A Disney Vacation with Young Children: What Every Parent Must Know!

Are you planning to take a trip to Disney World with a baby or a toddler? Perhaps you are hesitant about going with children so young. I often hear people warn against going to the World with little ones, yet I must disagree with this advice. Our family first went to Disney when our three sons were ages 6, 3, and 1. Yes, we took a one year-old to Disney World and had a fantastic time together!

Disney with little ones is magical and fun, even if they are unable to retain many memories from the trip. (That’s why you go back again, by the way. It’s a great “excuse”!) The parks are filled with a variety of child-friendly attractions, as well as interaction with favorite characters. However, there is some information you should know in advance to make the most of your vacation with young  children.

You will want a stroller with you at all times. A convenient, comfortable place for your toddler to rest is priceless. With multiple little ones, invest in a double stroller. It is well worth it! Single and double strollers are available for rental at all of the parks for a fee of $15 and $31, respectively. Although costly, renting from the parks includes the convenience of not adding a stroller to the luggage you will be traveling with.

Of course, renting from the park means leaving your child’s resting spot behind when you exit, forcing him to walk or be carried by equally tired parents from that point onward. Our family has chosen to pack our own stroller, reducing our vacation expenses and giving our young children a restful mode of transportation from resort room to park. If you choose to do the same, be aware that you will be required to fold it up before getting on Disney buses.

Designated spots for stroller parking exist throughout the parks. Most are in close proximity to the attraction you are visiting. Always park your stroller in these designated areas. Otherwise, it will be moved while you are away, making it extremely difficult to find your belongings. Also, identify your stroller with a bow, a balloon, or some other unique and conspicuous item for a quick and easy find in the often crowded stroller parking lots.

Be sure to pack the basket of your stroller with a few conveniences, including lots of water, snacks, and a disposable sippy cup. Don’t forget other necessities like diapers and wipes, as well as a change of clothes. Include a tarp to waterproof your stroller – and thus your baby – when surprised by rain. The basket also provides a handy location for your extras, such as ponchos and cameras.

Find out in advance what your preschooler will and will not be able to do. Many fun shows and rides are offered for younger children. Dumbo, It’s a Small World, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh are just a few of the rides in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom that will delight the youngest of guests. Each park offers similar attractions with their own unique themes, providing hours of fun for little ones.

Some “cartoon” rides that would appeal to small children, such as Stitch’s Great Escape and Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom, have height restrictions. In order to prevent meltdowns at the park, prepare your child in advance for skipping these attractions. Cast members strictly adhere to the restrictions.

Other rides, like the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom have only 40 inch height restrictions, and while your child may be tall enough, the ride may be too terrifying to actually put him on. Parents with timid preschoolers may also want to skip “It’s Tough to be a Bug” at Animal Kingdom. Any viewing of this show will, without failure, include lots of screaming children!

Maybe you are hesitant about booking a trip to the World because you think you may miss out on all of the cool thrill rides that your preschooler is too short for or too scared of. Disney solves that dilemma with “Child Swap”. No, it does not mean trading your exhausted, crying child in for a calm and content one. What it does mean is that mom, dad, and older siblings can take turns at an attraction without having to wait in line twice. Here is how it works.

As a family, inform the cast member at the entrance to the attraction that you would like to ride, but one member is not tall enough (or too scared). Ask for a child swap pass, which is similar to a fast pass. One parent and the older siblings get in line while the other parent waits outside with the younger child. When the ride is over, the other parent takes the child swap pass and may go through the fast pass line, skipping the long wait. Furthermore, the older siblings may go with that parent, getting a second trip with virtually no wait time.

Do not let having young children prevent your family from traveling to one of the most child-friendly places on earth! With the proper preparation and information, you will have a fun, memorable vacation, as well as a yearning to return year after year.

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  1. Alison Lawson

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