Traveling to Disney with young kids is an exciting time! We recently visited the Disney World Parks in Orlando, Florida with our 3 young children. At the time, they were 4 months, 2 years, and 4 years of age. Although some people might think we were nuts to travel to Disney World with such young kids, we had a great time and with these tips, you can too!
How to Travel to Disney with Young Kids
A Stroller is a Must
You absolutely must take a stroller and preferably a stroller that has a storage basket if you are visiting Disney with young kids. Try to take a stroller that is big enough to seat all of the young children you are taking. If you have 3 young children like us, if there is any way you can take a triple stroller (or a double stroller with a riding board attached for a standing older child) I’d highly recommend it. We took a double stroller and it was sufficient, but I found at times that I REALLY wished we had a triple stroller. If I could do the trip again, that is the one thing I’d change. After 1 or 2 days of walking through the park and almost always carrying one of the three children, our arms were getting tired! Another option would be to take a double stroller and a single stroller, but I only recommend that if you are driving OR have additional adult help. I really love our Joovy Qool stroller and will take that one for any future visits.
Take a Backpack Style Diaper Bag
We took our Daddy Scrubs Backpack Diaper Bag with us to Disney and I’m SO grateful we did. We were able to fit everything we needed into this bag and the backpack feature made it easy to transport. If you can, only pack things in the diaper bag that you wouldn’t be devastated to lose. Valuables need to be small enough to fit into your pocket or around your neck (like a camera strap). There are many instances when you will have to park your stroller and to keep things easier, we left our diaper bag with it. We left our credit cards at the hotel since we had our credit card account connected to our Magic Bands.
A Quality Baby Carrier is Also a Must
As I mentioned, we only took a double stroller. I thought that my 4-year-old daughter would walk a lot, but with that huge crowd of people and with all the walking we were doing, we found it easier to have her ride in the stroller for most of the day. That meant that someone needed to hold the baby. Luckily for me, I took my Boba 3g along and she spent a large portion of the day being carried that way. (Also, if you’ll be traveling through an airport, a baby carrier makes that much easier!) Having a baby carrier keeps your hands free and also helps with tired arms. Even if you take a triple stroller, if you have a young baby, he/she will want to be carried at times, so pack the carrier!
Water, Water, and More Water
Florida is hot and humid – that’s no secret. You don’t want your vacation ruined by dehydration. Sodas might taste good, but you really need to be drinking water to stay hydrated. Go into any of the restaurants at Disney and simply ask and they will give you FREE ice water from the tap. Normally I went in and asked for 2 cups at a time. Between the 4 of us (the baby is still just nursing) we’d finish one full cup, then have the remaining cup to take with us for an hour or so. I estimate that we saved at least $20 a day by taking advantage of the free water at the parks.
Preschoolers Love to Pin Trade (Older Kids and Adults Do Too!)
On our first trip to the Disney Parks, we didn’t even notice the pins. On the second trip, we discovered them halfway through….so on our most recent trip, we planned ahead of time. If you haven’t heard about Disney Pin Trading, let me give you a quick run-down. Basically Disney sells lanyards and Disney pins. A large number of the park employees wear the lanyards with about 10 pins on them. Your child can approach a Disney cast member and ask them to trade pins. They will let your child choose a new pin from the 10 on their lanyard and your child chooses to give one in return. I love this for 2 reasons:
- It’s fun to do this in line while you are waiting for your turn on a ride.
- It teaches your child about trading and how it works.
Both of our older kids (2 & 4) LOVED trading pins. They would search for cast members with lanyards. The thing with pin trading is that it has the potential to be expensive…and if you wait to start when you get to the parks, it will be. A package of 3 pins can cost you about $10 at the park, but you can order a pack of 3 Disney lanyards and 25 Disney pins from Amazon for a grand total of about $39.
Even Young Children Love Getting Autographs
On our first trip to Disney World, Maggie was just 2 years old (29 months) and Jacob was 4 months old. We thought she would be too young to enjoy getting autographs, but we bought her a book to let her try. She LOVED it! That was the highlight of her trip that time and it was so cute to watch her! If your child is 2 years of age or older, I highly encourage you to give them the opportunity to get autographs. It’s a lot of fun to meet the characters!
