As a travel agent who specializes in family travel, I plan a LOT of Disney trips. I also go to Disney several times a year (it’s work, I swear!) and my girls have been several times. The number-one question I am asked when traveling about Disney with toddlers is, “How do you do it?” Thinking of taking kids under the age of three is extremely daunting, I get it. But doing anything with a toddler is a lot of work! I’ve summed up some of my favorite tips and tricks for taking your toddler(s) to Disney World!
1) Baby Care Centers. These centers are located at each park and are available at no additional charge. If you need to purchase any baby care items, they are available at most locations (Hollywood Studios being the exception)! There is a kitchen available with a microwave and sink, small nursing rooms, large changing rooms with several changing tables, and unisex restrooms. There is also a feeding area with high chairs, small tables, some toys, and usually a television playing a Disney movie! The locations are as follows:
- Magic Kingdom – near the First Aid Station between Casey’s and The Crystal Palace restaurants.
- EPCOT – in the Odyssey Center between Test Track and the Showcase Plaza.
- Hollywood Studios – inside Guest Relations near the main entrance to the park.
- Animal Kingdom – to the left of the Tree of Life in the building right before the bridge to Africa.
2) Character Meet-and-Greet Preparation. Since my girls have been visiting since they were infants, this was never an issue for us. However, if you are taking your 2.5 year old for the first time… seeing a giant Mickey Mouse can be a little terrifying. I always suggest taking some time before the trip to watch character interaction videos on YouTube. This way, your kids can see just how tall Mickey Mouse is in real life, so they’re more prepared. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t have a total freak-out-meltdown on your hands…but can help set the right expectations!
3) Know Where to Play! My biggest misconception during our first trip was that my toddler would be tired. Well… SHE spent most of the day sitting in her stroller while I was the one doing the walking. As soon as I was ready to take a break, she just wanted to run and play! As important as it is to plan rest, I think it’s just as important to plan play! The theme parks have some great playgrounds you should definitely take advantage of if you plan to Disney with toddlers:
- Magic Kingdom – There is an adorable toddler play area located around Splash Mountain, and there is an indoor play area in the line for Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
- EPCOT – The Seas with Nemo and Friends comes with a small carpeted play space (inside and air-conditioned!), as well as an indoor tunnel play area inside Mission: Space. During the Flower & Garden Festival or the Food & Wine Festival, there are seasonal playgrounds set up near the entrance to the World Showcase as well.
- Hollywood Studios used to have a “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” themed play space, but it is being replaced by “Andy’s Backyard” in the new Toy Story Land set to open Summer 2018.
- Animal Kingdom – The Boneyard!! This is an extra-large play area with all sorts of tunnels, slides, and nets! There’s also a digging area where children can excavate “bones” all on their own.
4) Take Advantage of Rider Swap. Just because you’re with your kids doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun! Most of the larger attractions offer “Rider Switch” options. Here’s how it works:
- Your entire party will approach the Cast Member and let them know you’re going to utilize Rider Switch.
- At least one member of the party and the guests who are not riding will be given a pass and asked to wait in a designated area.
- The rest of the party will then go and enjoy the attraction.
- Once they’re done, they “switch” off the child care, and the rest of the party will be able to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in the regular line.
5) Kids are FREE under three! Maybe the best perk of doing Disney with toddlers…Disney also has a “no aging” policy, so if you check in the day before your little one’s third birthday… they are free for the entire trip! They do not require fast passes to enter an attraction with their party, and they can eat from your plate at Disney restaurants (and are not required to be on a dining plan if you decide to purchase one).
*BONUS TIP* The Nap Exception! Disney is pretty strict on not allowing strollers into restaurants, but there is a little known “nap exception” to these rules. If your kiddo is asleep in a stroller, most likely they will let you take the stroller into the restaurant with you. This is typically up to the Cast Member’s discretion…however, they have always been accommodating for my family! This “nap exception” is also handy when it comes to fast passes…we wheeled our sleeping toddlers up to the Cast Member scanning fast passes during our hour window to meet Cinderella, and he handed us passes to return at any time, once those little princesses woke up! So while this isn’t an actual tip—and not a guarantee—it’s definitely one to remember if you’re stuck with a sleeping little one!
Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy your time at Disney World! I also always suggest to use a travel agent, as they know the ins and outs of the parks and can really help make your Disney with toddlers trip a lot smoother. You’ve got this!