Planning a Pixie Dust Filled Walt Disney World Vacation for Families with Preschoolers and Infants
Your child's personal carriage will bring your princess to meet her castle with a smile.
Planes, Trains,and Automobiles to Monorails, Buses and Boats
Whether you plan on traveling by plane, train or automobile, the thought of traveling with small children for a long period of time can be a bit overwhelming. Then you throw in the fact that Walt Disney World consists of 42 square miles of fun and I'm certain most heads start to spin. Thoughts flood your mind. What should I pack? How can I prepare for all the potential issues that could arise? How will I meet all of my children's needs and have an enjoyable vacation for the whole family?
As a mom of two small children (7 months old and 4 years old), as well as a Disney File, I find myself running the same thoughts through my mind each year. My husband and I met while we worked at Walt Disney World about 10 years ago. Since moving back to Pennsylvania in 2002, we have visited our old boss at least once every year and our son, Gavin, has been to WDW six times in his four big years. We've traveled by automobile and plane, both have had their perks. In this hub, I'd like to help you prepare with packing lists and tips for travel to and from WDW, as well as tips for being prepared to have FUN with your little ones in the parks. Most importantly, I promise that after all your preparations, no matter what happens along the way to Disney, once you arrive Tink's Pixie Dust will make every moment magical and your memories will truly last a lifetime.
The experience of traveling by a plane with a small child changes with each year a child grows. Two weeks ago my husband and I flew with our seven month old daughter and our four year old son. Their needs and point of view of the experience before them was completely different. As an infant, a parent's main concern for the child is how to take care of the baby's basic needs during travel. When that is done, the baby is comforted. This year my four year old that once soared the skies with ease,now was transformed into a very excited, but terrified child all in the same moment. To make the day more stressful our flight, which was scheduled for 7am, was delayed while all passengers were loaded on the plane and all carry on luggage had been placed in storage compartments. All passengers were asked to exit the plane with only our personal items. The delay lasted 7 hours. We were disappointed to arrive at Walt Disney World at dinner time instead of in the morning but, luckily I was prepared and the day turned into an adventure for the whole family. Below I'll give you some information to prepare you for plane travel with an infant and then follow with information about plane travel with a preschooler.
Plane Flight Packing List for an Infant
- Formula powder sticks If you breast feed you don't have to worry about this one. If you formula feed, formula in smaller airports is non-existent. Pack enough for a full day of feedings. If you haven't yet tried powder sticks, they are really convenient for travel. Remember to have a bottle prepared for the take off of the plane. The baby sucking will help her to clear her ears at that time.
- Empty baby bottles for a full day of feedings
- Baby food for a full day of feedings. Formula and food can be found in the MCO airport but I wouldn't depend on it.
- Disposable spoons You'll be happy when you have one less thing to clean.
- 4 Pacifiers and a pacifier strap/clip The clip will help keep the binky with the baby. My daughter had her binkies touching everything from the plane seats to the restroom floor.
- Pacifier wipes
- Baby hand and face wipes
- Diapers Bring a full day supply.
- Wipes One of the travel bags from Pampers that have the lid on top lasted the whole week for us.
- Changing table travel pad
- Disposable Diaper plastic bags
- Change of clothes for the baby (in case of a diaper explosion)
- Change of shirt for Mommy In case of a diaper explosion or food mishap, you'll be happy you have one. I've unfortunately had to learn this one the hard way...twice.
- Shout it out Wipes (for Mommy's clothes)
- 2 large gallon size storage bags These will be useful for dirty bottles and one for potential dirty clothes.
- Baby Carrier This came in handy not only at the parks but I used it while exploring the airport with my older child. Her stroller was already checked on the plane and the wiggle worm that she is, was calmer in the carrier.
- Stroller Your child's stroller can be checked at the gate free of charge. I highly suggest bringing your baby's stroller. She'll be much more at home in the stroller and the familiarity will comfort her during a time when she might hit sensory overload.
- Photo of your baby (just in case of an emergency)
- Birth Certificate This is often not requested, but there have been times when it was needed. Check with your airport security.
- Cash/ Credit for purchasing bottled water for mixing formula. Remember that the amount of liquid you can take through security is very small, so I ended up having to purchase bottled water while waiting during the delay.
- Toys Two or three toys for the baby to play with during down times or diaper changing.
- Medications that your baby may require during the day.
Please remember that this is just a packing list for your infant's flight day. Also note, that since each paying passenger is allowed one carry-on item and one personal item, I decided to ditch my purse and diaper bag and use one Vera Bradley backpack instead. It met the size requirements for the airline's "personal item" and it had a bunch of compartments. I was able to separate meal time items from diaper changing time items, in addition to fitting stuff in there for Mommy. You can see it in the photo of me holding the baby in the carrier. It played a huge role during our entire vacation.
