Staying at Disney Resorts with a Baby

If you’re planning a Disney trip with a baby, I highly (highly, highly, highly) recommend staying on property. There are so many convenience factors that make this a no brainer for our family. Disney really makes it easy to vacation with a baby!

This post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase that item, I’ll receive a small commission for my recommendation. This helps me keep my site up and running and free! It’s my commitment to my readers that I only recommend items that we have and love! 

Your Resort Stay

Choosing the Right Resort

After staying at so many Disney resorts, I can assure you that there’s no “best” resort. They’re all the best at what they do. The question is rather – which resort is right for you? I have a whole post outlining how to make this choice here.

It’s my suggestion that you consider transportation convenience first and foremost when planning a Disney trip with a baby! There is no match for monorail resort convenience at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or Contemporary.

That being said, that convenience comes at a price and it’s not a realistic one for many families. If that’s the case for you, my next suggestion would be the Cabins at Fort Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge moderate resorts, which still make Magic Kingdom accessible by boat.

If a value resort is more in your price range, I’d highly recommend Art of Animation! We’ve stayed in their family suites and Little Mermaid rooms and have great reviews on both. Their Big Blue Pool area is ideal for little ones with the splash pad area!

Regardless of your choice, rest assured that Disney will provide an easy and enjoyable vacation!

Making Your Reservations

Although babies don’t need park tickets, dining plans, or FastPasses, they do need to be included in your room reservation. They don’t count towards room occupancy costs or totals, but Disney still needs to know of their presence, in case of an emergency! Many people consider leaving the baby off their reservation, thinking it will save them money, but it doesn’t influence that at all. Safety first!

 

Getting Set Up in the Room

Sleeping Arrangements

I’m a big advocate for safe sleep environments, so it thrills me that Disney provides a travel crib or pack and play at no additional cost to families. Just make sure to note it on your reservation and mention it again at check-in! If you’ll be staying in a Villa at one of the deluxe resorts, a pack and play will likely already be in your room.

Depending on your room size, this extra piece of furniture can make for cramped quarters. Plan on folding it up if you’ll be spending a lot of time in your room. But also, make sure that anyone who will be alone with baby knows how to get it opened back up too! We have found that they fit perfectly between the two beds in value rooms (and the Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room).

When we visit, we like to bring our own sheets for the pack and play too. Our youngest has eczema and generally sensitive skin, so I like to bring sheets that have been washed at home. It also assures that we have a back-up if she springs a leak in the middle of the night!

Feeding & Food Storage

Almost every room at Disney has a mini-fridge (with full-sized refrigerators in the Cabins and Villas), so you’ll have a place to keep baby’s feeding items (breast milk, formula, opened baby food, etc) refrigerated. If your room doesn’t have one, you can always put in a request with housekeeping and have one delivered at no additional cost, pending availability.

Most rooms do not have their own microwave, but you’ll have access to one in your Resort’s quick service restaurant, typically open 24/7.

Bathing

When the baby was little, we would bring a fold-up bath sling for our bathtub. The tubs in most standard rooms are a bit cramped to comfortably get in the tub with baby, so the sling was a big help!

Making it Feel Like Home

My girls are used to sleeping with certain creature comforts, so we make sure to pack those items when we travel. If your little one is attached to a certain blanket or stuffed friend, make sure to bring it!

We also like to bring the girls’ iPad to use for white noise. While we haven’t had any noise problems in our many stays, it does help to tune out any hallway or bathroom noise and cover up any noise you may make while still awake!

Organizing Your Room

If you find yourself feeling a bit like sardines in a can, you’re not alone! Babies need so many things that it can feel like they’re taking over the entire room. Here are some tips for keeping your room feeling more organized.

  • Keep your stroller and pack and play folded up when not in use.
  • Store your bathroom related items (like baby’s bath seat) in the bathroom. We often keep all of our toiletries stored in a bag, so they’re not spread out everywhere.
  • Bring a bottle drying rack and small basket to keep baby bottles, pacifiers, and other little pieces organized next to the sink.
  • Keep all of your other food and drink related items on or in the dresser, where the mini fridge is located. We liked to use the dresser top as a mini snack bar, of sorts.
  • Remember that a mini fridge is, well, mini. You won’t be able to store large items there. If your baby is transitioning to milk, buy half gallon jugs, as the gallons won’t fit!
  • Utilize the closet and dresser storage to get things off the floor (and out of baby’s reach). We were always amazed by how many things our youngest got into when we were in a confined space!
  • Consider bringing a collapsible laundry basket (or even a trash bag!) to store laundry in.

 

Transportation & Amenities

getting to and from the parks

Disney transportation is one of our primary reasons for staying on property! Depending on your resort, you may have bus, boat, or monorail access to various parks.

Each Disney Resort will have its own bus or boat, while the monorail runs a loop to all of the accessible resorts. You don’t need to worry about having a car seat for any Disney transportation, as it’s not necessary. The only exception is the Minnie Van service that runs for an additional fee at the deluxe resorts, but they will have car seats available for your child!

You can read more about bringing your stroller on all of the various forms of transportation in our stroller post!

Resort Amenities

Your baby can enjoy most of the resort amenities, with the exception of adult lounges found at some Disney Resorts.

If you plan to bring them to the pool, know that Disney requires un-potty trained children to wear swim diapers. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll use the pool, you can always buy swim diapers at the Resort shopping location. Don’t stress about packing them, unless you already have them and know you’ll use them!

 

Did we miss any information? Have a tip or trick we left out? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Visiting Disney Parks with Babies

I don’t want to sugar coat it. There are definitely some logistics required to have a successful and fun day in the Disney Parks with babies.

But it’s totally doable. Totally.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it can be easy. Here’s how.

This post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase that item, I’ll receive a small commission for my recommendation. This helps me keep my site up and running and free! It’s my commitment to my readers that I only recommend items that we have and love! 

Making Your Park Plans

Infants don’t need park tickets or FastPasses, even if they’ll be riding some of the rides with you. They do, however, need to be included on any dining reservations you make, even if you won’t need a highchair or seat for them.

If you’re staying on property, they’ll get their own MagicBand. But don’t stress – they really don’t need it and aren’t expected to wear it. It can be a cute accessory for photo ops, but they won’t need to scan it for rides, tickets, or reservations. It’s just included in your room reservation!

It All Starts With the Diaper Bag

The success of your park day begins with a well stocked bag! No, this does not mean that you should pack up your baby’s entire nursery and carry it around Disney with you.

Rather, figure out exactly what you need, what bag will contain it, and bring only that. Don’t overcomplicate this part with gizmos and gadgets a’plenty. Leave your who’s-its and what’s-its galore in the room too.

Picking the Right Bag(s)

At home, I rotate between two fairly large, leather designer bags. Don’t do that at Disney. Find a reasonable diaper bag that you feel comfortable leaving behind in the stroller and bring that.

Think about something that will hold all of baby’s essentials, while not bogging you down and taking up a ton of space. I liked the cross-body strap for carrying it on and off buses too.

For my family, that’s the LeSportsac Ryan Diaper Bag in the Mickey Loves Minnie print (I seriously love this diaper bag for the parks).

And yes, I did say “leave behind in the stroller” up there. We leave our big diaper bag attached to our stroller while we’re in attractions and restaurants. I also carry a small backpack (the LeSportsac Small Edie in the same Mickey Loves Minnie print) for our phones, wallets, and other valuables. This small bag comes with us for attractions and restaurants instead!

