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Should You Take a Toddler To Disney?
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!
We have one of these, and he carries it all over the house!
Great learning Disney toy.
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
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!).
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.
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?
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