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Should You Take a Toddler To Disney?

Updated on December 7, 2014

Will a 2 Year Old Appreciate Disney World?

This past December, we took our almost-two-year-old to Disney World. I put it off for most of 2012 (we did go in 2011) knowing that he'd have no clue what he was looking at. I still thought it might be a bit early, but I came from a Disney family, and I want him to come from one, too! We used to visit the parks every year, and I wanted to start the tradition with my son.

Since I write often about toys for children, several of my readers also requested that I do a piece about a Disney vacation with a toddler--I'm happy to oblige.

So, did my two year old "get" what Disney was all about? Was he a terror to travel with? Read on to learn more.

All images property of the author; all rights reserved.

Taking a Toddler to Disney: The Background

Why did we decide to take him?

I tend to write alot about gifts/toys and children's products, so I've had a few ask about my experience taking my son to "The Happiest Place on Earth". We went when he was 11 months old, but we hadn't been back since. I was up for the challenge of detailing my experience, so we bought a few tickets, packed up the car, and left. I'm lucky that I live within a few hours of Orlando--we haven't braved flying with him yet. I admire you parents that have!

Disney Souvenirs - Cheaper than at the park

Save a few bucks and get some souvenirs ahead of your trip--then, give it to your child while you're there!

Disney Mickey Mouse Plush Toy -- 17''
Disney Mickey Mouse Plush Toy -- 17''

We have one of these, and he carries it all over the house!

 

Magic Kingdom with a Toddler - He loved it!

The second the monorail stopped at the Magic Kingdom, he was mesmerized. It was like he had "Mickey radar", and immediately starting picking out all the Mickey heads in the topiaries, of all things.

When we got onto Main Street (which was pretty busy, even in early December), he had a ton of fun just looking around at all the swarms of people. He really, REALLY wanted a Mickey balloon (there are millions of these for sale on Main Street--what the heck do parents do with these balloons all day? I guess just put them on the stroller?), but we were able to distract him each time he started reaching for one.

Since he's more-than-mobile, I was surprised that he sat quietly in the stroller; usually he wants "out" immediately. But he was having so much fun people-watching that he was quite happy in there!

Magic Kingdom Rides for Toddlers - Rides he loved

Jack on Barnstormer
Jack on Barnstormer

Rides have always been a big part of my Disney experience growing up. I was surprised just how much he COULD go on at the MK. These rides definitely helped to break up the day, and it was great to get him out of the stroller. There are others to go on, but here is what we rode:

1) The Barnstormer (The Great Goofini): Awww, his first rollercoaster. Physically, he met the ride's requirements (he is tall), but I worried that mentally he wouldn't be ready for it. You can see from the pic, he had no idea what was going on. He didn't cry or scream or anything, but he was fairly terrified (I could tell from how quiet he was being!). There were some flashes of a smile, but it's the kind of attraction that would be better when he was a bit older.

2) Pirate's of the Caribbean: I thought the loud noises (cannons blasting) would scare him, but he had no problem with it.

3) Haunted Mansion: He has no concept of fear right now, and he liked this just fine. He especially loved when the car tips back (but was confused that there was a ghost in the car at the end!).

it's a small world
it's a small world

4) It's a Small World: He also went on this on his first trip to Disney World a year ago. He still loves it, and would gladly ride this the entire day.

5) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: He literally cried when we disembarked--he LOVED it.

Magic Kingdom with a Toddler
Magic Kingdom with a Toddler

6) Tomorrowland Speedway: He rode this with his Dad and loved nothing more than when he would slam the car back and forth into the track (all kids seem to love this, from watching from the spectator area above--and riding it back in the day!).

7) The People Mover: A nice, easy-going ride that he liked. He wasn't so sure about going in the dark around Space Mountain, though.

8) Space Mountain: Just kidding.

What Can a Toddler Eat at Disney?

So many options!

Disney has changed quite a bit when it comes to children's options for food. Whereas in the past, you could find a lot of hotdogs and hamburgers, etc., now there is so much more to choose from. You can even find gluten-free options at Disney (if I recall, they are clearly marked on the menu)!

The choices are now quite a bit healthier--all come with milk or juice (or a soft drink) and healthy sides such as grapes, apples or carrot sticks. We often opted for the Uncrustables PB&J.

We brought a small cooler into the parks to keep a sippy of water and a sippy of milk cool. It was also great for packing snacks so that he'd always have something to munch on.

To Nap or Not to Nap - If your child still naps, please participate!

One of the scariest parts of traveling with my toddler is wondering what will happen at nap time (I know, get over it). Going to Disney was no exception.

How do you handle naps while on vacation?

We go back to the room and let him/her sleep

We go back to the room and let him/her sleep

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    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Naps are a great Idea, Keeps everyone Happy! Then you can stay in the parks longer at night.

