As a former Walt Disney World Cast Member and an avid Disney park visitor who has taken my kids to see the mouse since my oldest was three-months-old, I am often asked about tips for visiting Disney World with a toddler. Actually, I am often asked about the “best age” to take a child to Disney.
Sometimes, I hear the most ear-piercing words that could even make Mickey's ears fold over. “I am going wait to visit Disney until the kids are old enough and will remember it.”
Did you hear that? That was the sound of Mickey dropping his cheese!
Here's the thing – there is no “best age” to take kids to Walt Disney World because there is something for EVERY age – I'm talking from three months to 103 (okay, maybe at that age, it would be hard.) But, you get my point.
But Disney literally grows with the kids. There is SO much to do at Disney for kids of all ages, and you can DEFINITELY go to Disney World with a toddler (and a baby!) Here are some tips you need to know before traveling to Disney World with a toddler or a baby.
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This isn't hard for most kids, but being excited about seeing Disney characters was one of my favorite things about bringing my toddlers to Walt Disney World Resort. Meeting familiar characters and experiencing Disney through their eyes as they met real-life Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, Buzz Lightyear, and more is truly magical. Reading books and watching Disney cartoons and movies is a great way to get them excited!
Visiting Disney World with a toddler is great because there are SO MANY things they can enjoy! Disney World has over 100 attractions with no height requirement.
You can check out the best Disney World rides for toddlers at each of the parks for my recommendations. But even babies can ride!
We took our babies and toddlers on many of these, and while infants won't remember them, toddlers definitely will. Infants can ride on laps for most of the rides without a height requirement.
Some of the rides also have toddler-size entertainment while waiting in line. Two of my favorites for this are Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which has an entire indoor play space, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
When in doubt, a ride on the monorail or one of the transportation boats is always a fun option for toddlers, as is a ride on the bus. My kids didn't know it wasn't a ride, because the Disney Magic is throughout every nook and cranny of the property, including the transportation! Toddlers can have fun just going for a ride around on the monorail or the boats.
Sometimes people ask me if they should stay on property at a Disney Resort Hotel or somewhere nearby. I ALWAYS promote staying at a Disney Resort Hotel for all of the benefits. But, especially if you are visiting Disney World with a toddler, staying on the property makes it so much easier.
It allows you to return back to the hotel for naps and breaks. And, Disney Resort Hotels have onsite entertainment, pools, and plenty for toddlers and babies to do to keep busy.
The Disney Resort Hotels will come with Pack n' Plays (or cribs on request) and high chairs in each room. Call before you go to confirm, so you don't have to bring your own.
If you stay at one of the Disney Vacation Club hotels, you often will find laundry in the room or on-site and have a kitchenette. We find that when traveling with little ones, having laundry and a kitchen area makes a huge difference!
If you are staying in one of the Disney Resort Hotels, most allow you to have groceries delivered to your room through one of the grocery delivery services. This is especially helpful for toddler and baby snacks, jar food, and diapers.
If you stay at a Disney Resort Hotel, you may have access to early morning Extra Magic Hours for certain theme parks. If so, use it! Toddlers are up early, and this means you can get into the park earlier than the day ticketed guests and get a head start on some of the rides.
Do also take advantage of Fast Pass+ for some of the more popular rides, and have a plan. It is best to try and ride anything your tot has his or her little heart set on first, to be sure you fill that bucket and then go from there to other rides you would be disappointed not to do. If you attend during a busy time of year (holidays, spring break) you will experience less than the less busy times of the year.
You CAN bring strollers to Walt Disney World and due to the amount of walking, I HIGHLY recommend it. The parks are BIG, and those little feet can't do all of that trotting. Plus, it is a great place for kids to take a nap or afternoon break.
Be sure to note that near most attractions, there are designated Stroller parking areas (note new stroller restrictions in the theme parks of less than 31″ wide and less than 52″ long.) If you don't want to bring your own, Walt Disney World has Strollers for rent in single and double sizes.
Of course, Disney thinks of everything! And, as a place made for kids, they want kids (and their parents) to have what they need. If your toddler or baby needs a break, there are Baby Care Centers in each theme park (that include nursing rooms and items for purchase if you need diapers, baby food, etc.).
There are also first aid stations as well, should your child need an over the counter medication like acetaminophen. You can find changing tables in restrooms and high chairs in the restaurants.
What's a toddler's life without snacking? I always recommend bringing snacks in but rest assured, Walt Disney World has you covered on this front. Some of my kids' favorite snacks were sold in the parks and resort gift shops, only with the added pixie dust only Disney can provide!
I mean Mickey ear-shaped goldfish-style crackers? Of course, they taste better! Mickey-shaped pretzels definitely have a yummier flavor. Vegetable chips in the shape of Mickey's head? You can't even taste the vitamins. I didn't even mention the Mickey-shaped soft pretzels, Mickey icecreams, and churros!
Your toddler will not go hungry at Disney World! And, of course, every restaurant and quick service spot offers kiddie menus as well.
Book your dining reservations in advance, especially character breakfasts or meals, early. These fill up quickly!
Be sure and check all of the options for character breakfasts, like this one at Topolino's Terrace, to see who's coming and what's on the menu. Character breakfasts and meals are great for the toddlers because they get up close and personal with their favorite friends, and it saves you having to wait in line for a picture in the parks.
If you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, currently this is 60 days in advance plus the length of your stay (so if you are there for 7 nights, you can book 67 days in advance.)
Walt Disney World also offers the Rider Switch option. For rides that have height restrictions that you may want to enjoy but are not appropriate for a toddler, like Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, or Expedition Everest, you can take advantage of Rider Switch.
As long as you have another adult in your party, that adult stays with the non-rider while the other enjoys the attraction. Then, when the first adult returns, you switch spots and the returning adult stays with the toddler or baby while the other one can enjoy the attraction without having to wait in the original line.
If you and your spouse or adult members want to enjoy an evening dinner or see the closing park fireworks, you can book in-room babysitting. Walt Disney World partners with Kids-Night-Out to provide onsite babysitting services in your on-property hotel room.
This is one of the best selling points! Kids ages two and under do NOT need a ticket to enter the Disney theme parks! This means you do not have to worry if they sleep, need a break, or don't love every minute.
People often ask me which Disney park is the best for toddlers. While Magic Kingdom IS the most toddler friendly with the most options for rides, there is something for toddlers in each of the theme parks. Epcot gives you space for walking and has an aquarium. The Animal Kingdom has wild animals. And Hollywood Studios has more thematic restaurants. But doing one park at a time is probably easier on them and you to get the most out of your experience.
All three of my kids had their first haircuts on Mainstreet U.S.A. at the Harmony Barbershop, and not only was it very special, but these people are also pros! Toddlers are known for not liking haircuts, but these Cast Members know how to occupy them to not even know it's happening! They also get their own Mickey Ears that says “First Haircut!”
When my son was getting potty trained, he may or may not have had an accident on the floor of one of the shops at Disney. Here's the thing.
If there is one place your child can go all out – be happy, sad, have a temper tantrum, throw up, laugh hysterically, be noisy – it's Disney. This place is made for kids and the kid in all of us.
Do NOT stress if your child has a “toddler moment” anywhere on Disney World property. Days are long, it may be hot, they may be overstimulated. It's okay. But they will – on the whole – have a lot of fun.
Disney is a magical place full of pixie dust for all ages. Kids will literally grow with the theme parks. It is a wonderful time for kids to visit, and keep coming back for more. Disney offers something different for each age and stage, making it a unique and special family vacation, each and every time.
Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!