Check with your airline for their carry-on and personal item descriptions and allowances before you start packing. Some airlines allow parents to bring an extra personal item to carry for the baby for free.
Plane Flight Packing List for a Preschooler
- Lovey or Favorite Toy This will help comfort your child if turbulence hits.
- Favorite snack food item He'll be excited to eat them during take off and landing. This will help him clear his ears, since gum really shouldn't be used at this age. We use Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Our son picks his favorite kind out of a bin in the candy department at our local Wegman's grocery store.The jelly beans are very chewy so they work perfect. He gets these only for special occasions so we make a big deal about his special take off and landing treat.
- Media device(s) i.e. Ipad, Leapster, IPhone loaded with movies, age appropriate apps and games.
- Head phones The jet engines can be quite load. Any media devices he brings will be hard to hear without them.
- Batteries Back up for any devices that may run out after a day of straight playing.
- Coloring Book and Crayons or Color Wonder Products During down times in the airport or on the plane, my son has often wanted to color a special photo or two for those special someones waiting at Disney.
- Personal wallet Preschoolers are starting to understand the concept of buying things with money. Although they are not quite ready to do this on their own or fully understand the value of each coin or bill, Walt Disney World is a wonderful place to have your preschooler begin to work with this concept. Disney cast members are great with children at the registers. The pride you will find on your child's face as he buys his souvenirs "on his own" will be a perfect photo moment!
- Theme Park Ticket I recommend that Mommy holds on to this in her wallet.
- Anti Bacterial Hand Wipes
- Toys Don't over pack toys and keep them small so they are not too heavy to carry for your little one. Remember that he will most likely purchase some toys at the parks, so these items should just be enough to keep him busy during your flight day.
- Additional Snacks Prior to packing for your trip, put some time aside to take your little one to the grocery store with you to have a special shopping trip for your vacation. Give him a few special snack items to chose from and tell him they will be just for him to have on his great adventure.
- Unopened Glow Sticks These can be used on dark rides and will come in handy at night when all the glow products come out for sale. They saved us this year from purchasing our third glow sword.
- Autograph Book and Pen If this will be your first trip, don't worry, you can find autograph books and pens at EVERY register in EVERY park or resort.
As a reminder, this is only a packing list for the day of your flight. Since your preschooler will be a paying customer on the plane, he will most likely be entitled to one carry-on luggage and also a personal item. If your child has a preschool backpack, have your child carry all of his own items. Everything that I mentioned above, other than the park ticket, was packed in our son's backpack. He was so excited to be "such a big boy" that he had his backpack and carry-on luggage packed and ready go two weeks before vacation. This worked out perfectly because every morning he practiced carrying his backpack and pulling his carry-on luggage around the house. By the time our flight day arrived, he appeared to be a professional traveler. Not once did he ask for help. Your preschooler will most likely surprise you how "BIG" they really are.
Once again, check with your airline for their carry-on and personal item descriptions and allowances before you start packing.
Living in Pennsylvania, when we travel to Disney by automobile, we take two days to get there. Yes, this is a long time for little ones and parents alike. However, what an adventure full of memories can be had along the way! Billboards for South of the Border humor even my husband and I. Car Bingo and "I Spy" are great for Preschoolers and car rides for most infants are a ticket to Sumberland. The ultimate need for your travel by vehicle for ANY child over one is a TV or media device of some sort. When all the games, coloring, reading, singing, snacking and napping is done, the movies will be a life saver. Time flies when their favorite characters come on screen. I try to take new movies or favorites that that he hasn't watched in months that include his favorite Disney characters.
For our first born's first trip to Walt Disney World, we traveled by SUV. He was 9 months old and I envisioned the worst. The ride was so much easier than I had expected and it was wonderful having all the extra space to pack without worrying about everything fitting into suitcases. In addition, Walmart is just a skip away from Walt Disney World with the use of your car. This really came in handy with formula. Since Gavin was a preemie he was on a strict diet of premade Similac. Similac is not sold on property. This year we did not have a vehicle and ran into a problem getting Similac for our newborn. My husband ended up taking the Downtown Disney Bus and walking to a grocery store where they sold bottles at $10 a piece!
Below you will find a packing list for your trip to Disney by Automobile. Keep in mind that I will only include the perishable items that you can use for the trip down. On a side note, we stay in a DVC resort when we are at Disney and therefore go shopping for the week's groceries after we arrive and check into our resort. It's great having the refrigerator and it saves us money. The other Disney Resorts have small refrigerators available for a fee.
