Our first trip to a Disney park with kids was in 2006, when Colorado Boy was 3. Since then, we’ve gone on at least one trip to the parks every year, including Colorado Princess’ first trip when she was just 9 months old. So, when people ask me if I think it will be ok to take their toddler to the parks, I always say OF COURSE!
Granted, traveling to a Disney park with young kids in tow is certainly NOT for everyone, and I’ll be the first to admit that it was a MAJOR adjustment for me (I’m more of a “commando” visitor ) But, after some trial and error, we learned some things that helped us tremendously, so I thought I would share some of our ideas with you. I don’t think any of these are necessarily new, but it’s always nice to get confirmation from multiple places that these ideas work.
My first five tips are for the planning and travel day leading up to your park(s) visit
Get your child her own seat on the airplane – I know, I know. There are two issues with this – airline tickets are expensive and lugging a carseat around is a pain in the butt. Very valid issues, but for us, the relative calm we get with a carseat in the airplane WAY outweighs the negatives for us. When she was younger, Colorado Princess was relatively content in her carseat and would even nap. Sitting in our laps, she was a squirmy, crying, exhausted mess.
Don’t schedule anything major on the first day – When we go to Disney World, it’s usually an almost all day trip for us plus we cross over two time zones. We’ve learned not to schedule anything, not even a dinner, for the night we get there because the kids are usually too exhausted. Grab something quick, order room service, or, if you’re staying in a DVC suite, take advantage of a grocery delivery service like GardenGrocer.com and have something delivered and waiting for you. If it works in your schedule, I’d even try to make the whole next day a relatively easy going day so the kids can get acclimated, but I know that’s sometimes easier said than done
Stay on property – Again, this can be an expensive part of your vacation, but we feel like it’s just so much easier to just use the Disney transportation and not have to find parking at the beginning of the day, find your car at the end of the day, potentially have to deal with traffic, etc. It also makes it easier to take breaks in the middle of the day. And, you just can’t beat that “Disney” feeling by totally immersing yourself in the experience Keep an eye out for special discounts on Disney hotels or promotions like free dining that can save you money while allowing you to stay on property.
Bring your own stroller – Yep, I know it’s a pain in the butt to travel with a stroller, especially if you have a big one, but it’s been a lifesaver for us. First, I’ve found that my kids are much more comfortable in their own strollers. The Disney strollers are fine, but they’re a little hard on the backside! Second, have you ever had to manuever a sleeping child OUT of the stroller so you can leave the park and then have to carry said sleeping child to the awaiting bus or car? All at the end of a long day at the park? Yeah, it’s not fun. And that’s why we bring our stroller with us almost every time we go to the parks. By the way, if you ARE going to rent a stroller and are going to be in the parks for multiple days, make sure to do the math – it MIGHT be cheaper to just buy one of the small strollers that many of the shops carry. On our last trip we decided to just rent because we were only going to be there for 3 days, but the Cast Member working at the stroller rental place pointed out that it would be cheaper to just buy the stroller. We decided to take it back with us at the end of the trip, but you could always spread some pixie dust and give it to a family in need on your way out if you don’t want to carry it on the plane.
Have a plan…but be flexible – I’m a planner, so maybe it’s just in my nature, but I cringe every time I hear someone say, “Oh yeah, we’re just going to wing it. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Disney and “wing it”? Yeah, those two things just don’t go together So, it IS important to have a basic plan of what you’re going to do each day, where and when you’re going to eat, any attractions that are “must dos” etc. That being said, it’s also important to be flexible. I’ll never forget our first trip to Disney World with my son. I had EVERYTHING planned out – exactly what attraction we would ride and when we would do it. We got to the first ride of the day and my son just REFUSED to go on it, even though I knew it was something he would love (Winnie the Pooh). A round of cajoling and begging ensued, with the end result being tears (mine, not my son’s ) I had to change my thinking very quickly and find the places in my plan where we could be flexible about what we were going to do. In the end, easing up made a big difference, and we did get Colorado Boy to ride Winnie the Pooh…and he loved it!
In my next post, I’ll give you some lessons learned while touring the parks with a toddler or two in tow.