    • BunnyFabulous 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Mostly we'd try to let our daughter sleep while on vacation. Kept everyone happier, but we'd do the stroller nap every so often.

    • CeciliaMatos 4 years ago

      I never went to Disney, but in another theme park in Europe, we did two things. If the child was too tired, we went to see a show, with confortable chairs and a dark room, that last, at least, 20 or 30 min.. But the perfect solution was to go to our hotel room, that was near the park, for a couple of hours, that way everybody could take a nap.

    • Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My son didn't believe in Nap time. lol

    • motobidia 4 years ago

      The daily schedule tends to slip by an hour or two while on vacation, but we try hard to keep the routine otherwise unchanged. It's worked well so far.

    • Rhonda Albom 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I am pretty sure we arrived when it opened, went back for nap time while the park was most crowded, and then came back in later. This only works if you are at a hotel on the monorail.

    That's what strollers are for. Or, if no nap occurs, oh well!

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      • anonymous 4 years ago

        I skip them

      • dawnsnewbeginning 4 years ago

        I had one who required naps and the other two didn't.

      • Bob 4 years ago from Kansas City

        At Disney we always had our stroller and when our son fell asleep we simply grabbed some food and drink, found some shade, and relaxed while he took a 30 - 45 minute power nap and then we were off again!

      • RadaFrancis LM 4 years ago

        Usually fall asleep in the stroller. Took our little one to a zoo once and she slept all through it.. it was one big nap for her, while we (adults) ended up seeing all the animals lol.

      • JumpinJake 4 years ago

        for 5 days straight, our 10 month old was in front of me in the shoulder baby holder I wore. It made a close impact for him and I and he just fell asleep when he needed a nap. I'm a pro to just having the kids go with the flow while at Disney.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        Strollers are for napping, that's why they have the "lay back" feature. If I'm tired though, it's back to the hotel room.. ha ha I usually don't mind taking anyone back to the room no matter where we are but if it's Disneyland, it's stroller napping all the way for the babies.

      • aishu19 4 years ago

        We are on vacation! Cant expect the kid to stick to the routine..but if he does... so be it.. we adapt and not make strict plans... and yes strollers!! I dont think I ever went back to the room for my kid to sleep... only if all of us were exhausted...

      After a Busy Day at Disney - This toddler is passed out!

      One thing we learned is that our son does NOT sleep while at Disney. He got drowsy a few times in the stroller, but there was always so much visual stimulation that a nap just wasn't going to happen. He had an hour or so where he was cranky, and then he got over it. Combined with no nap, we kept him up about 2 hours later than usual--needless to say, he passed out in the car on the way back to the hotel. He continued sleeping as we walked him into the house, undressed him and put him to bed. He hasn't done that since he was a few weeks old!

      A Tip: Where to Stay

      On the grounds, or off?

      As much as I would love to stay "on site", we elected for off. Why? Typically Disney hotels (and their partners) only offer rooms that are just that: one room only. Sometimes you can find suites, but that usually includes one bedroom, one living area and a kitchenette. While there are so many benefits to staying on the grounds (extra park hours, transportation to the parks, a whole Disney "vibe"), we really appreciate our son having his own bedroom. We'll let him stay up later on vacation, but there's something nice about putting him in his own, quiet room while we can be elsewhere watching TV and hanging out.

      I also love having a full kitchen where we can prepare breakfast and pack up our snacks and such for the whole day. It feels more like home and less "rushed", if that makes sense.

      For those of you wondering, we stayed at Vista Cay Resort.

      Did they get what was going on? Or was it the equivalent or taking them to the mall (ha!)?

      © 2012 Lauren

      Have You Taken a Toddler to Disney? - Did He or She Love It?

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        • goldenrulecomics profile image

          goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

          I took the younger half of Goldenrulecomics to Disney after she just turned 5, and that was perfect! She loved interacting with the characters and talking to them!

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Yes, Disneyland, Disney World and the Disney Cruise, they love it.

        • BunnyFabulous profile image

          BunnyFabulous 4 years ago from Central Florida

          We took a preschooler on a Disney cruise, which was great fun. Was nice to have lots of options of what to do. I think we'll take her to Disney soon now that she's almost 5. She's not a big fan of waiting and lines, so now she'd probably do a lot better.

        • SciTechEditorDave profile image

          David Gardner 4 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

          Yeah ... we took our son to Disney when he was about 2-years old.... But he didn't like waiting in the lines... even for the kiddo stuff. After much of a day of fussing... my wife and I were exhausted. He's thirty years old now... so he doesn't remember much of his *vacation* ... but we *do* show him pictures once in a while to remind him that we took him there once. Our daughter never went there when she was a kid... but when she turned 21, she and her girlfriends did a "road-trip" and went to Disneyland. Now my son has a 6-year-old daughter... and grandpa and grandma (me and my wife) are planning on taking her there the next time they come down from Seattle. :-) NIce lens!

