Never let anyone tell you that your kids are “too young for Disney”. Toddlers get a bad rap. Sure, they are emotional creatures that can be associated with powder kegs, but at their core toddlers are so pure of heart and believe in magic. Toddlers can be so fun at Disney, who cares if they remember it. Parents remember it. Every bit of it.
It can be intimidating to bring a tiny human that doesn’t exercise rational thought and is prone to very loud tantrums, regardless of how many people are watching. Learn from our mistakes and our wins so you can have a magical vacation in Disney World with your toddler.
Snacks for Toddlers
We all know that a quick-fix way to tame the beast is to throw snacks at it! First of all, Disney World welcomes outside food. You can bring in snacks, meals, whatever. As long as it doesn’t have glass or loose ice, Disney is fine with you bringing in outside snacks.
Bring in your kid’s favorite snacks that they like from home. Disney is beautiful and amazing, but it can be a little overwhelming. If they are enjoying something from home, it can be comforting. When they start getting a little overwhelmed, break out that snack that smiles back!
Do yourself a favor and save the holy grail (gummies) for when you really need them. Whether it’s waiting for the parade or convincing them to get back in the stroller when they don’t want to. Basically, gummies are your ultimate bargaining trip.
Quiet Places in Walt Disney World
Whether or not your toddlers take a nap during the day, they need quiet time each day for their brains to unwind. Quiet time is possible in Disney World! The first key in helping them get quiet time is to slow down and shake off the “I need to do everything” or “I need to get my money’s worth” mindset. We’re guilty! It’s hard to not want to be on the go, go, go, but trust us, if you Disney that way with toddlers, you will go, go, go down the road to a messy tantrum.
Storybook Circus Area
Once you pass Dumbo, you will find that there are a lot of very quiet corners in Storybook Circus. Pull in to an empty big top and find nothing but quiet. Our kids have taken many naps under these tents!
You will have to pass a splash pad before you get to the sweet spot. If your toddler is already on the edge, stay away!
Tom Sawyer’s Island
Forget that you’re in the most populated theme park in America while you are on Tom Sawyer’s Island. It is dense with trees and paths for kids to just run around without the crowds and noise.
Have you noticed that huge steam boat in the lake by the Haunted Mansion? It takes little trips around the lake. It’s a slow, luxurious 20 minute boat ride that can be very relaxing if your child is close to nap. There is a very loud horn that blows before the boat disembarks, but Disney tired is next level tired, so they might sleep right through it.
EPCOT Quiet Places
The Morocco pavilion is perhaps the most beautiful pavilion in the World Showcase, and the one that really makes you feel like you were dropped in its home country. It is also the least crowded pavilion. There are a lot of twists and turns, tucks and corners, and even a quiet little museum (that is also air conditioned!).
Hard to believe that back by the Disney Junior Dance Party would be a quiet place, but here we are! Hollywood Studios is packed with intense thrill rides and various fandoms. It’s a safe bet that those crowds aren’t breaking down the gates to see Vampirina.
Animal Kingdom was built to be an oasis for the animals that call it home, but it is also a great place for toddlers, too. There are paths all through the park that are calm and peaceful for a toddler to unwind and take a nap.
Rides for Toddlers at Disney World
Disney World is the ultimate family theme park! There are tons of family-friendly attractions that have no height requirement, which means…….Toddlers can ride! Note: If you only have 1 day in the parks, Magic Kingdom is hands-down the go-to park with toddlers because it has the most family-friendly attractions.
Here are the top 3 attractions for toddlers in each Disney park:
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Frozen Ever After
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Disney Junior Dance Party
- Toy Story Mania
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Kilimanjaro Safari
- Na’vi River Journey
- Various Bird Shows
***It’s Tough To Be A Bug is a “family-friendly” attraction in the Tree of Life. You will feel compelled to see it because it’s inside of the big tree… DON’T DO IT! As an adult I love it, but really, it’s unnecessarily terrifying. Like, your day will be ruined afterward, scary.
Waiting in Line with Toddlers
Waiting in line is the scariest part of bringing toddlers to a busy theme park. The biggest thing is to know your kid. If your toddler is a runner, one of those backpack leashes is a good idea. If your toddler is scared of his own shadow, then a baby carrier is a good idea. Maybe your toddler will surprise you and want to stand like the big kids. Do what is best for your kids. Unlike the real world, in Disney, anything goes. Moms don’t look on in judgment.