Packing Your Diaper Bag

Like I said, figure out what your essentials are and bring only that. Think about how long you’ll be in the park, what the weather will be like, and what you plan to do.

I like to park the diaper bag the night before, so I’m not rushing or stressed while I’m doing it.

For a normal all-day park day, here’s what went in my diaper bag:

  • Six bottles, prefilled with water (Make sure you bring the lids. Security will do a thorough bag search. Their hands touch lots and lots of stuff every day and you don’t want them coming in contact with bottle nipples!)
  • Formula, in single serving packets when she was only taking 4 oz at a time, and then in the small cans when she was taking 6-8 oz at a time (You may have noticed that I didn’t use the formula dispensers. Here’s why: They take up more room and hold less than a small formula can. Formula powder isn’t heavy, obviously, so I’d rather use the same amount or less of space and have extra on hand!)
  • Two pacifiers, with leashes, if you use them
  • 6-8 diapers, with rash cream if necessary
  • Entire pack of baby wipes (We use these for more than wiping bottoms, so we always make sure to have plenty!)
  • An outfit change, including socks and shoes
  • Muslin blanket (This pulls triple duty for us, as a blanket if it gets cold, an extra sunshade over the stroller for naps, and a breastfeeding cover when she nursed!)
  • Stroller fan (This would obviously be attached to the stroller after getting off the bus!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Poncho (We use this as our stroller cover in case of rain. Yes, they make fancy rain covers for your stroller, but they’re much bulkier than a poncho and more expensive too. We like that we can ball it up in a ziplock to use again and throw it away at the end of the day.)
  • When she started eating solids, I also included a couple of wipe-down bibs, snack cup to prevent spills on the move, some easy snacks, and a sippy cup for water.

Here’s what went in my personal backpack:

  • Wallets (ID, insurance cards, one credit card, small bills)
  • Cell phones
  • Portable phone charger
  • Zip-up bag with personal items (pen, tampon/pad, chapstick, compact mirror, hand sanitizer, and ibuprofen)

That’s it. It’s tempting to also throw in some baby medicine, thermometer, nail clippers, and everything else under the sun, but read on! There’s a Baby Care Center for that!

Keeping It All Organized

I’m a ziplock bag junkie. Everything goes in ziplocks, from packing suitcases to keeping the diaper bag organized. I can’t do Disney without them. Things get sorted into individual ziplocks as follows:

  • diaper related items (so we can grab it and run, if needed)
  • bottles and pacifiers (formula can stays separate, just because it doesn’t fit well)
  • outfit change and blanket
  • feeding related items, when she started solids
  • And a spare, for soiled clothes or rain situations.
  • The poncho and sunscreen go in the side pocket of the diaper bag.

The ziplock strategy works well for two reasons. One, I can easily pull things out without having to unpack the whole bag in the middle of the park. And two, it really speeds up going through security, when they can also easily see what’s in your bag, without having to pull things out (and set them on the table that a million other hands and bags have touched) and repack them.

What You Can and Can’t Bring

Familiarize yourself with the Park Rules and Regulations here. Most of these things are pretty common sense, but there’s a few rules to keep in mind, specifically for parents.

You’ll read more about this in my stroller post, but your stroller cannot exceed 36″ by 52″. Most strollers, even most multiples strollers, don’t exceed those dimensions. Wagons and pulled bags/coolers are restricted too – you should be pushing your stroller and carrying/stowing your bags. Your bags (including coolers) can’t exceed 24″ x 15″ x 18″. Again, that’s a pretty big bag and you’ll likely not exceed those dimensions, but keep it in mind!

 

Strollers Are Your Friend

I have a whole post about the ins and outs of strollers at Disney World here.

In summary, you’ll want a stroller in almost every instance. You can rent one, bring one, buy one there. It doesn’t matter. But bring a stroller.

 

All About Baby Care Centers

Each park has a Baby Care Center that’s free to use whenever you need it!

About the Facilities

These centers are Disney-staffed, air-conditioned spaces designed to accommodate families with small children. There are nursing rooms (with outlets for breast pumps to be plugged in), changing tables, restrooms, kitchens (with sinks, highchairs, microwaves, and ice), and TV areas.

Supplies Available

Remember when I told you to streamline your diaper bag? And you possibly rolled your eyes at the idea? This is why I feel totally comfortable packing only what I need for the parks.

The Baby Care Centers have well-stocked shops, with everything you could possibly need available for purchases. Clothes, bibs, bottles, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, OTC medicine, and so on!

Locations

img_7692

Each of the four main parks have a Baby Care Center, located adjacent to their First Aid Center. The only exceptions are the water parks, but you’ll still find changing tables inside the restrooms there (as with all restrooms at Disney).

  • Magic Kingdom’s center is located by the Crystal Palace and Casey’s Corner, just off Main Street to the left.
  • Epcot’s center is located in the back, left side of Future World, in the Odyssey building, just before you’d enter Mexico and the World Showcase.
  • Hollywood Studios’ center is located in the very front of the park to the left, in the same building as Guest Services.
  • Animal Kingdom’s center is located on the left side of Discovery Island, by Pizzafari and Creature Comforts, just before the bridge to Africa.

 

Attractions & Entertainment for Baby

Disney does a great job of making the park fun for all ages. My youngest daughter has been riding rides with us at Disney since she was 8 weeks old! Baby can join you on most attractions without a height requirement. For those with a height requirement, don’t forget about Rider Switch, which allows your party to take turns riding attractions not suitable for little ones!

Although they can come along for most rides and shows, here’s my list of our favorite things to do with baby!

Magic Kingdom

  • img_9669Casey Jr. Splash ‘N Soak Station – This splash pad is great for cooling off. Just be aware that you’ll all be wet by the time you’re finished!
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – It’s a Disney classic! It makes a great first ride experience and has a fun play area while you “wait” in line.
  • It’s a Small World – Another classic ride that you can’t miss!
  • Jungle Cruise – This classic, adventurous boat tour is fun for everyone. It’s a great chance to get off your feet and even nurse while you ride!
  • Mad Tea Party – If you don’t spin your teacup yourself, the spinning action isn’t too much for a little one to enjoy.
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – Much like Dumbo, this flying attraction is a lot of fun!
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – I think this is one of the most underrated rides at Disney World. Our girls love this one!
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – Hold on tight and enjoy this flying ride through Peter Pan!
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – The carousel features benches that you can sit with your little one, if you’re not comfortable putting them on a horse!
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover – This slow ride has a few spots where the ride vehicle jerks around, but it’s a great ride to take a break. It’s also another spot where I nurse.
  • Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid – The neon lights and familiar characters make this a can’t-miss-ride for little ones!
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – Music, birds, flowers, and colors will excite little ones!

Epcot

  • Frozen Ever After – This ride is a lot of fun, but be aware of the small drop. It caught us off guard and may startle your little one, if they’re not daredevils like mine.
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros – We love this ride, especially because Donald Duck isn’t heavily featured in many attractions!
  • Living With the Land – This long boat tour is a great chance for the whole family to cool off. It’s also one of my favorite attractions to hop on when the baby needs to nap or nurse!
  • O Canada! – This 360 CircleVision movie experience will amaze little minds as you travel through Canada!
  • Reflections of China – Another 360 CircleVision movie experience through China!
  • Sea Life in Future World – There are so many amazing sea creatures to see!
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends – Familiar characters and lots to look at makes this a great choice for little ones!
  • Spaceship Earth – I love riding this with my girls, because it’s a giant dose of nostalgia for me, even though they’ve updated it since I was a kid!

