Have you ever been on a family vacation that left your children asking to go back for days, weeks and even months afterward? For my children, that place is Disney World. Our family has been to the "happiest place on earth, " both in California and Florida, sailed across the sea in the most magical ship on the water (Disney Cruise Line for the win) and have even gotten up at the crack of dawn to run miles and miles through their parks (runDisney anyone?).
So this confession will be no surprise to you: Riley has been to Disney four times by the age of two. Gracie experienced Disney World at the ripe age of 3.5 months. So, together with my sister-in-law, Lauren Crosby, we have experienced Disney vacations with little children and even babies many times. Disney can be STRESSFUL. Especially with little ones! We have found that if you plan your trip out in advance, use these tips, and the Magical Disney Planning Package list it will help the trip be more enjoyable for all at the most magical place on earth. Hope you enjoy and find it helpful!
1: Call Disney ahead of time, make reservations for your family's needs.
Disney’s customer service is top notch. They are ready and available to meet the needs of your family. I was able to reserve Pack 'n Plays for both kiddos as well as a bottle warmer and diaper genie. That's right. Diaper Genie! It kept our room smelling clean. Such a small yet significant detail. When we arrived at our Disney resort in the evening, the Pack 'n Plays were setup ready to go in the room. All that you have to do is call and reserve it.
2: Is staying on Disney property worth it?
Yes, we loved it! If you stay on Disney property, they completely take care of transportation for you to all the parks and Disney Springs. They have a bus system running all day to bring you to and from the park so that you don't have to deal with carseats or parking. If you are traveling with young children, we would highly recommend you stay on property. Every resort is close to the parks for naps (big win!), the themes in each hotel are so fun, and the pools are absolutely amazing! We'll talk about the importance of pool days in a little bit. Disney resorts come in budget, moderate and deluxe to fit each family's financial preferences. You'll likely be able to find the right fit for your family and receive all the benefits that come from staying on property. Now, we just talked about the amazing resort transportation but it get better. See our next tip.
3: Disney Magic Express
Another wonderful aspect of staying on Disney Property is their Disney Magical Express. As soon as we got off the plane in Orlando, we followed clear signs to this nice, comfy coach bus. You don’t need any car seats. Yes, you heard me right NO CARSEATS! Yet another item you don't have to pack because Disney has taken care of it for you. They have Disney cartoons playing (which engage your travel weary kiddos) as well as a video showing you all the fun things to do at the park. At the end of your trip, Disney Magic Express picks you back up at the hotel to take you back to the airport. Another perk with this service is the luggage tags. Disney will send you custom luggage tags weeks before your big vacation. This means that the moment you check your luggage at the airport, you are DONE worrying about it. Disney will have your luggage delivered to your room later that day. AH-MAZ-ING. Trying to manage the airport with 2 little ones and luggage makes you want to pull your hair out. With the Disney Magic Express you don’t have to worry about it!
4: Travel with a day bag for when you land and your room isn’t quite ready.
Your luggage will most likely be unavailable when you first arrive at your resort. So you'll want a day bag ready with the essentials for enjoying your resort. This bag should be placed in your carry on item, because once you check in your luggage at the airline you will not see it again until your room is ready at Disney. It should have, at a minimum, clothes, swimsuit, a small container of sunscreen, PJ’s, and a hat (all for you and the kids). Having the day bag allows you to start enjoying Disney as soon as you arrive. Check out our product page for a helpful packing list for children, day bag in the park and several other "helpfuls" to maximize your planning and vacation!
5: Have Amazon Pantry delivered to your room.
Yet another way to avoid traveling with unnecessary items! Four or more days before your vacation, simply order an Amazon Pantry box for your room. We included everything from diapers, wipes, juice, water bottles, baby food, and individual packed Goldfish for the toddlers. Simply put the resort's address down with your name, reservation number and date of arrival; the package should be ready for you at the front desk when you arrive!
6: Strollers: Rent or Bring?
We vote bring the stroller! It will be your “headquarters” for entire day in the park. I don’t know about you, but my children only like to walk so far. You want a good stroller that they can sleep in, rest, and a place to throw all your belongings. Extra tip: Put a fun bow on the stroller. Most attractions do not allow strollers (unless, occasionally, your child is already asleep inside), so you will leave it in the provided stroller parking. There are a million strollers, so make yours stand out with a fun and colorful ribbon.
7: Make your reservations and fast passes ahead of time.
The My Disney Experience app is a must for the ease of your trip. You can reserve your fast passes, make dining reservations, check wait times, find where characters are located in the park, and so much more. We recommend making your dining reservations in advance (the earliest you can reserve 180 days before tour trip). But you can use the app to get dining reservations (for less popular restaurants) in the same day easily. The app also allows you to get new fast passes once you have used your first three allotted fast passes for that park day. Definitely do your research before going to each park to know what interests you, your kids, and how to make the most out of it. We have the most adorable Disney Itinerary sheet on our products page. It is perfect for planning our your day in the parks! Be on the lookout for a future post on the most kid friendly attractions at each park.
8: Is Character Dining, worth it?
Worth every penny. They are pricey but they are so convenient for little ones. Enjoy air conditioning and great food while the characters come to YOU. And guess what? You don't wait in line for an hour. And your children get to meet multiple characters. Our very favorite character meals are:
1. Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. Meet Safari Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Pluto and Daisy.
2. Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore during their "friendship day celebrashun" in the absolutely gorgeous Crystal Palace right off Main Street.
3. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway, Epcot. Meet Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Mulan. This meal is unique because they characters can talk with your child and make them feel enormously special.
9: Take a Pool Day!
Plan a day OFF from the parks and play at resort pool. Disney is incredible, and incredibly overstimulating for little minds. Take a day off from the crowds and craziness of the theme parks and enjoy the resort at your leisure. Take long naps, play on park playgrounds, relax by the pool…maybe more realistically play with your kiddos in the pool and cover babies in sunscreen. Take advantage of planned and provided activities by the resort. Disney goes above and beyond to accommodate families at every turn. Spending a day at a slower pace on resort property will do you and your whole family good.
10: Plan your child's outfits ahead of time.
Friends, try the costumes or outfits on at home before you leave for Disney. When we took our nine month old on a Disney vacation, we packed an adorable Tinker Belle outfit for her. The costume was cute but itchy and tight and our little princess was so unhappy in it. Make sure the pre-planned clothes are comfy and that your child feels confident and happy in them. Davis, three years old, would hate to be at the parks all day in a costume. But a personalized Mickey shirt was perfect for him. Riley, however, couldn't imagine anything less than full Cinderella garb, all day. And she loves it!
We just love these little Mickey stickers we created (included in our Magical Disney Packing Package) for a little extra fun as you travel to the "happiest place on earth." Enjoy each crazy, beautiful moment. We hope your trip to Disney produces memories that your family will have for a lifetime.