Going to Disney World is every kid’s dream vacation young or old. But while the under 3 crowd gets in free, it can be difficult to manage a trip to Walt Disney World with toddlers. Here is a comprehensive and realistic guide full of tips for going to the most magical place on earth with toddlers.
The first time we took our boys to Walt Disney World, they were aged 2.5 and 10 months. It was a last minute decision, and I spent a good chunk of the 16-hour drive down from New Jersey to Florida Googling.
I was in dire need of tips for handling Disney World with toddlers and babies. Eventually, I came across a bunch of great resources. But I quickly learned that most of them were unrealistic.
See, I love a detailed list as much as the next momma. But the reality is, when you’re traveling with 2 kids under 3, an hour by hour “do this next” guide can be both overwhelming and unreasonable.
A Realistic Guide to Disney with Toddlers
We definitely take a more ‘relaxed’ approach to travel with kids. At Disney, it ended up working in our favor. After, I knew I wanted to share the tips and tricks we learned on our first magical trip.
Here you’ll find all of the tips for doing the mouse with toddlers and babies without losing your mind. From souvenirs to how to handle rides, I’ve covered it all.
No, really, all of it.
Before I get too far into this, I just want to put a little disclosure: We are so, so blessed that we are able to take a last-minute, unplanned Disney trip.
I know that some people plan for months and months because financially, it’s not in the cards to come regularly. A good bit of this guide will be written with the mindset that this is not a once in a lifetime trip.
That being said, if you can swing it, I highly recommend it.
Disney is Free Under 3
Kids under the age of 3 get free admission to the parks which definitely swayed our decision to go before the boys were old enough to “get” Disney and be really excited for it since we could dip our toes into it and get a feel for how Disney World with toddlers is without going ” all in”.
I hope that this guide to Walt Disney World with toddlers (and babies!) helps you plan a reasonable and stress-free trip to the most magical place on Earth!
The Ultimate (Realistic) Guide to Tips for Disney World with Toddlers and Babies
Why take a toddler?
Some of you are probably wondering – why take a toddler to Disney at all? I mean, it’s definitely not a cheap vacation.
Because it’s so stinking fun. And so stinking easy.
Honestly, our first trip I wasn’t sure if Alex would like it. Let’s just say he’s not that kind of person.
But even Alex was brought over to the dark side. Disney is just so easy with a toddler. We’d been to Austin with the boys earlier that year and I can say hands down, it was 1000% more enjoyable.
Not just because it’s so themed with beloved characters. The reality is, it’s made for kids. Which means that every single thing is thought our extremely well with kids in mind. Tantrums are anticipated. Toddler-friendly zones are created. Kid menus are everywhere. Employees are absolutely trained to make little faces smile at every turn. Nothing is easier.
Yes. Disney uses a “Free under 3” rule, meaning that any child under the age of 3 does not need a ticket.
Personally I think Animal Kingdom is the most fun for toddlers for the aspect of the animals. Otherwise, Magic Kingdom is the quintessential park and has tons of rides the whole family can ride.
There are many rides toddlers can ride – just make sure you check the height requirements. They also can watch all of the shows, meet characters, and enjoy play grounds.
Nope! They don’t need to wear it, but I recommend you have them wear it. If they get lost, cast members can use it to identify the child.
Nope. Just the parent who will be riding with the toddler.
Eating in Disney World with Toddlers
Disney obviously offers tons of kids meals at every food location. Even places off-site offer kids options since most establishments assume there will be some tourists. If you’re at a Disney spot, the menu will show you “Disney Check Meals” which are the kid’s menus that meet Disney nutrition guidelines if you choose no substitutions. Most come with apples or grapes and either milk or water.
I’m going to be pretty blunt here. We ordered that once before realizing it was a bust. On average, they were bland options like grilled chicken or shrimp skewers with carrot sticks. I’m all for eating healthy, but I’m also a big believer that there is a time and a place for everything.
We struggled with homesickness for a few nights. Because of this, we decided that just getting Ryan comfortable and eating a good meal was more important.
I knew he’d eat tortellini quicker than I could convince him to eat a grilled chicken breast and carrot sticks. So, we would order that. Ideal? Probably not. But we have plenty of time to eat healthy when we get home.
Also, putting ourselves in control of his snacks made me feel better about that decision. Which brings me to my next point…
Bring snacks from home.
Lots of them. I always venture on the side of too many. This is especially true if you’re driving. Nothing is worse than a hangry toddler.
This serves a few purposes.
- You’ll be saving money. It’s no secret that Disney can be pricey and one of the biggest expenses is food.
- The snacks they will really want in the parks aren’t the healthiest. You can bring your own food into the parks, so plan ahead and toss some food into your bag.
- Food from home is familiar. The fact that your toddler is being served snacks
at home is comforting. This might help to ease homesickness in they’snormally eat littles.
