Is there anything better than watching your child explore Walt Disney World for the first time? If you ask us the answer is most definitely no. Planning your child's first trip to Walt Disney World can be challenging though. What age is the right time, where should you stay, and what rides to avoid are probably just a few questions that you will be asking yourself. Not to fret, we have compiled a list of tips for those planning their first trip with their young one and make sure to check back frequently as this list will be updated constantly!
Do park research by letting the kids watch favorite Disney movies- Prior to leaving for your visit to Disney, make sure to have your kids watch the various Disney movies that are connected with either an attraction or a show at the parks. Doing so allows your kids to be more familiar with what they will see and they will have a better appreciation for the rides and shows. It will also give you a better idea of the rides and attractions you should try and get FastPasses for.
Factor in height when deciding on your first visit-When most people are trying to decide on when they should take their child on there first Disney visit, they often us their age as the most important factor. While age is important, we find that height is actually the most important factor when deciding on when to make that first visit. We discovered that there were a decent number of rides that had a minimum height requirement of 44" or no height requirement at all while only a few rides had height requirements of over 48". You can find a complete list of height requirements HERE.
Help keep tabs on the kids with Ear Hats/Mouse Ears-One item a child can wear to help make watching and keeping track of them in the crowds at Walt Disney World a little easier is one of the iconic Mickey Mouse Ear Hats or Minnie Ears. There is a large variety of styles for the Mickey Mouse Ear Hats, so while other visitors will have Mickey Mouse Ear Hats too, they will rarely be the same, and if you are the DIY type, you can even make your own with our Make Your Own Minnie Ears Tutorial!
Make Sure to ID Younger Kids-For younger children, especially those with limited speaking and communication skills, a simple ID Tag with their name and emergency contact number can be invaluable if your child is to become seperated from you in the parks.
Remember, Every Child Reacts Differently-Every child reacts differently to different situations, just because the Haunted Mansion or It's Tough To Be a bug where your favorite attractions when you were a kid, doesn't mean it will be your children's favorite (I Learned this the hard way...) If your child is normally frightened by things such as loud noises, dark spaces, and ghosts, you may want to tread with caution when it comes to attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, It's Tough To Be A Bug, Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates Of The Caribbean.
Don't Forget About Rider Switch-If a child does not meet the height requirement or a Guest does not wish to board a particular attraction, no problem! With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again!
Baby Care Centers- When your little one is looking for a break, nap or even a snack, check out one of the Baby Care Centers located across all four Theme Parks. Baby care centers feature all kinds of amenities including:
To find locations, check your guidemap or simply ask a Cast Member
Make Sure to do a kidcot Project when in Epcot-Not only was this my kids favorite souvenir from our trip, it is also completely FREE! There is a Kidcot station Located in every country in the World Showcase where kids (And Adults) can make there own kidcot project. The projects change from year to year but we have seen masks, Teddy Bears and passports. Kids are given a project which they can color to their hearts content. At every different country kids receive a stamp unique to that country and they can also have their Name written on the back of their project in that countries native language!
It’s tough to be a bug isn’t for toddlers- “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” is a 3-D show designed to show us (Humans) what it's like to be a bug. While it starts off harmless enough, once Hopper arrives things take a turn for the worse. Our 6 year old spent majority of the time with her hands over her eyes crying and she was less than happy with us for ensuring her that she would love it (Whoops) It's Tough To Be A Bug is full of things that can be frightening to younger guests and while there are some signs in the line that say this attraction may be scary for younger guests, they really kind of under sell it and parents with younger children should take caution.
Save two (or more!) days for Magic Kingdom- Magic Kingdom is the largest park, and has the most toddler friendly attractions. There’s a lot to see and do here! If you can’t swing two days, DON’T try to see everything! You’ll just end up stressed out. I’m not even sure we saw everything with two full days there.
Hidden Toddler Playground Alert!- If you have plans of riding either Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain (And You Should!!) you're probably going to have to leave the toddler behind as riders must be at least 40” tall. Thankfully, Walt Disney World has the rider swap program so having everyone ride who is able to isn't a problem. Keeping the children entertained during this time however can be a bit challenging. Luckily, we discovered a delightful little playground located under the train bridge between Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Once we found this little playground our toddler had little interest in anything else for the rest of the day!
Pick up the Wilderness Adventure Book (Animal Kingdom)-The Wilderness Adventure Book was possibly our toddler’s favorite activity at Animal Kingdom. It’s like a passport of activities and stickers. There are different stations around the park, where a friendly employee will hand out a sticker for completing specific activities. Our toddler was too young for the activity part, but he absolutely loved collecting the stickers! He also loved coloring in the book while we waited in line for rides.
Character Meet and Greets Must be Planned- When I was a kid, there were tons of characters walking around the Disney parks. You could get off just about any attraction and spot a character to take a picture with. Nowadays, there are only 2 ways you can meet a character:
Character Meals are the best way to meet characters, don't skip them!-While there are other ways to meet characters in Walt Disney World, there is no better way to meet them than Character Meals. Not only will you have the opportunity to meat multiple characters at a time, they are required to visit every table in the restaurant, giving your toddler ample time to interact with their favorite character while you snap all the pictures you could ever want, all while skipping the crazy lines you would have to wait in out in the parks.