Children's Packing List for Travel by Automobile
- Health Insurance Card
- Photos of your children in case of an emergency
- Media Device(s) with head phones
- Chargers and/or batteries for any media devices
- Cash/ Disney Dollars/ Gift Cards
- Disney Tickets
- Snacks for travel days
- Juice Boxes, Water, Formula and Baby Food for travel days
- Medications, including Children's Advil and Infant Motrin
- Body Wash
- Toothbrushes & Children's Toothpaste
- Fingernail clippers
- Disposable plates/spoons/forks/cups
- Bottles/Bottle Brush/ Small travel supply of dish detergant
- Ziploc Bags (for dirty items you need to wash later)
- Laundry bag (Baby detergent if you chose to do laundry)
- Hats (one per child)
- Neck pillow for preschooler
- Favorite blanket and sleep item
- Coat (Depending on what month you travel it does get cold in Florida, especially at night. Many trips in January we have needed our winter coats in the evenings and a sweater during the day.)
- Sweatshirts (one per child)
- Sleeper Sack(s) for the baby (Even though you will be in Florida, the air conditioning can be a bit much for your baby.)
- Swimsuits (one per child)
- Bug spray
- Netting for Stroller
- Mommy Hook for the stroller (If you don't have one of these, it's awesome. It hooks onto the handle of the stroller and you can use it to attach bags, hats, and anything with a loop, provided the bags are not heavier than your child. You don't want to tip the stroller over.)
- A few books, toys, and coloring books
- Autograph Book and Pen
- Any light-up toys that were purchased at an earlier Disney vacation, that still work. This COULD save you from buying them again when the evening comes in each park.
- Clothing (Depending on what month you are visiting, how many days you will be there and if you decide to do laundry while on vacation, your clothing list will vary greatly. Make sure you keep an eye on Lake Buena Vista's weather as you are packing. The Weather Channel Application for the IPhone will give you a 10 forecast.)
- Diaper changing items (As mentioned above, this will also depend on the length of your stay at Walt Disney World and also your travel time.)
Monorails, Buses, and Boats
YAY! You've arrived at Walt Disney World! If you're staying on property and have travelled to Orlando by plane, the Magical Express Disney Bus will be waiting to whisk you away to your resort. If you've arrived at your resort with the use of your own vehicle, you're probably scanning your resort and realizing all the wonderful ways to get around the "World". From the famous Monorail, to the many Disney Buses, to the various water craft vehicles, each mode of transportation leads to a different experience for your children. Your preschooler has most likely already noticed the monorail on the ride into the Walt Disney World Resort and he's ready to ride the rail! In fact, riding the monorail and touring Bay Lake by water craft are two of my son's favorite things to do at Disney and they don't cost a dime. So, check into your resort and start exploring! Before you take off running, I'd suggest filling a backpack, especially before going to a park. As a guest, you are allowed to bring food and drink into the parks, which can safe you a few dollars. However, large coolers are not allowed in the parks, nor alcohol of any sort. Below you will find a list of items that I pack in our backpacks before leaving our resort each day.
Daily Packing List
- Baby carrier
- Bottled Waters
- Empty Baby Bottles
- Formula (The 8 oz pre-made bottles worked awesome for us. The 4 oz powder sticks were great too, but then you need to remember to keep the baby's water separate.)
- Baby Food & Bibs
- 2 Juice Boxes (We purchase the milk inside the parks to avoid it spoiling.)
- Insulated Drink bag
- PB&J sandwiches
- Autograph Book with Pen
- Extra set of clothing for Mommy (shirt) & Baby (outfit). Also bring another shirt for your preschooler if he's planning of running through the many jumping water fountains at Epcot or Downtown Disney.
- Gallon Ziploc Bags for wet clothing or potential Diaper explosion clothing
- Pins (if your pin traders)
- Park Tickets
- Cash/Room Key/Credit Card
- Photos of your children
- Insurance card
- Anti-Bacterial Wipes
- Baby Pacifier wipes
- Diapers/Wipes/Changing table travel pad
- Any medications you may need
- Light up toy that was previously purchased...or you'll be buying another one tonight.
My husband and I both carried backpacks, but mine usually ended up in the bottom of the stroller. I kept all the baby's items and my husband carried the food and drinks. We usually purchased one meal a day at the park and ate one out of our backpacks. Our preschooler often needed a snack to keep his energy up, so it was nice to have his favorite items on hand instead of running to get an ice cream or pretzel at $3-$4 a piece. Keep in mind when you're packing that a lot of bottled water gets heavy and since it's not in a huge cooler, it also gets warm quickly. Pretzel and chips will be crushed and Nutri-gran bars will be squished in the bottom of your backpack. We try to pack those items on top or in the front small pockets where the camera and/or heavy drinks are not kept.
I hope the information that I've passed along to you can be of some use. Walt Disney World is an amazing and wonderful place. Once you're suitcases are packed and all your planning is done, I truly hope you and your family have a magical vacation that will be packed with happy memories that will remain in your mind for a lifetime. Safe travels to you!