Planning A Trip to Disney World with Toddlers

Yes, that’s right. It is finally time to take my sweet children to the magical place called Walt Disney World. Why now?

Because the Mini Athlete turns 3 in June and at age 3, children are no longer free. Right now, our family of four can go to Disney for the price of two adults – in my mind, there is no time like the present!

I grew up living less than three hours away from Disney so it’s safe to say I’m pretty familiar with the place. But let me tell you, planning a trip to Disney with toddlers is a a completely different experience. Or at least I’m anticipating it will be. If it were just me and my husband, we would pack up first thing in the morning and drive to the park and enjoy the day. With toddlers? We’re planning to do things a little bit differently.

1) Staying “on property”. My parents and sister are planning to go with us, so we decided to rent a cabin at Fort Wilderness. There are definitely perks to staying “on property”, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Check out some of the “Value Resorts” – their rooms start at $90/night (or $49 at Ft Wilderness if you want to camp). Staying on property gives you free transportation to the parks, “Extra Magic” hours when available, and several other perks just for resort guests. One of our biggest reasons is being able to get to the park EARLY as first thing in the morning is usually the best (read: happiest) time of day for my toddlers.

2) Bringing our own snacks. You know all that Disney magic? It can cost a pretty penny. But one nice thing about Disney is that you can bring in your own snacks! Before we go, I’m planning to stock up on all my kids’ favorites to keep them satisfied throughout the day. They are just as happy with a PB&J I make in the cabin as they would be with some expensive Disney food. Or at least I’m hoping they will be.

3) Set toddler-level expectations. I’m trying to coach myself on this one. As a mom (spending quite a bit of money for this Disney experience), I have visions of how the “perfect day” at Disney will go. But I’m trying to prepare myself for anything – and just enjoy the ride. I’m kinda approaching it like I did the birth of my children – I can have a plan, but will do my best to enjoy however the day turns out knowing that there are some (many) things outside my control. I have seen way too many parents dragging their child through Disney, demanding they have a good time and thereby ruining the day for everyone. If my kids are happiest watching the squirrels play on the trash can, then that’s what I’ll let them do. (I hope. We’ll see how I actually get once the Disney adrenaline gets pumping…)

We’re actually spending two days at Disney World – the first at Animal Kingdom and the second at Magic Kingdom. My hope is that the first day will help my kids acclimate to the crowds and the characters in a slightly less chaotic environment. But I am a little worried that the Mini Athlete will spend the whole day asking where the castle is – we have been watching YouTube videos about the parks and to say he is excited is an understatement. We’ve actually made a little chart to countdown the days until we go. He loves putting a little Mickey Mouse sticker on the calendar as each day passes!

As you can see from his Halloween photo, he is a BIG Mickey fan. 🙂


I’m sure I’ll have many things to report when we get back from our trip, but I’d love to hear YOUR advice before we go. Do you have any suggestions for making a first trip to Disney with toddlers? I’d love to hear them! 


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4 Responses to Planning A Trip to Disney World with Toddlers

  1. Karen

    I don’t have anything useful to add…but I do have this post bookmarked in case me and the hubs ever decide to take our kids!

  2. Juliene

    I took my son when he was 18 months and we have another trip planned for this October when he wil be 3 and my second son 18 months. I didn’t stress much about the trip because like you said you cannot predict how children will act and I will say it went so much better than I couldve predicted. We didnt have meltdowns and he was totally enthralled by the characters. My advice would be save money on souvenirs by bringing them from home, I got stuff at the Disney store ahead of time and laid it on the bed like Mickey left it for him, he loved it and saved me cash. Secondly are there reasons you chose Animal Kingdom? I only ask because that is the one park we spend the least time, there aren’t as many attractions, it closes earlier than other parks, and just in general my family views it as a huge over priced zoo. With your age children I would suggest Disney Hollywood studio. They have Disney junior characters, things like The little Mermaid show, Fantasmic, and things for adults as well. Just my two cents! Have the best time, it really is magical!

  3. conni

    at animal kingdom be sure to see the finding nemo musical. its great!! and if you can leave the stroller home do so. you will spend so much time just trying to find it, and getting thru the crowds is terrible. Our first trip with Ali was just before her 5th Bday. We just let her lead the way, and by doing so we were chosen to be that days Parade Grand Marshalls, which made for a truly magical day!

  4. I took both of mine when they were 9 months. When my son was 9 months my daughter was 4. It was fabulous! So magical. You are approaching it right since you are like we were (we had been so knew what to expect) it was a breeze. Just relax and let the kids enjoy the day! I can’t wait to see your pics! I follow you on IG (holliemj)

    I’ve wanted to stay at the cabins before so can’t wait to hear how that goes to! Have a magical trip!!

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