Congratulations! You’ve decided to take your family on a vacation to the most magical place on Earth. It is truly a magical experience. There is nothing like watching the wonder in your child’s eyes as they meet their favorite character or ride their favorite attraction.
Unfortunately, Walt Disney World is also hot, humid, crowded and full of lines. In other words, it can be a perfect recipe for a classic child meltdown. So if your idea of a magical vacation doesn’t include hauling a screaming child off of the ground; read these top five tips for visiting Walt Disney World with young children.
(1) Have a Plan
Walt Disney World theme parks are large and offer numerous attractions; if you show up with no plan – the result will be extra time spent in lines and walking in circles (never a great idea if you want your children to have fun). The best thing you can do to ensure a successful trip is to do some research ahead of time and make some concrete plans.
We strongly suggest downloading the My Disney Experience app. The app can be used to book FastPass+ and dining reservations, view interactive park maps, and check attraction wait times. It is by far the best tool at your disposal to plan your days in the parks. Make a list of the priority attractions for your family; then use the app to book your FastPass reservations for those experiences. Having a FastPass reservation allows you to skip the regular cue for a ride and enter the much shorter and faster moving line. This is by far the best way to eliminate time standing around waiting in lines with cranky, tired and bored children.
The My Disney Experience interactive park maps will help you familiarize yourself with each theme parks layout. We suggest acquainting yourself with the attractions and nearby dining locations to ensure that you are arranging your FastPass and dining reservations in a way that makes logical sense. A poor touring plan will result in wasted time, extra walking, doubling back and almost certainly cranky children.
(2) Consider Bringing a Stroller
This is a no-brainer for families travelling with toddlers or babies. However, even if your child has long stopped using a stroller for outings at home; you may want to consider bringing or renting one for your Walt Disney World vacation. The parks are huge and it is very easy to walk upwards of 15 miles a day in a park. That’s a lot of walking for a young child, especially once you factor in the heat and humidity in Orlando.
If you don’t have a stroller at home (or would rather not travel with it) both single and double strollers can be rented through Walt Disney World at the front of each theme park. Another option is to rent a stroller from one of several local companies in Orlando. This is the best option if you want to have a stroller to use outside of the Disney parks or a higher quality stroller than the ones available through Disney. Many of these companies deliver and pick up right to your hotel concierge and offer weekly rates that may end up being cheaper than the Disney stroller rentals.
(3) Schedule Downtime
There is so much to do at Walt Disney World that you could conceivably fill every second of your day with activity. But if you want happy and excited children instead of overstimulated and grumpy children – don’t make the mistake of over-scheduling.
If your child naps at home – have a plan for them to nap during your vacation. Either retreat back to your resort room for their regular nap time or have them nap in a stroller while you push them around.
If naps are not required, it’s still a good idea to build some downtime into your schedule. You can leave the parks in the afternoon when the temperature is at its peak and go back to your resort to swim or watch a movie. If leaving Disney property is too much of a hassle; consider retreating from the parks to visit some of the Disney resorts. Many of them are a quick walk or monorail ride away and offer some of the best restaurants in Walt Disney World. These resort restaurants are also a lot less crowded than the parks during the day and will provide a break from the sun and some much need AC.
(4) Bring Snacks
Most children are the same when it comes to eating: they snack 24 hours a day. There are plenty of awesome food and drink options available in the parks (which we highly recommending indulging in). But like all things at Walt Disney World – they often come with a long line. A child on the verge of a meltdown can often be tamed with a well-timed granola bar. It’s a common misconception that you cannot bring your own food into the parks – of course you can. We suggest packing a few of your child’s favorites in your park bag for any snack emergencies that may come your way.
(5) Plan Distractions
Walt Disney World comes with a lot of fun and excitement; but if also comes with lines. All of the pre-planning in the world cannot change the fact that you will spend time waiting in lines to ride attractions, meet characters or acquire food. Children can only handle so much waiting before they start to get cranky. One of the best things that can be done is to pack some quick and easy entertainment in your park bag to distract your toddlers during the downtimes. Consider items like cheap bubble wands which you can refill every day, a few packs of stickers, and some glow sticks (for night time).