Article written by: Rusty30 (updated by HAL)
Are you Mad?
You are really considering taking your baby or small child to Disney World? ! Surely you cant take kids till they are at least 8! This is a common response from the uninitiated but don't let it put you off! Taking little ones to Disney World really can be a doddle and not only will they love it (no matter how small) you will have a lifetime of memories to cherish forever.
The key to any foray into the land of the Mouse with teeny ones, is PREPARATION & FLEXIBILITY. With these two commandments firmly in place, your trip should be a success! If you are reading this, then you have already taken the first step at achieving goal one - Preparation! Flights
It all starts with booking your flight. You are not required to purchase a seat for children under 2 - they can travel on your lap. Given the duration of the flight, if you choose not to purchase a seatconsider requesting a "Sky-Cot" or "Basinette". In most cases, the Sky Cot is simply a box placed on a large tray in front of the bulkhead seats. Different airlines have different rules. British Airways allows Sky-Cots for babies under 2. Virgin restricts it to babies under 1. Baby can sleep snugly in this, whilst the parents enjoy the perks of the extra 10" of legroom in the bulkhead seats! Bad news is, that during take off, landing and turbulence, baby will have to be on your laps. It is, of course inevitable, that the second baby falls asleep in his Sky Cot and as you are tuning into the movie channel, the aircraft will launch into a patch of turbulence, so be prepared for this!
It is worth noting, that as well as a Sky-Cot British Airways also have a baby seat design, which is generally considered more comfortable than the 'shoe box' style for day time flights. It still fits onto the bulkhead tray as the 'box' but allows the child a little more comfort, even if awake. This is very good for older, or bigger babies and maybe worth taking into account when looking for flights.
Remember, you won't automatically be allocated a Sky Cot, you will need to call the airline direct to arrange it, or get your Travel Agent to add it to your requests at the time of booking. It is always worth a call on the day before you fly, to check that you are definitely allocated a Sky Cot.
Most airlines will carry all infants under 2 for 10% of the adult fare (+taxes). However, this does not buy them a seat. If you can not book a Sky-Cot, you have to decide whether you are happy with a toddler on your lap for 9 hours, or do you bite the bullet and pay for a seat for them.
The other option is to sweat it out, and hope that there are empty seats on your flight and that a kindly check in person will take pity on you and allocate you a seat next to one. Be warned, this is risky and not recommended unless flying very off peak and even then its still a gamble.
Most parents will opt to buy junior a seat, but if your budget simply wont stretch then you can make the best of it. Ask for an aisle seat, as it will be easier to manoeuvre here than if you are packed into a middle or window seat. You are encouraged to move around the aircraft much more these days, so make plenty of walkabouts and tours of the facilities (even the toilets become interesting after 9 hours!). Its nice to stand at the exit doors and look out of the windows kids of all ages can spend hours doing this! Of course, keep plenty of goodies at hand as well (more on this later).
For small children aged under 3, Virgin can provide a larger 'car seat' style insert which fits onto a normal airline seat. You will only be able to request this if you have paid for a seat for your toddler. It is ideal if you have a boisterous child or one who is liable to 'fiddle' with the lap belt buckle. The insert has a 5 point harness which keeps them more secure on take off and landing.
Some airlines will allow you to take your own car seat into the cabin, but rules vary widely and are complicated. Each airline would need to be contacted individually to ascertain if your seat was allowed. Again, you would have had to purchase a seat for the child to allow your car seat to be used.
Babies tend to fare well on flights, as the drone of the engine acts as a natural 'sleep aid' - much the same as car journey ' and it's not unusual for them to sleep through most of the way. You will need to be prepared with bottles of formula / juice / water on take off and landing, as this will help the pressure on their little ears.
Most airlines will happily warm bottles for you or heat up baby jars of food (though ask for it well in advance of needing it, as it can take awhile for them to come back with it! ). Keep things simple and take cartons of ready made formula that you can simply pour into a bottle when needed. You can bring baby formula into the USA, so if your baby is keen on a particular brand (the brands are completely different in the States) it is best to bring your own. The main USA brand is 'Similac' and it is very close to our SMA brand here in the UK. It is available in ready made cartons or powder, just like at home. They do not sell the 'handy size' ready made carton though, only the litre size, so if you want those for the parks, you will need to bring them along. The individual sachets are a good compromise and much lighter on the packing!
Bring enough formula / food / nappies to cover you for any delays that you may experience. 5 nappies might sound enough ' but what if you are 8 hours late taking off' Think the worst, prepare for the worst, then chances are it'll never happen!
Most baby jars are allowed into the States EXCEPT those containing meat products, so choose carefully. There is, as you would expect, a huge range of baby food available in all varieties, so you should be able to stock up easily on arrival.
Nappies (diapers) are available in the same brands as at home ' Pampers baby dry and active fits and the full range of Huggies, plus supermarket own brands. They aren't any cheaper than at home though, so its worth bringing at least some with you! Our American cousins have yet to discover the wonder of the 'Nappy Sack' so be advised to take a full supply with you if you use them! Wipes and all other accessories are available in abundance.
Keeping Toddlers Amused On A 9 Hour Flight
This is your first major challenge of the trip, and to be honest, if you can get through this bit, everything else is a breeze!
A tried and tested method which rarely fails, is the 'Goody Bag'. In this bag, the forward thinking parent (that's you!) will wrap 9 small presents. These can be anything, from simple gifts like crayons and puzzles to Gameboys and CD players (if you are the extravagant sort!). Here is a list of ideas that don't cost the earth and should buy you at least an hour of peace!
Fuzzy Felts, Plasticene or Play Doh, small Lego kits, magic scribblers, threading beads, Top Trumps, comics, stamping sets, Magnetic building sticks, sticker books, travel games, small tub of plastic animals, mini dress up dollies, mini spirograph, flashcards, coloured paper and glittery pens, pom pom kit, game of snap, finger puppets, lacing cards, lift the flap books, pipe cleaners (to make all sorts of creations!), 'make a scene' sticker sets, origami book and paper, slot together 3D puzzles (available in Dinosaurs and Zoo animals), face crayons ' NOT PAINTS! (if you don't mind some messy fingers ' and crayoning the faces of the rest of the kids on your flight! ).
