Experiencing Walt Disney World through the eyes of a toddler is one of the most magical experiences. Disney World is new, exciting and magical for toddlers, despite the long lines and crowded parks. Summer vacations to Disney World were a big part of my childhood. I still remember the first time I worked up the courage to ride Space Mountain for the first time (and the failed attempts that lead up to it). The magic of seeing my favorite characters up close and waving at my favorite princesses in the parades.
While a Disney vacation can seem like a lot of work, I’ve learned that planning is key to having a magical time, and there are some tools and tricks to help you get the most of your vacation.
Form a Disney Tribe & Have Help with Toddlers
Walt Disney World can be a magical but overwhelming vacation destination, especially when traveling with toddlers and babies. My first rule of advice is don’t let children outnumber adults. Having more adults in your Disney Tribe allows you to rotate responsibilities, including diaper changes, bathroom/nap breaks and holding baby during long waits. At Disney, strollers are not permitted on lines for attractions, so be prepared to have your baby or toddler up in someone’s arms for at least part of your wait. By having a good ratio of adults to children, the adults in your party can also enjoy some of the more grown-up rides that your little ones aren’t ready for, by taking advantage of the Rider Switch options at certain attractions. Read more about that here.
FastPass+ the Best Toddler Rides at Disney World
Decide as early as possible which parks you will go to on which days, so that you can reserve your passes to “skip” the lines. You can use the Walt Disney World website and My Disney Experience app to shortlist the best rides for toddlers, anyone else in your party who may only be able to ride certain types of rides. For instance, my husband can’t do rides that spin, so sometimes our son ends up being able to go on more rides than him. Once you know which rides are best for your party, and the average wait times, it’s easier to determine which rides you want to use your FastPasses on.
Insider tip: Don’t waste FastPasses on rides that have fast-moving lines such as It’s a Small World in Magic Kingdom and Journey into Imagination with Figment in Epcot. Save them instead for rides that are notorious for slow-moving lines such as Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom, or those that always seem to have long wait times, such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom.
And book your FastPasses for earlier in the day because once you use your three designated FastPasses, you get a bonus FastPass. Once you use that one, surprise! You’ll have the opportunity to book another FastPass as long as they are available.
Double Your Disney Magic at Meal Time
If you’re traveling with toddlers, it’s worth it to book one table service meal in the parks, and you can get the most of that experience by making it a character meal. For baby boy’s first birthday trip, we made each dining reservation a character meal. It also helped that all of the restaurants we booked were buffet-style, meaning there was something there for everyone to eat. Be sure to look at the menu offerings before you book to ensure that your little one will have something to eat. All of that information is available on the My Disney Experience app. Character dining also gives you the advantage of getting one-on-one photos with some of your favorite characters, without having to wait in a long line.
Prepare for Rain
Rain has always been part of my Disney experience, especially during the summer months. Pack ponchos for your crew, as well as a stroller cover. We learned the hard way that our new stroller cover wasn’t exactly a good fit, but once we wrapped baby boy up in a poncho, it didn’t matter that his seat was wet. But…
Don’t Let the Rain Slow You Down
Some attractions are actually better in the rain. One fall, we rode Kilimanjaro Safaris in the rain due to our scheduled FastPass and it turned out to be one of the best safaris I’ve ever had. You’ll see some animals come out to play in the rain, in a way that you would never see during fair weather. Remember, when it’s raining, everyone else will be looking to stay dry and head toward the indoor rides or shows. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in one of those rides. We got stuck on the Haunted Mansion during a rainstorm and we were told we could either ride the ride again (please, no!) or run out into the rain. We chose the rain.
Enjoy a Toddler-Friendly Show
As long as your toddler is okay with a cool, dark room, a show can be a nice break for you and your little ones at Disney World. My son loved the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it gave us enough time to rest our legs before heading on to the next attraction.
Take a Break from the Parks
Disney World can also be overwhelming for toddlers, with so much to take in, so it may be worth it to take a break. If you still want to stay in the world of Disney, visit Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney. There are many things to see, do and eat, essentially making it a bonus park you don’t need a ticket for. But if you really need to take a break from the mouse, consider some of the other attractions Orlando has to offer. We spent an afternoon on International Drive and took in the WonderWorks museum, which had quite a few interactive attractions baby boy couldn’t wait to get his hands on. Once he gets a little older, we plan to include day trips to the Kennedy Space Center, or Busch Gardens in Tampa, if he ends up enjoying roller coasters as much as Mommy does.
Do you have any tips for visiting Disney World with toddlers?