Today I’m bringing you my top 10 tips on how to best travel Walt Disney World with babies and toddlers. I’m going to specifically focus on those traveling with kids 3 and under, mainly because of how Disney’s pricing and ticket system works. Keep in mind that some of these tips will definitely be applicable for groups traveling with older kids as well.
1. Should I Bother?
First of all, I am sure that if you have a little one who’s under the age of three you’re probably already wondering if it’s even worth the hassle of going on a trip to Disney. I say if you’re really excited to do it when they’re really young just do it, don’t worry about what other people think. But my tip is to set the right expectations, at this age your little one will not remember anything from this first trip to Disney. This is gonna be about your personal memories of taking them to Disney for the first time. You can get some really cute pictures and do a handful of easy rides.
Above all else remember this one key selling point it is free for kids under 3. This age group doesn’t have to worry about buying tickets so that can work really well when they’re a little bit more mobile at 2 and getting close to 3. More importantly, children under 3 eat for free at buffets, but more on that later.
Tip number two is all about answering the question is it better to take your own stroller or to rent one. Personally I take a hand-me-down stroller to the parks, I think it’s best to keep those higher-end and more expensive strollers at home because you never know what could happen. We have a special Disney dedicated stroller that folds up nicely into the car and it’s very durable.
However, if you are flying I know that this gets more complicated, of course, you have to consider baggage fees with your specific airline. So if taking your own stroller is a little too complicated you next must think about your different stroller rental options, and all four theme parks offer stroller rentals.
At Magic Kingdom, it’s underneath the train station. At Epcot, there are two locations, one on the left side of the entrance plaza in front of spaceship earth, and also at the international gateway entrance near the France pavilion. Over at Hollywood Studios, you have Oscars Super Service right at the entrance to the park. Finally, at Animal Kingdom strollers can be rented from garden gate gifts, which is on the right-hand side right after the turnstiles.
Currently, Disney stroller rentals are priced at $15 a day for a single stroller and $31 a day for a double stroller. If you do a multi-day rental those prices will go down to $13 and $27 a day respectively. However, I don’t find these strollers to be very comfortable and this is when it’s time to think about third party companies that offer competitive pricing. With these companies the longer the rental, the better the price in comparison to Disney’s. Some companies even provide a free delivery service directly to your hotel, and in my opinion, if you’re not taking your own stroller then that’s the best way to go.
3. Transporting Strollers
Tip 2 brings me to my next topic which is somewhat related… stroller transportation. It’s worth noting what modes of Disney transportation is easy to do with the stroller and which ones are not. The monorail is pretty straightforward, you don’t have to worry about folding it up or even carrying it because you can roll the strollers right onto the monorail cars. The same can be said about the friendship boats that travel World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot and to the nearby hotels. These have a little extra space at the back of the boat for strollers, wheelchairs and ECV’s.
However, there are other boats that are not so easy. For example take the boats that travel between Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and the Magic Kingdom. These smaller water taxis cannot accommodate vehicles like ECV’s, the wheelchairs, and the strollers, so you’ll have to fold up the stroller in this situation. While staying at these hotels, it may be easier to just jump on the monorail instead of a boat to the Magic Kingdom. Another situation will you’ll have to fold up strollers is on the buses and the parking trams, this becomes something to consider when staying at a value and moderate hotel.
I often debate if it is easier to just fold the stroller into my car or to take the bus, and on days I traveled to Magic Kingdom in my own car I even considered paying the extra cash on preferred parking. Just because I know that at the end of a long day at Magic Kingdom my daughter will definitely fall asleep in the stroller. I find it easier to just walk back to the car from the monorail station skipping the tram all together. Yes! Minnie Vans do come equipped with car seats which opens up a whole separate set of options to choose from. For more tips on strollers head over to my article on tips for renting strollers at Disney World.
4. Baby Centers
Tip number 4 is important! Know where your baby centers are located. These locations will become your lifeline when some accidents happen or simply when you need a quiet place to regroup and escape the Sun, which of course is very important for those little infants. Each baby center is free to use, some are bigger than others, but they all have changing tables, private rooms where you can nurse, and equipment to warm up your milk.
At Magic Kingdom the baby center is located in between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace. Naturally, this one is the best of them all in that it’s the biggest and since it’s centrally located it’s pretty easy to get here from any land in the park.
I can almost say the same thing for Epcot, the baby center here is located in between the odyssey building and the Mexico pavilion. It is central but given that Epcot is so vague and has a little bit of an odd layout it’s a little bit inconvenient sometimes to get here.
Over at Hollywood Studios, the baby center is near the entrance to the park. It may seem a little inconvenient, being that it’s not centrally located, but this park is still small enough that it’s not a big deal.
