A trip plan for doing Disney World with toddlers

(Article last updated: April 18, 2017)

One of the best things you can do while kids are still young is to plan a trip based on what they are into. Though the days may seem long with toddlers, the phase passes quickly, and before you know it, they are doing all of the grown up things in the parks.

Here's how to do Disney World with toddlers...

Before you leave on your trip

When to tell them?
While waiting to go to Disney World with toddlers, it's good to get your little one involved so they can get excited and know what to expect.

One dilemma for parents of little ones is knowing how far ahead to tell them because every day could become "when are we leaving? are we leaving now? how about now?"

You might want to talk about Disney World (the rides, the hotels, etc.) but without telling your tot a trip is planned. That way they know what Disney World is and what you can do there, but can't nag daily asking if it's time to go yet.

You could decide to tell your child just before the trip begins and use a countdown to count down the final days before your trip.

Here are some countdown ideas on Pinterest:

Follow Shannon, WDW Prep School's board Counting down to Disney World trips on Pinterest.


What to watch
There are a lot of things you can watch to get your toddler prepped and excited.

What to read
Although toddlers can't read yet, the Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids book is great for all ages. It has big pictures and ratings by kids to give you an idea about what kids will like.

Toddler-friendly trip itinerary
Trip itineraries are great for helping kids know what to expect. For little ones, that means using more pictures than words to show the daily plans. Check out my itinerary templates which include pics (especially the second one which might be easier for a toddler to understand).

Where to stay at Disney World with toddlers

When choosing an on-site hotel that your toddler will love, you might want to look in the Value and Deluxe categories. Moderate theming is beautiful, just not super toddler-friendly.

For Values, Pop Century or Art of Animation are our top recommendations. Art of Animation is especially fun (and maybe worth the extra $$$ compared to other value resorts) if your toddler happens to be really into Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King or Little Mermaid.

As a bonus, most of the rooms at Art of Animation (all of them except for the Little Mermaid rooms) are suites, allowing you to have separate rooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette which could be really handy (and the suites allow up to 6 people - a rarity when staying on-site).

For Deluxes, you can't beat The Polynesian with toddlers due to the location. It's super easy to catch the monorail right at the hotel to Magic Kingdom, just a short walk to the monorail to Epcot, in a location to view Magic Kingdom fireworks from your hotel, and has on-site child care for ages 3-12.

The Contemporary Resort is another Deluxe worth considering. With the monorail going right through the building and the ability to walk to Magic Kingdom, it's hard to imagine it not being fun for anyone, especially families with little ones. It also has Chef Mickey's restaurant located right inside - a popular choice for families at Disney World.

General Disney World with toddlers touring advice

Before getting into the specifics of each park, let's talk about some general park touring advice first.

How many days to spend in each park?
Step 3 in the 6-step process is to make a daily plan. That includes deciding how many days to spend in each park.

It's really hard to tell people how they should spend their days, but here's some advice and you can adjust based on your family.

For people who want a toddler-focused trip, this is how you might want to split up your days.

  • For a 3 day trip, do 2 days at Magic Kingdom and then either Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.
  • For a 4 day trip, do 2 days at Magic Kingdom, 1 day at Hollywood Studios and 1 day at Animal Kingdom.
  • For a 5 day trip, do 2 days at Magic Kingdom, 1 day at Hollywood Studios, 1 day at Animal Kingdom and 1 day at Epcot.
  • For a 6+ day trip, do the same as a 5 day trip but with a break day (or days) in the middle to rest at the hotel, visit Disney Springs, swim, etc.

What to do about strollers?
Your toddler may not use a stroller any more but they will very, very likely need one at Disney World (unless they're ultra toddler marathoners who can go 50 miles a week). Be sure to read the comparison of stroller options to decide how you want to handle them for your trip.

What height requirements affect toddlers?
Since this trip plan is focused on little ones, the thriller rides aren't included. However, there are a few non-thrillers that have height requirements which are indicated on each of the touring plans. You can also check out the overview of attractions with height requirements for a complete list.

How do I discipline while at Disney World?
Ahhh, that nasty subject that comes up a lot with toddlers. Believe it or not, they will not magically be perfectly behaved at Disney World so you'll need to plan ahead.

  • Prevention is sooo important. Don't overdo it, make sure they are fed, allow everybody enough time to sleep, try to limit lines as much possible, use sunscreen, etc., etc.
  • Leave if necessary. At home, you might be willing to leave places if your toddler starts acting up, but at Disney World...that's not so easy. It's difficult to leave a park and get back to your hotel room. It often takes an hour and includes a lot of waiting. That's really hard to do with a toddler in meltdown mode.

