Heading To Disney With Young Kids? May God Have Mercy On Your Soul.
I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve been to Disney World since I had my children. My husband and I used to travel to cool places, like St. Lucia and Italy, prior to having these little devils. Alas, those days are gone for now. Traveling to Disney World with young kids can be exhausting though.
Don’t get me wrong, Disney World is amazing. You can’t beat the customer service and the care you get if you have food allergies but you will not return feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
We’ve been to Disney four times in the last four years, and we’re gearing up to go again soon. We’re pros at this point. It’s the type of vacation that can drive you mad if you’re trying to understand how Disney works and plan the trip all by yourself. We’ve done a pretty good job of planning it by ourselves because my husband is the king of research, so I’ll eventually share my own tips and tricks. For right now though, I’m just gonna go ahead and lay out what it’s like going to Disney with kids, ages 4 and under.
First off, it’s fun. Really fun. Kids at this age don’t have any expectations. They don’t even understand what Disney is so YOU get to choose what rides to do, which characters to meet and where to eat. They have rider-swap options if there’s a ride your little ones can’t go on but you and your partner want to take advantage of, like Space Mountain. If your children are fans of Disney characters, watching their little faces light up when they meet a character (or see them from afar if they’re scared of people in gigantic costumes) is amazing.
It’s also a really hard trip to take with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Especially if they don’t ever freaking sleep like my kids. Here are the toughest things I’ve encountered when visiting Disney World with young kids.
Wait Times for Rides
Think about what it’s like when you’re with your children at the supermarket checkout counter. Do they whine, scream, throw themselves to the ground, touch everything they can get their little human hands on? Now imagine that behavior on steroids. Kids at Disney are hyped-up on excitement and waiting to get onto a ride can be torture!
Scary Rides and Characters
Things you wouldn’t even expect to scare young kids sometimes do. Be ready to cover up those eyes and ears on rides like Winnie the Pooh and when meeting Cinderella.
If you have a picky eater, be prepared. I’ve bent over backwards trying to get my daughter to eat a meal where the food are touching. In Disney, where you’re flying on high-energy, you need to fuel up fast and frequently. Typically young kids are super-picky, and traveling anywhere can be tough. Leave extra time for meals.
This one is so tricky. Do you return to the room for naps or let them sleep in a stroller or carrier? I opt for a combo. So, some days we’ll do stroller naps and other days we head back to the room.
You need it. A lot of it. If this is a problem in your family to begin with, buckle up. There’s no way around this one. Be prepared to drink lots of coffee and schedule a lot of downtime. Room service and the Disney Junior Channel will be your friend. You’ll also need to locate some spots in the park to take a rest. There are fireworks in the parks every night. Rooms are not soundproof, so if you’re staying close to any of the parks you may hear the fireworks around bedtime. We bring our sound machines from home and use apps on our phones to buffer the loud noises we inevitably hear.
Just how overwhelming it all can be
There are a lot of people. There are loud noises. It can be HOT. It’s just a weird place for a kid to be. Fun, but definitely not like any other place your child has ever been.
So, here’s what I’ve done in the past to counter all of the drama.
If you have a baby, use a carrier
If you’re traveling with a young baby, invest in a carrier. It will save you a lot of angst. If you have a bad back, do some core exercises before you go and wear your baby. I can’t imagine doing Disney with a baby any other way.
Make sure you rent or buy a stroller that reclines far back
We found an umbrella stroller that reclined nicely for naps, and that was 3 years ago. I’m sure there are many more out there now. If you’re renting, make sure it has this feature!
Research food before you go
You can look up the menu for every food stand and restaurant. Make a list of places where you can find kid-friendly foods. Set a timer on your phone to go off several times throughout the day to remind you to feed your child before he tries to eat you!
Move the furniture to you’re advantage
I’ve even stuck cribs behind curtains as a room barrier. Move desks, chairs, sofas, whatever. Set up the room. This is actually a good travel trip in general, not just for Disney.
You will not survive without this. Fastpass will allow you to skip the long lines. It’s not as confusing process as you may think. Just log onto your account and choose the time you want to go on a particular ride. Then go to the ride at that time!
Bubbles, stickers and snacks
Go buy a lot. I use them when we wait for rides and when we are just taking a break from the heat.
In the end, I wouldn’t trade the Disney vacations we’ve taken for the world even if there were tantrums and I was even more exhausted than usual. I mean, I’m going back in a few months, so clearly it isn’t that bad!