Early Learning has a good range of 'pocket money' toys which are ideal for your goody bag and nothing costs over $3.
For older children a personal CD / Tape player with story tapes can be an excellent idea to while away the hours. Keep a supply of new tapes / CDs that you can produce to keep them amused!
The idea is to produce one of these gifts an hour, though in reality the first few hours seem to pass by quite quickly ' the excitement of boarding combined with the meal, which is usually served quite soon into the flight, usually means its not until hour 3 that the goody bag may need to come out! Keep them plied with toys in the 'boring' middle section of the flight ' you should have enough to produce one every 45 mins or so if you do 9.
Your other trump card is your 'nibble bag'. Even though you might never let a Wotsit, a Lunchable or a Fruit Shoot pass the lips of your child on a daily basis, these can be used to great effect to placate a bored or stroppy toddler on a 9 hour flight!
It is obviously not a good idea to ply them with sugary or salty food for 9 hours solid, but some 'naughty treats' combined with a variety of healthy snacks can be used to your great advantage. Toddlers can sit surprisingly still if clutching a packet of Quavers or some Dolly Mixtures'very handy if you are struggling to put their seat belt on as you are about to land. Many a toddler meltdown situation can be diffused with a hasty offering of sneaky treats!
Some items to include in your 'Nibble Bag' boxes of raisins, Cheerio's, crackers, breadsticks, Satsuma's, bag of grapes, carrot sticks, cubes of cheese, small bags of sweets, crisps, rice cakes etc.
You will obviously need to customise your bag to suit the tastes of your toddler, but a good mix of treats and healthy nibbles is ideal. Not all children will like what they are offered on their 'kids meal' so it is prudent to take some small sandwiches, fruit etc to make them a meal if needed. Remember though, you cannot take any fruit, dairy or meat products into the States ' so any uneaten bananas or ham sandwiches will have to stay on the plane.
Most Kids Meals do need to booked in advance, so if you need one for your child make sure you (or your Travel Agent) has made the request. Asking at Check In is too late! Remember to book the meal for the return flight as well!
Some airlines offer entertainment especially for children on board. This can include a basic goody bag (though this is not a replacement for the one you should bring yourself!) and some kids TV or film entertainment. Virgin have the 'VTOTS' channel which shows favourites like Balamory, Thomas The Tank Engine, Kipper and Postman Pat amongst others, There is usually at least one Disney movie on offer as well.
If you are travelling with a carrier that does not offer 'seat back' TVs you may want to consider bringing your own portable DVD player and a selection of DVDs that your child may enjoy. These devices can be bought for less than $100 now, so it could be an investment worth making.
You cannot expect even the most angelic toddler to remain seated for 9 hours, so keep them active with plenty of strolls around the aircraft. It maybe stating the obvious, but remain with your child at all times ' even though there is 'nowhere for them to go' there are perils such as the hot ovens in the galley, small items for them to pick up and choke on etc etc. You may think its cute when your 3 year old secretly raids your bag and paints his face with your lippy, but the lady in aisle 3 probably wont! Keep them well supervised as you would in any crowded environment.
You've Made It To Orlando'Now What
This bit can be stressful, so forewarned is forearmed. Everyone is going to be tired when the get off the plane. There is a fairly long walk to Immigration, whether you land at the big airport in Orlando (MCO) or the smaller charter airport (Sanford). At this time you wont have back your buggy, so baby will need to be carried, along with your hand luggage. It is wise to make a rucksack your item of hand luggage as it can slip on your back and you have hands free to hold a toddlers hand or carry your baby. A sling is invaluable if you have a young baby here. For some strange reason, this part of the terminal seems to be the only building in Florida that does not have air conditioning, so its useful to keep a can of 'Magicool' spray handy, to cool down grumpy, hot wee ones (and adults!).
After clearing immigration, you will collect your bags and your buggy. Be warned that the buggies usually do not come out on the carousel. You will usually find them in a big heap somewhere nearby. They are normally one of the first things off, so pick it up before your luggage and you can safely strap junior in and collect your bags in relative calm.
TIP: Watch out if it has been raining, as its not unusual for your buggy to come back soaked. Be prepared and keep an empty plastic bag handy to put down on the seat just in case.
Chances are, you will have hired a car in Orlando. If this is the case you will need to think carefully about car seats. Most rental firms will hire you one for approx $7 a day + tax, which over the course of a 2 week holiday, is actually more than a brand new car seat would cost! Also, the quality of the seats provided by the car rental firms is dubious. The seats are often dirty and poorly fitted and it is becoming more and more common to bring your own with you.
Most airlines let you carry your child seats as an extra to your baggage allowance. All the scheduled carriers (Virgin, BA etc) allow this. Charter companies like Travel City, MyTravel and First Choice all have different rules, so check before you fly.
TIP: Do not pack your car seats in black bags, as the baggage handlers cannot see what is inside, use a see through one. Virgin provides clear bags and packing tape for you to wrap your seats. Clear bags mean the baggage handlers will be able to see it is a car seat, and treat it with more care'well, that's the idea anyway!
The law in Florida regarding child safety seats is stricter than at home. All children 5 years of age or younger must be properly restrained no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. Children through age 3 must be secured in a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child safety seat. For children aged 4 through 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt may be used. (FL Statute 316.613). These can be bought cheaply enough for around $30 at Argos, Halfords etc etc. If you decide to buy a seat whilst you are there, then remember you will still need to hire one for your journey from the airport, but it can be returned the next day. Most hire companies have offices on International Drive and the Kissimmee area to save you going back to the airport.
