15 things you need to know for a Disney World Vacation with kids or toddlers

 

My little girl turns one today! In honor of this proud mommy moment and thoughts of taking her to Disney World for the first time next year, I wanted to pass along things you need to know when traveling to Disney with little ones for the first time. I did post some tips and tricks for traveling with kids 5 and under which were very well received. These are some mom tested suggestions and ideas that I think will really help make your Disney World vacation great.

  1. Bring or rent a stroller. I know your kiddo is turning 4 or 5 and they’ve been walking on their own at the zoo for over a year. Disney World is a whole different animal. We easily log 10 miles a day as we saunter around for several hours. The last thing your tired feet will want to do is carry around a 35 pound kiddo. Plus, now you have a place to store snacks, ponchos, an extra pair of shoes, sunscreen, and more.
  2. Know your stroller rental options and the cost. Renting a stroller from Disney is EXPENSIVE. A double stroller is over $30. Airlines typically allow you to check a stroller at the gate for no additional cost so if you have one you can borrow or bring, DO IT! If you do rent a stroller through Disney and you park hop, keep your receipt. When you get to your 2nd park, they will issue you a new stroller at no cost (as long as it’s the same day). You can’t take them from one park to another though, so plan accordingly. Also know that it’s a mad rush to return strollers at the end of the night if you rent through Disney.
  3. Bring a diaper or two. Every mom has a few leftover diapers after potty training. Even if you are past the point of diapers, it’s nice to have in case of an emergency. When you’re 5 minutes away from seeing Cinderella after waiting for 30 minutes, the last  thing you want to  hear is “mom, I have to go potty!”
  4. Don’t try to see everything in one day. Even as adults, we don’t try and do every attraction in one day. Slow down a little bit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Disney!
  5. Use the baby care center. Each park has one and has changing tables, rocking chairs, bottle warmers, and a nursing area. There’s also a baby specific store with extra diapers, baby food, formula, etc. So if you run out or forget to put something in the diaper bag, Disney has you covered (for a bit of a premium cost of course!)
  6. Prepare your kids for lines. We know everyone wants to see Mickey Mouse NOW. Prepping your kids for lines will help the wait process less painful. The more you can tell your kids, the better! If you need to bring a book or something to keep them entertained, do it. Just try and keep the noisy toys at home.
  7. Don’t force them onto attractions! While you may not think something is scary, don’t under estimate the power of kid minds. I’ve seen full out meltdowns getting onto Pirates of the Caribbean (and throughout the entire ride).  Be mindful that other guests are trying to have a good time. There’s always an exit strategy if things aren’t going well and cast members are happy to help get you out of a sticky situation!
  8. Start your park day early. If you have a baby or toddler “alarm clock” like I do, you might has well start your day with early morning magic hours or for rope drop. I only suggest taking advantage of early morning magic hours if you have park hoppers to allow you to jump to another park the same day. This also gives you a great opportunity to get out of the park and take a break for lunch, a nap, or some pool time.
  9. Plan your FastPasses. Know where characters. Even though you still might wait 10 minutes to see Rapunzel, it beats the 30-60 minutes it normally is.
  10. Stay away from peak travel times. Traveling in October or early November is the most ideal (my opinion). Crowds are low, the weather isn’t as hot (but still nice enough for a swim), and you get the benefit of the Food & Wine Festival as well as special Magic Kingdom events (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). You’ll also save money by traveling off peak. Spring Break, June, July, and most of August are pretty busy and HOT. Your little one will get more worn out in the hot sun and you’ll spend more on drinks while you’re there!
  11. BYOW. Bring your own water. There are no rules against bringing food or water into Disney parks. Word to the wise, no glass, no alcoholic beverages, and no hard sided coolers. Other than that, you’re free to bring what you please!
  12. Add on Memory Maker. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for a camera, it will allow you to have family photos, and enjoy some of the magical moments without being behind the lens. For more about Memory Maker, check out “What Memory Maker All About”
  13. If you want to dine with characters, make plans early. Seriously. 3 months out, don’t expect to get a breakfast reservation with Cinderella or dinner at Akershus before 8 pm. Plan ahead. Disney can be a 12 month planning adventure. Link up with a Disney travel agent to help make your plans easier!
  14. Consider spending a bit more for location! You’ll pay more for a prime Disney location, but when it’s naptime, you won’t want to wait for a bus! Also check out the deluxe villas. You can get a 1 bedroom suite to have separation between the adults and the kids who will likely go down to bed before you’re ready! Art of Animation (a value resort) also has this option at a bit lower cost!
  15. Let mom and dad have a break. Disney offers pay per service child care facilities. Take a night off from the kids and have a nice dinner or take a romantic carriage ride. Disney definitely thinks of everything!

 

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Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Frequently Asked Questions

 

With all the changes in Disney World over the last several years, even adults that went as children or teens have questions. This handy dandy guide is meant to help answer some of your basic questions about Disney World and get you familiar with all the things Disney has to offer, including FastPass+ and MyMagic+

When should I go to Disney World?

Check out the Disney Crowd Calendar to see when crowds are lowest. Prices are typically lowest in January and February and again in September – the second week of December (excluding the week of Thanksgiving and the weekend following). Ticket prices do not change throughout the year, so the difference is crowds and resort room costs.

Where should I stay?