Hollywood Studios

  • img_8163Beauty and the Beast Live Stage Show – This show is so gorgeous. My girls are delighted to see these characters come to life!
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage! – This puppet show will make your little one go wild, with lots of singing, dancing, and excitment.
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration – If your little one has caught the Frozen bug, you can’t miss this show. It’s jam packed with humor for the grown ups and lots of Frozen fun for the little ones!
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid – This stage show is a mixture of live acting, puppets, and videos. It even rains on the front of the stage!

Animal Kingdom

  • img_7016Animals – Your little one will enjoy checking out all of the animals throughout the park.
  • The Boneyard – This gigantic play area is a great pit stop for little ones. It’ll give them time out of the stroller to crawl or toddle around and explore!
  • Discovery Island Carnivale – My little one loves all the loud music and dancing that happens during this street show!
  • Festival of the Lion King – This show will blow your mind – and your little ones’ too!
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – This ride is a little bumpy, but still suitable for babies. Our daughters especially love the Safari rides!
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Wildlife Express Train – After riding the train to Rafiki’s, there’s tons to explore, including a petting zoo and lots of educational opportunities for the rest of the party.
  • Rivers of Light – This nighttime spectacular is really moving to watch, if your little one can hang that late!
  • Triceratops Spin – We love this ride. It’s very similar to Dumbo, but with a fun dino twist.

 

Other general advice for visiting the disney parks with babies

Disney is a magical place, but it doesn’t transform babies into something they aren’t. If they’re not early risers, don’t try to force them into it for breakfast reservations at 8am. Likewise, if they’re early to bed, don’t try to force them to stay up for fireworks. Plan for their schedules, making time for feeding and diaper changes.

You may not cover as much ground as you would without a baby, but that’s part of the fun of it. Having a baby along forces you to slow down and enjoy the things you might otherwise miss out on. Assume you’re going to miss some FastPasses or might not make it to the fireworks at the end of the night.

 

Any other advice you’d give families heading to disney parks with babies? leave us a comment and share your wisdom!

 

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Split Stays at Disney Resorts

If you find it impossible to choose the right Disney resort for you, I’m here to present you with another option: stay at more than one. We love to book split stays at Disney World for all of our trips!

 

About our Split Stay Experiences

When we started planning our Disney trip to celebrate our daughter’s third birthday, it turned out to be a challenge to find the right room for all three phases of our trip (by ourselves, then joined by our best friends, and then joined by my cousin). Our needs and travel party were going to be different during each phase. This meant that they’d each need a separate reservation anyway, which meant potentially changing rooms each time. That’s when our brilliant travel agent suggested that we consider changing resorts at some point. She knew that we wanted to soak in all that Disney has to offer, so this option really made sense to us!

We really wanted to experience a Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside for our princess-obsessed birthday girl, but we wanted to stay together with our friends when they joined us. So, that made our first choice really easy.

We had weighed our options for when our travel party would expand to 7 guests and thought the Cabins at Fort Wilderness would be perfect for our combined budget and desire to spend quality time together outside of the parks too.

When my cousin joined us and friends left, we decided to splurge on adjoining rooms at the Grand Floridian. She was pregnant and wanted her own bathroom and space, but also to feel connected to us. We also wanted convenience and short travel distances, since a pregnant body, toddler, and infant can be unpredictable.

Changing resorts three times with two kids in tow? I know. It sounded crazy. But it wasn’t nearly as stressful as we expected it to be! In fact, that’s how we’ve planned every Disney trip since!

 

Advantages of a Split Stay at Disney

Experience more than one resort within one trip’s budget

This was a big attraction for us. We really like being able to try different things all in one trip. It also allows us to experience deluxe resorts on a smaller budget, by balancing it with a value or lower cost moderate resort, without having to shorten our total stay.

Try different Disney Dining Plans

Since each reservation requires its own DDP, we were able to use different plans. For instance, we used the regular dining plan while at Fort Wilderness. When we moved to the Grand Floridian for Ruby’s actual birthday, we upgraded to the deluxe dining plan to cover all of our character and signature dining experiences.

Plan around transportation convenience

We planned our park days in part around the convenience of transportation from each resort. For instance, when we did our Art of Animation/Beach Club trip, we did Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while at AOA (since our options were only buses or driving from either resort). Then, we did Epcot and Hollywood Studios while at Beach Club (since we could walk or take the boat).

Potential Disadvantages of a Split Stay

Losing Park Time

This is one of the most commonly asked questions when we talk about switching resorts. I understand the concern. If you’re really packing in the action, there’s a good chance you’ll lose a little time in the transition. In our experience, we have spent about an hour total switching rooms (from leaving the first room to getting to the parks). Your “lost time” is only as long as you take loading your luggage and moving your vehicle to the next resort or taking your luggage to Bell Services and heading to transportation. If you’re an early riser, you could easily handle the room switch before the parks are even open. If you’re not (we’re not), you can get packed up and ready the night before to minimize your time lost. You can even skip the front desk with online check-in! Just make sure to stop for your luggage.

Luggage and Room Space not Accessible During the Transition

If you plan to use Bell Services to move your luggage (more about this below), expect to be without your stuff or a “place to land” until check-in at the next resort. This can be a deal breaker for families with small children, if they regularly go back to the room mid-day. We’ve had great luck with our rooms being ready early, but it’s not something to count on.

Phone Calls may be Required

If you’re using a travel agent, they’ll likely take care of these phone calls for you. If not, you may need to place them yourself. The first phone call is to add the Disney Dining Plan, should you choose to use it and if you aren’t an Annual Passholder. You’ll likely purchase your park tickets on only one of your reservations, so you’ll need to call to add the dining plan to your “ticketless” room, as this can’t be done online. The other phone call could be to Magical Express, just to notify them of when you’ll actually be using the service. You should be able to handle all of this online, but some people find it easier to call in and confirm their ride to the airport!

 

How We Managed the Logistics

making Reservations

Each resort will require its own reservation and they won’t be “linked” in any special way. That means that each reservation will also require its own deposit. Your deposit is applied to your balance, but it is more expense upfront when you book your trip. Above, I discussed the additional phone calls that may need to be made to work out logistics in advance.

Packing

The success of split stays at Disney can start with a good packing job. I’m known for my detailed and organized packing, so this was a fun challenge. (You can read more about packing for infants and toddlers too!)

We aim for streamlined packing, so that things can stay organized through the transitions. This is accomplished by small changes, like packing a single toiletries bag for the entire family, so that everything goes out and back into a single bag in the bathroom. We also pack a large bag (or plastic bin) for all the miscellaneous stuff (phone chargers, baby wipes, snacks, etc).

My husband and I both bring our own suitcases, as you usually would, but we divide up our daughters’ suitcases by stay, instead of by kid. So, all of the clothing for one resort stay is in one suitcase, the next in another suitcase, and so on.

If we’re only staying at a resort for one night (which we’ve done twice), we’ll pack our entire family’s clothing for the next day in a single tote bag. Then, it’s just that bag and our toiletries bag that need to be touched.

Think about where you’ll store dirty laundry too. For us, we usually ended up condensing our suitcases into one “clean” and one “dirty”. For the girls, we’d just put all their dirty laundry back in that “stay’s” suitcase, not to be touched again until we get home.

Moving Resorts

Again, since we drove, it was as easy as packing the car up and moving to the next leg of our split stay at Disney. If you wont have your own vehicle, it can still be easy! You just bring your luggage to Bell Services and they’ll handle the transfer for you.