Your Hotel / Resort / Villa
When you book your holiday, you are usually able to make 'room requests' and with babies or small children there are several things you will need to ask for.
Although all hotels will almost certainly provide a cot (or crib as it is known in the USA ' a cot is a kind of camp bed and not suitable for babies!), however they will not usually supply any bedding. Sometimes it will come with a fitted bottom sheet, but it would be prudent to take at least one of your own. You will need to take any other bedding you require for the cot. Baby sleeping bags or Grobags are ideal, as it means you don't have to cart piles of sheets and blankets with you!
You can usually request bed guards for toddlers, but you will need to check that these are available at your particular resort.
If you are renting a villa, check before you book what baby items are available. Many villas offer cots, high chairs, bed guards, stair gates and sometimes even buggies as standard. It is worth shopping around to find a villa which is particularly 'baby friendly' as even renting just a cot for 2 weeks can work out very expensively.
It's a good idea to do a bit of research before you leave, and try to find out which rooms or buildings are particularly suited for guests with small children. If you are staying on site at Disney, then it would be handy to be near the bus stops or lobby. Some hotels are vast, and when returning late at night with a tired toddler, it will be easier for the whole family if your room isn't a 15 minute trek from the bus stop!
A lot of parents find it easier to request a ground floor room to minimise the use of stairs / lifts which can be awkward with buggies.
You can request specific room numbers or building names, but bear in mind they are only a REQUEST.
Most of the big hotels have a laundry where you can wash or dry clothes. Go and have a dip in the pool whilst your washing is being cleaned or dried ' it's a perk of doing laundry on holiday!
Villas always come well equipped with big washers and driers but you will usually need to buy powder and softener.
If you are bringing a very young baby, then it will be vital to have some sort of 'kitchen facilities'. A kettle for boiling water, microwave for sterilising, fridge, sink for washing bottles etc. Bear this in mind when you are booking and choose accordingly. Many hotels offer small suites with these facilities or can provide at least some of them on request in a standard room (extra charges may apply).
UK 240v steam sterilisers will NOT work in the US (even with an adaptor ' they don't heat up enough) so you will need to use either a cold water steriliser, a microwave one or have a look at the latest 'travel steriliser' available at Mothercare. Microwave Sterilising packs are very easy to pack and can be an excellent solution.
You will need to bring sterilising tablets with you if required, as it is rare for American parents to sterilise and the accessories are impossible to find. Bring your own bottle brush and teat cleaners as well.
Do not underestimate this, especially if it is your first trip to the States.
Even if they have a sleep on the flight over, and manage a good few hours on the first night, chances are they will still be up pretty early on day 1 (as will you!). This is great as you can make an early start to the park of your choice, and quickly get into that 'holiday spirit'. However, remember, that if your toddler's UK bedtime is 7pm, then by 2pm Florida they will start to fade. By 4pm they will be desperately grumpy, and by 6pm will probably be done for the day.
If they are fine napping in their stroller, you can probably keep going, but its worth bearing in mind that planning late shows like Wishes or Fantasmic should ideally be kept to later in your trip. Try to keep the first day short. By all means visit a park, but prepare to make it a half day if your toddler stops enjoying himself. You could spend the afternoon back at the hotel round the pool, and then put Junior to bed early evening.
Jet lag can make even the most affable youngster uncharacteristically bad tempered, so be prepared. If you can, get them to nap before lunch, and try to settle them at a US equivalent bed time to home ' it will make the transition easier, but may take a day or two to work. Its common for them to want to have their 'night time' sleep from about 4pm ' try to avoid this if you can by an earlier than normal nap.
Jet lag coupled with excitement can easily make the first few days very fraught if you aren't prepared for it. Don't expect too much of them on the first day or two. Keep things as relaxed as possible, with plenty of 'pool time' and general relaxing, rather than a full out assault on a big park. Animal Kingdom or Sea World are a great choices for a day one park, as neither is too big to be overwhelming, and lot can be done in even a half a day.
Remember, they don't know that this holiday has cost you a fortune, and you can't program under 5s to enjoy themselves! Expect them to be a little grumpy due to the jet lag on those first days, and you can prepare for the worst in advance! Good news is, by day 3 they are usually over it and having a blast!
You Made It! Now What About The Parks!
The journey is over, and you are settled into your accommodation safely! Its now time to have fun!
To make your day go smoothly, pack a small rucksack with your essentials. Since it is almost certain you will have a buggy with you, this can be placed underneath for a good deal of the time, keeping your hands free. If you need to use the buggy for purchases made in the parks, then having a rucksack means it is easier for one of the party to slip it on their backs ' traditional baby bags can be a bit cumbersome for parks and not so easy to carry. Remember, if you are staying at Disney Resort Hotel, then you can get all your park purchases shipped to your hotel, free of charge. Much easier than lugging them round the park all day!
You don't need to take a 'Sherpa Sized' pack with you, as the parks are very well catered for in the baby department. Obviously, bring your essentials like enough nappies, wipes and formula, but you can top up with chilled water, feeding bowls and spoons and access facilities like bottle / food warming in the fantastic 'Baby Care Centres' (more about these later). Other bits you will need with you are a change of clothes, bibs, sun hat and sun cream and possibly some jars of food.
Keep a warm fleece blanket under your buggy, as this can be handy if staying late into the evening when there might be a chill in the air, or for when you are in an air conditioned shop or restaurant. It can be pretty chilly inside after the intense Florida heat!
Toddlers are often keen to carry their own small rucksack on their backs, and you can put in bits like sunglasses, small toddler sized cutlery, wipes and a toy. Do not overload it, as chances are they will want YOU to carry it at some point in the day!
Travel as light as you can after a day or two, you will know exactly how many bottles / nappies etc you will need for a day and your load will lighten as you become more accustomed to the needs of your baby in the parks.
You can also hire a buggy (or stroller as our US friends call them) if you decide not to take your own, or you need a spare for an older sibling. It is well worth hiring a stroller, even for much older children, as the parks are tiring in the heat. Tackling a big park like Epcot with any child younger than 7 without a stroller can be a recipe for disaster!