    Instead, you might want to consider "leaving" in a different way - leave the line you're in (or the gift shop you're shopping at or whatever it is) and head somewhere more private for a little downtime.

    You can head to a restroom but you can also find a baby care center which can be a great option because they are clean, air conditioned, have some seating, private rooms, sink, microwave and changing tables.

  • Use positive reinforcement. Using rules attached to positive things like Tinker Bell gifts or an afternoon treat can often work the best.

Let them lead (kinda)
Although this site is all about planning, it's really important to be flexible. Your toddler wants to ride Buzz Lightyear over and over again? Do it!

Have a tot that really likes parades? See them all!

That's the benefit of having a trip focused around them: you can do the things they like to do.

Using FastPass+ with toddlers
There are touring plans for each of the parks below which include the use of FastPass+. The FastPass+ system is a bit of a challenge for people with toddlers because it's hard to know what they will want to do before your trip. The plans below include all of the attractions that most toddlers will enjoy, as well as suggestions for which FastPass+ reservations to get.

For parents who want to ride bigger rides
Although each of the touring plans is focused on doing just things that toddlers would like to do, adults may still want to enjoy some of the bigger rides as well. Disney provides a perk called Rider Switch which allows adults to take turns riding which can help you do that.

Touring plans for families with little ones

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is tot mecca! So much for them to do and this is the perfect age to do it.


Epcot

With the addition of Frozen Ever After, a meeting spot for Anna and Elsa, and other fun attractions, Epcot has become increasingly toddler-friendly in the last few years. Check out the plan below for the best way to cover it all with little ones.


Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is the hardest park to plan because of all of the show times, but it does have several toddler-friendly things to do.


Animal Kingdom

With so many animal attractions, great shows, and some interesting rides, Animal Kingdom can be an amazing place to visit with little ones. Check out the touring plan below which incorporates the new family-friendly Pandora attraction.


Best Disney World dining choices for toddlers

Here are some fun places to eat in the parks with little ones:

  • Magic Kingdom - Be Our Guest, Columbia Harbour House, Crystal Palace, Cinderella's Royal Table
  • Epcot - Garden Grill, Sunshine Seasons, Teppan Edo
  • Hollywood Studios - Hollywood and Vine, ABC Commissary
  • Animal Kingdom - Pizzafari, Restaurantosaurus, Tusker House

Here are some of my favorite places to eat with little ones at Disney World outside the parks:

  • Chef Mickey's - located in The Contemporary, this buffet character meal is just pure fun. The fact that you get there by monorail makes it even better.
  • Beaches and Cream Soda Shop - located in The Beach Club, just outside the International Gateway entrance/exit at Epcot, this place offers cheeseburgers and ice cream, always a hit with little ones.
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe is located at The Wilderness Lodge and serves down-home style food and a rowdy atmosphere. Ask for some ketchup and see what happens!
  • The T-Rex Cafe Restaurant is located in Disney Springs and is perfect for a dinosaur-loving tot.

Some of the dining options listed above are character meals. Be sure to check out an overview of all Disney World character meals for even more info on all options for your trip.

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WDW Prep members have lots of features that come in handy for people doing Disney World with toddlers.

Level 2 WDW Prep Members can use the dining tool to filter by restaurants that are good for little ones.

The touring plans for little ones are built in to the touring tool.

And as you build your touring plans, they are grouped by hour (for the first 3 hours) and then your whole plan is plotted on a map at the bottom of the page so you can see how it all lays out.

⇢ Become a Level 2 member ⇠

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Leave a Reply

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Adam Steinert

I am re-reading this in preparation for our trip this fall (after a trip in January) with a 5.5 and almost-3 year old. Our girls loved Epcot. It’s a must for any toddler princess-lover. Where else can adults have a beer while waiting in line to see a princess? My then almost-5 year old LOVED visiting Epcot in afternoons while her 2 year old sister napped – it was a great place to hop after a busy morning at MK (even on low-crowd days, MK gets too busy for our tastes after about 1 PM). We are actually disappointed to lose that easy option this year as we are staying at a monorail hotel rather than the Swan.

Debbie

Hi, I am coming to Disney World in late Oct on a one day park hopper ticket with my 11 year old (not an avid rider) and my almost 3 year old. How would you suggest I break down my day and what attractions would warrant the FP?

I wish I could afford more but this is a once in a lifetime for us!

