A lovely friend of mine emailed me a while ago and said that some friends of his were going to be visiting Walt Disney World with toddlers in tow, and did I have any tips I could share. I compiled a big list of all sorts of bits and bobs of advice and recommendations for him and have used it several times since when people have asked me similar questions. I thought it would be helpful to compile everything into one big blog post and then I can keep adding to it as new attractions and activities arrive in the parks, or as other people give me their top tips. So here, for now, is everything that I can think of that would be remotely useful to know if you’re visiting Walt Disney World with toddlers.
If you’ve already booked, I’ll skip the bit about the best times to go (but if you haven’t, click here for my big Walt Disney World top tips post), and click here for everything you need to know about Disney Springs.
Staying in Walt Disney World resort hotels
If you’re a regular reader, you already know my feelings about the benefits of staying in a resort hotel (see my top tips article above). I think these apply even more so if you’re visiting Walt Disney World with toddlers. Realistically, you’re not going to be in the parks every day and there are some really nice family things you can do: lovely outdoor Disney movies in the evenings, amazing kids’ pools, bike rentals, fun activities and playgrounds (I think the Walt Disney World value resorts like the All-Star resorts and the Disney’s Art of Animation are really good if you have smaller children in your family). Also, with the free transportation between parks and resorts, you can think about heading back for naps, etc, then coming back in the evening when it’s cooler or to watch the firework displays or have dinner.
Another top tip is to remember that even if you’re not staying at a particular resort, that doesn’t mean you can’t go and dine or join in activities there (although you can’t use the pools). So, for example, you could grab the free transportation and head to Disney’s Fort Wilderness for the campfire sing-a-long with Chip ‘n’ Dale, or head to Art of Animation for movies under the stars. Or maybe even just grab an ice cream and stroll along Disney’s BoardWalk by the water, wander the shops and watch the boats come and go.
Also, if you’re staying on property, you can take advantage of the extra magic hours to get in the parks early (to be honest, even if you’re not in a resort hotel, the time difference will mean you’re all bound to be up early). Either way, take advantage of that by getting into the parks as soon as they open and booking character breakfasts, meet and greets, etc, early.
Talking of character meet and greets – you know your own kids, but some of the characters are huge and can potentially be terrifying to little ones, so stick to the cute meet and greets with Mickey or the princesses or whatever (case in point: Olaf – I mean, he’s cute right, but I stood and watched as every small child bawled their eyes out while meeting him!). One of my favourite character meet and greets is at Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Not only is it a buffet, which is perfect when you’re feeding little ones, but you get to meet some seriously unscary characters like lovely Winnie the Pooh, Piglet Eeyore and Tigger. The setting is just gorgeous too – the restaurant is themed after a 19th-century Victorian glasshouse.
Don’t forget free dining for 2019 holidays – book before 3rd July – I’ve got all the details in the post linked here.
Planning your time in the parks
You can rent fab strollers (or take your own) but make sure you take one – you walk a really long way (a friend of mine recorded us walking nine miles in one day in the parks on his FitBit). Also, don’t park hop. Stick to one park per day – it’s extra exhausting with little ones.
If you want to go on the rides that have height restrictions, every ride has a parent swap facility, so you can go on without queuing twice – just let the cast member know and they’ll give you a rider switch ticket that you hand in at the FastPass queue.
Bring tons of snacks. If you’re going to eat in the park, split meals, they’re enormous. Don’t bother bringing water, but bring bottles. There are drinking water fountains near the rest rooms and every cast member in every cafe or dining place will always fill up water bottles if you ask. If you’re bringing baby food, disregard the notices that say you can’t bring glass into the parks – this rule is waived for glass jars of baby food.
Smother them in suncream, consider UV clothing, buy hats, etc. There are minimal shady places in the park so be prepared to be in the sun almost ALL day when you’re not on a ride or in a restaurant.
There are some areas that are just brilliant for little ones when you’re visiting Walt Disney World with toddlers. New Fantasy Land at Magic Kingdom has Dumbo the Flying Elephant where the queue is like a giant soft play area and it’s all inside, there’s also Winnie the Pooh, the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight, etc. Another must-do is Turtle Talk with Crush – it’s indoors, super-cute and interactive.
I talk all about the app in the main WDW tips post, but take advantage of it and get as many FastPass tickets as possible to save you queuing with toddlers.
Every park has a baby care centre and they’re a great quiet place to go if you want to feed your baby or even see a nurse, get a plaster, whatever. They’re so helpful and friendly (for both mums and dads).
Another lovely experience to share with little ones are the fab live shows. Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is absolutely gorgeous. Another favourite is the Festival of the Lion King, also at Animal Kingdom – it’s like a 30 minute version of the Lion King from the West End – every kid absolutely adores it – they get them shaking tambourines and all sorts of fun stuff (plus it’s 30 minutes in the shade!).
Oh wait, last tip. Even if they’re very little, do try to stay up at least once for Happily Ever After. It’s such a wonderful, breathtaking, uplifting show. I promise you it will be one of the highlights of your holiday.
As always, let me know if you need any help, tips or hotel recs or indeed anything else at all and I’ll happily oblige.