We are very spoiled. As a family, we have visited the Disney World parks nine times in the past 12 years. But that means we have LOTS of experience visiting Disney World with a baby and doing Disney with toddlers. We all have our own opinion on which is the best Disney park. Of course, since there are four of us, we each love a different one best!
Each of the Disney World parks has their own personality. And it’s really tough to say which is the best Disney park for babies or toddlers, since there’s something special about each one. Really, it comes down to which stories or characters you connect with the most.
We know that Disney World vacation planning is not to be taken lightly. For many families, a Disney vacation is the trip of a lifetime. Even the most laid-back traveler should put in a little work to make the most of their trip.
Tips for Visiting the Disney World Parks with a Baby or Toddler…
If You’re Staying at a Disney Resort:
Staying at a Disney resort may seem like a splurge, but some of the benefits are priceless. Staying “on-resort” (as they say in Disney-speak) gives you perks like “Extra Magic Hours” that allow you to take advantage of your child’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 longer vacation in Florida outside of visiting the Disney World parks, I would recommend clumping your Disney days at the start of your visit, staying at a Disney property. Then, arrange for your rental car and travel to your next stop straight from your Disney resort.
If You’re Staying “Off-Property”:
Orlando is one of those places where you have an incredibly wide range of accommodation options. If you’ll be staying “off-property,” visiting the Disney World parks will require a bit of extra effort and expense.
Many of the “Good Neighbor” hotels in the nearby Orlando area will offer complimentary shuttle service. They will likely need to be booked in advance. It’s also likely they will not drop off to the individual Disney World parks, but at the main Disney Transportation and Ticket Center. This hub serves Magic Kingdom and Epcot directly. Those wishing to visit Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios should take the ferry to the Magic Kingdom docks and take the bus to either park from there.
If you decide to drive to the Disney World parks from your hotel or vacation rental, remember that parking will cost an additional $22 per day or $45 per day (for preferred parking). When we were there between Christmas and New Year’s–one of the busiest times times at Disney World–the parking lot for Magic Kingdom was full and they had to close it.
Basic Tips for Visiting the Disney World Parks with a Baby or Toddler:
• 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.
• Consider adding the Park Hopper option…
If you plan to stay for a couple of days, invest in the Park Hopper option. The freedom to bop from park to park means you can pick and choose your must-do attractions (and 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.
• Book your FastPasses ASAP…
At first I thought it was crazy to do this, but having FastPass+ rides and attractions arranged in advance makes such a a huge difference. Just a small amount of structure to the day allows you to take it easy and explore the parks, knowing your must-do ride or show is in the books.
If you have a reservation at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you’re able to begin your FastPass+ selections as early as 60 days before your check-in date. You may reserve up to 3 FastPass+ experiences per day, per park.
• Book your dining reservations ASAP…
One of the great things about the Disney World parks is you are allowed to bring in your own food and drinks, which is super handy when traveling with toddlers or picky eaters of all ages. That’s likely because they know that eating at Disney is not unreasonably expensive and there are lots of healthy and not-so-healthy options that will appeal to most. I used to pack a lot of snacks but now I don’t bother. There are lots of water fountains around all of the parks for refilling bottles.
If you see a deal where the Disney dining plan is included in park tickets, grab it! It’s decent value when you pay for it but a great deal if it’s included.
However, if there is a special dining experience or character meal you want to do, book that reservation asap. All guests, whether staying at a Disney resort or not, can make dining reservations as early as 180 days prior to their trip. You do not need to purchase theme park tickets or stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel in order to make advanced dining reservations.
Don’t promise dinner with Cinderella unless you have that reservation confirmation. Don’t ask me why I know this 🙂
You may need to guarantee your reservation with a credit card that will be charged if you don’t show up.
• Consider a stroller…
Even if your toddler rarely or never sits in one at home, or you think your child is too old… There is A LOT OF WALKING at Disney. We even wish we had a stroller for my six-year-old nephew. He was exhausted but was too big to be carried for any length of time.
You can bring your own stroller, rent one when you arrive in Orlando, or rent one at Disney if you realize you really, really need one. (You will.)
The strollers to rent at Disney are the hard plastic molded ones. They are not suitable for babies. A single stroller rental is $15 per day, and a double is $31 per day. Purchasing a rental for the duration of your trip works out to $13 per day for a single and $27 per day for a double. Keep your receipt!!
• Consider when you’re visiting…
Summer in Orlando 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. It’s not too hot, not too crowded. They often have really great park passes + free dining options around the quieter times as well.
There are lots of factors in working out the best time to go to Disney World. If you have any flexibility in your vacation time, definitely try for those quieter times.
Park-Specific Tips for Disney World with a Baby, Toddler, or Young Child:
Each of the Disney World parks has their own personality. We love every one of them for different reasons.
Here are more detailed articles for visiting Walt Disney World parks with a baby or toddler. There is individual information on stroller rentals and the famed Walt Disney World Baby Care Centers.
Plus, each article breaks down the rides, attractions, and dining options for each of the Disney World parks with a baby or toddler in tow.
It is the crown jewel of the Disney World parks… Magic Kingdom is an absolute must-visit. If you will only be able to visit one of the parks, this should be it.
All of the classics are here, and Magic Kingdom has the most Disney World rides for toddlers. But some of those rides might too scary. And some of the lines for those rides might be really, really long.
That first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle is a magical moment. It’s tough to make concrete plans when you’re traveling with a baby or toddler but you may regret not making some arrangements here. Our Guide to Magic Kingdom with Babies & Toddlers will help you get prepared, and I share a secret tip on where to get the best family photo with Cinderella’s Castle in the background.
Magic Kingdom is my favourite Disney park.
It’s the biggest of the Disney World parks, but also a great starting point if it’s your first trip to Walt Disney World. Animal Kingdom is typically a less-intense experience and may be a less overwhelming way to experience Disney with toddlers.
With the addition of Pandora: The World of Avatar, there is a lot more going on these days at Animal Kingdom. The park is now open after dark, for example. Because of the distance, it’s tough to combine a visit to Animal Kingdom with another of the Disney World parks, so make a few plans for your trip here. A quick tip: the Dinosaur! ride is awesome, but might terrify your toddler (or six-year-old nephew. Sorry, Nate!). Maybe think of doing the Child Swap here.
Animal Kingdom is my son’s favourite of the Disney World parks.
The best and most varied options for quick service dining are at Epcot. You’ll make great use of the Park Hopper option if you stay in a nearby resort on Disney’s Boardwalk.
Epcot is my husband’s favourite Disney park.
There are probably the fewest Disney World rides for babies here, but the addition of Toy Story Land is making Hollywood Studios much more of a draw to those with little ones. The shows here and access to the Disney Jr. characters is a big plus for the toddler crowd. And make sure to arrive early if you’ve a 4+ year-old who is ready to take on Darth Vader with Jedi Training.
We are enjoying Hollywood Studios more and more now that our kids are older. However, seeing your little ones watch Disney Jr. Live on Stage and Frozen: Sing-Along Celebration might well be worth the visit right there.
Hollywood Studios is my daughter’s favourite of the Disney World parks.
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More on Visiting Disney World with a Baby, Toddler, or Young Child:
- Character Dining with Toddlers
- Disney World Tips & Tricks for Visiting with Three Young Kids
- Tips for Disney with Toddlers
- Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy Cruise
- Can You Enjoy Walt Disney World If You Hate Theme Parks?
- Best Walt Disney World Rides for Babies & Toddlers
- A Complete Guide to Canada’s Wonderland with a Baby or Toddler