Strollers can be hired just inside the entrance to all of the parks. You can hire single or double strollers and you will be asked to leave a small deposit when you pay. This is returned to you when you drop the stroller back at the end of the day. Strollers cannot be taken out of a park, however, if you are at Epcot in the morning (for example) and then move to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon, you do not need to pay again. Simply present your receipt at the stroller rental at the next park and you will be given another for free. At present, single strollers are $15 per day and doubles $31 per day. Please note, these Strollers are not suitable for babies or very small children (under 2s).
For Guests who require a stroller rental for multiple days, Disney offers a Length of Stay rental ticket where you make a one-time payment transaction for as many days of rental that you will need. Single-passenger strollers are available for $13.00 per day and double-passenger strollers for $27.00 per day. Upon visiting a Theme Park, simply show your receipt at the stroller rental location and you will be through the queue with little or no wait time.
TIP: 'Rental Stroller Hijacking' is rife at the parks! Often this is a simple mistake, even though each family has their name clearly marked on it, its common for others to simply wheel away the nearest empty stroller! To thwart a would be stroller hijacker, leave a nappy, previously stained with a drop of coffee, cola or chocolate, inside a see through nappy sack and put it on the seat when you leave your stroller to do a ride or attraction. This makes your stroller a very undesirable object and will be left well alone! This REALLY works!
If your rental stroller does get 'accidentally' swiped, you can get a replacement free of charge (on production of your receipt) back at the Stroller Rental counter.
Baby Care Centres
Each of the Disney parks has an excellent facility called a Baby Care Centre. These little gems are an oasis of calm for parents travelling with nappy age children.
Each park has a different sized centre ' Magic Kingdom has a large one, located near to the Crystal Palace restaurant (go to the top of Main St and turn left). Epcot has one which is less convenient - its located a bit out of the way, on the walkway round the lake from Innoventions West to the World Showcase. Presumably, as it's a bit harder to find, this one is usually the quietest of all. The centre at MGM studios is by far the smallest, and located inside the Guest Services centre, to your left as you enter the park. It can be a squeeze in here, so its usually best if just one parent accompanies the child. At Animal Kingdom, you will find the centre located just past the Pizzafari restaurant. This centre is unique, in that it offers private rooms for nursing mothers.
Each centre has the same basic facilities which include a well stocked kitchen, with microwave, sinks, bottle warmers, cooler, food bowls, spoons etc. Chilled water is available as is boiled water. There is a changing area at each centre, well stocked with changing mats, paper towels and bins. The staff remove the paper on each mat after every change, and frequently spray the area with antibacterial spray.
There is also a feeding area with highchairs and a TV, plus comfortable chairs for nursing mothers. For older siblings, there is a TV room showing Disney cartoons, plus toilets.
You can buy all your baby essentials here, including nappies, wipes, formula, bottles, dummies (pacifiers), medicines, baby food, sterile water, bibs and a small selection of clothing. Be warned though, you will pay a premium for any of these items, but its handy if you get caught short!
The Baby Centre's staff are all Disney childcare specialists and can help you with any queries you have about babies and kids at Disney World.
One thing to note, is that strollers are not allowed inside the Baby Care Centre, so be prepared to unload all your belongings on arrival!
Dining With Small Children
Nearly all Disney restaurants, whether they be in a park or at a resort hotel are exceptionally baby and child friendly. The only place where you probably wouldn't be welcomed with open arms when towing in your screaming baby and /or stroppy toddler, would be the very upmarket Victoria & Albert's restaurant at the Grand Floridian. All other eateries, even the more exclusive ones, welcome children of all ages.
High chairs and booster seats are provided and they will warm baby jars for you on request. If your baby is too small for a high chair, then you will usually be allowed to bring the stroller to the table. Ideally, a car seat is perfect and easier to manage if you have a stroller 'travel system'.
There are usually crayons or puzzles provided for toddlers. Some even have paper tablecloths that children can draw on! Others have inventive desserts designed as jigsaw puzzles or Mickey faces.
The children's menu at most Disney restaurants tends to be very 'samey'. The staples are always Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken strips and fries, hot dog or burger and fries and sometimes, for some added variety, pizza! Not exactly inspiring, but you can be creative! They will usually happily let you order a 'half portion' of any adult entré (main course) or let your child share with you. If you want something that is not on the menu ' like a cheese sandwich for example, they will always do their best to provide it. You can swap fries for mashed potatoes and add veggies on the side of any child's meal.
Remember, although most restaurants will gladly let your children share your meal (just ask for spare plates! ) it is courteous to tip a bit more to reflect the cost of the 'missing' child meals. Add an extra dollar or two tip per child onto the usual 15% gratuity.
Buffet restaurants offer the widest choice, and there will be more variety here, including fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta dishes, salads, meats and casseroles. Even the fussiest child can usually find something to eat here!
One bonus with the buffet meals, is that children aged under 3 are free, no matter what they eat, so this can be quite economical if you have a small child that is a big eater!
The Baby Care Centres can often be a nicer place to feed a smaller baby, as you can give them 100% of your attention whilst feeding. If you can time it right, you maybe able to eat your meal whilst baby is napping!
If you are dining with toddlers, it is always a good idea to eat fairly early, before they get too tired and grumpy. You will find you will be made more welcome at the more upmarket restaurants if you choose an early dining time with youngsters. Couples tend to eat after 8pm, before this time, there is more of a family atmosphere which can be nicer for you and your family. There are of course, no hard and fast rules, but it is a tip worth bearing in mind for a less fraught dining experience!