Thank you for your help!

Esteban

Hi,

Any special recommendations for traveling this Spring Break? Heard it will be busier than usual since it coincides with Easter. We will be there from April 8 to 18 (10 days), and purchased base 6-day tickets. We are traveling with two boys (5 yr & 3 yr). The plan is to do MK 3 days, and one each of the other parks. Should we go to parks on Weekdays only? Or should we expect them to be crowded at all times? I was thinking to do Epcot and Animal Kingdom during weekends since you mentioned they are either not toddler friendly, or short visits.
Thank you in advance.

Megan S. Reed

Shannon, this article is a little old. Now that Epcot has Frozen Ever After and lots of things are closed at Hollywood Studios, would you change your recommendations? My 3-year-old will be bored by shows at HS so we were thinking 2 days at MK and one at Epcot.

Lauren

Looking forward to the update. I am headed there with my 4.5 year old in early June. We have tickets for 4 days so I am trying to decide how to do the breakdown of park visits based on things she would be interested in! Any chance your Epcot vs. Hollywood studios recommendations will be ready soon? (This is Mommy’s first trip to Disney as well so I have no idea what I’m doing or how long it will take to get places!) We get into down around noon on a Friday and have dinner reservations at the Backyard BBQ in Fort Wilderness that evening (5:30) – any chance we could hit a park before that for a “short day” option? Unsure of travel times. Also will resort hotels hang onto bags if we get there before check in time?

Amanda

I don’t think a toddler would enjoy Haunted Mansion. Also, I am pretty sure a toddler should not go on Barnstormer or Seven Dwarves Mine Train but please correct me as I have not ridden/seen those rides before. I thought they were roller coasters basically? How would a toddler be safe? Thanks! Going in May with a 2-year-old.

Mara

We did Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with our two oldest children, who were 4.5 and 2.5 at the time. Our 4.5yo tends to be more sensitive and hesitant, but he loved it. The first time in the line, our 2.5yo balked at the coaster and decided not to go, but as soon as the train left without her, she demanded to get on it! Which was tricky since the line was 70+ minutes long. We picked up an extra FastPass later in the day, and she ended up riding it a couple times during our trip and loving it! Depends on the kid, but it’s a pretty kid-friendly attraction.

Lisa

Wow, this is amazing and incredibly helpful for an organized freak like me. I am heading to WDW with my 4 yr old son & 2 yr old daughter. We will be staying with family in Orlando, but I plan on doing two days at MK and 1 day at HS. Any extra tips for a single mom?

Mayra

Hello,

I am just curious as to why you recommend not using the fast pass on some rides???

Marc

I guessing it’s because you will waste it on a ride that you may be able to get on early if you follow his recommendations then use the FP for peak times at those popular rides.

Kristin

Hey! This is a great post! We are going to WDW in the fall. We’ve planning on 2 MK days, 1 HS day and a “rest day” where we will go to chef Mickey and the Halloween parade. My LO’s will be turning 3 and 5 during our trip. So are we missing out not going to AK? We plan on going back in 2 years with my third child, but just want to make sure we don’t miss the really fun stuff during this trip.

Meghan

I used this website when planning our first “family” trip to disney last year. My husband and I have both been many times growing up but now with kiddos of our own it’s a whole different experience. Last year we took our 22 month old son for the first time. We had a fantastic time, he loved it! I used your toddler tips to plan the whole trip and it was great advice, thank you!

We are expecting baby #2, and planning our second “family” trip to Disney. This time my son will be just shy of 3 and baby #2 will be 6 months old.

Do you have any advice on the best things that can be done with an infant, as a family? Also — which rides have restrictions on babies riding vs which rides can we take 6mo old baby on?

Thanks for your help!

Cynthia

Hi Meghan! My family and I are going to Disney this month! My daughter will be 22 months as well. What park/attractions did your son enjoy the most? Any advice on taking an energetic almost 2 year old to Disney? Thanks in advance for any info!

Traver Freeman

There’s very little a 6 month old can’t do that you’re 22 month couldn’t do when you went. Except the few rides the 22 month old was just talk enough for. My son is 21 months and can only ride 2-3 rides he couldn’t before.

Basically any ride without a height requirement can take a baby of any age. We took our son to Disneyland when he was 8 weeks old. And he rode everything he still rides today (minus those 2-3 he’s now tall enough for).

Paige

We are doing 5 days in the parks; 2 MK, 1 AK, 1HS, and 1 EP. Would you split up the MK days or do them back to back? Also, your daily itinerary above is 1 days per park, correct? Do you have an itinerary for day 2 at MK?
Thanks so much! You’re a lifesaver!

