7 Tips to Survive a Disney World Vacation with Babies and Toddlers

My family and I had the privilege of enjoying a Disney World vacation in September. Not only did I want to share a little of the “magic” of our trip, but I also wanted to share 7 tips to help you survive your Disney World vacation:

1. Reduce pre-trip stress with a Disney Consultant and Disney’s Magical Express

Disney knows all too well that vacations with children can be very tiring and tedious. You have so much preparation and so much gear with which to travel – from Pack-n-Plays to strollers. But, have no fear — Disney can help!

I highly recommend you have a Disney Consultant do a lot of preparation for you. Here are two Disney Consultants I can vouch for: Jamie Myers and Laura Slawter. Think it’s pricey? Not a chance. The service is FREE!

Our consultant made all of our dinner reservations (which need to be made months in advance, by the way), set up a loose itinerary to follow (optional and we didn’t follow it exactly, but it helped knowing which attractions were super popular), gave us options for attractions we had to pre-purchase (like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), and gave us a website that allowed us to order a few grocery items to be delivered to the hotel room ahead of time (there’s almost nothing worse than not having food for the kiddos), among other things. Furthermore, our consultant made sure we knew when to book our trip and we got a FREE dining plan. For a family of four, that is over $1000 free. Having a Disney Consultant was completely awesome for a busy mom like me, and I highly recommend it!

Disney takes it a step further with their Magical Express service, which picks up your luggage from the airline and delivers it to your hotel, also FREE! All we did was get off the plane and hop aboard a bus to the hotel. When you have a family of four, two of which can’t help with the bags, this is priceless. Oh, and did I mention that our hotel had a Pack-N-Play already available? I’d call ahead to make sure there’s one at your hotel, of course. The one in our room looked virtually brand new, but since we don’t have babies, I didn’t think of opening it up to check what it looked like on the inside.

2. Bring Your Own Stroller or Rent One?

The Boy Who Inspired The Baby Sleep Site
If you need a stroller for the actual trip, you may as well bring your own. You’ll need it! We are virtually done with strollers EXCEPT for the long days like at the zoo or, you guessed it, Disney World. The kids get super tired of walking. Heck, so did we! Since we don’t really use a stroller at home anymore, we decided to rent one. The problem is the stroller that Disney rents is convenient (since you don’t have to cart it onto the buses), but it’s a horrible stroller (in our opinion)! Nowhere to put your bags and not exactly conducive for any on-the-go-naps.We found Kingdom Strollers on our second day and rented a City Elite Double Stroller. Superb stroller, just what we needed, and at a fraction of the cost of the Disney stroller. We rented one for $75 for the entire week. The company dropped it off at our hotel, and we gave it back to Bell Services at the end of our trip.

3. Choose a Resort close to your most-frequented park

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is a bit more expensive than some of the other parks. We rationalized since we got the free dining that we could splurge a bit more on the hotel. :) The resort was very nice and we even saw giraffes and zebras from our room, but it was a bit far from Magic Kingdom, which we visited three different times. It’s a good 25 minute drive from the Animal Kingdom to the Magic Kingdom; add to that the long wait (up to 20 minutes) for a bus, and it wasn’t convenient to go back to the room to rest, like I had originally planned. For that reason, if I had to do it again, I would choose a different resort closer to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, if your most-visited park is one of the other ones, you may choose differently.

4. Pack a Daily Snack Bag

The boys who inspired The Baby Sleep SiteEven if you have a dining plan and you plan to eat food at the Disney Parks, I highly recommend having back-up snacks in a bag. Let me tell you that we saw meltdowns GALORE every which way. No doubt many of them were from missed naps and being off routine, but I know some were due to kids being hungry. They are go-go-go and don’t stop to think they are hungry. Or, they are eating so much junk. We had a backpack with parent-approved snacks and still ate meals (we have very hungry boys!)…and some junk. :) We didn’t have one meltdown, though. Phew!

5. Consider rests / naps at the hotel

My “plan” before we went to Disney World was that we’d go back to the hotel for rests. My boys don’t nap anymore, but I sure would have! :D However, as I mentioned, there was so much to do, and the distance from parks to hotel made it very difficult for us. However, if you stay near your park of choice, I do recommend that you plan for rests / naps. Believe me, even if you spend all day there, you can’t see everything. Save it for another trip. :) If you have a portable baby, though, plan on stroller naps. If you have a stroller cover, even better. Of course, I’m not always a proponent of on-the-go napping (less quality sleep), but when you’re on vacation and at Disney World, some of the rules need to be relaxed a bit.

*** MILLION DOLLAR IDEA ALERT ***

I do have an idea for Disney, though. I recommend you create a “Buzz Lightyear’s Decompression Zone.” This could be a place where parents nap and kids watch TV the family rests once a day. It could be a climate controlled room you “rent” for 30-60 minutes and I’m sure many families would budget in $50 a day or whatever to reserve one. It could be a cool building with “pods” for each family. Make it no food or drink to help keep it clean, have biodegradable pillow covers, and relaxing music or white noise to recharge little (or not so little) bodies. If you had 50 rooms and charged $50 an hour and ran it for 8 hours (12-8pm), that would give you another $7,300,000 per year. Add it to all the parks and you do the math. Have multiple places within each park and wow! Not sure it would work, but do some market research and you may be surprised.