One thing Disney is famous for are all the wonderful characters that star in so many of our favourite movies. One way to meet them 'close up and personal' is at a Character Meal. There are plenty to choose from, however they are very popular, and you would be well advised to book in advance. You can do this from home before you leave by calling 001-407-939-3463 up to 90 days in advance (100 days if you are staying in a Disney Resort Hotel). You can also book on arrival at the podium of ANY restaurant, at Guest Services or by calling the number above (minus the code for the USA (001 once you are there! ). The call is free if you call from any Disney park or hotel phone.
If your child has never met anything 7 foot tall and furry before, you may want to wait till you arrive, before booking a character meal. Some children instantly take to all the characters, whereas others are scared beyond belief. Wait and see how your child is if you are not sure how they will react to them. There are always plenty around the parks, so test the water with these before spending out on a character meal.
Some children prefer the 'talking' characters, like the Princesses or Peter Pan and Aladdin, to the big furry variety like Tigger, Eeyore and Pooh! Don't worry, there are meals that cater for both!
Popular character meals include ' Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort. They serve a buffet breakfast and dinner and the characters usually include : Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald and Chip & Dale.
At the Magic Kingdom, the Crystal Palace serves a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. The characters are all Pooh's friends, so you are likely to meet Pooh himself, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet.
If your child prefers 'talking' characters, then a good option might be 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. They serve a buffet breakfast and dinner. Characters at breakfast generally include Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, the March Hare, Mary Poppins, Pooh and Tigger. At dinner, expect to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, Fairy Godmother and Cinderella's mice friends, Jacques and Gus.
There are many other character meals around the parks and resorts, and its worth researching what ones may appeal to your child.
TIP: If your child has a favourite character that they REALLY want to meet, ask at Guest Services at any park and they will be able to tell you when and where that character will be over the course of the day! Saves hours trying to find Buzz Lightyear or Mickey!
Can My Toddler Do Anything At The Parks'Wont They Be Too Small'
There is plenty for even the smallest visitor to WDW to enjoy! Some of the bigger rides, obviously have height restrictions, which toddlers often don't meet, but rest assured there are hundreds of things they CAN do!
At the Magic Kingdom park, they can enjoy the majority of the attractions, and this park has a special section reserved for little ones ' Mickey's Toon Town Fair. This is lovely area, housing Goofy's Barnstormer Rollercoaster ' a mini coaster, usually suitable for 2 year olds and up. There is also Donalds boat to scramble over and play on, you can explore Mickey and Minnie's houses and meet lots of your favourite characters in the Hall Of Fame. The Walt Disney World Railroad has a stop here, and it is the perfect way to arrive or depart!
Other top toddler attractions at the Magic Kingdom are It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Adventures Of Pooh, the Carousel, Dumbo, Country Bears Jamboree, Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Aladdin's Flying Carpets, Enchanted Tiki Room, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Jungle Cruise, Indy Speedway, Story Time With Belle, Ariel's Grotto, Liberty Belle Riverboat, Tom Sawyer Island plus of course the parades, shows and fireworks. Your toddler wont have much time to get bored here!
There are few attractions which may or may not be suitable for little ones. As a parent or carer, you may need to ride these first to ascertain their suitability for your child. These would include Snow White's Scary Adventures (not that scary, but some toddlers find it very frightening). Mickey's Philharmagic ' a truly enchanting 3D show, but the 3D effects often scare children intently. TIP: They can watch all the 3D shows WITHOUT the 3D glassed and can still enjoy much of it without being so scared! Stitch's Great Escape ' a very dark experience that most small children will probably find too intense. Astro Orbiters'a fairly tame Dumbo- esque ride, but quite high up which may alarm little ones. Pirates Of The Caribbean ' many kids LOVE this, but it is pretty dark, so you may need to reassure your child before you ride. There are no big drops to worry about on this ride. The Haunted Mansion ' a fun ride, but it maybe just too much for some under 5s.
Sometimes, the simplest thing can enchant your child, and you should endeavour to proceed slowly so they can enjoy all the new sights, sounds and smells. The balloon seller is a big favourite with the children as are the character shaped topiaries and water fountains.
Disney's Animal Kingdom park is often a big hit with toddlers. There aren't nearly so many attractions here as at the Magic Kingdom, but there is wonderful theming, plenty of character meeting opportunities, as well as a fantastic parade and a HUGE kids play area.
Things your toddler will not want to miss will include'Triceratops Spin, Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, Festival of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro Safari, Conservation Station & Affection Section, Flights Of Wonder, Maharajah Jungle Trek, plus the truly awesome kids play area, the Boneyard. They will also enjoy spotting the animals and birds as they walk through 'The Oasis' at the front of the park, picking out all the animal carvings in the Tree Of Life and the fantastic character meets at Camp Minnie Mickey.
There are a couple of attractions here, that also may need a parent to sample first before taking a small child on. The first, is the 3D show 'Its Tough To Be A Bug' .This is quite a frightening show which can have toddlers and their parents leaving in droves after only a few seconds. This one really needs to be thought about before taking a toddler in. It can absolutely terrify some kids (and grown ups! ) and is probably best left unless you REALLY think they would enjoy it.
Second, is the Kali River Rapids. With a height restriction of 38", quite a few under 5s will make the requirement, but make sure the child understands they could get VERY VERY wet! No, make that SOAKED!
Something else you kids may enjoy here is the Rainforest Café ²estaurant, located at the entrance to the park. It is beautifully themed, with so much to see. It can be noisy though, so take your child to have a look first before you commit to a meal! You can clearly see the restaurant from the shop area, so go and have a looky see to ascertain whether they will enjoy it or not. There is a 'thunderstorm' simulation that runs every 15 minutes or so, and this can scare small children as can the animal noises. Most though, are so thrilled with the theming, that they cant wait to eat here!
Disney MGM Studios is always a favourite with smaller guests as they get to meet a lot of their favourite friends from the popular 'Playhouse Disney' Channel.
Without doubt, the top attraction for under 5s here has got to be 'Playhouse Disney Live On Stage'! Here, toddlers get to dance and sing along with Bear In The Big Blue House and his friends, plus Rolie Polie Olie, Stanley and friends from the Book Of Pooh. There is music and dancing, bubbles and streamers ' it's the very best attraction for little ones. Even very small babies enjoy this show!
