outfits Before Your Trip
While I’m sure you will splurge on some Disney gear for your son/daughter during your trip, consider buying a few mickey t-shirts or outfits for your little one to wear during your trip beforehand. I bought these great Mickey & Friends t-shirts at Target before our trip for a fraction of what something similar would have cost me on Disney property. And of course, they were a huge hit with my Mickey-loving boy!
If you are like me and my husband, we go all in on the Disney spirit during our trips. Like most other people in the park, we usually sport a solid wardrobe of Disney tees and mouse ears during our trip. Again, might I suggest look at your Disney wardrobe options before you arrive on Disney property to save some money (and get your excited about your trip!). You can find amazing Disney inspired T-shirts and mouse ears on Etsy and Instagram. A few of my favorite shops:
Florida Heat Is No Joke – Fans Are Your Friend
If you don’t live in Florida, I’m guessing the chances of you owning a stroller fan are not high. But hear me out – you will be glad to have one with you during your trip to Disney! We have one similar to this. Unless you are headed to Disney during the months of January, February, or March, there’s no guarantee that you won’t sweat through your shirt before you get on your first ride. Might I also suggest this water bottle fan that is under $9 on Amazon. If you splurge for one of these in the park, it will set you back over $25.00.
Bring a Swim Diaper or Two (And a Change of Clothes for Your Toddler)
It can’t ever hurt to have a swim diaper in your bag while in Florida. But if you find your toddler cranky from overheating while at the Magic Kingdom, there is a splash pad near Dumbo in Fantasy land that your little one will be happy to cool off playing in!
**We also somehow always end up at the Big Top store right near Dumbo when we need to cool off. There’s a spot near the back of the store where the fans are on FULL blast and we all hang out for a few minutes to cool down.
Your Toddler Might Be Terrified of The Characters
This is important to keep in mind – no matter how much your kid loves Mickey, that life-size talking Mickey might just be too much for your little one to handle. Trust me, I speak from experience. Stick to people-looking characters like Tinkerbell, Princesses, etc. If you are going to plan to hit up a character breakfast, I suggest 1900 Park Avenue in the Grand Floridian which has mostly people-looking characters (Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter).
Don’t Over-Do It
Listen, I know how expensive a Disney trip is. But if you have little kiddos in the mix, don’t over do it because you are trying to stretch out every second of your time in the parks. We always try to head back to the hotel for an afternoon nap and/or some pool time.
Make Dining Reservations Before Your Trip
There is no option here. Even if you eat dinner at 5pm (like us) with your toddler, I strongly recommend making dining reservations. You can call (407) 939-5277 to make your reservations beforehand or make them online here. The bonus of a Disney trip? Even the fancy restaurants are kid friendly because, you know, you’re at DISNEY!
Magic Kingdom for a Little Toddler
We’ve been to the Magic Kingdom now 4 times since my son turned 1 (he turns 2 in January). We’ve learned the hard way that Winnie the Pooh is a TERRIFYING ride for a tiny one. Stick to Dumbo, It’s a Small World (my son’s absolute favorite), the Magic Carpets, Ariel’s Under the Sea Adventure, The People Mover (also a favorite to cool down in Tomorrowland), and the carousel. I would imagine Peter Pan and the Jungle Cruise would also be great but can’t speak from experience on either of those.
Don’t Count Out the Other Parks!
Epcot with a Toddler is a blast! Our son especially loves aquariums and Epcot has one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the Country! (I may have made that up…but I would think it has to be one of the biggest – it is amazing!). Plus, a day at any aquarium can easily cost $60-$70 for a family (I know the one on I-Drive can be expensive depending on the size of your family), so heading to Epcot and the aquarium makes us feel like we are really maximizing the value of our passes!
Also, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about how much we love the Disney water parks!
Monorail Disney Resorts for the Win
If you can swing it financially, you’ll want to stay at a Disney Resort located on the monorail (Grand Floridian, Contemporary Resort/Bay Lake Tower, and the Polynesian Resort). This will make your life SO much easier traveling with a stroller. If you stay at a Disney Resort where you need to take a bus for transportation, keep in mind you WILL have to fold up the stroller for the bus ride. No matter what (sleeping children are not an exception unfortunately).
Dole Whip is the Cure to Any Disney Stress
Just trust me on this one. If anyone in your party gets overwhelmed doing Disney with a toddler, just take a pit stop to grab some Dole Whip. It cures anything/everything.
Alright friends – that’s all for now! I have more Disney tips that I’ll be sure to share in future posts.
Do you have any Disney Toddler tips that we didn’t include? Share them in the comments below! We’d love to hear your tips!!