If the Magic Kingdom is the happiest place on earth, then why are children crying in the park? The simple answer is that their parents were not prepared to help make it a magical experience.
As with any vacation trip, some pre-planning including looking at the map of the park and talking with children beforehand about their expectations will save a lot of time and anguish on a hot Florida afternoon. In addition, here are the top ten tips that have been most useful for parents visiting the Magic Kingdom with their children.
- COME PREPARED. Bring a backpack or a bag with items you may need including sunscreen and inexpensive rain ponchos. It is hot in Florida and during certain times of the year it will rain frequently and unexpectedly. A small bottle of water you can refill at water fountains as well as a zip lock bag of some snacks like peanut butter crackers or pretzels will save you time and money. Some parents also bring wet naps or baby wipes as well as basic first aid like bandaids and an antibiotic ointment for any accidental scrape or fall.
- STROLLERS. Strollers (including double strollers to hold two children) can be rented underneath the Main Street train station. These are hard plastic, highly durable functional pieces of equipment. You are given a tag with your name to put on the stroller. Sometimes rented strollers are taken by accident, so don’t leave valuables behind when you go on an attraction. Replacing a rental stroller is easily accomplished, especially if the guest keeps the receipt. A stroller becomes a useful cart for holding personal items like purchases, jackets, or bags as well as a vehicle for a tired child at the end of the day. Magic Kingdom is a large park and children will get tired of walking.
- FANTASYLAND. Most parents immediately take children to Fantasyland behind the huge Cinderella Castle. This section of the park has the most traditional attractions that appeal to children although they will enjoy other attractions elsewhere in the park. This is also the section where the lines will get the longest quickly. Active children will enjoy burning off energy on Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland.
- HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS. There are minimum age and height requirements for safety reasons on some of the Magic Kingdom attractions including: Alien Encounter, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Tomorrowland Speedway (minimum height to drive the small cars, but shorter guests may ride with someone else driving). Many children may not wish to go on these attractions at all.
- RIDER SWAP. Only on attractions with height requirements, Disney offers a unique solution that is not advertised. Sometimes called a Baby Swap or Child Swap as well as Rider Swap, guests speak to a Cast Member at the entrance of an attraction and show that the child does not meet the requirement. The Cast member will hand the guests a Rider Switch pass and give directions where to wait for that particular attractions. A parent and up to two others can ride the attraction while the other parent waits with the child. When the first group exits the ride, the pass is given to the waiting parent who (along with up to two others) can enter the FASTPASS line and ride the attraction. The Rider Switch pass is good for the entire day and does not have to be used immediately when it is first obtained.
- FASTPASS. Children hate waiting in line so it might be wise to obtain a free Fastpass (explained on the Guidemap) for an attraction. At Magic Kingdom this includes Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Jungle Cruise.
- DARK RIDES. Some of Magic Kingdom’s attractions take place in the dark so remember that even though an attraction is in Fantasyland and is based on a beloved children’s animated film, it may be uncomfortable and scary for a child simply because of the darkness. There may also be the expectation that something fearful or loud will be in the darkness.
- DUMBO. The most popular attraction for children is Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland where they can control how high Dumbo flies. However with only sixteen ride vehicles, the line for this attraction can get long very quickly. Parents often try to make Dumbo their first stop of the day.
- MINIMAL WAIT TIMES. There are several attractions that are popular for children that offer minimal wait times. At the Magic Kingdom these include Prince Charming Regal Carousel, It’s A Small World, Country Bear Jamboree, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Mickey’s Philharmagic (although a child may not like wearing the 3D glasses).
- MEETING CHARACTERS. For children who would like an up close and personal encounter with the Disney animated characters, the new Main Street Town Square Theater offers a guaranteed opportunity to meet Mickey Mouse or some of the Disney Princesses. There are other options throughout the park including, of course, the daily parade where children can enjoy their favorite characters at a safe distance.
It is often best to let the children set the pace for the day. Some children may prefer something as simple and quiet as a train ride around the park or watching the live ducks in the Rivers of America in Frontierland.
Parents with infants should know that every restroom in the Magic Kingdom is equipped with a changing table. Diaper disposal is done directly into the regular trash cans. There is also a Baby Care Center located at the end of Main Street that includes a room set aside for nursing mothers. In addition, there is a space for changing tables, a play area for older siblings (with a TV playing Disney movies), bathrooms and training potties, and a shop selling baby products like diapers, wipes, creams, and clothing.
Please make sure when purchasing your Disney World tickets that you keep in mind that children under the age of 3 years old are free so you don’t have to buy them a ticket.