This is up to you! Disney has some many resort hotel options. I know I’m a bit biased but I definitely suggest staying on site vs. off site. The benefits outweigh the small difference in cost.  Disney breaks their resort hotel rooms into 4 categories: value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villa. For more information on all Disney hotels as well as the pros and cons, see Disney Resort Hotels 101. If you are looking for a suggestion on where to stay based on your budget and your family, please let me know! This is one of my favorite parts of helping plan Disney vacations and with knowledge of all Disney resort hotels, I’m happy to help assist you without you crunching numbers over and over!

How many parks are in Disney World?

Disney has 4 theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom

Which park has the most rides?

Magic Kingdom. This is also the best park for families with younger children as there are many character meet and greet options as well as great small ride options.

Where can see meet Disney characters?

Disney characters are in all four theme parks. If you are looking for princesses, check out Magic Kingdom’s Princess Fairy Tale Hall or World Showcase in Epcot. If you want Mickey and the gang, they are just about everywhere. In Town Hall in Magic Kingdom, he even TALKS! Check the daily schedule when you go into your park of choice to find your specific Disney character. You can also check out the My Disney Experience App for more information.

What are the differences in the park tickets?

Disney has 3 park ticket options:

  • Base tickets – One park per day. You may re-enter the same park as many times as you like throughout the day
  • Park hopper tickets – This add on options will allow you to visit any and all Disney theme parks in the same day
  • Water Park Fun & More tickets – This add on option provides you the same number of Fun credits as park tickets. This will allow you to visit either of Disney’s Water Parks, DisneyQuest, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, or Oak Trail golf-course (9 holes) You can use more than one Fun credit in a day. If you plan on doing one day of water parks, this is not a great option for you!

What is Memory Maker?

Memory Maker is Disney’s new photography package. For those that remember PhotoPass or PhotoPass+, this system is similar, except the photo is all digital! For a flat fee of $149 ($199 if you purchase on site), you receive an unlimited amount of photos during your Disney trip. You will then be able to share and download them for up to 45 days after your trip. Unlike the previous system, you do not receive a disc. With a wave of your MagicBand, you can link photos to your account, including photos from popular attractions. In addition, some dining experiences are also included.

What is the FastPass+ system?

This is a change from the previous legacy/paper FastPass system. It allows you book your FastPasses online prior to your arrival, saving you time in the park. You are allowed up to 3 per person per day. These must be used in the same park each day. It’s best to schedule them later in the day. These can be changed as many times as you’d like up until the moment your FastPass is scheduled. In the parks, this can be done at on of the kiosks or on the My Disney Experience app on your smart phone. For more detailed information and FastPass+ strategy and what attractions are included, visit FastPass+ 101.

Do I get the same benefits if I stay at Swan or Dolphin?

Yes and no. Many of the benefits of staying at Disney World hotel are the same with a few small differences. 1. You don’t receive Magic Express service to and from the airport 2. You do not have access to Disney’s Dining Plan 3. Parking at these specific resorts are not free.

Do I get MagicBands if I stay off site?

No. MagicBands are for Disney Resort guests only. You don’t need to have park tickets to receive a MagicBand either. When you purchase park tickets, you receive access to FastPass+! Disney is working on a trial to allow off-site guest who have already purchased tickets to schedule FastPass+ 14 days prior to arrival.

Do I have to choose which park I want to visit before I arrive?

You definitely do not. With FastPass+ or any in park dining reservations, you are in a way choosing your park for the day, but those things can be changed. You are not required to declare a park before your arrival. Remember, check Extra Magic Hours and the best park by day of the week during your planning process. Too much work? Work with a Disney travel planner like Magical Vacations. We do all the hard work for you and provide a specialized, personalized itinerary to maximize your time in the parks. All of this is free to you!

Do I need the Disney Dining Plans?

Need? No. Is it useful? Most of the time. It really depends on how your family likes to eat. If you enjoy sitting down at restaurants every day or want to dine with Disney characters, the Dining Plan is a great option for you. Most Disney restaurants are included in the dining plan. For more information on getting the most out of the dining plan, see a previous post: Flavorful Friday. Remember, if you add the Disney Dining Plan, everyone in your room must be a part of it.

What is included on the Disney Dining Plan?

Disney has several different dining plan options. The three most popular are Quick Service, Dining Plan, and Deluxe Dining Plan. The differences are the amount of credits you receive. All plans receive a refillable mug per person to be used at any Disney resort (not in the parks). Each of the credits are per person.

Quick Service – This plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and one snack credit per night stayed.

Disney Dining Plan – This plan provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and one snack credit per night stayed.

For both table service and quick service meals, you receive an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. If choosing to use your credits at breakfast, a dessert is not included. You can also use a table service credit for a buffet.

Deluxe Dining Plan – This plan provides you with 3 table service (or quick service credits) and 2 snack credits per night stayed.

For table service meals, you receive an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per credit. For quick service credits, you receive the same entitlements as the plans above. You do not receive an appetizer or dessert for breakfast. You can also use a credit for a buffet.

Do I need dining reservations if I’m not on the dining plan?

YES! If you are planning a sit down meal, you absolutely need a reservation! There are a select few that you can get a same day reservation or walk up and wait, they are highly, highly recommended.

You have a question that I didn’t cover here? COMMENT! I’ll answer 🙂

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!