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Ultimate Guide for visiting Disney World with Toddlers

HomeUltimate Guide for visiting Disney World with Toddlers
Ultimate Guide for visiting Disney World with Toddlers

All the extra challenges might make you think it would be crazy to attempt a trip to Walt Disney World with toddlers, but it really shouldn’t.

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, that toddler stage is over, and they are doing all of the grown up things in the parks.

We can help you with the logistics, so you can stick to the fun. Here’s how….

What you can expect in this guide

In this guide, we’ve combined all of our best resources for planning Disney World trips with toddlers into 1 spot. We’ll cover some ideas on what to do before you leave, answer all your questions about things like strollers and dining, and go over the best attractions for toddlers in each of the 4 parks.

This guide has a TON of info, but it also has a lot of links that go off to more in-depth coverage of each topic. We encourage you to start here, but make sure you check out the companion posts for more tips and information.

Before you leave

Before you even leave on a Disney World trip, there are a few things you can do at home to make your time at Walt Disney World go more smoothly – for both you and the little ones:

Best age for Disney World

Before you even start planning your trip, you may be asking yourself if it is worth it to take a baby or toddler to Walt Disney World.

Unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we definitely think it is. That’s because even if your little one won’t remember the trip, YOU will.

We have an entire post about the best age for Disney World, including a pros and cons list that can help you decide when to take your little one to the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Counting down to the 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 child that 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 fun countdown to count down the final days before your trip. Depending on your child’s age, you might want to keep the countdown short (10 or fewer days).

Looking for a way to make the countdown fun? We asked some of our favorite WDW Prep readers to chime in with their best ideas:

What to watch

There are a lot of things you can watch to get your toddler prepped and excited. In fact, many of the baby and toddler friendly rides have movies or shows that will help introduce your little one to the characters they’ll see in the park.

We have an entire post that will give you ideas on which movies and TV shows are connected to which attractions, character meets, restaurants, and resorts:

Ride and attraction videos are a great way to let a little one experience what they’ll see before they actually do it. It can help with fears and also get them excited.

YouTube is a wonderful resource for finding high-quality videos of all the rides at Walt Disney World.

What to read

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

If this will be your first time in a plane or on a long distance road trip, you might also consider reading books about flying or traveling by cars.

And, if you prefer to read to your child about the characters they’ll see in the parks rather than watch TV, Disney has plenty of books for kids of all ages.

You can find them in your local library, on Amazon, and Disney even has a website just for its books, too:

Packing for a toddler

Traveling with a toddler usually means you’ll be packing some extra stuff.

baby stuff

We have an Ultimate Disney World Packing List of items to help you out, but some of the must-have items you’ll want to make sure you include:

  • child-friendly sunblock
  • stain stick or Shout wipes, etc.
  • backpack or diaper bag that you can carry into the parks
  • large Ziploc bags (for holding wet clothes, snacks, etc.)
  • multiple pairs of shoes (in case one pair gets wet from rain or playing in splash zones)
  • Post-it Notes to cover the toilet sensor if auto-flush toilets are scary to them
  • Favorite snacks to bring into the parks

Toddler-friendly trip itinerary

Trip itineraries are perfect for helping kids know what to expect.

For little ones, that means using more pictures than words to show the daily plans.

If you are crafty you can make your own, or we have several free templates you can use as is, or even just as inspiration.

Itinerary Templates Featured Image

Where to stay at Disney World with babies and 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.

When you are traveling with older kids or even with adults only, things like the best pool or best resort for nightlife might be the most important thing. But, when you are traveling with little ones, you’ll likely have other priorities higher up on your list.

art of animation

For us, these are the things we considered when looking for the best resort at WDW for babies and toddlers:

  • Transportation (How will you get to the parks from this resort? Bus only? Monorail? Can you walk to a park from the resort?)
  • Dining options (If you have a screaming toddler, can you get them some food quickly?)
  • Theming (Will the theming of the resort be something your little one will love?)
  • Room types (Will a Pack ‘n Play fit? Do you need a separate sleeping space for the baby?)

Check out the list below for our recommendations, but for the in-depth reasons why we recommend these resorts for people with babies and toddlers, make sure you check out our post:

Best Value Resorts

  • For Values, Pop Century and Art of Animation are our top recommendations if traveling with a little one.

Best Moderate Resort

  • Most Moderate Resorts just aren’t kid-friendly. The one exception is Caribbean Beach. It has a lot of elements that make it a good Moderate option.

Best Deluxe Resort

Your best Deluxe options when traveling with a baby or toddler are:

  • Beach Club Resort
  • Contemporary Resort
  • Polynesian Village Resort
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge

Best Deluxe Villa Resorts

All of the Deluxe options above have Disney Vacation Club Deluxe Villa options, too. The studio size Deluxe Villa rooms are typically a bit smaller than a Standard room on the regular Deluxe side of the resort, but on the Deluxe Villa side you will get additional layout options (1-3 bedrooms, plus Grand Villas).