The night before we moved rooms, I’d put the laundry back in the suitcases, pack up snacks and miscellaneous stuff, and lay out the next day’s clothes. When we got up on “moving day”, we just had to pack our pajamas and head out.

Sometimes, we drive to the next resort and take transportation from there. For instance, when we moved to the Grand Floridian, it made sense to go straight there and take the monorail to Magic Kingdom. And sometimes we just drive straight to the parks and check in at the resort later, like when we moved to Fort Wilderness and were headed to Animal Kingdom that day. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can just use Disney transportation to head to the parks and back to your new resort!

 

Have you done a Split Stay at Disney? Tell us about it or ask questions in the comments below!

 

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Packing Your Toddler’s Bags for Disney

Packing a toddler can be tricky. They don’t need as much as an infant, but they’re messy little tornadoes with a whole set of unique needs.

Things to Consider

Before you even start thinking about packing, ask yourself these questions.

  • How are you getting to Disney? Driving or flying?
  • Are you staying on or off property?
  • Are you potty training your toddler?
  • Does your child have any medical conditions?
  • Will you bring your own stroller?
  • Where does your toddler sleep?

 

Making a Packing List

You know your toddler best, but here’s my finely tuned packing list for my own three year old!

Feeding:

  • Spill-proof cups or water bottles (We always bring a couple of our own, even though Ruby regularly drinks out of normal cups.)
  • Drying rack, bottle brush, and dish soap (These come in handy, even after the bottle phase has passed for cleaning sippy cups and water bottles, along with souvenir cups.)
  • Snacks and snack cups (Our kids are all-day snackers, so it’s nice to have things like bananas and Goldfish in our bag.)

Diapering/Potty Training:

  • Pull-Ups (On our first trip with a toddler, she was still in Pull-Ups full time. She had just gotten the hang of potty training on our second trip, but we still kept them with us.)
  • Tons of underwear, if potty training
  • Wipes, wipes, and more wipes (Toddlers and wipes are a happy union.)
  • Disposable diaper sacks (These especially come in handy in the room, where you don’t have a lidded trash can to contain smelly diapers! I think Mousekeeping probably appreciates it too.)
  • Swim diapers, if you plan to visit the pool
  • Folding stool (If you’re potty training, have the space to pack it, and want them to be able to get on the hotel room potty by themselves!)
  • Post-it notes (That’s not a typo. Ruby was afraid of auto-flushing toilets, so I kept a pack of sticky notes in my bag to cover the sensor when she sat down.)

Bath + Hygiene:

  • Bath time entertainment (We always throw in a couple of her favorite bath toys, but this is totally not necessary.)
  • Baby body wash and shampoo (Disney’s H2O products sting little eyes. Trust me.)
  • Brush
  • Nail trimmers
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

Sleeping:

  • Baby monitor (We often stay in villas and suites, where the kids are sleeping in another room while we’re still awake. We like having an inexpensive monitor with us, so we can enjoy time on our patio in the evenings, without worrying about missing a cry!)
  • Pack & Play sheets, if they’ll be sleeping in one (Disney will provide bedding for their Pack & Plays, but we liked to have an extra sheet with us, in case of leaks.)
  • Blankets, nightlight, or any other nighttime comfort items

Health + Wellness

  • Thermometer (We have an ear thermometer that we love and trust. In a pinch, the resort should be able to provide one, but it’s easier to have our own!)
  • OTC medications (We bring Tylenol, Motrin, and Benadryl with us, along with the syringes or droppers)
  • Any prescription medications (We like to bring our Zofran with us, in case of a sudden stomach bug during the trip.)
  • Your pediatrician’s info (Disney is great about treating sick guests, but in nonemergent situations, we’d prefer to call our own pediatrician and ask for advice!)
  • Sunscreen

Clothing

  • Outfits (I generally pack 2 outfits per day, plus a couple of extra mix and match pieces, because toddlers are messy.)
  • Socks (Pack all the socks.)
  • Shoes (Depending on how much your toddler will be walking, really think about comfort here. Ruby lives in her jelly sandals at home, but gets blisters in them quickly at Disney! I have found great deals on toddler sneakers on eBay!)
  • Hair accessories, like hair ties and barrettes, if your toddler has long hair that’ll get in their face
  • A light jacket (If you’ll be in the parks during the “cooler” months, you might find that they want one in the evening, after being sweaty and active all day.)
  • Swimsuit, if you plan to swim

Getting Around

  • Stroller (or make plans to rent one)
  • Stroller fan, misting fan, or other cooling devices (It can get really hot, even if it’s not the middle of summer. A little circulation is always nice, especially if you have the stroller shade pulled mostly shut at nap time!)
  • Giant hooks (We don’t use these every time, but depending on your stroller storage capacity, they may come in handy to hang a shopping bag from!)

Entertainment

  • iPad or other tech gadgets (We rarely, if ever, use these during our trip, but they’re lifesavers on the way there!)
  • A couple of small coloring packs from the dollar store or Target dollar spot
  • Favorite plush toy, if they have one
  • Glow sticks and other blinky things, if you don’t want to get talked into buying them at night

How to Pack

Like I said in my post about packing an infant for Disney, we drive and are always grateful to have a little more space to pack. If you’re driving too, you might want to consider packing all their miscellaneous stuff in a plastic bin, so it’s organized and convenient.

If you’re flying, don’t get seduced by the cute little luggage. A checked bag is a checked bag to the airlines, so maximize your value and pack a big suitcase for your tiny person! If your airline offers free carry-ons and your toddler requires a ticket, take advantage of that too.

My favorite space and sanity saver are gallon ziplock bags. I pack everything in them, but especially clothing! Each outfit is packed in its own ziplock and labelled with the day it’ll be worn and shoes or accessories that go with it. I love that my husband can help get the kids ready and that I can sleep in a little longer, not digging for outfits each morning!

Managing What You Can’t Bring

If you just can’t seem to streamline your list enough to fit your luggage, that’s okay! There are awesome stores across Disney property, including in your resort, where you can purchase all kinds of things. You can also always Uber to the grocery or big box store or place an online order to be delivered to your hotel.

Leave us a comment if you have any suggestions for packing that we missed!

 

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Strollers at Disney World

Welcome to your guide to strollers at Disney World! Who knew that strollers needed their own guide, right? But there’s so much to consider and making the right choices now can drastically improve your vacation!

Deciding If you Need a Stroller

Need is a relative term, but I think they’re incredibly practical for most families. Truthfully, if you even ask yourself if you need one, go ahead and assume that the answer is hard yes.

But I prefer to babywear. Do i really need a stroller?

I am also a babywearer, much more often than a stroller user. I bring my ring sling or soft-structure carrier to Disney too, but I also bring a stroller.

There’s some details to consider before you decide to swap your stroller for a carrier. Think about where you’re going to put all of your “stuff” (diapers, snacks, water bottles, souvenirs, etc). Sure, you don’t have to put it in a stroller, but you may not want to be moving through the parks like a pack mule either. We also like being able to leave our non-valuables in the stroller while we ride or dine, instead of carrying everything around with us. We also like to use the kids’ nap time to hit the thrill rides. It’s a lot of jostling back and forth to swap them in the carriers, compared to just letting them sleep in the stroller!

But my kids are very active. Do I really need a stroller?

Disney is a lot of walking. We usually walk between 5-15 miles every day. Most kids who are stroller aged/sized, no matter how active, aren’t accustomed to that amount of walking.

