I guess you could say my kids are spoiled. At age seven, my daughter had been to Disney World in Florida four times. Heck, Bub was four and had been three times. Now with four trips (and counting!), we are certainly well-versed in Walt Disney World with a baby or toddler in tow, and since each park has its own personality, I wanted to share my learnings in a fairly detailed way. A Disney vacation is a trip of a lifetime for many families, and one that should definitely be well-researched in order to make the most of it.
No matter the park you choose to visit, there are some generic tips that apply to all of them, and to your Disney Vacation as a whole.
In a nutshell they are:
•Staying on a Disney property may not be the splurge it seems to be. Staying “on-resort” (as they say in Disney-speak) allows you perks like “Extra Magic Hours” that allow you to take advantage of your little one’s early riser-ness or night owl tendencies. Plus, you don’t need a rental car for your park visiting days, as Disney’s Magical Express offers complimentary airport transfers (book in advance) and there are any number of ways to get from park to park and hotel to hotel via Disney’s internal transportation system. If you’re doing a week in Florida, I would recommend clumping your Disney days at the start of your visit, stay at a Disney property, and then arrange for your rental car and travel to your next stop straight from your Disney resort.
•Don’t overschedule your days. Another perk of staying on-resort is it’s much easier to pop back for a swim or a nap if everyone needs a break. And that much easier just to head back for the fireworks or Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios after a leisurely dinner.
•If you’re doing three or more days, invest in Park Hopper park passes. The freedom to bop from park to park means you can pick and choose your must-do attractions (see above later fireworks and shows) with more flexibility, and it’s also great to head into Epcot if only just to eat at the World Showcase dining options.
•FastPass+ is a great way to organize your days around must-do rides, but book them as soon as you can.
•Consider a stroller, even if your toddler rarely or never sits in one at home. There is A LOT OF WALKING at Disney, and we even wish we had one for my six-year-old nephew – who was exhausted but too big to be carried for any length of time.
•Consider when you’re visiting… summer is HOT, really really HOT. January can be quite chilly but the parks are very quiet. November, before American Thanksgiving, is an ideal time to go – not too hot, not too crowded. They often have really great park passes + free dining options around the quieter times as well.
Each park has its own personality, and we love each of them for different reasons. Here are some very detailed pieces on visiting Walt Disney World with a baby or toddler – with individualized information on stroller rentals, the famed Walt Disney World Baby Care Centres, and a breakdown of rides, attractions, and dining options for each park with a little one in tow.
Magic Kingdom – The crown jewel of the Disney theme park crown, MK is a must-visit. I share which rides are too scary, great dining options that won’t break the bank or your waistline (mostly), as well as a secret tip on where to get the best family photo with Cinderella’s Castle in the background.
Animal Kingdom – This is the biggest of the Florida theme parks, but also a great starting point if it’s your first trip to Walt Disney World. A quick tip: the Dinosaur! ride is awesome, but might terrify your toddler (or six-year-old nephew). Maybe think of doing the Child Swap here.
Epcot – Few rides, lots and lots of walking, but surprisingly toddler-friendly with its gardens and areas where kids can just be free to wander. The best and most varied options for quick service dining are at Epcot – you’ll make great use of Park Hopper passes if you stay in a nearby resort on Disney’s Boardwalk.
Hollywood Studios – Few rides, but Toy Story Mania might just be worth the FastPass+ wait – and get there early if you’ve a 4+ year-old who is ready to take on Darth Vader with Jedi Training. Seeing your little ones watch Disney Jr. Live On Stage might well be worth the visit right there.
More Disney on Have Baby Will Travel:
•Character Dining with Toddlers
•Tips for Disney with Toddlers
•Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy Cruise
•Can You Enjoy Walt Disney World If You Hate Theme Parks?