Here are our top bets for Deluxe Villa resorts with babies and toddlers:

  • Beach Club Villas
  • Bay Lake Tower
  • Polynesian Villas
  • Animal Kingdom Villas

Bed rails and Pack ‘n Plays

With all the families traveling to Walt Disney World, Disney is prepared when it comes to beds.

To help make bedtime easier, Disney has both bed rails and Pack ‘n’ Plays available to borrow.

AKL with pack n play

You can request one when you get there or, even better, you can call (407) 934-7639 to have the request added to your reservation.

Need more info? We’ve taken pics of Pack n Plays at bunches of resorts so you can get a feel for how it will fit in your room, plus we compiled and answered a bunch of the most common questions we receive about them, all in one spot.

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 7-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. Feel free to 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.

Will you need a stroller at Disney World?

Your toddler may not use a stroller any more, but unless they’re ultra toddler marathoners who can go 10+ miles per day, they will very, very likely need one at Disney World.

Strollers are very handy for not only providing your little one with a spot to rest their feet, but they also provide a place for you to store some of that extra stuff toddlers need.

You’ll have lots of options when it comes to strollers – renting offsite, renting from Disney, bringing one from home, shipping a new stroller to yourself, etc.

Whatever stroller you decide to use, we highly recommend you also consider bringing along, renting, or purchasing a rain cover (affiliate link). Not only will it keep all your stuff dry, it will also protect your stroller from damage.

Going when the temperatures are predicted to be hot?

If you’re using a stroller, you’ll likely want one of these stroller fans (affiliate link), too.

Transportation with toddlers

Disney World is huge – roughly the size of San Francisco – so understanding how to get around is an important piece to avoiding frustrations.

And, when you are navigating with strollers and/or car seats, it is especially important to understand how everything works.

stroller on the skyliner

One of the most common questions we get regarding strollers and Disney buses is “Will I need to fold my stroller?”.

And, the answer to that is “yes.” But, there are other modes of Disney transportation where you won’t have to fold your stroller at all:

  • Monorails and Magic Kingdom ferries – strollers can stay open, and a child can stay in them
  • Disney Skyliner – single strollers and double strollers that are front to back (not side by side) can stay open. Double, side-by-side style must be folded
  • Buses and trams – strollers must be folded up before boarding. Even if your little one is sleeping and the bus is totally empty, you’ll still need to fold your stroller.
  • Resort boat launches – on most, your stroller will need to be folded prior to boarding.
  • Friendship boats – strollers can be left open if space allows, but your child must be seated with you

Find out more about using Disney transportation with strollers at the link below:

8 tips for avoiding a meltdown 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. Ideally, the more you can prevent the things that cause meltdowns, the more you’ll be able to avoid them altogether.

  • 1. Don’t overdo it. Unless your little one is used to going non-stop, don’t try to go from sunup to sundown. Schedule lots of downtime and allow them to just do their own version of relaxing. Being overstimulated is a common reason for meltdowns in people of all ages – including toddlers.

  • 2. Make sure they aren’t hungry. Being “hangry” is a real thing, and when your toddler gets hungry, you may see that manifest in bad behavior. Be proactive and ready with snacks to help avoid situations where an empty stomach causes a meltdown. You can bring food and drinks with you into the parks (just no alcohol or glass containers) which makes it very easy to always have your child’s favorites with you.

  • 3. Allow everybody enough time to sleep. Even adults could use a nap daily at Disney World. The heat, extra activity, and excitement wears you out. Be sure you allow everybody the opportunity to get the sleep they need, which sometimes may mean early nights or sleeping in.

  • 4. Try to limit lines as much possible. Our touring advice is optimized to keep you moving and out of lines. Whenever possible, try to make sure you stick to those to help avoid long waits.

  • 5. Prepare for the weather. Weather extremes can make even the most pleasant of people cranky. Be it rain or heat or cold, make sure you know what to expect when you go and how to handle the weather when you are there.

  • 6. Try to stick to routines. Even adults like routines, and babies and toddlers are especially sensitive to changes in theirs. Whenever possible, try to make sure you’ll have the necessary items to keep major routines in place. Things like having a special blanket or pillowcase from home can help at bedtime, and familiar snacks (and snack times) can also help keep everybody smiling.

    If you don’t want to worry about packing all your favorites, you can order groceries and snacks for when you are there. If you have little ones still in diapers or Pull Ups, you can also order those supplies as well.
  • 7. 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, a quiet bench out of the way, or even one of the Baby Care Centers.
  • 8 Use positive reinforcement. Using rules attached to positive things like Tinker Bell gifts or an afternoon treat can often work the best.

