Recently my husband and I decided to take our not-quite-one-year-old to Disney World. One of the perks of taking such a small child is that you don’t have to pay admission for them (until age 3, actually) so we decided to go. I realized as we were haphazardly planning this trip, that our son had probably never even seen Mickey Mouse, so naturally I got him a Mickey Mouse book and toy to give him a preview. 🙂 I showed them to him and told him excitedly every day for a week leading up to the trip that we were, “Going to see Mickey!” I feel confident he had no idea what I was saying, but he smiled and laughed as if to humor me.
The main thing I did to prepare for this trip was read everything I could find on how to do Disney with a baby. We eventually decided to only attempt one park, Magic Kingdom, which was said to be the most baby-friendly, and to go on Friday morning of our time in Florida, so that it would be the lowest possible temperature and the least crowded (compared to Saturday and Sunday). Here are the highlights of what I learned from reading numerous other resources, as well as my own recent experiences.
- This is probably the most important one: set your expectations low. Small children are unpredictable at times, and can easily get overwhelmed, overstimulated, overtired, overheated, etc. We planned on going to Magic Kingdom only, and for just a few hours, playing it by ear. We packed sunscreen, waters, snacks/pouches for baby, all the usual diaper bag items, and used a small, lightweight umbrella stroller. (I added a skip hop liner https://www.skiphop.com/skiphop-on-the-go/VC_400502.html to keep it slightly cooler.) We were realistic going into the day, that baby might be over it by the end of the first hour, and if that was the case, we would leave.
- When we arrived at the park, we located the Baby Center. I had read on the Disney Parks website that Magic Kingdom had a Baby Center, complete with a nursing room, changing tables, the works! It did not disappoint! We went in right away and changed baby’s diaper in the air conditioned room that had at least six padded changing tables with disposable paper liners, then we moved into the next room which had regular chairs and high chairs, kid tables and chairs, and even a TV playing the Disney channel. At this point in the day, there weren’t many other people in the Baby Center, so I sat in this room with my husband and nursed baby. I did also see the nursing room, which was separated from everything else by a door that is kept shut for privacy, and features four or five recliners. Additionally, there was a small shop with everything you may have forgotten to bring for your baby, diapers and wipes, sunscreen, baby food, formula, stroller fans, ponchos, onesies, etc. all at fairly reasonable prices. (It might not be what I pay at Target, but the markup did not seem extreme to me.) Overall, I was very pleased with the Baby Center and the kind cast members working there.
- Keep an eye on the temperature while you are walking around. We made a point of going through all of the gift shops throughout the park in an effort to keep ourselves and most importantly, baby, from getting overheated. We were there in June, possibly not the best time to be in Florida in terms of temperature, but we made sure to stay hydrated and out of the sun as much as possible.
- Research the rides in advance, and make a plan. For us, I researched all the rides that were baby-friendly (which is any that do not have a height requirement) and we planned to go for those. Baby-wearing made me feel more secure bringing him on the rides, too, and he was so comfortable he slept through the entire Dumbo ride! We had fun doing the Buzz Lightyear ride, the People-Mover, and would have also done Pirates of the Caribbean and Aladdin’s Magic Carpets if we had stayed longer. Another option is to take turns, if there are rides that the adults want to do (i.e. Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain) you can always divide and conquer, just make sure to allot the time needed to wait in line, or book it with a FastPass.
- Disney now only lets you have three Fast Passes a day. I did not know this, and this policy might be subject to change. When I last went to Disney about seven years ago, you could get as many Fast Passes as you wanted provided they did not overlap. Now, you are limited to three, but you can make changes and cancel them within the Disney parks app.
- Download the Disney parks app. We found it to be very helpful for booking Fast Passes but also for looking up wait times for things we wanted to do that we could not get a Fast Pass for. For example, I had my heart set on taking baby to meet Mickey and Minnie, but I did not think he would tolerate being in line for an hour plus. We kept checking the app while we did other things and eventually it said 40 minutes wait for Mickey and Minnie so we made our way over.
- If your child has not been around characters or mascots before, be prepared that it might scare them. While we were in line to meet Mickey and Minnie two small children ahead of us freaked out (screaming, crying, etc.) when they got to the front and were terrified of the two characters. Luckily for us, baby LOVED Mickey and Minnie and smiled, laughed and even held Minnie’s hand, but it could have easily have gone the opposite way!
- Stay on property, or closeby if you can. With a small child, it is really nice to have quick access to your hotel if they do have a meltdown, blowout, etc. We stayed at the Shades of Green and were able to take the monorail from the Polynesian. I have also stayed at the Contemporary, years ago.
- Enjoy watching your child experience Disney. I have always been a big fan of all the princesses (especially Belle) and pretty much all things Disney, but it was a unique and wonderful thing to watch my son watch the parade and meet Mickey and Minnie. I can’t wait to bring him back when he’s older!
I hope these tips are helpful! Do you have tips for Disney? How old were your children when you took them for the first time?