So you’re planning your trip to Disney World and you have a toddler…you’re probably wondering “Am I crazy? They won’t even remember this! Why are we going?” Relax, relax. It’s definitely overwhelming! Luckily, the Internet is a big place and there are tons of tips and tricks for taking a toddler to Disney!
This post is…kind of about that. We just got back from Disney World 2 weeks ago and prior to the trip, I definitely was jotting down any tips I came across that I thought would make me feel less scared. Plus, I’m a travel agent, so I felt pretty prepared with my knowledge of Disney and all the articles I read.
Well, I was wrong. Honestly, it turned out to be totally different than I expected! Disney with a toddler is totally different than going as just adults (duh). But I really didn’t think it would be!
I realized none of the posts I had read prepared me to feel this way. There were plenty of tips, but they never really highlighted the negatives. I know, nobody wants to read the negatives. But I’m a planner and all about logic and knowledge, so I need all the bases covered!
Well, now that my trip is over I’ve decided to cover the bases myself. This post highlights the truths about taking a toddler to Disney. I’m not writing this to scare you or to be negative - I just want to give you a fair warning that this trip will likely not be like the trips you’re used to pre-kids (and thats ok!).
Okay let’s dive in shall we?
Naps may be either super messed up or out the window all together
This one hit us the hardest. Our son, 18 months, has his set schedule (as I’m sure 99% of babies do) and messing with it really put everyone in a bad place. We tried our hardest to keep him on a nap schedule in his stroller and it…kind of worked. Read my post about why taking your full size stroller is super important for Disney! Having the full size stroller helped but he just wanted to be in the action. I’m pretty sure he had FOMO and just didn’t want to sleep! So, it’s important to prepare for the fact that your child may or may not nap normally and that will certainly throw the rest of the day off. If you’re able, I suggest going back to your hotel at least once to get a good nap (a good reason to stay on property ;) okay that’s my travel agent coming out).
Bed time may be tough
In conjunction with naps, bed time was a struggle. It was harder than naps for us actually. We really didn’t want to leave the park at 6 for his 7 pm bedtime so we tried to get him to sleep in the stroller until we got back to the room. He did…somewhat. But with all the noise and lights he just couldn’t stay asleep. We weren’t getting him to his actual bed until 9 or 9:30 and by then he was so past his limits he just fought it. Looking back, this is probably our biggest regret. My suggestion here is try to do half-days (if your schedule allows) so that you can be back in your room by bed time.
Eating may be a struggle
This one seriously threw me off. Our son eats like a CHAMP so when he was eating maybe 1 meal a day I was not only concerned but confused. But I had to step back and realize he’s completely off schedule in every other way so why not eating too? He just wasn’t interested most days. I had to keep telling myself “he’ll eat when he’s hungry” and he mostly did. My guess is he just wasn’t thinking about his hunger with all the other super fun stuff going on. We brought tons of snacks, ordered groceries (mostly for him), and let him eat off our plates whenever he wanted to and could so I know did everything right here. Basically, prepare for your child to not eat normally and don’t stress about it too much. Bring enough whole milk (and a small cooler if you can) so they can supplement the calories there.
You should plan on doing less
This one hurt me. I’m a Disney gal! I grew up going there and always pack everything in. We even went to Disneyland when he was 9 months and didn’t experience ANY of the ‘pitfalls’ we experienced this time. Younger babies are easy at Disney! But toddlers….well, if you have one you know. Everything will take longer: going to the bathroom, getting on and off buses (the worst with a large stroller! They must be folded), riding things, even just walking around. Navigating a crowd with a stroller isn’t the most fun but it’s even slower when your toddler wants to get out and walk (which will be all the time). The best way to prepare for this is just to tell yourself you’re going to do less and things will take longer. Don’t disappoint yourself ahead of time by planning to do a million things. Plus, if you take my advice and do half days, you’ll do even less. The good thing is, there really is a lot to do at Disney so even if you packed your day full you wouldn’t see everything so don’t feel bad! Plan for your favorites and you’ll have a wonderful time.
Prepare for at least one meltdown
I don’t want to predispose you to a meltdown; they aren’t fun. But prepare for one anyway. Toddlers can be impatient and there’s a lot of waiting at Disney World. Plus the tiredness, hunger, FOMO, boredness…okay I’ll stop. But come prepared! Bring baby’s favorite snacks, toy, lovey, sound machine, whatever it is that usually works when they’re having a moment. Walking in the stroller always helps our little guy. I think it’s the movement and the distraction of things moving by that calms him. A nice bottle of milk works too. Whatever you can think of, do it! And try not to be embarrassed. We’ve all been there.
You may not feel ‘the magic’ right away
This one was hard for me to admit. I couldn’t wait to take my son to Disney! But, I think…he’s just too young to really understand. Give him another year and I think he’ll be at the right age to appreciate the lights, sounds, characters, rides, food, and everything else Disney has to offer. This is NOT to say we didn’t have a fabulous time! We absolutely did. He loved the pool, trying new foods, people watching, hearing the music from parades, seeing Mickey on our headboard at our hotel (Pop Century), and so much more. But for me, the ‘magic’ I was hoping to feel when taking my son to Disney didn’t show up immediately. It was towards the end of our trip that I finally started to feel it - he was getting used to this new schedule (we were there for 9 days) and was really having fun. So, don’t feel discouraged if you’re 3 days in and your little one is tired, fighting naps, refusing to eat, and upset all the time. It won’t last your whole trip and there will absolutely be moments of magic for everyone.
I hope this post didn’t scare you! That’s not my intention. I want to prepare you so you’re not mad or disappointed when things don’t go as perfectly as you may have planned. Disney is wonderful for kids and adults alike - it just takes time sometimes for kids to understand the wonder and magic of it.
And if you’re just now thinking of planning your trip and are overwhelmed (especially after reading this…sorry!), let me help you plan! I can give you all the tips and advice that I’ve gathered over the years and help you have the best trip possible. Not sure if you can afford a travel agent? Well, guess what: my services are complimentary! Yep, you don’t pay a penny extra when you use my services. So why not, right? Email me for more info or a quote!