Jennifer

This is the second time I am planning my Disney World trip using this guide!!! Thank you!!!

Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been to Orlando many times (since I have a timeshare there) and it’s always been with my eldest son (who is now 20) and my nephews. I last visited in 2013 with a 1 year old and 6 month old. The bigger kids got to enjoy the parks while my babies just rode around in their little buggies. I’ve decided to take them again this year without the bigger kids (well they’re in college now) and just enjoy watching them truly enjoy themselves. They will be 4 and soon to be 3. I was looking for the right parks to go to and things to do that will ensure they have an awesome time. Your post has been extremely helpful.

I was debating whether to stay at one of the themed hotels or just to stay at my timeshare again. I was initially looking at the Nick Hotel but saw some recent reviews that weren’t so favorable. Would you suggest staying at one of the Disney Hotels or perhaps my condo at Mystic Dunes Resort will suffice?

I have to disagree about Epcot. We took our daughter there at 16 months and 2 years and she LOVED it! All those musical performances were what she enjoyed the most and as a 2-year old she loved visiting the Kidcot stations for coloring. The boat ride in Mexico is wonderfully kid-friendly and the Biergarten restaurant was a place she could get up and dance to the performance while the adults sat and enjoyed our meal.

In fact, in the 3 trips we’ve taken to Disney since she was born we haven’t even made it to Hollywood Studios yet! In my opinion that would be the least toddler-friendly with few rides and performances that require an active child to sit and watch. We barely made it through Country Bear Jamboree at Magic Kingdom, her attention span just wasn’t long enough for sit-down performances. Maybe next year though!

Ken

Hollywood studios (formerly MGM when i was a kid) is an absolute waste of time unless you have park hopper tickets. There is no way to spend a whole day there especially with a toddler under 40″. Ride toy story mania once. Honey we shrunk ourselves park for a bit. Nemo musical. Triceratops spin a couple times and youve pretty well covered it. I was so disgusted with that park last time we went i sent a 4 page letter to disney with cast member names included and ended up with tickets to go back next year. On the next trip we will spend 1 day in epcot 2 in magic kingdom and 1 split between morning in animal kingdom and afternoon in hollywood. Older people seem to enjoy hollywood. Back in the days of MGM you could spend a whole day there and atill have more to see. With the elimination of the backlot tour and all the items from well known movies it became quite boring. They told me it is to become a toy story park in late 2016 focused like the andys back yard attraction in disney world paris

Jill

Hollywood studios is a must see for toddlers simply because of the Disney Jr. Show! And of course the character breakfast (also Disney Jr.) at Hollywood and Vine. My then almost 2 and 4 year old LOVED it! We are going again when they will be 3.5 and 5.5 with a 6 mo. old and we are definitely going the breakfast again as it might have been the highlight of the trip. I highly recommend that you take your toddler there.

Jill

Is the food good during lunch? I have been going to Disney for my entire life and I always felt disappointed at lunch/dinner brunches. You’re thoughts? Also, is the fantasmic dining package worth it for a 5, 3 and 6 month old? I’ve never done it but would be totally game if it’s age appropriate.

Stephanie

Awesome post.

We did Disneyworld last year for the Food & Wine Festival with a 5 month old and we’ll be going back this fall for f&w. Our baby will be 18 months so I’ve been Googling things to do with her. I’m sure it will be mostly the same rides/activities we did last time but she can walk now and actually play on the resort playgrounds, etc… We’re so excited!

Thanks for outlining some of the rides/activities. Helps me figure out what we missed last time and what we are actually able to do with her this time.

Joe Luna

Shannon, love the site. Thanks 🙂 I’m planning a Disney World trip with my daughter, who will almost three, and my son, who will be 1 and a half (he’s only 10 months now). Any suggestions about what to do on the off day when we are not at the parks? We will be staying on Disney property.

Carissa Roe

Rest! Walk around your resort and take pictures, go to the pools and playground, spend extra time in the gift shop and food court. You will love having one day that you don’t have to rush for a fast pass or dining reservation. Plus, if your trip is like mine, you’ll be exhausted! 🙂 Have a magical time!!!

Jhosang

Thank you so much. I’m an Orlando native and still find Disney overwhelming. Taking my 3 kids in June, ages 4, 2 and 6 months.

candace

Oh my gosh our kids will be the same ages and we are going in July! I’m excited and terrified at the same time 🙂

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