Six Tips for Traveling to Disney World with Toddlers

Talking with a client who is planning the first trip with her almost three-year-old reminded me of this post, Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers. The info is still legit, and might help you out if you are taking on the World or Land with a wee one!

Originally published June 2014.

We recently spent a week at Walt Disney World with our little one, #OhLucy.  She turned three yesterday (Happy Birthday, sweet girl!) and I thought today would be a good time to share what I learned about traveling with a toddler.

Don’t do it.

Just kidding. It wasn’t horrible, but despite being a Been-There-Done-That mom, she surprised me this trip. We travel a lot, especially recently with the move. Lots of hours in the car preparing for the move to Arizona. The kids were pretty much rock stars.  And we’ve taken multiple trips to Disneyland and to northern California to visit family.

I thought I had this traveling with toddlers thing all figured out.

I thought wrong.

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers

That’s the “fun” thing about kids this age.  Just when you think you know what makes them tick BAM they change the rules on you.  Take #OhLucy for example.  Our daily conversations go like this.

Me:  Do you want some milk with breakfast?

#OhLucy: Nooooooo…. I don’t waaaaannnnttt milllllkkkkk.

Me:  Okay. (put milk down, start to walk away)

#OhLucy: Yeeeeeeesssss…. I waaaaaannnnttt milllllkkkkkk!!!

Oh, Lucy.

Six Tips for Traveling to Disney World with Toddlers

 

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers | Family Travel | Travel Tips | Disney with Kids

 

1.  Flying with a Toddler. I recommend bringing their car seat on flights. Yes, they are a pain to haul through the airport, and no, you don’t “need” it when you land at Orlando’s International Airport if you are using Disney’s Magical Express. But on the plane, it can be a life saver. Literally- your child is safer in one!  But in addition to safety, toddlers like familiarity and being in her car seat was completely normal for Lucy. We got on, strapped in, and soon after take off she fell asleep, much like she does in the car.  Since she was safe in her car seat, I was able to use the restroom as needed or take my quick nap without worry.

Where did I fail? It was NOT just like the car. The air pressure, going up up and up, and the speed: all added up to unfamiliar territory this trip.

My daughter has flown many times before, but not recently. I think it’s been a good 8-9 months since her last flight. Kids change a lot in such a small time. She was much more aware of what was going on this trip, and it freaked her out! I had her movie and her pacifier ready to go for the take-off, but I made the mistake of leaving her window open.  As soon as she caught sight of the world rushing by her on the take-off, she started yelling.  Loudly.

“Get me down get me down get me doooowwnnnn!!!”

Closing the window and talking to her about Ariel and Sebastian thankfully was a quick fix for us. But she panicked and so did I! I was not expecting that one.

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers

2.  Naps. Don’t skip them.  If your child still naps at home, make sure they have the opportunity to nap while on vacation. We made the decision a few days to power through nap time. Rookie move. #OhLucy was all right one minute and a hot flaming mess the next. While the distractions and rides allowed her to be a little more flexible with us,  it soon became apparent that we were ALL better people if we made a trip back to the hotel for a swim and nap mid day.  Big Thunder Mountain WILL be there for you when you go back, I promise!

3.  Snacks. Do NOT be afraid to bring them or use them. Walt Disney World allows you to bring snacks and drinks into the parks. Load up! While waiting in line or even walking across the park to use your next Fast Pass, your little one will appreciate the snacks.

I learned this tip from Moms Panel Jennifer: Walmart will deliver a package of goodies to your resort for you. Spend $50 or more, and you can get free shipping. You need to place your order 7-10 days before arrival (I think I ordered about two weeks in advance) and put your resorts physical address for shipping. We loved having bottled water, juice boxes, fruit pouches, gold fish crackers, and granola bars ready to take with us to the park every day. And, of course, everything is better with a $4 rice krispy treat shaped like Mickey.

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers
4.  Flexible. Be this.
 But you probably already know that from living with a toddler. They are mysterious and strange creatures that change their minds often! I learned a lot about my daughter this trip (which will probably ALL change by the next trip!)  One being that she does NOT like Dumbo or Dumbo-like rides (the Flying Carpets, Triceratops Spin, Astro Orbiter, etc. ). I tried to take her on all of them with varying degrees of success. We finally decided it wasn’t worth trying to reason with her that she usually loves Dumbo (favorite ride at Disneyland but apparently a horrible ride at WDW— whaaaaa???) and just let it gooooo, let it goooooo….!

5.  Don’t be afraid to split up. My older kids and husband wanted to ride Maelstrom, but it had a bit of a wait. #OhLucy was way past the ability to wait in line for a ride at this point, so I took her to find something she would enjoy. Everyone was happy, and we didn’t subject other park goers to 35 minutes of a toddler not wanting to stand in line.

We hit up some characters. We met Duffy the Bear for the first time.  After a bit of a rocky beginning, she warmed up to him, thanks to a patient and willing Duffy! We then headed into Mexico and found Donald at his usual spot.  She loved meeting him and held his hand for a while.

By the way- happy birthday, Donald!  80 years-old and he still quacks me up.

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers
6.  Rider Switch.
 This is my absolute favorite thing about taking a toddler to Walt Disney World: EXTRA Fast Passes. Let me explain.

