Taking a trip to Disney World is something I’ve dreamed about doing ever since becoming a mom.
I imagined our Disney trip would take place in several more years when my son would be beyond the toddler years, but when the opportunity came up, we decided to be spontaneous and take a trip to Disney with a toddler. We learned a lot along the way, but my new outlook on Disney with toddlers is DO IT!
Be prepared to move Fast+
This first tip might be a little bit misleading because overall we moved very slowly throughout Disney World. We enjoyed our time strolling through the parks, except when it came to waiting in lines. Waiting in lines with a toddler is not fun for anyone involved, and since strollers are not allowed in lines, you will mostly be carrying your toddler. This is where the Disney FastPass+ becomes your best friend. Each ticket holder is given 3 FastPasses+ to use each day, which allows you to skip the line.
It was my first time visiting Disney since the FastPass+ system had been introduced, and once we figured out the mobile app, these were pretty easy to book. After our visit, I realized that there are hundreds of blog posts out there dedicated to creating a FastPass+ strategy. We got pretty lucky since we were visiting during the off-season, but I will definitely be doing a bit more studying up before our next visit.
Don’t skip nap time!
This might seem pretty obvious to some, but its harder to follow than you think! Our first day in the park, nap time seemed to be approaching faster than usual. We had two options, head back to the hotel for nap time, or push the stroller seat down and hope for a good nap in the park. We choose the latter. JJ crashed pretty hard in his stroller, and we were able to get in a few of the bigger rides (more about parent ride swap below!). JJ made it almost an hour napping at the park, and we thought we had just won the Disney nap game. He woke up a little annoyed with the world, but still seemed to enjoy the rest of the day. Overall we were at the Magic Kingdom from 9:00am – 5:00pm. By the time we left, we probably couldn’t have pushed him one more minute.
Overall, napping in the park wasn’t that bad. That is, until you compare it to the next day when we napped him in the hotel room for a solid 2.5-hours. The second day he woke up from his nap ready to go! He was in a great mood and we were able to stay out at the park until almost 9:00pm.
Invite the Grandparents (or another adult)
When we decided we were going to take this trip to Disney World, we causally invited JJs grandma (my mom) to come along. She couldn’t have been more excited and booked her tickets the next day. We were thrilled she was going to get to experience JJ’s first trip to Disney, but had no clue how vital she was going be on the whole trip. Having a third adult in the group made every activity a little easier and even gave us a chance to ride some of the bigger rides.
While it won’t break the trip if another adult can’t join you, it made our trip a little more magical having Grandma along!
Take advantage of Disney’s Child Swap
Just because you are going to Disney with a toddler doesn’t mean you are limited to toddler-only rides. Disney’s rider switch system allows parents to take turns staying with the kids while the other enjoys rides. The best part is the second rider will be given a FastPass to skip the line when it’s their turn, PLUS they can take up to two more riders along with them the second time. This is where having an extra adult or two in the group pays off!
Don’t miss Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom wasn’t around when I was a kid visiting Disney, so I wasn’t looking forward to it as much as the other parks. Well, it’s now my favorite, and it also happens to be a toddler’s paradise. Unfortunately, this was the last stop on our trip, and we only had half a day planned for Animal Kingdom, but next time this park deserves a full day in the schedule.
Like all of the parks, it is pretty amazing the amount of detail Disney puts into just about everything, but The World of Avatar takes everything to the next level. It was safe to say JJ had never seen anything quite like it, with something new to discover around each corner. JJ loved the freestanding drums that changed colors each time he drummed.
As the sun goes down, somehow Animal Kingdom becomes even more magical. Make sure your toddler gets a good nap in so you can experience Animal Kingdom later in the evening because it really can’t be missed!
Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
Staying on Disney property makes all the difference in a successful Disney trip with a toddler. First, you’re able to take advantage of Disney’s extended hours for on-property guests only. Each day, one of the parks opens early or stays open late, cutting most wait times in half.
Staying on property also makes it easier to quickly get back to the resort for naps and breaks. We chose to stay at the Disney Swan and Dolphin resort which happens to be just a boat ride away from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Taking a boat ride directly from your resort to the park makes it all the more magical. We found Disney’s Swan and Dolphin hotel to have one of the most ideal locations within Disney World.
From the moment we checked in, we felt at home. We checked in at 9:00pm, and by the time we got up to our room, the crib was already set up and ready to go for the night. The fantastic pools and restaurants were the cherry on top to a perfect visit!
Wendy has been working for Cincinnati Parent Magazine for the past 9 years and had has an almost two-year old boy. Wendy and her husband are adjusting to life with a toddler and are always looking for something new they can do as a family.