Also, kids aren’t always the fastest walkers, especially when they’re immersed in an environment like DIsney. There’s nothing worse than having to fuss at your child to walk faster, gosh! because you have a FastPass across the park that ends in 10 minutes. It’s nice to have the kids hop in the strollers and head to the next stop with an adult stride.

But my kids are older. Do I really need a stroller?

My girls are still young, so I can’t speak to this directly. However, I will say that my friends and family with older children still swear by their strollers, for all the reasons listed above (naps, speed, exhaustion, storage). Even if they’ve been out of a stroller for years at home, you may find that they need a quiet place to rest throughout the day and it’s convenient for that quiet place to be on wheels!

Bringing Your Own Stroller

Disney Limitations

Disney restricts strollers larger than 36 inches x 52 inches. Most strollers are smaller than that, so it’s unlikely you’d need to purchase or borrow a different stroller for the parks. Wagons are also on Disney’s restricted list, so stick to a stroller!

Stroller Theft

Stroller thefts are rare in Disney parks, despite the occasional viral post you may see on social media. As a personal anecdote, we’ve brought our Peg Perego Book Plus and City Mini GT Double with us on our trips and often leave our park bag (sans valuables like phones and wallets) and shopping bags in the stroller. We’ve never had any kind of theft. If you have a luxury stroller that you’re extremely concerned about being stolen, consider renting a stroller instead (keep scrolling for info).

Don’t plan to use a stroller/wheel lock. While Disney doesn’t specifically prohibit guests from bringing locks into the parks, they’re frowned upon. You can’t attach your stroller to any fixture inside the park. A cast member will cut your lock. Some people wrap stroller locks around their wheels only, as a deterrent, but I find it wholly unnecessary. And also, kind of a jerk move to the cast member whose job it is to move strollers around to keep the stroller parking lot organized and efficient.

Renting a Stroller at Disney World

Renting Directly from Disney

Disney strollers can be rented inside all four theme parks and at Disney Springs. These generic “rental strollers”, like you see at many other attractions and theme parks, are basically molded plastic bench seats with a lap belt. They’re strictly for utility – they don’t recline and don’t feature any cushioning.

These strollers cannot be taken outside of the parks, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your needs. Some families like that they don’t have to worry about their stroller on transportation or taking up space in their resort rooms. Still, many other families prefer to have a stroller for the duration of their trip, especially for the sometimes long walk to and from bus stops. If your family is planning to visit other theme parks or Orlando attractions, make sure to check stroller availability for those other outings.

Either way, they can always be a great backup plan for families who decide not to bring a stroller. There’s no reservations required and they’re usually freely available, although you may also encounter a line during peak hours.

Renting From a THird Party Company

If you’re not sure renting directly Disney works for your family, don’t fear! There are a ton of stroller rental companies in Orlando. We recommend that you rent from one of Disney’s “preferred” companies, so that your stroller can be directly delivered to (and picked up from) your Disney resort and be waiting there for your arrival. These companies are Kingdom Strollers (arguably the most popular rental company), Orlando Stroller Rentals, and Magic Strollers. These companies all rent high quality, comfortable strollers like Baby Jogger City Minis and Bob Revolutions. They also rent other baby equipment like cribs and inflatable toddler beds.

If your little prince or princess needs the ultimate lap of luxury, you can also rent a Princess Carriage stroller, that comes with a chauffeur to deliver you and your carriage to the Magic Kingdom.

Another Option for your Consideration

If you’ll be staying at Disney for an extended period of time, you may find that rentals just aren’t cost effective, no matter how much you don’t want to carry a stroller through the airport or onto Disney transportation. In these cases, you might consider doing some online stroller shopping. You can often find reasonably priced umbrella or lower model strollers and have them delivered directly to your resort or purchase one from your resort’s gift shop. When your trip is over, you can always donate it or hand it off to another family.

Using Strollers on Disney Transportation

Buses & Trams

You’ll need to fold and carry your stroller onto Disney buses and trams. This can be a bit of a pain, when you’re frequenting buses, but a little bit of planning can help make it much more manageable.

We use a messenger bag, so that it can easily be slung across one of us. We also always keep an empty shopping bag with us, so that we can toss all the random stuff that’s collected on the stroller into it before folding (like blankets, souvenir cups, stroller fans, etc).

watercraft

The ferry and larger water taxis do not require you to fold your stroller, so you can just roll right on. In some cases, you may still be asked to fold your stroller if the boat is crowded. Some of the smaller water taxis (particularly, the ones that run from Magic Kingdom to the monorail resorts) will require you to fold your stroller.

Monorail

The monorail does not require you to fold your stroller either. In extremely rare peak times, you may still be asked to fold your stroller, but we’ve never had that happen. This is one of the reasons that those deluxe monorail resorts are so appealing to families with young children.

Walt Disney railroad

This train inside Magic Kingdom is such a fun ride, but also a great way to move from one land to another without walking. You’ll be able to bring your stroller with you, but it must be folded and carried on to the train.

Using Strollers In the Parks

Attractions

Most attractions will not allow you to even enter the line with your stroller. There are a few exceptions, such as the Kilimanjaro Safaris, where their stroller parking lot is halfway through their line. Typically, you’ll leave your stroller in a designated stroller parking area. These are usually located just outside of the attraction, although some more congested areas (like parts of Fantasyland) share stroller parking areas. Make sure to look for the sign to verify that you’re parking in an approved area!

Dining & Restaurants

Table service restaurants generally do not allow for strollers inside. In rare cases, a Cast Member may allow you to bring your stroller in, but certainly don’t plan on that generosity, especially during rush times. If you’re traveling with a small infant, this also means that you should consider how you’ll hold them during meals (perhaps in a removable bassinet component of your stroller or in a baby carrier like a ring sling).

Most quick service restaurants will allow strollers inside, but be aware that many of their queues are quite narrow. Your stroller may not fit past the register.

Shopping

Most stores are ADA accessible and therefore navigable with a stroller. Just be sure to watch little hands, so they don’t knock over collectibles as you roll by!

Special Events and Experiences

When you call to make your reservation, ask about their stroller policies. They’ll differ depending on the event or experience. For instance, we were able to bring our stroller into the Dessert Party, but needed to park it before going into Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Helpful stroller accessories

This section contains some Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click through and purchase that item, I’ll be paid a small commission for my recommendation at no additional cost to you.)

Storage

Take a hard look at your stroller’s storage capacity ahead of time. Make sure your bags and any other stuff will fit in the basket, with room to spare for purchases. If not, consider getting clips to attach your bags to the stroller. These are the clips we use. We also sometimes attach a Mommy Hook, just for backup storage.

Convenience

You may want to have cup holders or another organization tray for your stroller handle. Some people have even concocted crazy organizer bags out of over-the-door shoe organizers, although I’m not sold on their practicality. We use this stroller organizer, but there are a ton out there. Check which ones are most compatible for your stroller.

If your stroller doesn’t have snack trays or cup holders for your children, you may want to get a sippy cup leash and snack cups to bring along too.

weather

Florida is prone to afternoon rain showers. If your stroller won’t fare well getting wet, consider getting a waterproof cover, like this one that we’ve used. During an unexpected rain shower, we also learned that a poncho draped over the stroller can work just as well. This is actually our new plan going forward, because it doesn’t take up as much space and can be discarded after the rain is done, instead of carrying a wet cover around with us for the rest of the day!

