A Walt Disney World vacation is absolutely incredible no matter what the age. However, when travelling with smaller children, special considerations should be made when you are hashing out those Disney details. Though the tendency when it comes to planning for Disney is always to try to cram as much into a day as possible, sometimes making small adjustments to this strategy allows for a much kinder, gentler Mouse trip. So if you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World with small children, here are some tips to help you have a magical vacation.
1. Get to the parks early. If you’ve got small children that are early risers (and let’s be honest most Under 5’s are) then make the most out of your theme park days by arriving at the parks early. Arriving at a Disney theme park around or before opening means that you’ll be able to take advantage of crowds being at their lowest, the lines often being the shortest of the day and temperatures still being relatively cool. This can be a great time for an early morning dining reservation, squeezing in a few of those rides you didn’t get Fastpasses for or meeting some of your favorite characters. However, be mindful of parks running Early Morning Magic Hours as these can tend to result in larger morning crowds.
2. Take time out in the afternoon. There’s so much to see, do and explore that little visitors to Walt Disney World can get overstimulated and worn out fast! Add into the mix the sweltering afternoon temperatures and its a recipe for a temper tantrum. Preempt this by scheduling a timeout every afternoon. Go back to the resort for a few hours for a siesta or to lounge by the pool. Or, if you prefer to stay in the parks, locate a nice shady spot where your little ones can take a little catnap. Once their batteries are re-charged they’ll be raring to go and that means you are able to see and do so much more. Remember most of the parks stay open until at least 9 pm. So even if you take a time out from 2pm – 5pm, you still have an amazing 4 hours left to tackle the parks when you return.
3. Rent a Stroller – Even though your child may not have used a stroller for years, if they can fit into one consider renting one during your visit. Most people underestimate just how big the theme parks are. In an average day, you may walk a good 7 or 8 miles. Imagine what that does to little feet. A stroller means fewer blisters, gives kids a chance to take a timeout, means you can cover more ground and also provides shades for kids in the hot sun. I used a stroller right up until my daughter was about 7 years old and was so glad I did. There were so many Disney days where she quietly fell asleep at the parks and I could enjoy a relaxing Frappuccino our do some souvenir shopping. Trust me, it cuts down on temper tantrums, exhaustion and sunburn. To eliminate these things, the cost of a stroller rental is a small price to pay!
4. Know the height requirements – Every time I visit Walt Disney World, I see sad parents and children getting turned away from the attractions that the children are just too tiny to ride. If you’re planning out your Disney days, it pays to know in advance what rides your children will and will not be able to ride to avoid disappointment. You can find all of the information at the Disney World website. I also want to point out that just because your child can’t ride a particular attraction it doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Disney has a brilliant Rider Switch program which allows parents to trade off riding a particular attraction without having to wait in line twice!
5. Be prepared to go off schedule – Even though you may have planned out your day with military-like precision remember that you are doing this for your kids. If they are feeling exhausted, need a break or are drawn toward an attraction not included in your touring plan, be prepared to roll with it. Some of the longest lasting memories from a Disney vacation can come from spontaneous moments. Your child is much more likely to remember that moment where you tossed your itinerary to the wind and got soaked at Casey Jr Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, then being dragged from one area of the park to another to cram everything in!
6. Eat well and stay hydrated. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re at Disney and forget to take snack and water breaks. Additionally, families may push themselves to hold on until scheduled lunches or dinners, forgetting how quickly the heat can take its toll. However, you sweating out lots of water and burning a ton of calories so its important to eat and drink regularly. One of my big rules when visiting Walt Disney World is to stop often to refuel. Make sure that your tiny tots are drinking a lot of water and tucking into an occasional cool snack to tide them over. I usually stop for snacks at least three times in the morning and three times in the afternoon. It doesn’t need to be anything major but staying cool and hydrated is key.
7. Have a well-stocked park bag – Our job as parents is to be prepared for any eventuality and when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World that means preparing a well-stocked park bag. This should include snacks, water, first aid items, and a change of clothes just to name a few items. Disney does have really wonderful Baby Care and First Aid Centers where you can find many of these items in a pinch but its always nice to be prepared. I also find cooling towels work a treat and never travel without them or spray bottles that can be filled with water to cool kids off in the afternoon heat. There are tons of tips online about the best things to include in your bag many of which can be found at your local dollar store. So do a bit of forward planning, you’ll be glad you did!
These are just a handful of tips to help you navigate Walt Disney World with your little ones. Hopefully, they will make those exciting days at your favorite theme park run that much smoother!
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