- Kiddos + extra sun + excitement + walking a LOT = extra hungry. Extra hungry + kiddos who may or may not skip their nap from excitement + over-stimulation = Hangry. Hangry + the inability to give them something to eat right.this.second = a really, really bad place to be in. <– mom math for ya. Don’t race around the parks looking for a snack and/or waiting on a long line to buy it. It’s just bad. You want to have food on hand for your kids at any given moment.
Here are some ideas of snacks that would be great to pack:
- granola bars
- pea crisps
- fruit and veggie pouches
- fresh fruit (apples and bananas travel well)
- individual bags of snacks
- homemade options that travel well, like these healthy cookie recipes.
Nursing in Disney World
So, about nursing. It’s obviously different for everyone. I have little to no shame when it comes to nursing in public. Mostly because 3/4 of the reason I nursed my kids was that it’s way easier for me to nurse than make a bottle.
If you’re like me, here are some tips:
- If you nurse to sleep, try a carrier.
We have the Ergo 360, and I nursed Owen in it in
Definitely experiment nursing in a carrier before you leave. While it’s much easier than you might think, it does take some practice.
- Put sunscreen on your breasts.
Like, all of them. SOMETHING I DIDN’T THINK OF. After our first sunny day, I came home to realize that the underside of my boobs
Nursing in Baby Care Centers
The Baby Care Centers are in each park and have private nursing rooms with rocking chairs. They also offer real changing tables, highchairs, microwaves, places for baby to roam, and backups of essentials you can buy.
I thought this was SO cool and so baby and mom-friendly. The only downer is that there is only one per park. They are towards the entrance. So, depending on how often your kiddo nurse it could get super annoying having to go back and forth.
Strollers at Disney World
Spoiler alert: we didn’t bring a stroller.
We have a huge BOB that Ryan refuses to go into. I had no desire to pack it because it’s huge. So, we figured we would carry Ryan as needed and wear Owen.
Long story short, Owen got a heat rash in the carrier from teething and drool. So I left the carrier at the hotel the second day and we rented a stroller.
Here’s the down low on the rented strollers in Disney – they’re not the comfiest strollers in existence. They’re the kind that
Cost of renting a stroller
A single cost $15 a day for a one-time shot. If you’re pre-buying multiple days, it’s $13 a day.
A double was $31 a day and $28 for multiple. We went with a single and just switched out kids as needed. If you can bear it, do that since they’re bulky and hard to navigate. But they did the job and for that I am thankful.
We did look in a few of the park stores to try and find a cheap umbrella stroll to buy. Each was about $50 and I knew Target had them for $20, so that was a no.
Next time, we’ll either bring our single BOB or buy a cheap double umbrella stroller.
Changing a Diaper in Disney World
Our first day there, I stuck to changing the boys at the Baby Care Station. Seriously, the place is amazing.
The changing tables are actual, padded changing tables you have at home and there is an attendant there overseeing everything. They have
It’s super chill and calm and if you forget some diapers or wipes you can buy them.
Heads up, the baby care centers are sponsored by Huggies so everything there is obviously Huggies brand. Also, it’s not cheap. The pack of diapers I bought (12
That being said, the normal bathrooms have a changing station as well. It’s definitely not as nice and it’s just a normal bathroom changing table. But they are much more frequent.
Tips for Park at Disney World with Toddlers
If you have the luxury of being able to travel any time of year, I’d suggest traveling in the ‘off season’. Not only are hotels cheaper, but you will have smaller crowds to endure. This is definitely ideal with toddlers and babies.
We traveled down to Florida the last full week of January. A few people did tell us that the hotels were ‘unseasonably’ booked up but we found the crowds tolerable. Also, the weather a total treat considering the hottest day was 80 and NJ was hovering in the
From my research, January-March seems to be the least busy times for Disney World.
We’ve also been the first week after Labor Day and it was so empty, which was AMAZING.
Tips for Timing your Day
When traveling anywhere with littles, the timing of your day is so important. If you have kids who need to nap in a crib at a specific time each day, you need to make sure that you’re in your hotel room at that time.
Seriously, don’t mess with it – it just leads to grumpy kids and stressed out parents. If there is anything you take from this post it is this:
Leave the parks as soon as your kids start to look worn out.
Disney World with toddlers will take a lot out of everyone. It’s exhausting. Keep in mind that your kids might need earlier naps or more ‘down time’.
I suggest getting to the parks as they open – rides will be less packed, your kids will have full bellies. Plus, the temperature will be lower. Don’t worry about staying the whole day.
Seriously, by 1 PM each day we were ready to head back to the hotel and relax. Remember that you can return later in the day – your park passes are good for the entire day.
Disney World Rides with Toddlers
Look, the reality is that a lot of the ‘cool’ rides are going to be for kiddos taller than a toddler. Roller coasters and log flumes, for the most part, are not toddler-friendly.
