Most people when they make plans to go to Disney World, decide to wait until their children are older. Not me! I believe in making memories even at a young age. I would have taken my youngest when she was a year old, but being in the military doesn’t always make vacation times easy. I had already taken my vacation to visit my dad who was dying at the time, so had used much of my vacation time for that year. When you go to Disney World I recommend staying at least 4-5 days. We decided to wait another year, but then my mother got sick and once again, vacation saved meant taking another trip to the Caribbean. However once she turned 3 (preschooler is ages 3-5), I decided that we had put it off long enough and planned a 2 week trip to Florida, and did not only Disney World but also Universal Studios, Orlando. And what an amazing time we all had. However if you’re like me, and age doesn’t matter, here are a few things that you SHOULD do with your preschooler, and toddlers, at Disney World.
Make a Plan
This is extremely important, no matter what you plan to do, make a plan and stick to it! Keep your child on as normal of a schedule as you can while on your trip to prevent meltdowns. (This includes eating schedules.) Schedule in breaks, and don’t be afraid to use the baby care centers that are available throughout the park. They offer a nice area to sit down, calm your child down, feed and/or change them, etc. Do not skip the naps. NAPS?! UGH! I know! I am such a buzz-kill. If you don’t take time and rest during the day – everyone will pay for it later. Cranky toddlers are infectious and you will soon have a cranky mom and a cranky dad. Add in a cranky older sibling or two and put a fork in the day because it is D-O-N-E.
Strollers are a must! Even if your child rarely uses a stroller right now, bring one! Disney is huge, and your child is going to need a break from walking. Unless you plan on carrying them around all day, use a stroller to keep their energy for the rides and prevent exhaustion. Bring a big ribbon or something you can tie to the handle to easily identify your stroller from others. Your stroller may not be exactly where you left it as Cast Members need to keep the area tidy and organized, so you want something that will stand out to you.
Magic Kingdom is your go to park with a toddler. It has the most rides, and the most fun for your little one that won’t cause hassles. There are a few rides that have height requirements and tons of rides that will be fun for your little one. From Peter Pan’s Flight and the Jungle Cruise, to Dumbo and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, your child is going to have the most fun they have ever had! If the weather is warm, let your little one get wet at Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. Toddlers love water!
Epcot is sometimes thought of as the ‘grown up’ park, but there are lots for little ones here! Ride The Seas with Nemo and Friends and then head over and learn how to talk whale at Turtle Talk with Crush. Take some time to view all the aquariums here – there are so many fish and other aquatic life to see. There are even REAL dolphins! Around World Showcase, there are 11 different Kidcot Fun Stops that are geared just for your preschooler. They can learn about the world in toddler fashion and collect stamps from each stop. And of course, you can’t miss Frozen Ever After, which is opening in just a few weeks!
Animal Kingdom is alright for toddlers and makes a nice ‘break day’. If staying at the park for more than just 2 or 3 days, you will need a day of small, simple activities to take a break from the big park areas and heavily populated sections and rides. Animal Kingdom has plenty of tours, rides and attractions that provide simple entertainment. Rides like the Triceratops Spin are short and fun. See wild animals up close at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Your little one will also love watching Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical. There is also the amazing Flights of Wonder that showcases different birds that your little one may even get a chance to interact with. As a parent, this will be a nice break for you and fun and entertaining for your little one! Don’t forget to stop at The Boneyard before you go and let your toddler burn off some energy. You can even take a train up to Rifiki’s Planet Watch where there is a petting zoo!
If you plan properly, Hollywood Studios is great for toddlers! There are many shows and rides that are offered that are kid friendly, and provide a nice day of not so busy rides and lines. It’s a good idea to use FastPass+ and plan out what shows you would like to see at what times. Toy Story Midway Mania is a hit for kids of all ages – and even the adults! The shows are entertaining for children, such as Disney Jr. Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, and Beauty and The Beast. If your toddler loves Star Wars, don’t miss The Launch Bay! They can trade with a Jawa and even meet some of their heroes – and maybe even a ‘bad guy’!
Disney Springs is a great place to spend the day if you want to take a break from the Theme Parks. It requires no admission. Your toddler can build their own racecar at the Lego store and race it against other kids’ creations. If your little one loves dinosaurs you will want to be sure to make reservations for T-Rex or dine in a rainforest at The Rainforest Café (be sure to make reservations starting 180 days in advance). You can also see very fancy boats on display at The Boathouse Restaurant. Don’t forget to stop at Goofy’s Candy Company for something sweet to eat.
Most children love a good fireworks show. Three of the four theme parks offer this nighttime treat nearly every night. Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. Check the park’s times guide for that day for details. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere hearing the big bangs and missing out! If your child is afraid of loud noises, you may want to bring protective ear wear or stay out of the fireworks areas completely during this time. You may also want to look into a fireworks dessert party, which is currently offered for Wishes and Illuminations. This will allow you and your family to relax in a VIP seating area and snack on yummy treats and beverages. Your toddler has some breathing room this way and is free to move around the party area.
As you can see, there is LOTS for little ones at Walt Disney World. You don’t have to ‘wait until they are older’ to plan your family’s next visit. And if you’re interested in more Disney tips and tricks, you can check out my friend Rachel’s blog, The Dreamer Family. Rachel is a Disney travel agent and former Disney Parks Moms Panelist, so she certainly knows what she’s talking about.
Let’s discuss: What will your little one be excited about the most?
Note: All photos are my personal photos from past trips to Walt Disney World, with the exception of Madison in her Mickey Ears, which was taken at Disneyland Paris.