Other favourites at the Studios, are Beauty And The Beast Live, Muppets 3D, Voyage Of The Little Mermaid, Honey I Shrunk The Kids play area, Indiana Jones Stunt show (a few loud bangs, but most pre-schoolers love this!) and the all new Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt show!
The fantastic 'Stars And Motor Cars' parade happens daily and features favourite characters from all your top Disney movies and more! Prepare to meet Aladdin and Jasmine, Snow White, Monsters Inc, all your Toy Story heroes, Playhouse Disney friends including JoJo and Goliath, Muppets and Star Wars heroes and villains plus many, many more. This is usually rated as a toddler's top parade as they recognise so many characters in it!
There are some fantastic 'Character meets' available here. The most popular are the Toy Story gang, who appear regularly outside Al's Toy Barn. Here you can get a photo with Buzz, Woody and Jessie, but be prepared for a bit of a wait ' this is very popular with the kids!
You can also meet Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc, Tigger, Pooh and Eeyore have trailers from which they regularly emerge. JoJo and Goliath can be found signing autographs near Playhouse Disney at certain times of the day, and mornings in front of the 'big Mickey Hat' see a large selection of characters out and about.
Attractions you may need to 'vet' here will include the Backlot Tour ' quite long and can be dull for little kids. Has one moment of 'peril' in the middle which could cause young uns to become frightened. The Great Movie Ride isn't geared to small children, but they may enjoy it ' there are a few dark areas (the 'Alien' set is quite intense) and some loud bangs. Worth trying out in advance if you can. Lastly, Disney's MGM studios plays host to a truly spectacular fireworks extravaganza every evening (weather permitting) - Fantasmic. Most children love it all, but be warned there are a few 'scary parts' in this. Its very much worth doing if you can, but be prepared for a few moments when they might want to hide their eyes!
Lastly, we come to Epcot, the biggest of the parks and often considered 'not suitable' for small children. This is not the case, but Epcot does require a little more effort than some of its rival parks to get the most from. Given some preparation and research, you can make Epcot a fantastic day out for your toddler.
The first thing to consider when tackling Epcot is that it is BIG. If your trip allows, allocate at least two days here. On your first day, aim to cover the 'Innoventions areas' and on day two, visit the World Showcase.
Your first stop should be the Living Seas exhibit, which is sure to please even the smallest member of your family. Here, you can see 'Nemo's friends' ' several tanks full of the species of fish seen in the movie 'Finding Nemo'. Have your photo taken inside the jaws of Bruce the shark and go and visit Crush in a new and must do interactive attraction ' Turtle Talk With Crush.
There are dolphins, sharks, manatees and thousands of varieties of marine creatures on display here ' it is always a hit with kids large and small.
Inside the two Innoventions Pavilions, there are many interactive displays and games. Everything is rotated frequently, so you never know exactly what might be in store. There is usually a varied mix of exhibits, many of which can be enjoyed by very small children. Recent attractions have included a 'crawl through bug tunnel', dance mats, computer games, 'house of tomorrow' and fun hands on experiments!
One of Epcot's biggest hits with kids, are the huge musical, dancing fountains. They light up at night to make them even more spectacular. Babies, toddlers, teens and adults are mesmerised by these and you can spend an easy 10 -15 minutes watching them! Excellent if you need a sit down break! Also around this area, try to spot the talking trash cans! Kids are enthralled that they got to chat with a bin on holiday, and it's often a highlight of their trip! Look for them around Innoventions West.
Another hugely popular feature at Epcot are the 'Magic Water fountains' which lure every child from every corner of the park to play in! Be prepared and have spare clothes and a towel ready after your child has discovered this little gem!
The Land Pavilion contains an interesting boat ride around Epcot's own greenhouses and takes you on a journey through America's agricultural history. The strong environmental message will be lost on little ones, but they are sure to love the Mickey shaped vegetables growing here!
In the Sunshine Season Food Court, your budding Jamie Oliver can have a go at cooking with some of the chefs here. This happens throughout the day, and a board will let you know when the next session is due to start. Lots of fun, but popular, so get in line early to get a spot!
The Imagination Pavilion contains a big toddler favourite, Journey Into The Imagination with Figment (a very cute purple dragon). This gentle ride is always a big hit with under 5s and they are sure to want a cuddly Figment from the gift shop afterwards, so be warned! Also here is the fun Kodak Labs where you can email photos home and your kids can add allsorts of fun embellishments to your pictures.
Rides and attractions that you will need to think about in this part of Epcot, would be Honey I Shrunk The Audience 3D show. Lots of fun, but there are one or two moments that are pretty scary. Get one of your party to check it out first if you can.
Epcot has several attractions that consist of quite long presentations and can be a trigger to start a toddler tantrum as they can get bored quickly. These would include The Circle Life, Ellen's Energy Adventure (beware dinosaurs and no escape once its started!), Making Of Me, Body Wars and Cranium Command. It could be your toddler will love any one of them, but it would be a good idea to be well informed about the length and nature of the attraction before you ride. The Cast Members that staff each attraction will be able to help you out here.
At intervals throughout the day, the Character Bus will appear and unload lots of Disney friends. This happens in front of the lake on the Innoventions side. Mickey and Minnie are nearly always on board, plus other favourites like Donald & Daisy, Pluto, Goofy, Chip & Dale and Baloo.
The World Showcase is the part of Epcot that COULD be a challenge with a small child, however there are things you can do to make their day fun.
Whichever pavilion you start in, make sure you find the 'Kidcot' stand. Here, your child can pick up a free 'mask' and can decorate and add to it at every country around the World Showcase. This is a fantastic idea, and even really little ones thoroughly enjoy themselves with this. For older ones, you can buy a little passport which can be stamped in each country. Something else you could do here, is collect the 'pressed pennies' from the machines (they are all over WDW but its quite good to start a collection here). It costs 51 cents a time and children love to go and hunt for the machines.
