This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using links below.
I want to start out by saying how absolutely perfect our trip was and that I wouldn’t change one thing about it. The reason I loved our trip, despite the tears and tantrums, was because I expected the worst. Not to say I was dreading our trip, knowing Sophie might not be her smiling self 100% of the time, but I was prepared for the melt downs. Surviving Disney World with a toddler is easy when you’re prepared to leave a show with a 30min wait time or know that she’ll only eat one bite of her $15 meal.
I may have been, what some say as, over-prepared. Being a Girl Scout and ex-Disney cast member, I had thought of every possible disaster and had a plan to turn our frowns upside down. There were a few key tips that I want to share with you that may not make your vacation bliss, but will help in making it more fun for everyone. The goal is for both parents, siblings and toddlers is to have a magical time during their stay at Disney World!
Surviving Disney World with a Toddler
- Hydrate. No matter what time of year you visit Disney World, you’ll need to stay hydrated from the sheer amount of walking. Some people bring filtered water bottles to the parks to re-fill as needed. We chose to carry a Camelbak bladder in a hiking backpack so we would have water any time we needed. Having it easily accessible to Sophie as we waited in lines was perfect. It also saved us money by avoiding sodas and juices in the parks.
- Just do it. Go with the flow. If there’s something you think your toddler may or may not like, just try it. Sophie surprised us on the things she liked and didn’t like. For example, we thought she’d love the Festival of the Lion King and Frozen Sing-Along Celebration but both had fog that terrified her. Also, if there are rides they love, let them go multiple times. We did Teacups and Aladdin’s Carpet multiple times, yet she was afraid to go on Dumbo. Our plan was to have three must-do attractions each day and anything else was a bonus. Remember not all fights are worth a tantrum. Sophie wanted to wear her sweatshirt one morning when it was 80 degrees outside. We let her wear it and by the time we got to the parks she was ready to take it off. Our motto was ‘if it doesn’t hurt her, or someone else, let her do it’ (to a degree). She was the star of the show during the Enchanted Tiki Room because she was singing and dancing in the aisle. She wasn’t bothering anyone and it made her (and the rest of the visitors) happy. We went on this trip to see Disney World through her eyes.
- Bring your own. I did a lot of research ahead of time regarding bringing our own stroller. I had been wary because Sophie always refuses her stroller, wanting to be independent and walking on her own. We decided to bring it to make the airport experience easier and are so glad we did. Sophie’s City Select Stroller was the perfect stroller to take with us. She loved riding in it because she could climb up on her own and it was comfortable. The stroller was heavy enough to hold our rain cover and our backpack without tipping. We attached a Fetch locator in a discrete location so we would be able to locate our stroller via our phones if it got stolen. I also wanted to make sure we would be able to easily spot it in the line up of identical strollers by tying a tassel of colorful ribbons to the handle. If you’re not comfortable bringing your own stroller, there are several stroller rental places in Orlando that will deliver to your hotel. They’re much easier to manage and more comfortable than the park’s plastic strollers.
- Nap. My biggest tip to anyone who asks me for advice on their Disney vacation is to nap, no matter their age. Every trip we’ve taken, we wake up early to be there at park opening, have lunch at the resort, nap or lay by the pool during the hottest part of the day and head back for Extra Magic Hours. Unless you’re used to high sensory during your every day life, you’ll need a break from the sensory overload that the parks bring. If your kids no longer nap, a relaxing walk around your resort, cartoon watching or reading books will help them last until the end of the night without breaking down from exhaustion. If you’re only in the parks a few days and don’t want to take time to nap, plan to do calm rides in the middle of the day such as TTA, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress or the Monorail.
- Embrace the rain. It rains a lot in Orlando. During certain seasons it rains every day at 3 o’clock. The slowest season is hurricane season (for a reason), which is when we always visit. Don’t let the rain stop you from enjoying your time in the happiest place on earth. Bring your own poncho or buy the Mickey Mouse ponchos in the park to keep as souvenirs. If your kids won’t wear their poncho (like mine) it’s warm enough that it’s ok if they’re wet for a little while. I remember going as a kid and loving that it rained because all you saw was a sea of yellow ponchos everywhere! The rain also clears a lot of people out of the parks meaning shorter wait times. If you’re sure you don’t want to get caught in the rain, have a few inside attractions set aside to visit while it rains.
We would love to be able to visit Disney World every year but realistically can not. We will be better prepared for our next trip by learning from our trip this past September. We will probably wait until Star Wars and Pandora construction is done before going next (if I’m able to stand waiting that long). What are your biggest tips when traveling to Disney World with kids?