Toddlers have just gotten to the age where they start to appreciate things like rides, parades, and characters, so those early years are a great time to bring them to Walt Disney World. Here are eight suggestions to help ensure that your toddler as great time on your Orlando vacation:
The crowds at the Disney World theme parks build as the day progresses. If you can get your toddler up and ready early, you'll enjoy a couple of hours that are relatively slow before the really big crowds build up. That means shorter waits and less chance of a meltdown caused by standing too long in a hot, slow-moving queue line. Don’t forget to use your fast pass that is built into all tickets…this will allow you to avoid the large lines at the popular rides and shows.
Toddlers get fidgety, and they have a lot of energy. Fortunately, Walt Disney World has lots of places where they can run, play, and burn off their excess energy before you start waiting in lines again. For example, there's Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Take a break at one of those spots and let the kids run loose for a while.
It's natural to want to rush around at Walt Disney World, especially when you're only visiting for a few days. Unfortunately, too much rushing by the adults often means that the toddlers don't get to fully enjoy the trip. Move at a slow pace and let your littlest family members enjoy the environment. Sure, you want to get them on the next ride, but they might have more fun watching the balloons on Main Street or waving to characters who might be passing by.
Your little one might need some time to adjust to all the excitement too. Not all toddlers are eager to run up to Mickey Mouse and the other larger-than-life characters. If your child is scared, don't force him or her for the sake of a photo. Youngsters often need a little time before they get comfortable with the characters. It might help to start off with “face characters,” like the princesses or Tinker Bell, as they tend to be less intimidating to toddlers than those in full costumes.
All of the Disney parks have rental strollers, but experienced families simply buy their own. It's a pain to bring one from home if you're flying to Florida, but folding strollers are very cheap. Just pick one up at one of the many Target or Wal-Mart stores in the Disney area. It's cheaper to buy it, use it for your trip, and head home without it than it is to pay for a theme park stroller rental every day. Another nice thing about having your own cheap stroller is that you can use it at your hotel and at other attractions when you leave Disney property. You also won't feel bad if it gets stolen (yes, that does happen).
If you decide to rent a stroller at the parks each day, put a diaper in a clear plastic bag with some cola spilled on it. That will often dissuade would-be thieves, who will target a different stroller that doesn't have gross-looking cargo.
When your little one gets a rumbly tummy, it can mean tears, or even a tantrum, if you don't have a snack handy. Sure, you can buy something, and Disney even has a lot of healthy options, like fruit, but that can get expensive over the course of your trip. Bring little boxes of cereal, granola bars, or other small, non-perishable goodies from home or stock up at one of the many grocery stores in the area surrounding Walt Disney World. You're free to bring snacks into the park, and they should fit nicely in your purse or bag.
Disney has Baby Care Centers in all four of its theme parks. Many parents don't know about these quiet spots to stop in and chill. Check your theme park map and make a note of the locations. Then, if you need a calm oasis to take a break with your toddler, head over and use the comfortable changing rooms or enjoy a break in the main room, which has comfy sofas and a TV.
Your toddler might need a midday break. If so, take one! Head back to your hotel for some pool time or a refreshing nap. Your little one will recharge and be ready to tackle Part Two of the day. You might consider returning to the parks late in the afternoon around 5 pm. It is estimated for every one person arriving late in the day, there will be over 1,000 who are leaving. The lines in the early evening on are much shorter as well.
If you're ever at Walt Disney World in the evening, it's sad but common to see parents dragging exhausted toddlers around. They're determined to stay at the parks until closing time to get their money's worth, but the poor little ones are clearly not enjoying themselves. Don't be one of those parents. Follow your child's cues, and if he or she would be happier in bed rather than sticking around for the fireworks or a few more rides, call it a day.