        • KathyFirak profile image

          KathyFirak 4 years ago

          Good to know

        • poldepc lm profile image

          poldepc lm 4 years ago

          yes; we took our kids to disneyland paris (2x)...congrats on your purple star lens...

        • Rosetta Slone profile image

          Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

          I took my toddler nephew to Disneyland Paris when he was about 3. He had a blast, but lost his favourite teddy bear there. It was fun up until that moment, haha! Never again.

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

          We visit Disney a lot, but I've never tried it with a toddler. I see some of them cranky and over-excited while others are worn out and napping in the stroller. Pace yourself and don't try to fit everything into one day.

        • blessedmomto7 profile image

          blessedmomto7 4 years ago

          I've taken an 19 month old and a 2 year old to Disney. We were going anyway, since we are rarely in Florida. They loved it!

        • BAMditty profile image

          BAMditty 4 years ago

          I used to live only two or three hours from Orlando, so I too grew up on yearly trips to Disney. But I also lived less than ten minutes away from a local theme park, Busch Gardens, and my mother & her cousin would take us four children (two double strollers. Oh yeah. ;P) almost daily. My mother says we loved it and it was great because it kept the house clean and wiped us out so we couldn't tornado attack when we got home lol. Definitely fun and a good idea.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Oh for sweet, I think Mom and Dad will enjoy the memories.

          Congratulations on the Purple Star. - Blessed!

        • dawnsnewbeginning profile image

          dawnsnewbeginning 4 years ago

          Mine went to Sixflags and yes they had fun!

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          motobidia 4 years ago

          Toddlers can find enjoyment wherever you take them. They are happy to spend time with their parents and explore new places. It's important to realize that it makes little difference to them whether it's Disney or Vegas, so parents shouldn't kid themselves that they are not doing it for themselves... I loved your story!

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          It sounds like the positives far outweighed any negatives there were on your trip. I'm happy for your son that you took him! I know everything at the Magic Kingdom is expensive, so your idea to buy souvenirs ahead of time and then take them with you is really smart.

        • OhMe profile image

          Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

          Our son had a fantastic time at Disney as a toddler. He thought the whole thing was there for him and him only. The next year he was a little sick and we gave him some medicine and unfortunately he slept through Epcot. You've done a great job on this lens and it will be helpful to others wanting to take their toddlers to Disney. Congrats on your purple star.

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          getmoreinfo 4 years ago

          Thanks for sharing your story about Taking a Toddler to Disney.

        • Louidam1 LM profile image

          Louidam1 LM 4 years ago

          I have taken my daughter when she was about 2 years old and she was confused and couldn't get on most of the rides so either me or her dad had to sit out with her. Now she is 5 and doesn't even remember it.

          We all went back to Disney World for the New Years Eve and she loved it!

        • Missmerfaery444 profile image

          Missmerfaery444 4 years ago

          Because we're in the UK it's much more of a one-off, "big" holiday for us to save up for, so I'd wait until my daughter was older so that she could really appreciate it. She's three right now and apart from Toy Story and Winnie the Pooh, she's not overly into Disney yet. She's more interested in going to Thomas Land to see Thomas the Tank Engine, of all things! :) Great guide for those who are able to go with their toddlers though!

        • ksrpraj profile image

          Sriram Raj 4 years ago from New Delhi

          Awesome lens. I think your kid will love after he becomes big and read this lens

        • ksrpraj profile image

          Sriram Raj 4 years ago from New Delhi

          Awesome lens. I think your kid will love after he becomes big and read this lens

        • heartycindypen profile image

          Hearty Cindy Penaranda 4 years ago from Ormoc City

          wish I could be in Disney someday...

        • JumpinJake profile image

          JumpinJake 4 years ago

          Enjoyed the review of your blog this morning, I'm a pro Disney fan.

        • RhondaAlbom profile image

          Rhonda Albom 4 years ago from New Zealand

          We took each of our girls just before their 2nd birthday and the magic of Disney really came alive for all of us through their eyes. Squid Angel Blessed.

        • KimGiancaterino profile image

          KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

          No ... but my 7-month-old nephew will be going for the first time soon, so I'll pass your tips along!

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          aishu19 4 years ago

          I first took my son to Disneyland in CA when he turned 3..since he was watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.. he had a blast!! I think kids who have watched and enjyoed Disney shows would appreciate this happiest place the most! I am hoping we can go again soon

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          Joan4 4 years ago

          I took our son to Disney one of the first years it was open. He was about 3 years old. My husband was playing golf nearby and it was a dreary winter day with some sprinkles of rain, but we had a ball! we did all the rides we could at Magic Kingdom, saw everything, took lots of photos and in general had a wonderful day. He really does not remember it - he's a dad himself now, but the pictures are so cute! I am glad I did it!