Florida is also prone to be hot. You may come from a warm climate, but trust me, you’re still going to find it hot during the warmer months. We are from swampy south Louisiana and still find it insufferably hot sometimes. Consider the airflow of your stroller, especially if you have the sun shade pulled down and their seats reclined during naps. You will probably want to bring a stroller fan to keep fresh air circulating. We also like to bring a misting fan or misting water bottles and cooling towels for the whole party to cool down with.

Which brings me to my next point. Florida is literally “the sunshine state”. Make sure that your stroller’s sun shade will do an adequate job. Always remember to bring sunscreen, but also consider bringing a lightweight blanket to “extend” your sun shade during naps. When we had a black stroller, we also liked to drape blankets over the seats before parking our stroller for any extended period of time.

Identification

If you’re going to be renting a stroller (or like us, own a model that’s a popular rental stroller), you may want to consider adding something to your stroller to help it stand out in a crowd. Cast Members sometimes rearrange strollers to keep the parking area flowing, so you can’t always rely on your memory to find yours!

We tend to leave our park bag (sans valuables) clipped on the back of our stroller, which helps us identify it during the day. You can also make a sign, tie a ribbon, or even hang battery-operated lights on your stroller.

 

Did we answer all of your stroller questions? If we missed something, leave us a comment!

 

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Rider Switch at Disney World

If your Disney travel party has a wide range of heights and ages, there’s a good chance you won’t all be riding the same rides! If you’re a thrill seeker with a small child, Disney has got you covered with their Rider Switch program.

What is Rider Switch?

Rider Switch (sometimes called “Rider Swap”) is a service that allows guests to take turns riding rides that other travel party members can’t or don’t want to ride.

Where is Rider Switch available?

Rider Switch is available at most rides with a height requirement, whether you’re using a FastPass or the standby entrance! Some rides without height requirements or that aren’t listed below will also allow you to use Rider Switch at their discretion, so just ask the cast member at the ride entrance. (We learned this trick at Toy Story Mania, when Lucy was sleeping during our FastPass time. A quick search told me that they didn’t offer it, but we asked anyway and were pleasantly surprised – especially Ruby- when the cast member said we could!)

Magic kingdom Rider Switch Locations

  • The Barnstormer
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Stitch’s Great Escape
  • Tomorrowland Speedway

Epcot Rider Switch Locations

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Mission: Space
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios Rider Switch Locations

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Star Tours
  • Tower of Terror

Animal Kingdom Rider Switch Locations

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Dinosaur
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Primeval Whirl

How does Rider Switch work?

Personally, I think Disney has figured out the best “ride swap” program, out of all the theme parks. The non-riders don’t have to wait in line and wait while the riders ride, which is great when you’re talking about antsy and excited toddlers!

When you approach the attraction entrance (with your party), tell the Cast Member that you’d like to do a Rider Switch. (Please Note: Disney’s policy is that the Cast Member must physically see the non-rider(s). Many Cast Members will be lenient about this requirement, but don’t assume they will be and send your family off to another attraction. Make their jobs easy and go up to the entrance, like you’re supposed to!) They will hand the First Rider a lanyard and admit them into the line (FastPass entrance if you have a FastPass, standby entrance if you don’t). The rest of the party is now free to go enjoy the park. The First Rider will swap the lanyard for a paper Rider Switch ticket before boarding the attraction. This paper ticket is the golden ticket that will allow the Second Rider to ride, so don’t lose it! When the First Rider is finished riding the attraction, they hand off that ticket to the Second Rider, who will then be admitted into the FastPass entrance of the attraction to go ride!

Do I have to use the Rider Switch right away?

No! Rider Switch tickets are usually good for 24+ hours after the First Rider has done the attraction (your window will be listed on your ticket). That means that you don’t have to wait outside the ride or rush back right away to use it. (See why I think Disney has this figured out so well?)

Does each member of our party need a Rider Switch ticket?

Each Rider Switch ticket will admit 2-3 guests as the “Second Rider”. So, if you have 3-4 adults in your party, 1-2 guests can ride first and the remaining guests can ride next. Disney’s website says that each ticket is good for 2 guests, but in our experience, they admitted 3. Plan for 2 and be pleasantly surprised by 3!

How do you make the best use of Rider Swap?

Maximize your park time for the kids! If it’s an attraction that only we adults can ride, we will take the kids to other attractions. So, if we are riding Space Mountain, I’ll take the kids to Buzz Lightyear or the PeopleMover while my husband rides, and then he’ll take them to another attraction while I ride. Or, one of us will take them to an attraction while the First Rider rides and then return for the other adult to ride when they crash for naps.

Let big kids ride twice! Since Rider Switch can be used for more than one guest, we often let Ruby ride with both of us. She loves being able to ride all of the thrill attractions twice, with both mom and dad! When we do this, we often use the ride time for Lucy (our baby) to get some time out of the stroller and let her wander around and explore. I also like to use that time to go shopping while dad’s not around to see the damage!

Use your kids’ nap times! Especially at parks with tiered attractions, we often find ourselves picking FastPasses for the kids over ourselves. We make it up to ourselves by using their nap times to hit those thrill rides that we passed on FastPasses for. We grab snacks and drinks, find a shady spot close to the attraction, and let them sleep while we take turns riding.

You can try the doubling FastPass trick (emphasis on try). Some people figured out a way to cheat the three FastPasses per guest system, by making different FastPasses for each adult and using the Rider Switch program (So, for instance, one guest would book FPs for Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur, while the other would book Kali River Rapids and Primeval Whirl). Disney has supposedly grown wise to this trick and now requires that you verify both riders’ FastPasses, so don’t count on this trick working. You’re free to try it, of course, but it leaves your whole party open to some pretty serious disappointment!

Have you used Rider Switch in the parks? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

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Disney World Ride Height Requirements

 

There’s nothing worse than getting your child excited about an attraction, only to find out they aren’t tall enough to ride! After dealing with some little rider disappointment on one of our trips, I decided to simplify the search by creating an easy reference that won’t drain your phone battery!

Below, you’ll find attractions sorted two ways. First, by height and then, by park. You can also download our free printable (Disney World Attractions Height Requirements) to keep with you in the parks!

Almost all of these attractions have Rider Switch available. Don’t forget to take advantage of that! Read more about Rider Switch and making the most of it here.

We do our best to keep this list updated, but please always double check your My Disney Experience app when planning your vacation!

attractions by height requirement

32 inches rider height

  • Tomorrowland Speedway (MK)

35 inches rider height

  • The Barnstormer (MK)

38 inches rider height

  • Kali River Rapids (AK)
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (MK)

40 inches rider height

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (MK)
  • Dinosaur (AK)
  • Mission: Space (Epcot)
  • Soarin’ (Epcot)
  • Splash Mountain (MK)
  • Star Tours (HS)
  • Stitch’s Great Escape (MK)
  • Test Track (Epcot)
  • Tower of Terror (HS)

44 inches rider height

  • Avatar Flight of Passage (AK)
  • Expedition Everest (AK)
  • Space Mountain (MK)

48 inches rider height

  • Primeval Whirl (AK)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (HS)

 

Attractions by Park

Magic Kingdom attractions by height

32 inches rider height

  • Tomorrowland Speedway

35 inches rider height

  • The Barnstormer

38 inches rider height

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

40 inches rider height

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Splash Mountain
  • Stitch’s Great Escape

44 inches rider height

  • Space Mountain

Epcot Attractions by Height

40 inches rider height

  • MIssion: Space
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios attractions by height

40 inches rider height

  • Star Tours
  • Tower of Terror

48 inches rider height

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Animal Kingdom Attractions by Height

38 inches rider height

  • Kali River Rapids

40 inches rider height

  • Dinosaur

44 inches rider height

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest

48 inches rider height

  • Primeval Whirl

What’s your favorite ride on this list? What are your kids waiting to grow enough to ride?