Child Swap with Toddlers
Even though there are rides in Disney World that your toddlers can’t ride, doesn’t mean that YOU can’t ride! As long as you have at least one other adult with you, you all can ride with a service that Disney calls Child Swap.
Child Swap is easy and you don’t need to register for it. It is not the same system as Disney’s Disability Access service (DAS). When you want to use Child Swap just walk up to the Cast Member managing the Lightning Lane and they will scan your ticket. Your party will wait for the ride as normal and when they exit the attraction you will switch. They will stay with the baby and you will ride.
Disney’s Child Swap takes place outside of the actual queue line, so that is a great time for you to walk the toddler around for one of those quiet times. See more about Child Swap here.
Strollers / Wagons for Toddlers at Disney
Before we get into strollers and why you need them, let’s clear up confusion: DISNEY DOES NOT ALLOW WAGONS OF ANY KIND. If it was made by Red Flyer, it’s a no. If it pulls behind you, it’s a no. If it has wagon in the name, it’s a no. Unless you’re a Kardashian, you cannot bring wagons into Disney. Don’t be turned away at the gate because you want to argue why your wagon is not a wagon-wagon. We’ve seen it happen.
Strollers are absolutely necessary for toddlers. Disney World is not like the real world. In Disney, kids that are 5,6,7, and even 8 are riding in strollers. The average Disney day logs about 10 miles of walking. That’s a lot on little legs.
Strollers are also great because they can carry all of your stuff so you don’t have to. Toddlers need snacks, back up clothes, diapers, wipes, etc., but as adults you need things in Disney, too. Do you know how heavy water bottles feel after 10 miles?! Store them in the stroller! Win.
Disney’s stroller rules are very reasonable. They do not allow strollers larger than 31” wide and 52” long. Knowing that there is a limit gives a lot of people anxiety, but the average single stroller is 20” – 27”, and the average double stroller is 30.5” by 48”.
Renting vs. Bringing Your Own
There are pros and cons to both bringing your own stroller and renting strollers. You can rent strollers in Disney World for $15 per day or $13 for multiple days, but these are also not the most comfortable strollers ever made. They are cute, but they are hard. If you are planning on renting a stroller, consider Googling stroller rental companies around Disney. The strollers are much more comfortable for the baby and might actually be cheaper.
Stroller Parking and Apple Air Tags
There are set stroller parking zones all over the park. Do not freak out when you return to the parking zone and you don’t see your stroller. It’s common for Cast Members to have to move strollers for one reason or another.
Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Everyone it seems is covering everything in Apple Air Tags. Don’t panic when your phone shows that the stroller is moving. The odds of your actual stroller being stolen are very low. But the odds of it being moved by Cast Members is high.
Tips for not Losing your Stroller at Disney World
If you thought it was easy to lose your car in the parking lot, just wait until you have to find your black stroller amongst 1,000 other black strollers!
- Buy a balloon! Those insanely expensive Mickey balloons that the kids always want actually can serve a purpose! Tie it to your stroller and you can find it in the crowd.
- Other great ideas include covering in decorations, glow sticks, or colored electrical tape! (These obviously apply to only the strollers you own.)
How to Cut Down on Toddler Tantrums
Let’s just say this: kids of all ages have tantrums at Disney! We’ve seen adults have tantrums, too. If your baby has a tantrum, don’t fret. No one is going to judge. We’ve all been there, momma!
This is a big learn from my mistakes section of the article. Three trips in a row we felt that need to get in everything we could and go rope drop to close multiple nights in a row. That’s insane. If your kids stay up late one night at home, it makes them cranky the next day. Disney is no different, and keep them out multiple nights in a row and you have pretty much fed a gremlin after midnight while giving it a nice bath (nice 80s cult classic movie reference there meaning that they become monsters).
Now if we come early, we leave around dinner time. If we plan on watching fireworks, then we get in later. Plain and simple. Rope drop to close is a lot. Never do that for more than 1 day per vacation.
