Many parents are hesitant to bring their smallest children (and babies) on a Disney Parks trip, because they are worried about how they will do. Others are worried it’s not worth the money, or that the kids won’t remember the trip. As a parent who started bringing her little one to Disneyland at age 2, trips with small kids can be great, if you plan it right. Here are our best tips for enjoying your park time with infants and toddlers.
Choose the Right Stroller
Parents going to the park with a kiddo under age 4 (and some 5-6 year olds depending on size, stamina, and maturity) will find they want to have a stroller. Renting one from the park is an option, but at $15/day, it’s pricier than bringing your own. In addition, you can’t leave the security gates of the parks with the stroller, so you won’t have it when you want to head back to the hotel. For most Disney resort and off-resort hotels, this is a bit of a walk, so we suggest bringing your own stroller. Even if you have to ride a shuttle bus, loading strollers is still easier than walking long distances without one, and the buses are equipped to hand it.
If you have 2 small kiddos, be sure to bring a double stroller. Disney does not carry these, and you would have to rent 2 strollers from the park, which is also a hassle to push around. If you bring a double stroller, do yourself and the guests around you a favor, and bring a tandem style stroller, where the kiddos sit in front of the other, rather than side-by-side. Disney will not allow strollers wider than 54” in the park, and getting through crowds will be much easier with the tandem style. With a younger kid and one that is a little older, the sit and stand models are great for a Disney trip. We suggest purchasing a low cost rain stroller cover, since many months at both parks can be rainy.
If you are flying in, there are often options available to have a stroller rental sent to your hotel room. Your Pixie Planner to see if that option makes sense for you!
Strollers are also great for packing in snacks and drinks, as well as a spare sweatshirts and blankets since the weather can change a lot over the course of a day. Be careful not to leave anything valuable in your stroller when you leave it parked in the designated areas. If your stroller isn’t where you left it, check with a Cast Member. Sometimes they have to move strollers that are in the wrong area, or for changing crowd conditions.
Keep to your Nap Schedule
With all of the excitement of the parks, it’s easy to forget naps, but this can be a recipe for disaster. I found that even after my 3-4 year old stopped taking consistent naps at home, in the parks, we could go lay down for a few hours. Staying close to the park, or at a hotel that has a quick shuttle, can minimize the time it takes to get back and forth for nap-time. Even if your kiddos won’t nap, a midday break to go swimming or rest can help calm nerves. Your Pixie Planner can help to recommend great hotels that are easy to access from the parks, and won’t break the bank.
Pack in your Own Snacks
You can bring outside food or beverages into the parks, and these will come in handy throughout the day. We suggest bringing in your own water bottles, and refilling them at drinking fountains. You can also request a free cup of water at any quick service dining location.
Glass bottles and alcohol are not allowed in the park. We suggest bringing in snacks, like squeezable apple sauce, beef jerky, apple chips, yogurt, and juice boxes. Chips and trail mix are also a great option. If you’d like to save more money, some families bring in lunch options like sandwiches. Small soft coolers and backpacks are allowed, but larger coolers are not, so plan accordingly.
If you don't bring in your own snacks (or run out), there are always great options in the park. String cheese, milk, yogurt, and pieces are fruit are available at most snack stands, quick service, and sit-down dining options.
Alternate Rides with Entertainment
While your Pixie Planner will teach you how to avoid long lines, some of the unavoidable lines are at the kid friendly attractions because of the lack of FastPass, especially at Disneyland. Waiting in lines isn’t something little ones are particularly great at, so breaking up rides with entertainment, like shows and parades, can be very helpful. On warm days, most of these options are in the shade or inside, so this can also get the whole family out of the sun.
Give Kids a Place to Play
Each park has areas where children can run out their energy. Some interactive shows, like Disney Junior at Disney California Adventure, will encourage kids to dance and play along. There are also play areas for kids. In Disneyland, some of the best are Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer’s Island (currently closed but expected to reopen in Summer 2017) and the different character houses of ToonTown. In Disney California Adventure, the Redwood Challenge Trail is excellent, as is the Bug’s Land area, which has great splash pads for warm days.
In Walt Disney World, there are a lot of great areas for kiddos. In the Magic Kingdom, you’ll find a great spot in Fantasyland in the line for the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. Instead of waiting in line, you’ll get a pager and kids can run around the indoor play area. Like Disneyland, Tom Sawyer’s Island is a great spot, and you can even find a hidden playhouse under Splash Mountain. The entrance is by the train station in Frontierland.
In Epcot, you’ll find play areas by The Seas with Nemo and Friends, as well as in the Mission: Space ride. At Hollywood Studios, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie set Adventure offers a soft play place. Lastly, in Animal Kingdom, The Boneyard is a play area that will allow kids to explore and run around.
Go With the Flow
Our biggest advice is to try not to “over plan” when travelling with little kids. We suggest scheduling a few dining activities, like a character meal, but don’t create a strict itinerary for your days. Some times, you will meet characters and the kids will hate them, and other, they will love them. With little ones, plans often have to change, and parents that can move with those changes will have the best time.