Traveling to Disney World with a Toddler

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

As we were planning our trip to Disney World I did several searches on Google and Pinterest for "How to Travel to Disney with a Toddler" and "Disney World planning tips" to help make our trip as smooth as possible.  I thought I would put together a our list of most helpful hints and tricks that made our trip even more magical.

First things first, a few givens.
  • You NEED a stroller.  Disney does have stroller rentals, but I didn't want to deal with standing in a line to pick on up, or paying for it, plus we wanted ours for the airport.   You also want to make sure your stroller folds down easily if you will be riding on any Disney transportation.
  • If you are staying at a Disney hotel and using Disney transportation, leave the car seat at home.  You can't use it on the buses to the parks.
  • Again, another on property tip - leave the pack 'n play at home.  You can request a portable crib through your hotel.  We did bring our own sheet as our babe has sensitive skin, but they also provide sheets for the pack 'n play.
  • Bring more snacks than you think you need.  We did this not to save money like most recommend, but because we wanted to have some favorite foods on hand, and again not have to wait in a line when a meltdown was pending.  Having puree pouches, breakfast bars, graham crackers and gold fish also helped to keep busy hands occupied when were trying to get ready in the morning or as a distraction in hot lines.
  • We did bring sippy cups from home, but we actually found that a straw stuck in a bottle of water, carton of milk or apple juice box worked just as well.
  • Don't skip the afternoon naps.  We would take advantage of early magic hours at all of the parks (which we weren't sure if that increased the crowd because everyone else did the same), but it allowed us to get 4 hours of park time in, grab a quick lunch, and head back to the hotel for naps.  The entire family took advantage of the quiet time to put our feet up.
  • Take advantage of FastPasses.  Everyone says it, but do it.  Magic Bands are being tested at some resorts, but we weren't selected for the test.  Also, get the Disney MyExperience app so you can see line wait times and character appearances.  You can plan your FastPasses based on what has wait times and also hit the rides at times when wait times are low.  The app came in so handy, and really I think the longest line we waited in might have been 15 mins during peak summer travel times (and that was because the ride had to stop while we waited).

Most people we told about our family vacation asked us why we were taking a 22 month old to Disney - "He won't remember it."  Yes, we were going to celebrate my birthday, but we also wanted to start creating memories - even if the memories would only be for my husband and I to recall fondly.  Going at 22 months also let us have a lap child on the airplane a few ticket into the park.  It was a perfect vacation for a variety of reasons.

A few other WDW toddler travel tips:

  • Plan to wear fun Disney outfits.  I bought my husband and I a shirt from the Disney store, and myself a few more from Kohl's.  They are cheap.  The little boy also got in on the fun with a shirt for every day at the park.  Again, for a few dollars you can get into the Disney spirit.  We found great deals at Walmart, Target, Disney Store, JC Penny's and Kohl's.
  • Consider if the Disney Dining Plan works for your family.  I did a lot of Disney Dining Plan review searching before we went, and most said it could be worth your money if you wanted to eat dessert and big meals for every meal.  We got the standard 1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack a day plan.  This allowed us to basically have the little guy just munch off our plates as you aren't required to buy a plan for his age group.  I didn't save our receipts to see if we came out ahead, but I will say just the ease of not worrying about what or where we going, or looking at prices and making a choice based on trying to save a few dollars at check-out just helped make the trip smoother.
  • Get the Disney PhotoPass.  We got the PhotoPass Plus which included a few extra benefits, like the photos from rides, but really I would say with a toddler you just need the normal PhotoPass because toddlers aren't able to really go on the rides that take photos (which are really the only rides they aren't able to go on - they can go on the majority of the park rides).  It was just nice to know that someone was taking our family pictures quickly, and we didn't have to fumble with trying to hand someone our camera and tell them which button, blah blah.  It was worth it.  Order it in advance to save some money.
  • If your little one hasn't had a first haircut yet, do it at Disney.  It is so worth it.  For $18 you get a haircut, certificate, a little bag with their locks of hair, and a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.  I would recommend making an appointment, but wait times are short if you don't.  They are super quick, have lots of distractions, and it makes for some great photos and memories.  Plus, how many can say that is where they go their first haircut?!

Overall a Disney vacation takes a lot of work.  It takes a ton of work when you add a toddler to the mix.  But, like all vacations, the memories only intensify once your home and your suitcases are packed away, and it really is a magical experience.  The smiles, the awe, make it all worth it.


  1. Spot on! we've done disney several times with a toddler (then preschooler, and again now with a toddler). How do the bands work?

    Also - yes to the first haircut at disney! they know how to really work with kids to give them haircuts. My haircut averse kid sat still for them the entire time.. it was like watching a miracle.

    1. Raen - here are some details on the MagicBands: What is so funny is Disney knows how to work it, they even sell accessories in the gift shops to be able to customize your band. It sounds like a really cool concept, but they were working out the kinks when we were there. In theory you just flash your band over a little reader and use it as a FastPass, Dining Card, Charge Card, or Admission Ticket. Some rides, like Haunted Mansion accept MagicBands, but not traditional FastPasses, so I wonder if all rides at some point can be scheduled through MagicBands.

  2. This is such a great set of tips! Love it, Leslie!