I know some people may think we were a little crazy to take 2 children to Disney World before either turned 3, but we had an awesome time and I wanted to share our experience and some things we learned along the way for any parents considering the same. 🙂
The main reason we decided to go at this time was so we could take advantage of the military discount that my brother-in-law was able to get for us. This meant staying at Shades of Green and half price 5 day park hopper tickets. If you are wanting to know other ways to save money, click here! http://pencilstopigtails.com/disney-world-10-tips-and-tricks-to-save-tons-of/
Aniston was 1 month away from turning 3 and Heidi was 10 months old when we arrived. That meant that I only had to purchase a plane ticket for Aniston and Heidi could fly free as a lap child. In addition, I only had to buy Disney World tickets for Dustin and I – that alone saved us a ton of money. (Kids are free until the age of 3!)
Seeing Disney through a toddler’s eyes was totally worth it. I’m so glad that we got to take Aniston at such a young age. She was fascinated by everything. Heidi was very easy to take care of as she was so intrigued by the rides and entertainment. Since she is in the crawling stage, the hardest part for her was that she was ready to get on the floor for some crawling time and there weren’t too many places to do that.
Here are some recommendations if you are taking young children to Disney World.
- Bring your own snacks, drinks, and even lunch or breakfast in if you would like. Snacks can go a long way in helping your children wait in line. Not to mention it will save you money. I was pretty surprised when I was planning our trip to hear that you could bring in all kinds of outside snacks. Our favorites were the organic fruit/vegetable pouches. Both Heidi and Aniston love those. They are super convenient and healthy! We didn’t get around to it, but you could easily make pb&j sandwiches. Bananas, apples, and oranges were really popular with our crowd. Capri-suns and crackers are good choices. You can bring in a small soft sided cooler if you want to keep things cold. On a side note, Heidi has a milk and egg allergy. Because of this, I also don’t eat any milk or egg and since I’m vegetarian, this means I’m vegan while I’m still breastfeeding. I was super impressed with the way allergies were handled at Disney. Every employee was so helpful. They quickly pulled out allergy information and they always called over an “allergy coordinator” since our family was dealing with a “double allergy”. Every coordinator went above and beyond checking every little ingredient for milk/egg and creating a meal that was perfect for us. I have never been treated so fantastic when it comes to dealing with allergies. Allergy mamas know that we often get looked at like we have 3 heads when we start to question each ingredient at a regular restaurant!
- Bring along some kid friendly cups because you can ask for FREE water at the quick service restaurants! (They will give you a cup, I just think its easier to transfer to a sippy cup for younger kids.)
- Bring or rent a stroller. This is totally up to you, but we brought our stroller from home to save money. Even if your toddler doesn’t normally use one anymore, they will definitely need a break at Disney. We could have used a double stroller at times but got away with a single. You can rent them in the parks although I was eyeing the ones from “Kingdom Strollers”. I had read good things about them and they looked really nice.
- Bring a carrier of some sort for infants. I LOVE the TULA brand. That is my personal favorite and I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to wraps and carriers. I love wraps but Heidi is way to big to ride around in one of those now. Something about the TULA is so comfortable. Many babies would prefer facing out though so take that into consideration. Heidi took every single nap in the TULA on me. (I got quite the workout in at Disney!)
- Get souvenirs beforehand. As I shared in another post, I snagged all kinds of goodies at the Dollar Tree. You can give them to toddlers each night from Tinkerbell or Mickey Mouse which works nicely as good behavior incentives. The glow-in-the-dark wands, bubbles, and puzzles were some of our favorite finds. This will help you save money in the parks as well! I also ordered the girls matching Minnie Mouse outfits online before we left and autograph books from Amazon for meeting the characters.
- Purchase Memory Maker! – We were so happy that we purchased this and the price can be split between families if you are travelling with or even at the same time as another group. It was so nice to have professional pictures taken at every character greet of our kids and really great to have so many photos of our entire group without having to ask random strangers to take one. I’ve been very pleased with all the photos. Always fun to see your ride photos too!I really love this picture that a photographer snapped of my sister and her son. Its so much fun to look through your pictures later. Parents already have so much to juggle with young kids that it was so nice to have someone else in charge of pictures!
- Make plans for which rides or experiences are “musts” for your kids and make those a priority. It was really great that Baby Heidi could ride on almost every single ride that Aniston could. You can see how young children can usually ride in your lap!
The only one I didn’t take Baby Heidi on that I did Aniston was the Barnstormer. There are a ton of rides at Magic Kingdom for toddlers. We loved the shows at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. My favorite ride for toddlers was the new Frozen ride at Epcot. So… it would be really important to consider your children’s interests when planning which parks to visit if you aren’t able to make it to each one. I would say that my very favorite thing we did all week was the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience. Both Aniston and Dustin were included as part of the show. Belle was so beautiful and even I was a little awe-struck! I won’t spoil it too much but the special effects they used to bring the story to life were amazing!
If you are a fan of the movie- don’t miss this one!
8. Take breaks as needed. It can be really helpful to get to the parks at rope drop. (This means arriving about 30 minutes early.) Then go back to the hotel for a while to nap or relax and return at night. You would avoid the most crowded time of the day with this plan and it usually works well for young children. However, since both my girls go to bed by 7 we just stayed in the parks most days until around 5 or 6. We could tell that Aniston needed a break a couple of times so I stayed with Heidi and Dustin took Aniston back to the hotel to play on the playground and relax a bit.
I loved this pic of them leaving the parks when she was especially tired. 🙂
9. Go during the school year. I know, I know! I’m a teacher and should know better. If you are travelling with young children, hopefully they haven’t started school yet and this won’t matter. You pretty much have to go during the school year to be at the parks with the lowest crowd ratings. We travelled during the first week of February. The crowd rating was a 3/10. It was fabulous. There is no way I would ever want to go during the summer after having gone in February. The weather was perfect, lines were quick or sometimes there was no line at all, and it was so nice to break up the winter blues with the trip. We left on a Friday afternoon and returned Wednesday so I only missed 3 and 1/2 days of work.
10. If your child is at the right age, consider getting their first haircut done at the Harmony Barber Shop in Magic Kingdom. We had Heidi’s first haircut done there and are so glad we made that decision! It was such a special memory for all of us. You can read about it by clicking this link : http://pencilstopigtails.com/disney-world-babys-first-haircut-at-harmony-barber-shop/
Oh yeah! Check out the Baby Care Centers located in each park. I was so impressed by these. There were rooms for breastfeeding mothers, plenty of diaper changing stations, high chairs, microwaves, a movie playing for toddlers, a place to purchase baby necessities you may have forgotten, etc. We loved stopping in for a minute to give the kids a break and a quiet place for me to breastfeed!
Do you have any tips/tricks to share for Disney with toddlers or infants? Please share them in the comments!