Picture this. We have a busy 5 year old, an even busier 1 year old, and I’m newly (as in I could pass out, throw up or fall asleep at any given moment) pregnant. Now is the perfect time to take a family trip to Disney, right? Crazy or not, here we come! This was us about 4 months ago. And we survived Disney with toddlers.
When we decided to do Disney World with our toddlers (1 and 5 year olds), I can’t tell you how many people questioned why we were taking our one year old along with us on that trip. To us, it was a given. The simple answer is that it was a family trip, and he is part of the family. We were 100% aware that he would not remember this trip, and to be honest, I’m not even sure how much my five year old will actually remember it either. If remembering the activity was the only reason to do things with our kids, then I say, why do we do anything with them before the age of 5? THEY may not remember, but I will. We didn’t take our kids to Disney so he’d have a lifelong memory of the trip. We took them so we could enjoy their smiles THAT DAY. So we could experience the magic as a family. So we could look back on the memories and the pictures of our family vacation and smile. This trip was MAGICAL for not just my kids, but for us too.
Was it hard? YES! Were we all exhausted? Absolutely. Were there meltdowns? Um, of course. I assure you, you will not be the first or last parent to have a child throw a major meltdown on Disney property. Our meltdowns went something like this…
Ask for Mickey shaped ice cream. Receive Mickey shaped ice cream. Refuse Mickey shaped ice cream. Then cry for 30 minutes because he now wants the Mickey shaped ice cream Mommy just ate because he said (repeatedly) that he did not want it. Or how about, my one year old throwing himself on the ground in the line for Buzz Lightyear because I wouldn’t let him continue to lick the handrail. And my personal favorite, my kid needing to poop right when we were nearing the end of our 45 minute wait for a ride, and me trying to convince him that he could totally wait. I never wanted to put my five year old back in diapers more than that moment. Y’all, I was totally rocking this parenting thing!
Have I convinced you to book that trip yet? Even after the meltdowns and the usual chaos that is part of the baggage of traveling with littles, Disney has this travel stuff figured out. They make traveling with kids almost “easy.” Our experience there was, indeed, MAGICAL! Even if our toddlers will most likely not remember specifics from that trip, those five days spent at the Happiest Place on Earth are some of my all time favorite family memories we’ve made together yet. As a souvenir, I brought you all back a few tips for surviving Disney with toddlers.
Before you go:
- Check school holiday schedules. (Who knew there was such thing as Jersey Week in November? Not us apparently).
- Stock up on Disney gear before you go. Target has great Disney themed t-shirts for kids and adults. My kids LOVED their super cute Disney monogrammed shirts. The owner of this adorable online shop lives in Pflugerville, but will also ship nationwide.
- Autograph book – We brought along a Disney book we already had for all the characters to sign, and it actually something we look at often.
- Thank you, Amazon Prime for glow sticks and Mickey & Minnie ears that don’t break the bank.
- My Disney Experience app is a lifesaver! This free app has all the rides and attractions organized by target age and height requirements, average wait times, and maps, all in one spot. It was a great way to organize and plan our days at the parks.
- Magic bands are genius! On that truly magical band, you have your hotel key (if staying on Disney property), dining passes, credit card information, park tickets and FastPasses. No wallet to keep up with. No room key to lose. MAGIC at its finest!
- FastPass: reserve your place in line for rides, shows, and characters experiences 60 days out. A few attractions we thought were completely worth a FastPass reservation were: Peter Pan, Toy Story Mania, Buzz Lightyear (if you didn’t learned from my 45 minute wait poop story, that’s on you).
Hotel, shuttle & food:
- Highly recommend staying on the Disney Property. There are several levels of hotel rates. Our hotel choice, Coronado Springs, was fabulous and would go back in a heartbeat.
- Shuttle from hotel, parks and airport was so easy and user-friendly. When you stay on Disney property, the airport shuttle actually gets your luggage from baggage claim for you. You just walk right on the bus. When you’re heading home, you check your bags right there at the hotel, and see them again when you land back home. It’s MAGIC! When visiting the parks, shuttles run constantly back and forth from your hotel to the parks.
- Dining plans :: This was one of my favorite things we reserved ahead of time. Within your dining plan, you have a list of restaurants at the different parks and hotels. It was so nice to not have to look at the price within those restaurants. We just ordered anything off the designated menu. It also allows you several snacks throughout the day (Mickey shaped ice cream included).
- Character dining :: The food at the character dining restaurants is not usually the greatest, but this is the best way to knock out multiple Disney characters without standing in long lines for each. Depending on your dining plan, character meals may be included. Reservations for these typically book up quickly, especially Cinderella’s Castle. You can book these up to 60 days out, and if Cinderella is on your bucket list, make sure you set your alarm to call 60 days out.
At the parks:
- Get there early and stay late. The first hour the parks are open is the golden hour. During that time, you can ride rides and meet characters with little to no wait time.
- Hollywood Studios has the best night show. Hands down.
- Stroller :: My 5 year old hasn’t wanted to sit in a stroller since he was 2, but at Disney, he was ready for a break throughout the day.
Bon Voyage, friends!
What tips do you have for Disney travelers?