If you’re a planning a Walt Disney World vacation with your favorite toddler, this is the post for you. I’m a been there, done that mom when it comes to Disney with kids at all ages, but taking toddlers to Disney World is my favorite. If you follow these tips, that is! Here are my six tips for traveling to Disney World with Toddlers (and a bonus tip before you go!).
We’ve been to Disney World with our family at all ages.
My daughter Claire was 6-weeks-old on her first trip!
Taking young children to Disney does come with some, shall we say, special challenges.
This post is going to give you some tips to traveling to Disney World with toddlers as learned when we visited with our then 3-year-old, Lucy.
Six Tips for Traveling to Disney World with Toddlers
We spent a week at Walt Disney World with our little one, #OhLucy when she was just under the age of 3. Here’s what I learned about traveling with a toddler to Disney World:
Don’t do it.
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 to Disney World with toddlers thing all figured out.
I thought wrong.
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!!!
So, fam, here’s the scoop on taking your toddler to Disney World. Six simple tips to make the trip much more enjoyable all around!
1. Flying to with a Toddler
I recommend traveling with car seats on flights.
If you want your travels to Disney World with toddlers to go off without a hitch, start here.
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 lifesaver. 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 takeoff, 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.
“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.
2. Naps. Don’t skip them at Disney World
For the love of Mickey, please please don’t skip naps when you travel to Disney World with toddlers. 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.
#OhLucy was alright 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. Packing Snacks at Disney World for a Toddler
Do NOT be afraid to bring them or use them when you travel to Disney World with toddlers.
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 FastPass, 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.
You can also use Amazon Prime Now (affiliate link) for even faster delivery.
We loved having bottled water, juice boxes, fruit pouches, goldfish 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.
4. Be Flexible at Disney World With Toddlers
Seriously: be this.
But you probably already know that from living with a toddler.
Going to Disney World with toddlers is no different- just more magical. We hope. Ha.
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 thing 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.
I learned from our first night at the Magic Kingdom when she didn’t want to let Airel go, that my girl LOVES her some characters
She gets that from me. Ahem.
So 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 to Mexico and found Donald Duck at his usual spot. She loved meeting him and held his hand for a while.
6. Use Rider Switch At Disney World with Toddlers
This is my absolute favorite thing about taking a toddler to Walt Disney World: score EXTRA FastPasses without having to pay for them.
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 OR too scared 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 FastPass.
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 on 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.
Edited To Update the Rider Switch Policy Starting Summer 2018
In the summer of 2018, Disney World changed things up a bit!
Now the Rider Switch is done electronically via your Magic Bands.
The full party still needs to come to the front of the line (or designated Rider Switch location- just ask a CM and they will tell you where to go!).
Each band of the riders and switchers will be scanned and a new FastPass return time assigned.
Yup. A time assigned. Typically about an hour later.
You can’t just come back whenever you want… but at least this is still a great option for those that need it! And when we used it this summer, my kids still had the “extra FastPass” experience.
As Maui says, You’re Welcome!
Bonus Tips for Traveling to Disney World with Toddlers
Prepare in advance of your trip!
You and they will have a much better time if they actually know some of the characters they are seeing or the story behind the rides you are on.
My friend put together a fabulous Printable Disney Movie Marathon List that will help you guys prepare for the big trip.
Check it out and have a great time putting in your “homework” for this trip!
And if your family are big Marvel buffs, be sure to watch the Marvel Avengers movies in order before you go. There’s more Marvel coming to the parks every year and you want to be prepared.
Best parks for Disney World with toddlers
All the parks have options for the young kiddos, but some are going to offer a bigger variety of options.
I’d say you can’t go wrong by taking toddlers to Magic Kingdom.
That should be your first and most frequent stop. Most of the rides are perfect for the preschool kid!
Hollywood Studios has some fun shows if your toddler can sit through them. And the new Toy Story Land is just adorable- and FANTASTIC for kids this age!
And Animal Kingdom is basically the biggest and most awesome zoo ever!
My toddlers were also not impressed with Epcot as a whole, but things have changed a bit- and I think this park has more to offer the toddler crowd.
You can also visit the Kidcot stations at each country, but honestly, I didn’t want to spend time coloring at Disney World.
What are your tips and tricks for traveling to Disney World with toddlers? Do you have any suggestions that I missed?
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed 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.)