If it’s in the budget, staying on the Monorail makes taking a toddler to Disney World MUCH simpler- These are all Walt Disney World Deluxe hotels, the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian. So, yes, they can be pricey. But if it’s in the budget, being able to get around by monorail is a godsend with toddlers. You can roll your stroller RIGHT on to the momorail, kids, diaper bags and all. This is really helpful if they melt and you want to leave quickly, or you plan to head home for afternoon nap.
Bring your stroller or rent a good one- My kiddos feel at home in their own stroller, so we always bring ours with us. Ours can fit both our kiddos and has lots of storage. For us, it’s worth lugging it to the airport, especially since once we check it in we won’t see it again until it arrives via Disney’s Magical Express in our Disney hotel room. If you prefer not to do that, try a stroller rental service that has nice strollers. These can be delivered to your room on your arrival day, and most will have a label with your last name.
Make sure to decorate your stroller-You might think your stroller is unique until you park it in the seemingly never ending see of strollers in a Disney park. Save yourself time and the hassle of trying to locate your stroller and decorate your stroller with your kids. It doesn't have to be anything crazy, we usually tied a few different Mickey balloons to ours and threw some stickers on there and called it a day.
Buy a Disney lanyard at Party City- for $1.00 and trading pins on Ebay before you go. You can get a “lot” of 25 pins for about $12-$15, instead of paying $7-$15 for EACH pin at the park for pins you are going to trade anyway. Your kids will trade, anyway, so who cares what they start with?
Get a PhotoPass- There are professional photographers around each park in the best locations for family photos. It ensures amazing pictures of your trip with everyone in the picture, and that’s worth a lot. Better yet? Ask the professionals to use your own camera!
Pick a spot to meet if someone gets lost- In my opinion, Having somewhere to meet if someone in your family gets separated is the most important thing when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World with a toddler. I'm sure we can all agree there is nothing scarier than losing a child. Having a designated meeting spot if the unthinkable does happen will insure that you are never away from your children for too long. I would recommend making your meeting place somewhere that is visible from virtually anywhere in the park (Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, Expedition Everest, etc...) to make it as easy as possible for your young one to locate you.
Always bring two changes of clothes for anyone in diapers-because your kid will definitely have a diaper blowout while waiting in line for Winnie the Pooh (Ask me how I know this)
Did you know kids under three are FREE?- For almost everything, including the character meals. Take advantage while you can, it can save hundreds of dollars (if not thousands, depending on how long you stay). Keep in mind that when they say kids under three eat free, what they really mean is kids under 3 can eat off your plate of food for free, they don't get there own meal.
Go To The Parks Early, Take Naps Later-Instead of sleeping in every day, wake up early and get to the parks at rope drop (Right when the parks open.) This is when the parks are least busy and it will allow you and your family to get the most done. The parks will start to fill up and get busy around late noon and this is the time you should think about heading back to the hotel for a much needed nap (You'll probably need it more than the kids) When my kids where young we would always head back to our hotel around noon to take a nap and than head back to the parks around dinner time for fireworks and extra magic hours.
Comfortable Shoes-Comfy shoes are essential! Just make sure whatever shoes you wear will not only be comfortable, but remain so for 6-10 hours of running around for miles (literally, the average person visiting Disney will walk 5-8 miles each day and that’s a lot of wear and tear if you are going for several days straight!). You are waiting in line, pushing strollers, holding kids while walking, veering around people, stopping suddenly– you get the gist. Save the heels for date night, bring your comfy shoes or else!
Snacks-Pack them, or prepare to stop and buy them every few hours. Keeping everyone’s energy up was very important. In Magic Kingdom we had a churro break; when I was there as a child my dad bought us churros, and it was neat to do the same for my kids. If your kids are carnivores like mine are, you should try a jumbo turkey leg, I promise you wont regret it.
For those of you renting strollers, Save time at the Magic Kingdom by using the Express Stroller Rental. It is located outside the park entrance.
Come prepared with line activities- To keep your kids from getting bored (and yourself from going nuts), figure out activities to keep them entertained in long lines. Our kids always enjoy rocks paper scissors or I Spy but anything to keep their attention works!
Set up FastPasses on the first available date- If you purchase your family's Disney World tickets in advance, you can begin making FastPass reservations 30 days before your visit. Walt Disney World hotel packages also entitle visitors to an additional 30 days of FastPass fun, so you could log on 60 days in advance to make reservations! Prioritize the most popular attractions first as FastPasses for these attractions will sell out first. Don't be too concerned about getting all of your FastPasses perfect, you can always change them later!
Download the Disney FastPass+ app: This app allows users to make changes to their FastPass reservations and select new passes without having to use kiosks, not to mention analyzing wait times, finding characters, and sharing plans with the whole family.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on on your next vacation or to make the most of your time, read our Tips for Saving Money and Time at Walt Disney World post. Our Fundamental Walt Disney World Packing List post takes a unique look at clever items to pack and has a printable PDF. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Resource Guides will help.
For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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