This might go along with the tip in #5, but it’s a special way of splitting up. If your child is too small to ride an attraction (Soarin’, for example) but the rest of the family wants to have a go, don’t skip it! Walk up to the Cast Member at the front of the line and ask for a Rider Switch Fast Pass. This little gem makes bringing the toddler to the parks completely worth it.

How it works:  The whole family walks up to the ride and obtains the Rider Switch ticket. One adult goes onto the ride while the other adult stays close by with the too-short to ride child. After the first adult exits, the second adult can then ride, along with 2 other people.

BAM- extra Fast Passes. The Fast Pass does not have a time expiration date (in other words, you don’t have to ride immediately!)  This Fast Pass was obtained on May 22 and did not expire until May 31.

Six Tips for Traveling to Walt Disney World with Toddlers

We Rider Switched all over the World. My older kids were especially thankful when we rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 5 times thanks to a combination of Fast Pass+ and Rider Switch.

What are your tips and tricks for traveling with toddlers?  Do you have any suggestions that I missed?

About Patty

Patty Holliday is a wife and mother of four. She's a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)

Comments

  1. Great tips, Patty. My kiddos are now past the toddler phase but I feel like some of these things can apply to any age (and hey, maybe me at some points too. I always need a snack). My boys like to dress alike (they are 9 and 5 so sometimes it’s challenging) but I do like putting them in similar outfits just in case one of them wanders. It hasn’t happened but it’s a fear of mine. They both also have Road IDs with our cell numbers on them. 🙂

    • Yes- I used to do this too. When my boys were young I put them in matching shirts or at least same colors so I could pick them out in the crowd. I also take a picture of everyone first thing in the morning JUST IN CASE they separate later. I can pull the phone out and say “This is what they are wearing!” Road IDs- brilliant. I hadn’t thought of that one!

  2. Thank you for sharing this info. Seriously, THANK YOU! With the registration for Princess and Tink coming up we are deep in the “Do we take the baby / leave her home / skip it this year” conversations. This advice will go a long way to helping sort it all out.

    Happy Birthday to your Lucy!

    • Lucy says thank you! 😉 It sounds crazy but some of my favorite trips to Disney have been without the kids! I know, I know, they will read this later and be offended. But the magic in their eyes is so worth the hassle. The first night I took Lucy to Ariel and she gave her the biggest hug ever! So precious. Good luck on whatever you decide!

  3. Yay! Thanks for this. We took Oscar at 3 when Cal was a newborn but this year will be the first time with a 5 and 3 year old with very different wishes and dreams. Love the tip about combining FP+ with rider swap. Smart move.

    • Yes! I wasn’t sure you could double dip like that, but it worked like a charm! Since we had FP+ set up, we ended up with the rider switch for 3 people plus my unused FP… meant I could take all 3 older kids onto each ride with me! Be sure to use your little ones to your advantage! And have a GREAT trip!

  4. Thanks for the tips. I’ve got two toddlers going this week! I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

    • Make sure you get my girl Addison on Space Mountain east coast and let me know how she likes it! May the Force be with you, T. You’re gonna need it.

  5. I’ve got nothing but respect. I’ve worked in preschools with two and three year olds and I’ve seen enough meltdowns at Disneyland to understand the challenge! She’s your youngest, right? So at least this stage will pass. Next time you won’t be able to tear her away from Dumbo.

    • Oh Bless you for working with the littles! I love pre-k teachers!

      Yes, she’s the youngest. Smooth sailing from here on out! Errr… I hope. Disneyland was pretty easy with her, I got cocky going back to WDW. Just a lot more heat, a lot more travel back and forth to the hotel, meant a lot more volatility. Next trip she will be a dream!

  6. I had no idea that you could have items shipped directly to your resort! What an awesome tip and something that I will make sure to do when we finally visit Disney with our 5 kids (including one toddler!). Thanks so much!!

    • Me either! It was fantastic. We had a big box and a case of water waiting for us at check in. I had the bell services deliver to my room later because I couldn’t push a stroller and carry the boxes at the same time (Mr. Shenanigans was coming later). It ran really smoothly!

  7. Great tips! I am like her on the plane too, I want to scream get me down too but I just pray. I will remember to have Walmart deliver snacks next time we Disney.

  8. We went to Disney last year with 4 kids…one of which was just 3 years old too. She did great considering the heat, the walking, the over-stimulation! For us, the one big thing we did was (like you said) BE FLEXIBLE and it worked out really well for us!

    • Our last big trip to WDW happened with Seth at 3. But he was a totally different kiddo than Lucy! Fun for sure- but just different experiences. Flexibility was the word all week long!

  9. That is a good list.. we usually split up because our kids do not like the same things..

    • I heard so many people in line trying to stay together. I think splitting up can work too- just know where you are meeting after the ride!

  10. We just got back from Disney too! However, we skipped the main theme parks and did Typhoon Lagoon and Disney Quest. Our little guy is 18 months, and I was REALLY worried about how he would handle a day at a theme park. Thanks for these tips!

  11. Great tips. That switch pass is pretty cool. Great things to keep in mind next time we go

  12. Great tips sounds like you all had a great time. I use to make lots of long car rides with my son when I was int he Coast Guard he was a trooper since we had been making trips almost weekly since he was a baby.
    Danielle recently posted…Time to Train Day 15 of 100My Profile

  13. Rider switch = best.idea.ever. Seriously! Great tips here Patty – I may need to reference them again someday!!

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