Baby Care Centers

Baby Care Centers are perfect for anyone traveling with little ones to Walt Disney World.

You’ll find them in all 4 parks, and they are totally free to use.

Inside there is a small kitchen area (perfect for preparing bottles), a private room for nursing, space with high chairs, plus a small shop where you can purchase essentials.

You can search “baby care center” in the My Disney Experience app to be taken to the map of their exact locations.

Touring plans for families with little ones

When it comes to touring with toddlers, here’s what you need to know:

Let them lead (kinda)

Although this site is all about planning, when traveling with little ones it is really important to be flexible. Your toddler wants to ride Buzz Lightyear over and over again? Do it!

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

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

What height requirements affect toddlers?

Although there are tons of rides and attractions without any height restrictions, each park does have a few that require guests to meet a minimum height.

Disney world height requirements

Things that might be scary

Some of the attractions without height requirements might still be a bit scary for little ones.

Haunted Mansion Busts

Looks can be deceiving, so to help you keep from freaking your toddler out, we have an entire post on the things that might be too scary for a child (even if they are tall enough to ride).

Using Genie+ with toddlers

We miss the free FastPass+ system, but one thing we do like about the new Genie+ system is how easy it is to “stack” your attraction return times back-to-back for later in the day OR to “churn” rides one after the other.

These approaches to using Genie+ are especially useful when traveling with babies and toddlers because it allows you to ride a bunch of things without a lot of waiting.

lightning lane at toy story mania

The downside to this method, however, is that Genie+ isn’t free, so you’ll have to pay for it. And, it also will require you to be on your phone. A lot. Which isn’t exactly the ideal situation when you are trying to make memories with your little one at Walt Disney World.

The entire Genie+ system can be confusing, but we’ve put together some guides that should help.

If you’re considering purchasing Genie+, make sure you check them out. The one linked directly below this is a good one to start with:

Best attractions at Walt Disney World for toddlers

In the posts linked below, we have lists for all 4 parks (with graphics you can save to your phone) with our top picks for toddlers and little ones.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom has the most attractions out of all 4 parks at Walt Disney World and that makes it our top pick for toddlers.

its a small world

Epcot

Epcot has seen a lot of changes over the last few years, and if you know where to look you can find lots of things to keep toddlers and little ones happy here.

Frozen Ever After

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is home to two iconic lands: Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This park is packed with shows and a couple of attractions that toddlers love.

Disney Jr Play and dance

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is more than a zoo with rides. It has unique areas where you can get up close to the animals, an amazing playground perfect for letting little ones run off some energy, and lots of trails for exploring.

TriceraTop Spin

Rider Switch (for parents who want to ride bigger rides, too)

Although the touring advice below 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 free perk called Rider Switch which allows adults to take turns riding, which can help you do that.

FYI – if your child is over the age of 3, they will need their own Walt Disney World ticket. Children under the age of the 3 do not.

Best Disney World dining choices for toddlers

We always recommend you choose your dining near where you’ll be, but when you are dining with a toddler, it also makes sense to select places that will appeal to them and, even better, appeal to them AND help keep them entertained.

chef mickey's pluto contemporary

We have a post that covers all your FAQs about dining with toddlers, plus it includes lists of our top dining recommendations in each park.

Some of the dining options listed in the post 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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Heather Thomas

Evelyn Alvarez

Monday 6th of May 2019

Hi! Thanks for all the tips! I've been to DW before with my husband and two toddlers. Im making a first trip just myself and my two toddlers. Any specific rides to avoid where I couldn't ride with the two of them? Or specific rides that are ok for 3 people to ride together? My toddlers are 3 & 4.

Karen L

Thursday 19th of April 2018

I think whether or not to take your toddler depends a lot on your toddler. I took my daughter when she was almost three and she did fabulous. My son at the same age was not so great. Everything I read about taking a toddler said get to the park when it opens...this didn’t work for my son, who is (thankfully) an awesome sleeper. A more relaxed pace in the mornings would have been better for him. We rented a great stroller (rain cover is a must, and if you have to park it somewhere go ahead and cover it because it could rain while you are doing other things) and a full size crib from Kingdom Strollers. The crib was a godsend for my son. We set it up just like his bed at home (music box and all) and he would go right to sleep. If your toddler thrives on routine, might be best to hold off on Disney until they’re a little older and can go with the flow a little more. Just my two cents, having one easy toddler and one a bit more challenging.

Jaimie

Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

Would love to hear what yah think the best moderate resort is for a toddler.

Telisha N

Saturday 30th of September 2017

We are planning a trip in December with our almost 4 year old and 18 month old. We will be at the parks 4 days. Should we do a day at each park or no go to Epcot and go to Magic Kingdom 2 days?

Esteban

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

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.

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