 

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When we announced our first trip to Disney, we endured a lot of side eye from friends and family. If you’ve made a similar announcement, you may be familiar with the comments like “They’re not going to remember any of it! Why waste your money? Wait until they’re older.”

Well, we took our toddler (and infant) anyway. And we regret nothing. Here’s why.

The memories aren’t just for them.

In the moment with the girls on Prince Charming's Carousel in Magic Kingdom

We were making memories too. One of the things we love about these trips is how we get wrapped in the Disney bubble. The huge parts of our brains normally dedicated to our jobs, laundry, grocery lists, and other daily minutiae are instead completely present with our girls. I don’t miss the funny dinner conversation because I’m doing dishes and my husband doesn’t miss their dance parties because he’s doing yard work. We’re all there together, with nothing to do but have fun.

Also, our kids don’t have to remember every single detail in order for an experience to hold value or worth. I think it’s okay to experience something just for the experience. And you’ll have tons of pictures to document the trip anyway!

(I also want to add that we knew we’d be returning to Disney at some point when they were older. If we thought this was our once-in-a-lifetime trip, we probably would have waited. It’s hard to say.)

You might also be surprised by how much they remember.

Ruby was 2.5 years old on our first trip, so our expectations were low. We were shocked to find that she actually remembers a lot of little details. She knew which characters were at which meals, the general direction that rides were in, which rides she’d been on and with who, and even remembered what she wore in some cases!

We also talk about our trips often and show her pictures (at her request), which has helped those memories take root in her incredible toddler brain!

They are awe-struck.Ruby spots Cinderella's Castle for the first time, as we walk down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom.

 

I will never forget Ruby’s face when she spotted Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. Her jaw literally dropped and she was speechless for the entire walk down Main Street. She still has that reaction every time. She can spot the castle from the TTC and monorail resorts too.

Similarly, I will never forget Lucy’s excitement when she spotted Mickey for the first time, pointing and gasping and kicking her legs. She stared at all of the characters with such love and wonder in her eyes, that people from other tables began watching her as characters arrived. As a grandpa sitting close to us whispered to my husband, “This is what it’s all about. These kids and their smiles.” Grandpa speaks truth!

The magic becomes real.

I’ve been to Disney hundreds of times and I’ve heard the cliche about seeing something through your children’s eyes a hundred times too. But there really is something indescribable about experiencing Disney through your children’s eyes, even if you regularly experienced it through your own eyes as a child.

There is nothing like being lost in a world of magic with a toddler imagination and innocence leading the way, believing that Tinker Bell is really flying over head and that the First Order is really there marching and that the White Rabbit has a rabbit hole to travel back and forth to Epcot from Wonderland.

Celebrate your “firsts” and bring home timeless souvenirs.

Ruby gets presented with her First Haircut ears at Harmony Barber Shop

Disney loves to celebrate with their guests, so make sure to grab a “celebrating” or “first visit” pin at Guest Services or your resort’s concierge. The cast members and characters will notice and acknowledge whatever you’re celebrating! Imagine your toddler’s face if Cinderella wished them a happy birthday or a cast member made a big deal about their first trip through the Magic Kingdom gates!

Disney souvenirs don’t have to be stuffed animals and gigantic balloons. They can be much more precious! Ruby had her first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop inside Magic Kingdom, commemorated with special keepsakes and a once-in-a-lifetime story for her baby book. We also had silhouettes made on Main Street, Ruby earned her Tomorrowland Speedway driver’s license, and we’ve bought a Christmas tree ornament to remember every trip!

They can ride almost everything.

Disney World was created for families, which means that everyone can ride most of the rides. We were surprised by how much of the parks were open to us. There are only a handful of thrill rides with height requirements or health advisories at each park!

You’ll never take a cheaper Disney trip.

Lucy only has eyes for Prince Charming!

 

If your toddler is under 3, they’re mostly “free”. Disney calculates age from check-in day, so you can even go for their 3rd birthday and just check in the day before! They don’t need a ticket, meal plan, or FastPasses. If you stick to buffets and family style meals, they can share your meals. There are plenty of inexpensive kids’ meal options at quick service restaurants too.

If your toddler is over 3, keep in mind that you only have until their 10th birthday before they’re considered “adults” for Disney pricing too!

Did I convince you? Have more questions? Leave us a comment!

 

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Using a Travel Agent

There are so many decisions that go into a Disney trip. One of the first is whether or not to use a travel agent.

Do I need a travel agent?

It is totally possible to plan a trip without a travel agent. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with Disney policies and booking procedures, so you can maximize your trip. Some people prefer to handle all their own planning and even enjoy it! I’ll be writing about trip planning soon!

But here’s the thing. Travel agents are free. That’s right. Most travel agents who specialize in Disney vacations are paid commission from Disney, not you.

When we learned this, it was a no-brainer for us to have expertise and assistance at absolutely no cost to us.

What should I look for in a travel agent?

All travel agents are not created equally. They each have their own planning style and commitment level to their clients. I’m sometimes flabbergasted by folks’ experiences with travel agents who just don’t seem to care. This shouldn’t be the norm and can be avoided really easily, by asking your travel agent about their services before you book. If you’re going to use an agent, it only makes sense to look for someone who will go above and beyond their obligations (which are to book your resort and tickets package).

Most travel agents will handle your fast passes and dining reservations, but they aren’t required to. So, make sure your agent is prepared to help with these details, unless you want to be the one stalking the Disney website at dawn when your windows open!

Some travel agents will also write a touring plan for you, but, again, they aren’t required to. If you aren’t familiar with the parks and how to most efficiently move throughout them, hitting the highlights and street entertainment, these can be invaluable. I highly suggest asking about this service too. Their expertise can make magic happen, like catching a parade right outside of the restaurant you have a dining reservation at.

The rare, magical travel agent will also help you book any “extras”, things they don’t make a commission on and that are far and above their obligations to you as a client. These are things like first haircuts at Harmony Barbershop and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments. If you can find one of these magical unicorns, book through them. These are the agents that are deeply invested in your vacation and making sure every detail is handled.

Our family travel agent is one of those unicorns. She goes through every detail of our trip, looking for ways to maximize our value and incorporate all the fun we are looking for. Before she writes our touring plan and books our FastPasses, she sends a spreadsheet with all of the attractions listed and a column for each member of our travel party. We rank our “must do” attractions, along with everything we want to do, and then she goes to work. Before our trip, a book arrives with our touring plan, suggested snacks and quick service meals, fun things to look for, important phone numbers and information, and all kinds of other details. It really is like magic.

How do I find a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations?

My suggestion is to always start by asking a trusted friend or family member. They’ll be able to tell you about their experience, so you feel comfortable. I also see many people post on Facebook and within groups asking for suggestions. You can also google travel agents and find an agency that appeals to you.

However you find a travel agent, just remember to ask them about their services upfront, so you know what to expect!

How do I book through a travel agent?

Each agency works differently, but generally, you’ll speak directly with your agent, either by phone or in person, about your trip. They may want you to have decisions made about travel dates and Resorts, but a good agent will be willing to help you figure out these details.