That being said, there are a bunch of rides that have no height limit and that the whole family can even ride on at once. For example, the classic It’s a Small World. This article from best of Orlando has a list of height
With that in mind, instead of choosing every single ride you can, go into each park with your ‘must sees’. 3-4 ride or attractions that you’d be bummed if you didn’t get on them. T
This helps create reasonable expectations (remember, chances are your kids are going to burn out quicker than you expect) and ensure that you’ll leave satisfied. It
We went to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot while we were there, and here were mine:
MAGIC KINGDOM Rides for Toddlers
- It’s a Small World
ANIMAL KINGDOM Rides for Toddlers
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- The Dinosaur playground area
- the Petting Zoo in Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Lion King Live Show
EPCOT Rides for Toddlers
- The Finding Nemo Ride
- the Aquarium
If push came to shove, I might switch out Hollywood Studios with Epcot with littles just
We went to Hollywood Studios recently and were able to do character meets for a ton of Disney Jr. Friends. Epcot was a last minute decision and more for the parents than the kiddos.
It’s also good to note that a lot of the time we also saw rides as ‘breaks’. We took a ride on the Riverboat in
Each ride is a small opportunity to get the kids distracted and off their feet. It also gives Mom and Dad the chance to not stand while holding
Make sure you set up your tickets with your My Disney Experience account. Using this, you can get Fastpasses for popular rides and shows up to 60 days in advance.
You can choose up to three at a time and essentially pre-select your ride time. The best part is once you use a Fast Pass, you can go on the app while in the parks and select another. This is a great way to avoid waiting in lines.
Generally speaking, you should download the My Disney Experience App. You can manage your reservations, Fastpasses, tickets. It also has a Google Maps style guide for each park that will direct you to a specific store, ride, attraction, or restaurant. Also, it shows you how long it will take to talk there AND the estimated wait time. It’s pretty awesome. It will also let you know the nearest bathroom or baby care center.
All of these tips about rides to say: if I were to do it all over again, we would probably stick to shows for Ryan.
Rides are fun and whatnot, but at 2.5 he was much more enamored and drawn in by the shows. For the most part, he loved the rides until he was ON them, cried the whole way through and then wanted to go back on. So there’s that.
My suggestion: pick a ride in each park you’ll go to and then stick to shows. Supplement with any other super fun, no-line rides you find.
Also, if you’re in
Other Tips for Disney World with Toddlers:
I know I’ve read about buying Disney themed toys and shirts and secretly packing them. Then, give to your kids while on vacation as souvenirs which I think is genius. But only if you have kids that will ask for something.
Any souvenirs we bought the boys were truly more for my benefit than theirs. There really is something awesome about getting your kid a small
We ended getting Ryan a pack of diecast Disney Transportation buse.. For reference, a pack of 3 buses about the size of a normal Matchbox car or something similar was $15.
We totally skipped getting Owen something. There also is a Walmart closeby with a HUGE Disney souvenir section. But honestly, toddlers don’t care! Save your money, in my opinion.
Now, I’m super weird with water, so I thought it was just me. But I did ask Alex and did a quick Google. Turns out, the consensus is that the tap water at the resorts is horrific.
I HIGHLY suggest either bringing water with you or stopping to grab a case of water. Seriously, it’s not good. The tap water in restaurants isn’t bad since it’s filtered, but if you tend to rely on tap water in hotel rooms, come prepared.
Speaking of which, there are fun cups you can buy at the resorts for about $17, and get free refills for your stay.
If you plan to get a good amount of fountain drinks, juice, or COFFEE, it’s a good deal. I didn’t since I knew I would only get coffee and only in the mornings, but it’s a good choice. I think next time we go I’ll grab one for morning coffee and then afternoon juice for the boys.
In the same vein, the only iced coffee that is offered throughout the parks is ridiculously sweet – like sugar water. Near the entrance of the parks (
Character meals are SO cool – I mean, dining with Mickey Mouse!! But they are pricey and from what I understand they’re mostly buffets. From what I saw, they cost $35-50 for each adult and if you’re not a buffet fan (read: Alex) that’s a ton of money. But if your kids enjoy it, I don’t think it could get much cooler.
BUT! Before you commit, have your kids meet a character and gauge their reaction before taking the plunge. Little kids scare easily, and it would really stink to make reservations and then have everyone be miserable.
Yes, you’ll be able to better tailor reservations around your day if you make them far in advance. But who cares if you’re spending $200+ once you factor in kids, drinks, and tip for your kids to eat a waffle in tears. Personally, I think character breakfasts might just (for our family, at least) be something for preschoolers and up.
Where to stay with toddlers
Where to stay. That’s the real question, yes? Obviously, stay wherever your budget allows!
