Ten Tips for Disney World with Toddlers
I can’t even describe the joy from watching my kids’ face light up when they saw Mickey for the first time or in my daughter’s case, Pooh. As magical as Disney is, it can be a little overwhelming and stressful when planning. These are some of my best tips to help make it a little less intimidating and ensure you create some great moments.
Buy the Memory Maker
It’s all about Convenience
It may seem like a waste of money, because we are all used to snapping pictures all day with our phones. However, Disney with Toddlers is all about convenience and keeping the fun going with minimal interruption. Memory Maker lets you keep all pictures taken by any Disney photographers or on rides with a easy swipe of your magic band.
Disney are Experts
Disney photographers, like everything at Disney, are experts at what they do. They know the right angle, the right scene, the right moment to snap that unforgettable picture. We always stop anytime a photographer doesn’t have a line. Some of our best pictures have come from these unexpected stops. The first time we went to Disney, they didn’t offer memory maker so we stressed about getting the perfect picture. We were a little disappointed when they didn’t turn out exactly right. The next time, with Memory Maker, we took a picture literally everywhere. The not-so-good ones were quickly overshadowed by the sheer volume of great pictures.
Memory Maker comes with something called “Magic Shots” where the photographers put fun surprises into your pictures. You might find Tinkerbell in the corner or Sven the Reindeer jogging by. One of my favorite pictures is when the Disney photographer told my kids to hold their hands together and make a surprised face. We had no idea why until we downloaded the pictures and Tinkerbell surprised us!
Take Advantage of Late-night Extra Magic Hours
If you are staying on property, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours when the park opens early or closes late for anyone staying at on-property. The amount of people in the park drastically reduces and you have way shorter lines. The late night hours are usually longer (2 hours) compared to the early morning (1 hour). For us, we chose to take a late afternoon nap and stay for the later Magic hours. One of our best Disney memories is riding the Barnstormer (or Goofy rollercoaster as our son calls it) 13 times in a row late night (around 1 am) with our son. Use these times to get an extra ride on one of the popular attractions. We were scared to stay up so late at first….but it’s Disney!! Breaking a few rules, like bedtimes, are allowed!!
Use Child Swap
Disney added a new feature in recent years called Child Swap. If you have two or more children with you and one doesn’t want to or can’t ride a specific ride, you can both still enjoy it with your other children. When you go to the line, let the Disney team member know you want to do a child swap. They will give you a card to redeem for a FastPass+. After the first parent rides, the child can go back through the fast pass line with the other parent. For us, this meant we both got to ride Tower of Terror with my son while my daughter waited outside with the other parent. And, yes, we insist on “hands in the air” for all roller-coaster / thrill rides.
Take A Break
Depending on how many days you are visiting, your kids are not going to want to run a full day, every day. Forcing them through another hour because you have a FastPass+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is not going to create happy memories. We usually go to Disney for a week and there is always a day when our kids say they just want to stay in the room. Giving them the option to wait and wind-down has always resulted in an amazing day later on. I can promise you that you will never be able to do “everything” at Disney in one trip or in twenty trips.
Have fun at the Resorts
You can use your down-time to have fun at the resorts. The pools are amazing, or you can find fun-activities to do like painting your own Oaxaca wood carvings (see Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Review for more info)!
Download the MyDisneyExperience App
I always make our FastPass+ selections and a few dining reservations before we arrive, but the MyDisneyExperience app makes it super easy to change plans and add things once you see what type of day you are having in the parks. It also lets you look up wait times at all of the rides and head towards the ones with a less wait time. At a minimum, I checked the app every morning before we headed out and before we used a fast pass. If we could get a short wait time now, why waste a fast pass?
Try everything with a Short Wait
Odds are the new, fast, popular rides (read : longer wait times) are more important to you than your toddler. If you see that a ride has a short wait, go ahead and do it! I’ve never been disappointed by a ride or experience at Disney World. On a particularly packed day, we wondered in to Mickey’s Philharmonic due to no wait. We had never gone through despite several Disney trips. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it was a compilation of all of our favorite Disney songs, and our kids had a great time singing along. Another gem with a short wait is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. It’s a hilarious time (in the air conditioning!).
Schedule a Breakfast to get into the Parks Early
You can schedule breakfast in Epcot and Magic Kingdom to get into the parks early. Epcot typically opens at 9 am, but you can schedule an early morning breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall before it even opens. Our favorite is to try to get an 8am so you have an hour for breakfast and are first in line at Frozen, Soarin’ or Test Track. Find out why we love it the most for princess meals in Battle of the Princesses : Cinderella’s Royal Table Vs Princess Storybook at Akershus Royal Banquet. For Magic Kingdom, you can schedule breakfast at Be Our Guest and be poised to hop into the line at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first!
Buy Souvenirs Online Before You Go
We buy ears and other Park toys from Disneystore.com before the trip and hide them in our suitcase. I’ve also had a lot of luck on Ebay and have gotten super cute, custom shirts from Etsy dealers (my favorite are Momogram4me and AEMembroidery). Last Christmas, I found Disney Princess gowns on 50% off! That’s literally twice the number of dresses if I bought them in the park. It’s a great way to keep yourself on a budget by buying things ahead of time and also surprise your kids with some Disney magic each day!
Schedule A Character Meal
If you aren’t sure how your kids will react to the characters, schedule a meal your first day. We were a little apprehensive about how our daughter would feel about the characters, so we had a lunch scheduled at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends on the first day. It turned out that she LOVED them, and we spent most of the rest of the trip in line for characters. She couldn’t stand waiting for a ride, but we literally waited 45 minutes for Donald Duck with no problems. I’ve seen plenty of kids scared of the characters and you don’t want to spend half of your trip cancelling character meals. If your children end up in the “LOVE” category, there are plenty of character meals you can get anytime. My favorite is dinner at the Garden Grill. Farmer Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale will make at least 3 passes by your table and the food is great too! You can get the complete guide to Character meals here: Disney Character Dining : Reviews from a Real Mom.
Don’t be afraid of rain.
It rains all the time in central Florida. It can come and go in an hour or two. We buy raincoats that can pack easily (or ponchos) and take them with us each day. So many people leave the park when it starts raining. It’s actually a great time to stay and enjoy short lines and a little cool-off. We also bought a stroller cover that keeps everything dry while your stroller is parked outside of an attraction.
To make the most of your Disney World Trip with Toddlers, take advantage of these ten tips:
- Buy the Memory maker
- Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours
- Use Child Swap
- Take a Break
- Download the MyDisneyExperience App
- Schedule a Breakfast to Get Into Parks Early
- Try Everything with a Short Wait
- Buy Souvenirs Online Before You Go
- Schedule a Character Meal
- Don’t Be Afraid of the Rain