Assuming you are moving in a clockwise direction around the 'countries' (it doesn't make an awful lot of difference what way you go) you will start off in Mexico. This one is a breeze, as there is a charming little boat ride (very similar to 'It's a Small World, but without the song!) which will start your day off brilliantly.
Next up is Norway. There is a ride here (Maelstrom), which you can possibly take your toddler on, but it does include a drop and is dark and stormy, so be prepared. If they don't fancy that, then outside the pavilion is a huge Viking long boat, specially designed for little ones to scramble over. This is great if the adults in the party fancy a sit down with a drink!
China is next and the attraction here is a 360 degree film presentation. It is a little long, so you may want to let adults see this in turn and keep your child amused at the Kidcot station or the Viking ship next door! Throughout the day, Chinese acrobats perform and they are a big hit with all ages. Keep an eye out for a board with show times.
At the German Pavilion, there is no obvious 'attraction', but little girls will love the Doll Shoppe where you can 'build your own doll'. There are teddy bears and cuckoo clocks too, which are always popular, especially around noon!
Outside is a small model railway which delights little ones a lot. For some reason this simple exhibit can keep them amused for quite sometime!
Italy probably wont be your toddler's favourite World Showcase pavilion, as there are limited things of interest for under 5s. This is an excellent place to strap them in their stroller with an ice cream (Italian of course!), whilst the adults wander around and admire the architecture! Don't forget the Kidcot station though!
The American pavilion hosts the attraction 'The American Adventure' which very small children usually find to be of zero interest to them. However, this show is a welcome respite from the heat, and you may find you can get through it without a tantrum! This maybe the place to buy them the toy they have been pestering for all day, and you may get to see the show in peace!
TIP: This show is ideal if you are breastfeeding!
Japan has several toddler draws, first being the magnificent fish ponds, filled with huge Koi Carp. They will also enjoy the Origami displays, where charming Japanese ladies make intricate paper sculptures for the children watching. Some lucky ones get to help out too! You will often find traditional Japanese drummers performing here, which kids love.
Morocco sees you exploring narrow streets and you will be rewarded at the end of the pathways, with a surprise character meeting spot! Here you will usually find Jasmine, Aladdin or Genie, ready for a photo. As this area is quite hidden away, there is rarely a queue and your child can get some great interaction with the characters.
France is next, and you will often find characters from Disney's Beauty And The Beast ready to meet you here. Most toddlers wont fail to miss the wonderful cakes for sale in the Patisserie either!
Back in the UK, you will again find a character meeting spot ' this time its Pooh, Tigger and friends!
Something worth finding here is the 'hidden maze' which all kids love to visit. The maze is behind the gift shops, but its easy to miss, so ask a Cast Member if you cant see it!
Onwards to Canada, and the final pavilion. There is another 360 degree film presentation here, which again, like China, is fairly long and can test the boundaries of bored toddlers. It is certainly spectacular, but with strollers not allowed inside, think carefully about attempting it if junior is tired, grumpy or restless.
All the pavilions have street entertainers throughout the day, and all children love to watch them. Keep your eye out for them as you make your way round.
Every night, Epcot plays host to a fantastic fireworks extravaganza ' Illuminations. This is an amazing show and not to be missed. If your toddler doesn't like loud bangs, you may want to keep a blanket or towel handy to put over their ears, but the display is truly magnificent and they will almost certainly enjoy the show.
Rider Switch / Baby Swap ' When Adults Want To Ride!
You have been 'parents of the year' and ridden 'It's a Small World' twelve times already this holiday, now you both REALLY want to ride Space Mountain but your toddler is too small ' what can you do'
You can do a 'baby swap'. This works if there are two or more adults in the party who want to ride some of the bigger rides. You all line up in the regular queue (or fast pass line) and tell the Cast Member that you want to do a 'Baby Swap'. When you reach the ride, one or more of you will ride, and one will wait with the child. When the ride exits, your party will be directed back to you by a Cast Member to take the child, and then the person waiting with the child gets to ride without queuing again. This works particularly well if you have an older child or 3rd adult who can ride, as they can get two goes in succession- only one person has to stay with the child who cannot ride.
Water Parks, Downtown Disney, Non Park Fun
Disney has two Water Parks ' Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. With both of these parks, you are not allowed to use your own floatation devices ' that includes arm bands, rings and float seats. You can hire floatation vests free of charge (you will need to leave ID or a cash deposit).
It is prudent to put your toddler in 'pool shoes' at these parks as the ground can be hot and stony. If they are not confident in the water, be particularly careful with them paddling in the shallows at the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon. When the wave hits, the wake is strong enough to knock them over, even right at the edge of the pool. Keep an ear open for the bell / drum that sounds before the wave is due to be released.
Blizzard Beach has a wonderful kid's area with miniature versions of all the big adult slides. Most children aged over 3 will love this!
The sun can be strong and unforgiving at both of these parks ' more so at Blizzard Beach because of all the white reflective surfaces, so it's a good idea to use on the full body 'IV' suits for little kids, plus waterproof hats.
Downtown Disney has LOTS to offer under 5s and you should allocate one afternoon or evening here if possible. Here your child can play with unlimited Lego bricks, play in the Lego play area, explore the Worlds Largest Disney Store, ride a small train or the carousel, visit the Christmas Shop or even hire a boat out and explore the lake (mum or dad will have to drive though!). Be advised that there are more of those 'Magic Water Fountains' here, that your child will almost certainly want to play in, so bring a change of clothes and a towel when you visit!
Don't forget you can use any of the WDW transportation free of charge, and toddlers will get almost as much fun riding on the buses, monorails and boats as they will in the parks! Ask to ride up front with the driver on the monorail and you may get a special Monorail Co-Pilots licence!