Disney resorts are nice for a bunch of reasons. They have food that is kid friendly, they offer transportation to all of the parks for free, and they’re very understanding of traveling with kids. Disney has a few different ‘tiers’ to fit your budget, but here is the mindset we used:
Take the money you would have spent by jamming in a park each day and add it to your hotel budget. Stay at a slightly nicer hotel with cool amenities and spend a day or two at the hotel, not in the parks.
We did a ‘pool’ day at Wilderness Lodge which was amazing. They had a splash pad/mini waterpark which may have been the highlight of Ryan’s trip.
Two nights we spent at the Animal kingdom Lodge which in and of itself is an amazing experience. Waking up to giraffes and zebras is probably up there on the top 10 experiences of my life. Scope out Hotels.com and other travel booking sites to get the best deals.
All of our rooms were $100 or
If you have the foresight to plan your trip out, you might want to look into their money-saving packages. They include
Like I stated earlier, I think a park every single day with littles is just a bad choice and setting yourself up for stress and tantrums. But it could be a great option for someone who doesn’t feel like a half day in a park is enough. (PS it’s not, we missed a ton in
A final word on Disney with Toddlers
If there’s one suggestion I can give you for a trip to Walt Disney World with toddlers and babies, it’s this.
Do not go into with crazy high expectations and go with the flow.
Your kid might cry in utter fear the second he sees a character. They might be worn out by 11 am and need to head back to the hotel. It might be too cold, too hot, or too rainy. All of the rides might have 60+ minute-long waits.
It’s fine. You’re in a magical place. It’s amazing. Just roll with it.
The moments that you’ll hold onto the hardest might not be the exact ones you thought they would be. You might go home remembering how he finally warmed up to petting goats, or how enamored he was when he watched a semi-creepy animatronic bird show.
Try to go into it with an open mind and a blank agenda.
Remember that while you’re spending a pretty penny, you’re there for the kids. Don’t push them too hard or long. Your memories will be tainted by exhausted and cranky kids and overwhelmed and stressed parents.
If you can’t justify or stomach the idea of spending all of that money and not doing ~all the things~ (which I TOTALLY GET.) it might be a better idea to wait a couple of years for your kiddos to grow up a little. That way you can amp up the excitement, plan and schedule your day, and your kids will have more endurance.
Again, this isn’t to say that a trip to Disney World with toddlers and babies shouldn’t be done. Just that you might want to take a second to evaluate the kind of trip you want before booking your ticket.
All in all, going to Walt Disney World with toddlers was a magical experience that I would definitely do again. I 100% recommend others to do it – so long as they do it smart.
Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed and keep the KIDS and their limits in mind. You’ll have a wonderful time and an experience you’ll never forget..
Okay so tell me: Disney with toddlers and babies – yay or nay? What are your best Disney tips? Let me know in the comments!
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Heather @ Polyglot Jot says
Wow thank you for putting this together. I consider myself a semi-Disney expert but not with traveling with little ones! I will definitely be saving this for later when I take my little one there! <3
It was such a great trip and once we agreed tot ake it easy, it was so much fun. I definitely think you just gotta do it once at least!
Hi mama! Did you go back for naps or were they able to nap in the strollers?
Both! The baby napped in the stroller around 10/1030 AM. Both of them passed out on us on the ride back to our hotel around 12/1230. It really depends on how your kids nap. Mine are terrible nappers, so even now (they’re almost 3 and 5 now) we leave around noon/1 when they start getting tired. Personally, I don’t believe it’s worth it to push toddlers past their energy limit while at Disney. So we plan half days.
I took my 2.5yo and 5-month old to Disney in June 2017 and it was awesome. My 2.5yo had stopped napping the day her sister was born and the baby was well versed in sleeping in the carrier, so we stayed until about 3pm each day, then headed back to the hotel to chill.
I would second the suggestions to go for shows – my kids both swayed to all the music! Also, letting the kids lead is really important to a good trip. The only tantrum we had the entire trip was when my daughter had to wait in line to go back on Prince Charming’s Carrousel. Seriously, that was her favorite ride of the entire trip – not what I would have guessed.
I would disagree about the character meals. If you don’t make any reservations for day one, you can cancel without any fee, so why not make reservations you think your kids will like and cancel if they end up freaked out by characters. Also, furry characters and face characters may elicit different responses. Fortunately, my kids loved both – I have a great photo of my 5mo petting Winnie the Pooh on the nose!
Thanks for this post! We are planning another trip for this summer and this was a good reminder for things to think about!
Katie at Pages & Puddles says
Thanks so much for all the tips! We are doing DW this summer because my husband’s family decided to do a little reunion there. DW with an under 2 in the summer… going against everything I ever said I wanted to do! But I’ve been trying to keep this same attitude in mind. Glad to know it can be enjoyable!