Pack Snacks and Lots of Them
If your kids are like mine, they are probably picky eaters. At home, they live off of chicken nuggets, pizza, and PB&J sandwiches. There are lots of not-so-healthy snacks tempting children on every corner at Disney. If you pack some healthy snacks though, you’ll have something to offer them between meals. We took along fruit snacks, Squeeze pouches with fruit & veggie purees, nuts, meat sticks, and crackers and they came in very handy, not only for healthier snacks but much cheaper snacks too!
Don’t Eat at Peak Times
Speaking of eating, don’t plan to eat lunch from 12-2pm or dinner between 4-6:30pm. Either eat before or after. Preschoolers don’t like to wait in line and let me tell you, if you go during peak times, you’ll be waiting for quite a while! Sometimes it’s even hard to find a seat. That’s when the snacks come in handy! The added bonus is that the ride lines tend to be shorter during this time because everyone is eating – it’s a win-win!
Arrive Early or Plan To Stay Late
This tip depends on your family and whether you are morning or night people. We are all night owls here. Instead of waking our kids up at the crack of dawn to get ready, we all slept in (which was extra nice on vacation!) and headed to the parks around 10am….then we stayed until closing. It’s cooler when the sun goes down and not nearly as busy.
We generally ate breakfast around 9am which was great because the restaurants weren’t very busy anymore. Eating a later breakfast allowed us to eat a later lunch and miss that peak crowd (as mentioned in the last tip).
The other perk to staying late with young children is that the smaller, kiddie rides were not nearly as busy after 8pm, so we spent less time waiting in line. The cooler evening temperatures made any lines far more bearable. When the two youngest would finally fall asleep in the stroller, we’d spend the last bit of time taking turns taking our 4 year old daughter on the slightly bigger rides she wanted to do that the other two weren’t quite ready for.
Take Pictures…and Lots of Them
I can’t stress this enough – take as many pictures as possible when you travel to Disney with young kids! You will wish you took more when you get home! When you stop to visit a character, take pictures of your child(ren) with him/her and then ask the photographer there to take pictures of you and spouse in the picture too. Get the whole gang. If you’ve got 3 kids like us, the chances of everyone looking at the camera and smiling really aren’t that great. However, if you take a number of pictures with multiple characters, you are likely to walk away with at least one or two good family ones!
Sun Protection is More than Sunscreen
Yes, for sure – pack sunscreen, but don’t forget sunglasses and hats for you and the kids. You’ll also want to take something you can attach to the stroller visor to block out extra sunlight when little ones want to nap. I took an aden + anais swaddle blanket and used it as a nursing cover and to shade from the sun.
Magic Bands are new and they are AWESOME! They are bracelets you wear that have a microchip inside of them that contain all of your important info. It keeps track of your admission tickets, Fast Passes, and even allows you to charge park purchases to a credit card on file. The other feature I love is that it contains your child’s name and hotel info if you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. Essentially what this means is that, should your child become separated from you, a Disney cast member can scan their band and find out who they are and where their hotel is. They can then get your cell phone number and call you. I certainly hope I never lose a child at the park, but knowing they are wearing their band makes me feel a LOT better! We even put a Magic Band on the baby’s ankle.
These days, Fast Passes are a MUST! You don’t even have to wait until you are at Disney to sign up for your Fast Passes – you can do it online through the Disney website before leaving for your vacation. There are certain to be attractions that are at the top of your family’s wishlist, and this will help to ensure that you get to do them. You can start your day with each family member receiving 3 fast passes (children ages 0-2 do not need a Fast Pass). After using the first 3 passes, you can get additional passes, 1 (per family member) at a time. I’d highly recommend a Fast Pass for any of the newer attractions and also for the character meet and greets.
If you’re staying at a Walt Disney hotel, one of the perks is that you can use their transportation for FREE. They will bus you to and from the parks, Downtown Disney, and even Orlando International Airport. When you are taking 3 little kids, a diaper bag, and a stroller on these buses, you definitely need a game plan and it’s important to think about it before the bus rolls up to get you. Ideally, you should have the stroller folded and ready to go before the bus arrives. This is what we did: When we got to the queue line, if she wasn’t already in there, I put the baby in the carrier on the front of me. Then I put the diaper bag backpack on my back. With both hands still free, I was then able to hold a hand of each of my older 2 children. This left my husband free to collapse the stroller and fold it. If we had no other bags, he would usually then take over the backpack carrying as well.