Kids Clubs / Baby Sitting
Several Disney Resort Hotels have Kids Clubs and you do not have to be a guest to use them. However, the minimum age for any child is 4, so not so great if you have very small children. There is a fee and they are generally open from 4pm to Midnight.
Disney can also arrange 'In Room Baby Sitting' through an outside agency called 'Kids Nite Out' or you can arrange it yourself through another recommended agency 'Fairy Godmothers'. All the sitters are female, and are qualified in child care and first aid. Rates vary, so it's best to ask when you arrive if you are interested.
The very best piece of advice that can be given to anyone taking small children to Disney World is to BE FLEXIBLE! There is absolutely no point in the world of dragging tired, grumpy and stroppy children round a theme park! The minute the going gets tough, the parents should get out! If it's early in the day (and it does happen!) then go back to your hotel. Swim, nap, have some lunch, then when junior is once again sweetness and light, you can return to the park!
For this very reason, it is wise to buy 'Hopper Tickets' that are the most flexible of all. This will give you the freedom to come and go as you please to any of the parks. Things will be much tougher if you are working 'against the clock' to get one park done on one particular day. Buy the most days you can possibly afford as it is so much easier to do the parks in 'easy to swallow toddler sized chunks' than all day marathons that will almost certainly end in tears.
Obviously, for budgeting reasons, it could be that you HAVE to do the marathon sessions, but you can still take a break and return later. A great tip if visiting the Magic Kingdom and things get fraught, is to jump on the monorail to the Polynesian resort (yes, you can do this! Anyone can visit any resort hotel ' the only rule is that you may not use the pool facilities). The Polynesian has a lovely sandy white beach where junior can play and chill out. Adults can grab a cocktail from the beach bar and it makes a great 'time out' from the park.
After reading through all of the above, many of you will probably be thinking it all sounds like a lot of hard work! In reality though, a little bit of time spent before you go, preparing and planning will make a much easier trip! A lot of the 'ground work' for a successful trip to Disney World can be done before you go, and with this in place, you are much more likely to have a stress free trip when you get there!
If you are a 'first time' visitor to WDW, try not to be TOO ambitious with the amount you try and do. With very small children, parks like Universal and Islands of Adventure (although fantastic in their own way) do not offer a great deal for under 5s. It may well be a good strategy to stick to the Disney Parks, interspersed with plenty of rest days, swimming / water parks and less 'route marches' round the theme parks! Sea World can be done easily as a 'stand alone' park, and if you buy a single day ticket, you can get a second day free which is a good deal.
It is certainly possible to do ALL the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Sea World, Wet n Wild, Universal and Islands Of Adventure) in a 2 week holiday, but that's 11 parks in 14 days ' a HUGE undertaking for adults only, let alone with small children! Think carefully about what you want from your holiday and plan accordingly. It may suit some families to have a jammed itinerary that includes every park and attraction, but for others it could spell disaster!
An ideal rough itinerary for a family with one or more children under 5 would probably look something like this'
Day 1. Arrive, settle into accommodation.
Day 2. Animal Kingdom / swimming at hotel / villa
Day 3. Blizzard Beach
Day 4. Magic Kingdom
Day 5. Rest Day'shopping / swimming
Day 6. Sea World
Day 7. Epcot ' Innoventions area
Day 8. Typhoon Lagoon / evening Down Town Disney
Day 9. Disney MGM Studios
Day 10. Rest day or revisit favourite park
Day 11. Magic Kingdom ' stay for Wishes
Day 12. Sea World (second day free)
Day 13. Epcot ' World Showcase ' stay for illuminations
Day 14. Free Day ' last minute shopping or revisit a park
Day 15. Free morning ' pm ' flight home.
Remember, itineraries are just a 'guide' you should not expect to stick to them rigidly. Be flexible and if you have 'hopper' tickets, don't be afraid to leave parks and come back, or move onto another. You can move about freely using the Walt Disney World transportation system (buses, boats and monorails).
With the right forward planning, some flexibility and a sense of humour you will have the holiday of a lifetime, with memories that will last forever.
Nappies (enough for the journey, any delays and the first day)
Bottles and spare teats. A couple of those 'disposable' ready sterilised bottles are ideal to keep handy, just in case. If you are breastfeeding, some expressed milk kept in a cool bag and a breast pump.
Bottle brush and Teat cleaner
Dummies / comfort toy
Changing Mat / Wipes / Nappy Sacks
Calpol / Ibuprofen ' the sachets are brilliant for travelling
Cartons / sachets of Formula / baby juice, freshly boiled water
Jars of baby food / small snacks
At least two changes of clothes for your hand luggage
Muslin squares, bibs
Sleeping Bag / Grobag
Steriliser ( a travel one, microwave or cold water) and tablets if required
Buggy which lies flat and has a canopy or shade plus a rain cover
Baby Car Seat
Sun Cream (high factor, suitable for babies)
Hat with a peak and neck shade
Toddlers' any of the above as well as:
Toys / Favourite teddy
Snack bag / Goody Bag
Swimming aids ' rings, arm bands etc
Waterproof 'pool' shoes
Reins or Wrist Strap (you cannot seem to buy these in the States, so don't forget them if you need them!)
Plastic spoons / small cutlery
Fold up rain mac
'Earplanes' if they suffer from ear pain in an aircraft
PVC bed mat or Pampers disposable bed mat
Things You May Need To Bring
Squash ' This isn't readily available in the United States. You can buy Robinsons Orange Squash in some supermarkets, but be warned it is expensive (over $4!) and the only variety is Orange. The only other option is something called 'Kool Aid' which is a powdered juice you make up with water, but many toddlers will complain of the 'funny taste'. Of course, fresh fruit juices and water is freely available, but if you have a little 'squash fiend' you may need to consider bringing a bottle with you.
Marmite. Many a toddler lives on Marmite on toast, and although it CAN be bought (at a price) from a supermarkets that stock British produce, it's easier to bring a jar with you if required. It is perfectly OK to bring this into the States.
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