We give our travel agent a general travel window and budget and she finds us the best value within those two constraints.

Most agencies will have their own system for processing payments. Once we’ve made our travel plans, our agent sends us a secure authorization link that we fill out and submit, which she then uses to process payment through the vendor’s website (Disney, Universal, whatever). We have the option of making a down payment, payments along the way, or paying for the trip in full. We typically opt to make a down payment ($200 for packages or the cost of our first night’s stay without a package) and then pay in full shortly before our balance is due.

Can I still plan my own vacation with the help of a travel agent?

Absolutely! Travel agents should let you handle as many details as you want! You still have complete control over your vacation details and can make changes to things like FastPasses and dining reservations at any time through the Disney website or app. The only changes that can’t be made without your agent are things like travel dates, room categories, tickets, or dining plans, because those are all attached to your payment (which is handled through them and how they earn their commission).

What do travel agents make commission on?

Travel agents generally make commission on resort stays, tickets, dining plans, and VIP tour experiences.

Some folks understandably are concerned about their travel agent having their best interests and bank accounts at heart. The thing is, a good travel agent wants you to be a customer for life. That means that they’re focused on planning the absolutely best vacation for your family, not upselling you.

All of the pricing and information is also available to you on the Disney website, so you can always spot check to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Again, a good agent will make sure you’re getting that best deal and check in with you when new promotions or discounts are released. Our agent often calls us to apply a new promotion or present a new option.

This post is not sponsored, presented, or influenced by any travel agent or agency. The opinions and information are completely our own!

If you’ve read this post and feel like a travel agent is right for you and would like a recommendation, feel free to email us for our agent’s information.

Choosing the Right Disney Resort

Disney has a resort for every occasion, budget, and travel style. I often see folks ask where they should stay and get a whole range resorts, because the truth is – there are a lot of right answers! Here’s my guide to choosing the right resort for you.

Prioritizing Your Needs

When I’m booking a Disney stay, there are a few key factors that I like to consider beforehand and rank in order of importance.

Convenience to the Parks

If you’re traveling with little ones, this could be the deciding factor in your resort planning. Each resort has different transportation methods to get to the park, most being by bus.

If you’re really looking for the pinnacle of convenience, look at Deluxe Resorts like the monorail Resorts surrounding Magic Kingdom and the walkable Resorts surrounding Epcot. There is nothing like being door-to-gate in 15 minutes!

There are also some deluxe and moderate resorts connected to a park or Disney Springs by boat, which can almost match the convenience, especially if they’re the larger boats that allow for strollers to roll on.

Generally, the buses become busier as your resort level drops. So, if you hate a crowded bus, this might be a top ranked priority for your trip. Personally, I don’t mind the buses, but my husband hates them!

Resort Amenities and Activities

Each resort offers unique amenities that match their theme. While there are many found across properties, regardless of resort level, there are some that may truly stand out for your family (like horseback riding or the biggest pool on property).

If you’re planning an action-packed trip with tons of park time, your resort amenities might not be a major factor in your choice. Conversely, if you like to plan “down days” in between parks, you may want more activities at the resort to fill those days!

Travel Budget

Disney trips can add up, no matter what budget you’re working with! Consider what your total travel budget is and where you’re willing to cut corners.

Our family opts to drive, so we can spend our airfare savings on more Disney fun. We’ve also done blow-the-budget deluxe stays and more conservative value stays to free up more money for other things. It’s all about your priority for this trip.

I can assure you that you’ll have a magical vacation, no matter where you stay or how long you’re there for. Don’t let your FOMO blow your budget on a resort you don’t really need!

Room Size

In our experience, our room sizes have been directly proportional to what level of resort we’ve stayed at. For lots of families, room size isn’t a deal breaker, because they’re out of the room a lot. For others, they need room to spread out and enjoy their down time.

Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room

For my family, we prefer a larger room. Our youngest still sleeps in a Pack & Play and we travel with a double stroller, so value rooms are a tight squeeze for us and our stuff. If we’re booking a lengthier stay, we take this into consideration before choosing a resort.

Other Considerations Before You Book

Time of Travel

Look at your travel window and decide how much wiggle room you have, if any.

Some families have to travel during school breaks and their dates are set in stone. If you have more flexibility, that may allow for booking around promotions and special events.

We often take our travel dates into more consideration than just promos. It partially ties back into the amenities ranking. If it’s going to be really cold, the pools aren’t a big deal. If it’s the holidays, one of the highly decorated resorts might be worth the stay. We also consider what holidays might affect pricing and park hours, like during Sept-Dec when Magic Kingdom closes early a few nights a week for parties.

The Grand Floridian's lobby at Christmas

Travel Party Size

Your travel party size can affect resort availability and pricing. You want to consider how many guests you’ll have and how they might be broken down into rooms. If you’re a large family with several children, you want to consider if you’d be comfortable requesting, but not being guaranteed, connecting rooms or if you want to look at a suite or villa.

Travel Party Ages

I think it’s impossible not to have fun at a Disney resort, but there are certainly some that are more fun than others for kids or adults. For instance, my girls would stay at Art of Animation every single trip because of all the artwork and interactive fun, while we would take the refinement and luxury of the Grand Floridian any day. It’s a balancing act! On our last trip, we split the time between AOA and Beach Club! Which brings me to my next point…

You Don’t Have to Choose Just One!

We are frequent resort hoppers. People sometimes think we’re a little mad, and they may be right, but it works for us! We love getting to have multiple resort experiences in one trip. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s completely doable. This can be ideal for travelers who want a taste of deluxe, but can’t swing the entire trip that way!

My Suggestions by Priority

If you want convenience and you’re prepared to spend…

Book at one of the Magic Kingdom monorail Resorts (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian) for quick access to the park, as well as monorail access to Epcot.

Grand Floridian

If you’re traveling without kids or really prefer Epcot and Hollywood Studios, book at either the Yacht Club, Beach Club, or the Boardwalk for walkability to Epcot and a short boat ride to Hollywood Studios.

If you want convenience and you’re prepared to spend a little less…

Book at Wilderness Lodge or the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, so you still have the boat to Magic Kingdom (which is large enough to roll your stroller on) and the TTC (which means monorail to Epcot is an option too).

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

If you want an action packed resort and are prepared to spend…

Book at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness for some of the most unique amenities on Disney property. I can’t say enough about how much adventure there is waiting for you there!

If you want an action packed resort and have a tight budget…

Book at Pop Century or Art of Animation for a fun and vibrant environment and lots of stuff to explore.

Art of Animation Little Mermaid area

If you want a peaceful resort and are prepared to spend…

Book at the Grand Floridian. It’s the lap of luxury and you won’t regret it.

You might also consider Old Key West or even Animal Kingdom Lodge, especially the Savannah view rooms!

If you want a peaceful resort and are prepared to spend less…

Book at Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach, or Coronado Springs. Saratoga Springs might also be an option.

Port Orleans Riverside

You might also consider the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, because there isn’t enough to be said for having your own “building”, patio, and no shared walls.

If you want to save your money for the parks…

Book at the All-Star Value Resorts. They’re the most economical stay on property, while still getting the perks!

If you’re traveling with a larger party and want to stay together…

Book at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness or Art of Animation family suites.

The bedroom in the Art of Animation Family Suite

You may also consider Villas at the various Disney Vacation Club resorts, but those come with a much steeper price tag! The Treehouse Villas are on our wish list.

Did we miss any suggestions? Any questions? Leave us a comment!

 

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