Finally, we have Animal Kingdom this is actually the second-best baby center of them all. It’s tucked away behind creature comforts, the park Starbucks location, and right before the bridge into Africa. This one is very spacious, has brightly colored rooms, and provides great shelter from the weather. Now the baby centers do sell products if you run out of diapers or left that diaper rash cream at home. But I’m sure you already know that these items will be ridiculously overpriced, so do yourself a favor and go through your checklist before you leave in the morning.
5. Plan Nap Times
Halfway through our tips, number five is appropriately focused on taking naps. It’s essential to remember nap time when booking FastPass+ reservations and restaurants. I know it’s a challenge to keep little ones on a nap schedule at Disney. They can easily get overstimulated and they’ll fight you on going down for a nap. But believe me skip nap time and you’re in for a meltdown in the middle of Fantasyland at high noon.
So make decisions on how to do nap time when building your itinerary. You can opt to rope drop to park and arrive super early, which I think is best and then go back to the hotel for a quick nap. Or have a list in your pocket of good places to escape the crowds, relax, and give the little ones a nap. Some of the more mellow animatronic shows are good options, like Carousel of Progress or the American Adventure at Epcot. Whatever you do, try and schedule naps accordingly, it will pay off in the long run.
6. Under 3’s Eat Free!
Like I said at the beginning, one key selling point that may convince you to take a little one under the age of three is that in some cases they can eat for free. If your family decides to do one of the Disney Dining Plans you won’t have to pay for kids under three, they will simply get to eat off of your plate. But if you’re not on the dining plan then character meals and buffets suddenly become a viable option here too, because kids under three eat for free at these locations. This comes in handy when they’re already two years old and eating more solid foods and moving away from just milk.
The downside is that character meals are expensive for adults. But crunch your numbers and you may find that at least one character meal or two could come in handy. I think it’s better to pay more for that than to pay for some food that your kid won’t eat. I especially like to do character meals with this age group, because it knocks out meeting characters and a meal in one go.
7. Meet Characters
Which takes me to tip number 7… make extra time to meet some characters. But also consider your little one’s exact age and how they might react to the characters. I found that when I traveled to the parks with my daughter when she was 2 years old, she had no idea what was going on. She liked seeing Mickey and Pooh because they were big and fluffy but she also didn’t know the concept of fear yet.
I found that once kids hit 2, something changes, they can suddenly get really scared by an overgrown bear walking straight towards them. At this point, face characters like princesses become a better option because they’re not too intimidating. But by 3 you’ll find that the fear is no longer a factor and kids start to like all the characters again. This really varies on the exact age and only you know your child and how he or she will react so use your best judgment.
8. Use Rider Switch
Like the baby centers, this will become your best friend when traveling with toddlers and infants. Rides that have height restrictions will include the option to do rider swap, this simply means that those tall enough to ride can enter the attraction, while an adult sits on their own with the kid that’s too short to ride.
This adult will be given a digital rider switch pass, just ask the cast member at the ride entrance and they’ll scan your Magic Band. This digital rider switch pass will have a specified time of when you can return and ride the attraction without waiting in the standby line again.
9. Visit Animal Kingdom
Number nine may seem odd, but something I’ve learned from experience is not to underestimate Animal Kingdom. This park will surprise you because it’s really fun to experience with kids 3 and under. First of all, it’s mellow, it’s the biggest park of the four, but it has a good layout and even on a really busy day doesn’t feel overwhelming.
The only danger is the heat factor so make sure you cover up well. I also find that if grandparents are tagging along with the baby’s first trip they’ll enjoy this park too. There’s something about the animal trails that makes this park really universal for all age groups. Given that Animal Kingdom doesn’t stay open as late as the other three parks this will probably work well with your schedule and bedtime too.
10. 2 Days At Magic Kingdom
Finally, tip number 10 is to make sure you give yourself two days at Magic Kingdom. I’ve had clients and friends ask “I’m taking my little one for the first time where should I go first?”, “which part should I dedicate the most time to?” … well for infants and toddlers, Magic Kingdom is the park to be in. It offers the most amount of activities and out of the 25 physical attractions in the park only six of them have height restrictions, so there are lots of rides they can get on. Magic Kingdom also has the most character meet-and-greet opportunities as well.
But I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go to Epcot or Hollywood Studios…
If you visit future world West at Epcot there’s a lot of great stuff for toddlers and plenty of characters in World Showcase. Hollywood Studios is a little bit more tricky because it’s mainly shows, but you can spend a nice easy half-day there with them. It’s just a simple fact that Magic Kingdom offers the most and with babies who need nap breaks and earlier bedtimes, two days here is a smart choice.
That’s my top ten tips when traveling to Walt Disney World with babies and toddlers. Specifically for folks with kids 3 and under this guide should be useful. If you have any questions shoot me a message on one of our many social platforms and I’ll do my best to answer anything that this article didn’t.