10 Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World With Young Children
10 Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World With Young Children
Many families plan a trip to Walt Disney World with babies and toddlers in tow with the expectation that the child is going to be delighted by the magic of Disney. The reality is that young children can have more meltdowns, tantrums and hyperactive outbursts in a Disney park than anywhere else. Not only is the child not having fun, but the parents are too stressed and focused on the child to enjoy the park, and siblings may also grow frustrated as outbursts get in their way of having fun.
This is not the parent or the child’s fault. Disney is a wonderful place, but it can be over-stimulating, confusing, scary, hot, sweaty, boring—yes, waiting on line after line is boring for some youngsters— and exhausting. Leaving home and changing routines to dive head-first into a seemingly magical land with massive crowds and endless activities under the beaming sun is more than enough to stir some emotions.
When planning your vacation with your little one, use these tips to help your vacation go more smoothly.
1. Balance Your Itinerary
Having a general plan of your priority activities can help you keep on track, but don’t over-plan so much that your day becomes a marathon of making it to the next landmark. Disney World is a huge place — the size of San Francisco! — and it can be confusing and overwhelming for first-time visitors.
Research the parks and attractions, ways to get around and make dining plans ahead of time to cut down on a lot of aimless wandering, but leave plenty of time to go from one activity to the next.Leave some of your day open to suit your mood and energy level. If you feel particularly ambitious, there are plenty more things you can spontaneously add to your plans. If you’re tired, you can pace yourselves comfortably
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2. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Take a photo of your child, every day, in whatever outfit she’s wearing. Put labels on your child with your name, cell phone number, and resort or room number. Disney is a big place and it’s not uncommon for little kids to wander out of sight.
3. Break up your day.
Planning guides recommend you plan to spend the morning at the park, go back to your resort to rest or swim, then return to the parks in the evening. A lot of people dismiss this advice, which is all the more reason you should take it. Parks are most crowded during the middle of the day, and the heat is at its worst. A break will refresh the whole family.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, plan your park days by morning Extra Magic Hours. Resort guests get in an hour before other visitors, enjoying shorter lines in the cool morning hours. By the time the big crowds start arriving, you’ll be done and on your way out. By evening, you’ll be rested and ready to jump back in.
4. Use a stroller.
Even if your child has been out of the stroller for a few months or a year, bring one anyway. Your child will get tired, and you’ll often be too tired to carry him. Throw the bags in it when your child isn’t using it.
Huge carriages are a nightmare to navigate among Disney crowds, so umbrella strollers are ideal. Disney offers stroller rentals, but they’re expensive, require a $100 deposit, require extra waiting time to pick up and drop off strollers, and they only have a limited amount (which means you can find yourself fresh out of luck if the park runs out before you get there).
Disney World 2012 - Stuff for Young Children
5. Beat the Heat
One of the biggest shocks for many youngsters is the hot, muggy Florida heat. Keeping your child cool and comfortable can go a long way in keeping her happy. Hats, sun glasses and sunscreen are necessities. Cool, breathable fabrics are a plus. It pays to have a spray mister with a battery operated fan for those muggy nights or 90 degree afternoons. Have a cold water bottle, too, or stop frequently for ice water refills at snack bars.
While many parents like to offer little ones the opportunity to dress up and do their hair for the big trip, choose comfort over style. If your daughter wants to dress up like Cinderella, bring a change of clothes. Even better—bring a bathing suit. Each park has small water play areas where your child can cool down.
6. Make up a Goody Bag.
Depending on the time of year you go to Disney, you may have to get in line for parades and shows more than 30 minutes ahead of time if you want to see the action. Lines for the most popular rides can be over an hour. Kids can get bored with all the waiting time.
Fill asmall bag with little toys, puzzles and activities he’s never seen before. Don’t get anything with multiple pieces— get hand-held items, like Silly Putty, a small tracing pad, an action figure or miniature stuffed animal. Pack a few dry snacks, too, such as baggies of Cheerios, M&Ms, gummy fruits or teething biscuits.
7. Take Advantage of the Fast Pass System.
Fast Passes are free to all Disney visitors, whether you’re staying at a resort or not. Select popular rides use the Fast Pass system to keep lines down. All you have to do is go to the ride and insert your tickets. For each ticket you have, you’ll get one Fast Pass. Fast Passes have a time printed on them; this is the time you can come back and go on the ride with no waiting or a very short wait. It’s a lot better to come back 2 or 3 hours later and walk right on a ride than it is to stand there for 45 minutes.
You can get one Fast Pass per ticket every two hours. If you find yourself wanting to leave the park early, make someone else’s day— pass them on to a stranger so they can get an extra turn.
Great Disney Tips:
8. Stop for Play Time.
Every Disney park has places where you can just let your kids run around and burn up some of that energy. In the Magic Kingdom, there are rustic play areas on Tom Sawyer Island. At Epcot, there are two splash play areas in the Future World Showcase. In Hollywood Studios, there’s the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground. In Animal Kingdom, there’s the Bone Yard, an archaeological dig-themed playground. All of these places have benches where a parent can sit and take a load off while a little one works off some pent-up energy.
One way to not waste time is to have one adult bring little kids to the playground areas while another adult brings older kids on rides, grabs some drinks at a snack bar or goes off to collect Fast Passes.
9. Don’t Force Kids.
If they don’t want to go on a ride, don’t push the issue. If they are afraid to approach a Disney pal — who, to a one-year old, might appear to be a giant freak of nature rather than a lovable cartoon character — then let it go. Not that you should let your child’s whims completely dominate your trip, but there are times when it’s best to allow your child to draw his own lines. Take a cue from her when she’s had enough and shift to a different plan. Forcing a child already in distress to do things just makes them more miserable. Neither you nor your child needs the headache from the crying-- nor do other people around you. They’re trying to have fun, too, so be considerate.
10. Don’t Forget to Have Your Own Fun.
Let the adults in the party take turns with the little ones so that other adults can run off and do the things they were most looking forward to doing. Have dad take the baby to Tom Sawyer Island while mom runs away—alone or with other kids—to get a go at Splash Mountain. Have mom find a seat in the shade to rock the baby to sleep while dad rushes away to see the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Let grandma take the baby back to the resort early so mom and dad can enjoy an extra hour or two in the park.
Disney will even try to accommodate you. If there is a ride that your baby is too young for, tell the cast mates you want to trade off. Wait in line and one parent rides first while the other stays with the child. Then the second parent rides while the first takes the child, without having to wait in line again.
Before you go, think realistically about how a Disney trip might affect your child, and take a pro-active approach to help circumvent some of the problems ahead of time.