Take Rest Days
To follow up with the last point, be sure to cushion rest days into your vacation. If you have 4 days of park passes, be sure to have a rest day after day 2 so your kids can be refreshed. That rest day makes all the difference in a vacation!
Reminder: Your kids are on vacation, too. On rest days, if they want to stay in jammies and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until noon, let them! They’re recharging their batteries for the next day.
Baby Care Centers
Not only does every bathroom in Walt Disney World come with a changing table, there is also a baby care center in every park. A baby care center is a wonderfully air conditioned space that is quiet and calm. They also have rocking chairs and offer a nice escape from the parks. They also offer a changing place. Ran out of wipes or diapers? Don’t worry. Disney World’s baby care centers have diapers, wipes, creams, and everything you could ever need for your little angel.
Just like you, sometimes tiny humans need a minute.
Things to Bring to Disney World for your Toddler
Now that you have all of the tips, let’s talk about items to bring. You don’t want your stroller and park bags to become like your diaper bag: overpacked with junk you don’t need and heavy!
- Diapers / Pull Ups: Even if your baby is potty trained, do not underestimate how tired they will be be
- Wipes: To be honest, baby wipes are more for the messes they make on their faces than on their bottoms. Just say yes to messy Mickey Premium Bars since you have wipes for clean-up!
- Snacks like pretzels, goldfish, raisins, and gummies. Never underestimate what a child will do for gummies. Want to be extra fun? You can get all of those snacks (except the raisins, of course) in Mickey shapes! Be sure to hit up your local big box store to pick up licensed Mickey snacks before coming to the parks!
- Bubbles: Bubble wands are for sale all over the parks. Yes, they are $30, and YES, YES, YES, a million times yes, they are worth it. Check out this article on why you should absolutely buy a Disney Parks bubble wand here. Bring in your own bubbles though.
- Extra clothes: Your kid is probably going to make a mess on themselves at some point. They may not even care. You know what they will care about? Wet socks. Wet pants. Wet everything. When it rains in Florida, it pours and nothing is safe. Bring a back up outfit so they don’t have that icky feeling all day.
- Ponchos: Cheap $1 ponchos are necessary no matter how old or young you are on a Disney trip. Park ponchos can run about $15, and you don’t want to be walking out in a monsoon without something!
- Slow your roll: I know every dad is saying forget that! We’ll bring umbrellas instead. Bad idea. Umbrellas with your whole family, plus 10,000 of your closest friends? Someone is going to be getting poked in the eye repeatedly and then come the tears.
- Water bottles for Junior: Water is $3.50 a bottle in the parks. That’s insane. You can get free ice water in every quick service. But here’s the catch, they serve it in an open cup. Bring a cup that your toddler is used to so you can ensure they are getting enough water. Plus, now you don’t have to share a cup with the prince of backwash.
Conclusion on Toddlers at Disney World
Bringing a toddler can be a magical experience for you to enjoy their innocence. Trust me when I say that you will look back on these memories when they are teenagers and feel very emotional.
When my oldest was just an itty bitty little boy he insisted that we watch the Magic Kingdom stage show every single time we saw it running. We saw it a lot during that vacation. He wouldn’t sing along or get involved with the interactive points. He would just watch it with a serious face. Then… On our last day in the Magic Kingdom we saw the show going so we stopped to let him enjoy the last part for the last time. And it happened. Something just clicked within him and my little boy jumped up and exclaimed, “It’s true!! Dreams come true!”. And then he shouted to everyone around us, “Dreams come true!”. Oh mylanta! I was a hot momma mess, is what I was! Ugly crying everywhere!
You know, that little boy is now a little man and it’s true, that he doesn’t remember any of that trip. He doesn’t remember being moved by that stage show, or the fact that we watched it easily 12 times. But you know what? I remember. I got to keep that memory, and it’s one I will treasure forever.
I am a mother of three that has refused to grow up. Adulting is for the birds, so I go to Disney World every chance I get for that magical escape from reality. I believe that Haunted Mansion is the best ride in all of the Disney Parks, and I am fervently in team Happily Ever After for fireworks spectaculars, (sorry, not sorry, Enchanted). Finally, I hope I never grow tired of skipping down Main Street, USA, and my dream come true would be “friends with” the Fairy Godmother in my old age.