We love Disney. It holds so many magical memories for us. No matter how many times I go, each time feels like a new and exciting adventure. We have family outside of Disneyland and Disney World and frequent both parks. I get asked ALL the time, “How do you do Disney with the babies?!?” It seems to be a common misconception that Disney can’t be fun if you have babies in tow. I couldn’t disagree more. Here’s how to make it work:
- Go Off Season
Beat the heat and beat the lines. September, October, (early) November, January, February — those are the best times to avoid the crowds. Most of you know that Florida is very hot, but it’s the humidity that will get you. Early fall is our favorite time to go, it is still hot, but not unbearable. As much as I love Disney, you’d be hard pressed to find me there in the middle of the summer. My kids tend to melt when the temperature passes 90 degrees with 100% humidity. Not to mention the lines! You will be severely limited with what you can fit into your vacation if you have to calculate long wait times for each ride.
2. Bring Snacks
Most people don’t know that you are allowed to bring food and drinks into Disney. ‘Hanger’ is genetic. When I’m hungry, its scary. I’m much more open to waiting in lines when my belly is full. I assume the same to be true about my kids. I usually pack snacks and then everyone can pick one treat to purchase through out the day as well. This way I’m not blowing my budget on something thats just going to be digested. Because Cam is 6 years older then the twins, there are things he is interested in, that don’t have enough music and color to keep the babes attention. Break out the snacks. Cheerios can last forever if you only give out 1 or 2 at a time!
3. Let them sleep
It’s a fact – a tired kid = a cranky kid. If you wake them up to get to the park early, skip naps, and want them to make it to fireworks – you are setting yourself up for a disaster. While we are typically stay in the park from open to close people, we do not skip naps. I’m fortunate that all three of my kids would/will nap in their strollers. When it is nap time, I park the stroller up against a quiet wall/tree give them their favorite blanket and jiggle until they pass out. If your babies won’t sleep in the stroller, it’s worth going back to your hotel for a couple of hours to avoid the meltdowns that are guaranteed to make an appearance in a sleep-deprived child. The goal here, is to set your kid (and yourself!) up for success. The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom is also our go to nap spot. Its dark, relatively quiet, and the show isn’t geared toward the littles.
Most babies/toddlers won’t make it until the fireworks, and thats ok! We let our kids crash in the stroller and enjoy the show with each other and our oldest. In fact, I usually pack pj’s and blankets for them to feel totally comfortable nodding off. The hardest part of the day is carrying sleeping kids/strollers/bags back to the room. Hey, people say, its good to end your day with a good workout.
4. Don’t Wing It
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you don’t need a plan. There is WAY too much to see and do. You don’t want to find yourself in the back of the park when the parade is starting, or doing water rides as the sun goes down. You can book your fast-passes up to 6 months before you actually arrive at the park. You don’t want to be bouncing from one end of the park to the other and missing everything in between. Have a general idea of how you would like the day to flow. Be near a restaurant around lunch time, know showtimes and locations so you can head over at the appropriate time, etc. We save the big rollercoasters for babies’ nap time so they don’t miss anything during their needed snooze.
Tip: Head to the back of the park first, most people will start with the attractions nearest the front of the park and work their way back. You’ll have shorter wait times if you do the opposite.
5. Be Flexible
Your plan probably won’t actually work. Chances are the baby will have a blow out in the middle of the Small World Line and you’ll have to get out of line to change him, and by the time you are done its time for your Fast Passes at Peter Pan’s Flight. Hey, it’s ok. Just go with it. The point of having a plan is not to become a Disney Dictator but to give you a little direction so you make the most of your time. When Cam was younger he would get caught up in a street show, or passing character that would require us to alter our course to let him enjoy the spontaneous moments. Your kids might need to eat lunch at 11 instead of 12:30. Just go with it. It’s about soaking up each little moment and making memories together.
6. Use Rider Swap
Many of Disney’s attractions have no height requirements which means babies of all ages can ride them. However, If both of you want to go on a ride with a height requirement, rider swap is amazing. Walk up to the entrance of the attraction and tell the Cast Member you are interested in a rider swap. These work like Fast Passes, allowing one person and up to three guests to get on the attraction while someone else stays with the baby/toddler. When the attraction is over, the person waiting with the little one is allowed to go on the attraction (skipping the line), again with three guests, while someone else sits with the baby. This way no on misses out on riding anything, and some members of your party even get to ride twice.
7. Stay on Property
I can’t stress this enough – staying on property is worth every penny! And it might not be as expensive as you think. Disney has a wide variety of resort levels starting with their economy resorts that during off season are as little as $100.00 a night. I imagine this is pretty comparable to other local hotels. Every property comes with free transportation to and from the park. No tram riding, no worrying about where you parked your car. Just door to door service. Each resort has a theme to it, and Disney doesn’t disappoint. Our favorite is the Art of Animation Resort. It’s affordable and the decor stays true to Disney’s over the top style. There are multiple pools and activities for kids of all ages. The Art of Animation has outdoor movies in the evenings, craft stations, an arcade, and three different themed areas to explore. You can also have anything delivered to your room, souvenirs, meals, or even groceries.
One thing we have never bought into is the meal plan. We’ve priced it out, and it never seems economical for us. If you are the type of people that have three full service sit down meals, it might be for you, but with two babies and a 7 year old, thats not our style.
8. Take Off Days
Don’t over do it. Take a break in between large parks. If you are staying on property the pool areas are amazing, and like I said many Disney resorts have activities going on all day for kids to participate in. Pool days are great day for everyone to catch up on rest and get back on schedule. Disney Springs (AKA Downtown Disney) is another great option. There is live music, splash pads, fountains, street performers, shops, and tons of restaurants.
9. Bring Carrier Options
We bring both the stroller and our Ergo 360’s. When babies get tired of sitting in the stroller we wear them. We find ourselves wearing them often while waiting in lines because it’s easier than just carrying them. The 360’s are great because they can be on your back and your front – both forward facing or inward facing you. I bought mine new in the box off eBay and saved 50$ on each.
10. Sit Up Front for Parades and Shows
While, I’ll admit, the babies weren’t too into the parades and shows when they first visited at 8 weeks old, by 5/6 months they were very engaged in the performance pieces. The parades and shows have vibrant colors, music, and special effects. We found if we weren’t in one of the front few rows they were less engaged and became antsy from having to sit still. Unfortunately, this requires a bit of planning and waiting. In order to get a front row seat for the parades, one member of your family will need to start saving seats about 1 hour before the parade starts. For shows you’ll need to be in line about 45-30 minutes prior to show time. We typically scout out our parade seats and grab some snacks while we wait. You won’t be disappointed!
Hope this helps!
Remember adventures rarely go as planned, just enjoy the ride!