My family visited Walt Disney Wold in April 2014. When we visited Disney, our daughter was 17 months old, and our son was one month shy of his 3rd birthday. We hope this blog series will help other families with toddlers have a great experience at Disney!
Growing up in Florida, going to Disney World was probably a bit more common for us than people in the rest of the world. It takes just over two hours to drive there making it an exciting adventure, but very doable. When I learned that children’s tickets at Disney are free until they turn 3, I began dreaming about taking my kids there shortly before the Mini Athlete had his third birthday. I figured he would be old enough to enjoy most of the park, and Little Miss wouldn’t be far behind. And enjoy it we did!
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Disney with toddlers, here are some things to think about before you go:
1) Which park(s)?
When people think of “going to Disney”, they typically think about seeing Cinderella’s castle at Magic Kingdom. My little boy definitely did.
But actually there are several theme parks that comprise “Walt Disney World”. Because we are Florida residents, we were able to take advantage of the 3-day passes for $129 (one day park tickets are usually $99/each for adults). If I could only do one day, I would definitely do Magic Kingdom. But since we had more than one day, we did Animal Kingdom on Saturday and Magic Kingdom on Sunday. I am so glad we did it that way.
Going into any Disney park can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re less than 3 feet tall. Animal Kingdom is much less crowded and less intense than Magic Kingdom and was a great introduction to Disney for our kids. I’ll be writing an entire blog post about doing Animal Kingdom with toddlers (and one about Magic Kingdom too), but doing it in that order really worked for us. I’ve heard others recommend doing Hollywood Studios with toddlers because they have a Disney Jr show and have more of those characters. I haven’t been to that park in a LONG time (long before having children) so I’m not the best to speak about it, but I have heard that there isn’t much more than that show for toddlers at the park. If anyone has experience doing Hollywood Studios with toddlers, please leave your advice in the comments!
2) Where will you stay?
We stayed with my parents and my sister at one of the cabins at Ft. Wilderness. I HIGHLY recommend staying there with toddlers. It has a full kitchen so you can save some money by cooking your own food, it has a separate bedroom and living area so you can put the kids to bed and still have some time to yourselves, and there is plenty of room for kiddos to run around without bothering anyone else.
Another great “on property” place to stay with kids is the All-Star Movies Resort . Some of the great things about staying on property? Free parking and free transportation to the parks!
Parking a car at any of the parks will cost you $17/day, not to mention the long line you wait in to even get into the parking lot. There is an awesome boat that goes from Ft. Wilderness straight to Magic Kingdom, and there are buses you can take to the other parks. And remember, when you’re a toddler, riding a boat TO the park is just as exciting as riding something IN the park!
3) What is your “one thing”?
This is probably my BIGGEST piece of advice for this whole series. Realize there is NO way you can do it all. You will die trying and make yourself miserable in the process. Make your priority list and start with the thing most important to you. Is it riding Dumbo? Start there.
Meeting Mickey? Do that first. Toddlers are predictably unpredictable. If you prioritize your trip, you are far more likely to leave satisfied and not disappointed. You won’t get to do it “all”, but you will be able to experience those things you wanted to experience most. Figure out your priority list before you go.
4) Starting the Countdown…
About a week before we left, I told the Mini Athlete we were going to Disney. I knew better than to start any earlier – every day we had to have a conversation about WHEN we were going to Disney. At the beginning of the week, I created this “Disney Countdown” and put it on the fridge.
The Mini Athlete loved putting a Mickey sticker on the chart every morning when he woke up. It definitely helped build the anticipation! We also watched several YouTube videos of the parks we were going to visit. I was afraid he wouldn’t understand why we weren’t going to see the castle on the first day we were “at Disney” so we spent a lot of time talking about the two parks individually. We also watched videos of some of the rides, and I think that made them a lot less intimidating when we got there. He can be pretty timid, so I was really excited to see how adventurous he was at the parks!
Counting down to Disney was just as fun as counting down to Christmas Day – and as a mom, it’s just about as much work! But it is all totally worth it. There really is something magical about that place!
Do you have any questions about preparing to go to Disney with toddlers? What is your favorite place to stay at Disney?