6. Balance your needs with the kids’

At some points during the trip, I think I was getting more into it than the kids! There was one night the kids just wanted to go to the hotel to go to bed, but I wanted to see the Electrical Parade. And, we stayed! D’oh! Although we know how expensive the trip is and we want to get everything we can out of the trip, we do have to balance the kids’ needs, especially pertaining to sleep, with our own. The next night, I had to forego a different show, since we were soaked from a thunderstorm and no one wanted to stay but me. We’ll catch it next time. :D

7. “Let go” and have fun

For a Disney World vacation, or any vacation, you do have to just “let go” and have some fun sometimes! I know all too well how sleep has been at the forefront of my mind. This was the first trip that the kids went to bed after 10 or 11 p.m. on multiple nights in the same week! Yikes! Of course, our boys are now older and can handle it better. Thankfully, they were not up at the crack of dawn every morning ready to go to the next park. Although I do recommend you try to stick to routine as much as you can while on vacation, sometimes the vacation “wins” and you deal with the aftermath when you get home. It’s easy to obsess about sleep, even on vacation, but life should be fun just the same. Besides, we’ll always be here when you get back. :)

Any tips from your Disney World (or other) Vacation?

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Comments

  1. caree says

    Note for #5: Every Disney Theme park has a Baby Care Center which has changing tables, rockers and tvs with cartoons playing. A friend just returned with her 3yo, and she said it was quiet and dark, hardly anyone there and she held & rocked her little one while she napped for an hour or so. I’m guessing not many know about the baby centers.

  2. Cindy B says

    LOVE this! Perfect timing! We are leaving Friday afternoon, headed to WDW for a week to celebrate our soon-to-be 7 year old’s birthday, and tagging along will be her almost 16 month old brother. Can’t wait, but am hoping that our son will sleep well at night, and catch semi-decent naps during the day (we do plan to take daily breaks back at our resort). I’d love to hear any other tips!

  3. Cindy B says

    PS: Thanks Caree for the baby station tip. I knew about them, but just assumed it was a only a nursing station for infants. Good to know of a nice place to go, even with an older baby!

  4. says

    @Caree I had no idea about the Baby Care Centers, though even if I had I would not have thought of going there without a baby. :) That’s great! I’m sure that will come in handy for many people reading this, so thank you!

    @Cindy Have fun!! :) I hope the breaks work out. Also, spend time at the pool. I’m not sure, but that may have been more fun for the kids than some of the parks! LOL

  5. says

    Thanks for the ideas! My husband and I have taken our 2 year-old and 6 year-old to Disney World for Spring Break the past two years (so you can do the math on their ages at the time). At one of the busiest times of year this is how we survived and had an excellent time:

    1. Use the FASTPASS option that comes free with your admission, AND also make sure to ask about the Rider Swap option (also free) if you have a child with you that does not meet height requirements for certain rides. It basically works like an extra FASTPASS.

    2. Consider staying offsite in a condo or townhome near Disney. Everyone gets their own bedroom and if you have a rental car, there are some vacation rentals where you can get to Magic Kingdom in 25 minutes or less, and Animal Kingdom in 5 minutes, and then everyone has their own room for a good night’s sleep.

    3. Wake up early and get to the parks when they open and are not crowded. When the parks start getting crowded after lunchtime, head back for a nap for two hours, then return to the parks for dinner and stay until 10 pm or whenever the park closes. My kids like to get up early, take naps, and stay up late, so this works well for us.

    4. A stroller is wonderful so that the kiddos don’t get worn out and you have somewhere to stash your stuff. Also, I totally agree about bringing your own snacks and drinks. A water bottle with a built-in filter is great too, because sometimes the water from the drinking fountains may taste different than back home…

  6. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I especially love the photos of your beautiful family. My parents took me to Disney when I was 2,4,6, and older but I was and “easy” baby as my mom says. PLUS they took my brother who was 4 years younger than me starting when he was 2 (and not an “easy” baby). Now that I have my own little one I don’t know how they did it!!

  7. says

    These are great comments! Keep in mind that I can help with trips to Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruises and Adventures by Disney vacations. I LOVE helping families and planning MAGICAL VACATIONS! *O*

  8. Filipa says

    I love disneyworld and i can’t wait to take my baby there. She’s only 4 months now, so I have to wait a while. My question is, how long should I wait? Not only I have to wait until my daughter actually enjoys the rides and attractions, but also until she is old enough to endure the risk of not napping, going to bed late and big crowds. What do you recommend? Is 2 years too soon?

  9. says

    @Filipa I don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” time. We saw families with babies and toddlers of all ages. I think it depends on the baby and how much they can be off routine. When my eldest was a baby, he simply did not tolerate that very well and it was miserable, so it would not have been worth it to us. :) Your daughter will likely sleep in the stroller, for the most part, for her naps. I can’t really tell you what may be right for her or your family, but you will know when the time is right. :) Good luck!

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