Starting Them Young
Seeing my youngest interact with Mickey Mouse for the first time brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t matter that in the future my son would not remember that precious moment, but to me, seeing his face light up and hearing his infectious giggle was timeless and a memory I will never forget. One is never too young to begin visiting Walt Disney World! Why we ventured there while in my second trimester with my second child because we had a five year old who just had to meet Cinderella and Prince Charming. So off we went and here is what I discovered on our early treks out to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Bringing an infant or toddler to Walt Disney World is not intimidating in the least. Walt Disney World is perhaps the easiest place to take small children because everything revolves around making people comfortable and happy. I always found it very helpful pre-planning by reading all I could and would look forward to receiving my Planning a Trip to Walt Disney World video, which would detail important features and information about the resort.
Be prepared to take everything in stride and follow your intuition. It is very important not to push yourself into seeing everything, no one can in one visit. We’ve visited eighteen times and still have not experienced all there is to do at Walt Disney World. Each vacation is different as family members become older and occasions for celebrating are different.
I personally, planned my own trips through Central Reservations because I simply loved the organizing and appreciated the level of control I had over my reservation, right down to special resort room requests in order to best meet the needs of my family. Whatever you decide to do, always be specific about what would make your family comfortable during your vacation.
Travelling on the airplane was a little scary, but I tried to book times where I was certain my youngest would sleep. I would bring our car seat and a couple of familiar objects giving him greater comfort on the airplane, not to mention security. I would time bottle feeding so that tummies were full and eyes would become sleepy upon our departure and it worked like a charm.
We always found it very convenient to use a light umbrella stroller when we de-planed and our little one was comfortable too. Once at our Disney resort the stroller was very handy navigating our resort and we would take it with us to the theme parks. Once at the theme parks we would rent a double stroller for both children and the collapsible umbrella stroller would be placed on top. I still brought the umbrella stroller to the parks because it was handy at the end of a stimulating and exciting day, especially with a weary little one. It made waiting for resort buses or the Monorail very bearable.
Every theme park has a Baby Care Center which we used extensively for diapering, resting, some down time and even feeding. The Cast Member was very helpful and friendly and the Baby Care Centers have those emergency items for sale such as diapers, instant formula, cereals, and standard over the counter medications. There is even a simple kitchen where you can heat up a bottle, or a meal and feed your wee one in the large room which houses high chairs, toddler tables and Disney cartoons and movies on a television set. They even have nursing rooms, huge change tables and toddler washrooms...it's paradise. The Baby Care Centers were spotless and always well stocked. We would always make a last trip here before we left at night and I would clean the kids up, get them in their pyjamas, give them a bedtime snack or bottle of milk, where we'd pop the youngest in the umbrella stroller, return the rental stroller, get on the bus or Monorail and whisk them off to bed.
Selecting a resort would depend on our itinerary. I would pre-plan which theme park we'd be visiting the most and I would book the resort closest to that theme park. When they were young we visited Magic Kingdom often during the vacation because of Fantasyland and Toontown, thus our stays always found us at a Monorail resort such as the Grand Floridian, Contemporary or Polynesian. This way, once we returned the rental stroller, we had our umbrella stroller and our little one rode the Monorail in comfort, through the resort and straight into our room. It was easy. It certainly helped walking into our resort room and finding the beds turned down.
Children under the age of three have free admission to the parks and once there, you can still ride those dare devil attractions by utilizing the Rider Swap. Simply inform the Cast Member that you want to do this and one parent gets to ride while the other waits with the child, and you swap the child without waiting in line twice when the first parent is done. Also, there is the Fastpass system which is a free service where you receive a return time for selected attractions, this way you can come back during your time frame after you've experienced other rides.
Which attractions to visit with young children? Always check Disney's theme park maps where they list height restrictions, safety considerations and scare factors, this information will always be of great benefit and you can even do this from home through Disney's website. Here, you can plan which attractions you're going to visit and even print out a theme park map listing your favorites.
Check the park times guide for character meet and greets and locations and have your autograph book and camera handy. Disney's Photopass system is amazing, easy to use and affordable and the Cast Members do take very special, memorable pictures with extra little flourishes, although they'll also be happy to take a picture of you with your own camera.
Some of my favorite attractions with youngsters in tow? I'll list them by theme park.
-it's a small world,
-Peter Pan's Flight,
-The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,
-Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Disney Hollywood Studios
-Toy Story Mania,
-Disney Junior Live On Stage,
-Voyage of the Little Mermaid,
-Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage (check for showtimes)
-Living with the Land,
-Turtle Talk with Crush,
-The Seas with Nemo and Friends,
-Kidcot Activity areas in each pavillion in the World Showcase
-Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition,
-Finding Nemo-The Musical,
-Fossil Fun Games,
-Mickey's Jungle Jammin' Parade,
We always visited the theme parks early in the day and returned to our resort mid-day to rest and swim and if moods allowed, we would return in the early evening. I'd always pack a couple of changes of clothes, large zip lock bags to store wet or soiled clothes, familiar portable snacks and one small item from home such as a stuffed friend or blankie. I would always rent a locker so that I wouldn't weigh the stroller down, which can cause them to tip over. But I have to say, they are the BEST strollers for those quick, sharp turns and my kids always wanted to ride in them. I would consider buying a length of stay rental and keep the receipt, because you save some money overall and if you have unused days they'll refund your money. Covering the stroller with a rain poncho while you’re in an attraction will prevent it from getting wet during those surprise rain showers.
Dining at Disney restaurants is stress-free because they offer child friendly and popular food items and a lot of restaurants have Character Meals which keep children entertained. The wait staff at Disney is the best and they really know and understand kids and time constraints for distractible little people. You can dine as quickly or as leisurely as you want and the magic always happens. You really miss that kind of service when you go back home believe me! Please opt into some kind of Disney Dining Plan and please, please make your Advanced Dining Reservations 180 days out either by calling 407-WDW-DINE or on-line through the Disney website. If you’re celebrating anything special this is when you let the agent know. Disney Florist can help with ordering special items which can be waiting for you back at your resort.
Many memories can be made with little people and the amazement and look of surprise when seeing characters is a real treasure. A photograph and/or video would capture that moment where we could share that moment with them in the future.
I highly recommend keeping touring plans simple, not trying to see everything but enjoying what you do at your pace. We’ve visited eighteen times and there are still things we haven’t experienced yet. Pre-planning is essential for navigating the parks so that you can make the most of your visit and once you visit you'll be sure to return for more.