How to Survive Disney World with Toddlers

How to Survive Disney World with Toddlers

Some people might think I’m a few bricks short of a load for deciding to go to Disney World with Toddlers. That’s toddlers plural, not a single toddler, but somehow I made the trek with my twin toddlers and preschooler, and we survived! (and loved it)

Before I just hopped in the car and headed to Florida, I did some serious planning to help ease the stress of Disney World with toddlers. But inevitably, there were some stumbling blocks along the way. Learn from my mistakes so you don’t run into the same pitfalls.

These are my favorite tips that I found in both the planning process and ALSO learned the hard way.

 

Stick to Your Routine

You are already going to be contending with a lot on a big vacation, whether that’s at Disney World with toddlers or even a simple trip to the local zoo. So do your best to make sure your kids are well-fed and well-rested, which means stick to their routines and schedules as much as possible.

The toughest part of toddler routines is that as they grow and develop their routine or schedule might a bit out of whack already, but do your best.

My twins follow the rough routine of waking up around 6 am then we play, eat, play some more, perhaps run errands or go out for a play date, and then nap happens around 11 am. By 2 pm they are back up and ready to eat then play, play, play before dinner time around 5 pm and bedtime at 7 pm.

I was sure to schedule as much as I could during the time periods throughout the day that I knew they would be the happiest, which is first thing in the morning and about an hour after their nap.

I did push their schedules and routines around a little bit when absolutely necessary, but we did our best and it helped a ton. We had very few meltdowns from the toddlers. (the preschooler is another story)

While we took the toddlers back to our room for naps and quiet time in the afternoon, you can also plan for stroller naps if that works for you. Traveling Mom has some great tips on getting your kids to nap at Disney World.

 

Go Early and Late to Beat the Heat and the Crowds

There are two major drawbacks to Disney World with toddlers, or even just as an adult.

Heat and crowds!

The best way to beat both is to get to the parks as early as possible, and then be there later in the day too.

When we were there in September it was so hot! I mean ridiculously hot, as in 97 degrees. After just a few minutes outside, I was dripping literally with sweat. I have never in my life sweated as much as I did that week.

My kids and I all get super hot and red really easily. So my plan was to keep us out of the heat as much as humanly possible without sacrificing our awesome time.

Beyond working around the kids’ routines, I also scheduled our time at the parks and events so that we were out during the coolest periods of the day, the morning and evening.

My toddlers already wake up super early, at 6 am and sometimes even earlier. So I just made sure to get everyone up and ready at that time so we could start our day right away.

Besides being a bit cooler, there are also lower crowds first thing in the morning. Getting there at “rope drop” or close to it will help you get in some park time before the heaviest crowds.

It seems like around 10 am – 11 am is when more people start showing up.

We tried to be out of the parks by around noon so we could spend those hot and crowded hours back at the room resting, napping, or swimming in the pool.

Then around dinner time, we would head back to the parks when the heat wasn’t quite so oppressive.

Know What to Pack (and What NOT to Pack)

Real quick, before we get into what to pack, let’s make sure you’re packing them into the right stroller. (and yes you absolutely need a stroller if you have toddlers)

Not ALL strollers are allowed at Disney. According to the most recent rules as this post goes live “strollers should be no larger than 31” (79 cm) wide and 52” (132cm) long when measured across the widest and longest points.” (be sure to double-check the Disney website before you in case this changes)

All wagon strollers are prohibited no matter the size.

Smoking and vaping are also NOT allowed in any of the parks, and only in designated areas outside the gates.

Disney also does not allow loose ice or dry ice in the parks. If you need to keep anything cool, use cool packs. I love these little penguin packs that fit perfecting into most diaper bag cooler areas.

So what should you pack? This will depend a little on what your kids’ needs are, but here is what we packed.

In the diaper bag:

  • Diapers (duh)
  • Wipes in the side wipe pouch, plus an extra pack in the big compartment
  • One change of clothes for each kid
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain cover for stroller
  • Umbrella
  • A small blanket to lay on the ground for parade
  • Hand sanitizer and Wet Ones
  • A bag of little toys like these to keep kids entertained in lines or at restaurants
  • Bubbles also to keep kids entertained as needed
  • Glow sticks in a failed attempt to keep them from wanting light-up souvenir toys
  • A phone charger
  • Body glide to prevent chaffing (no thigh gap problems…)

We also packed a small cooler bag (like those lunch-sized ones), and in there I kept a few reusable snack bags of goldfish or other crackers, one granola bar per kid, and then also a few yogurt tubes per kid. We were on the dining plan so I didn’t need a ton of food for the kids, but definitely something for in a pinch.

Snacks are always key to surviving anywhere, but especially Disney World with toddlers.

I also had a little tote that I stuck our baby carriers in. Although we had the stroller, sometimes a grumpy toddler needed to be carried, so we had our trusty Tulas just in case.

 

Be Flexible and Don’t Stress

This was the hardest thing for me at the beginning of our trip. I spent months and months planning this “perfect” family vacation, not to mention spent a small fortune. So I was a little too attached to making sure we did ALL THE THINGS.

But of course, all the things didn’t happen. And you know what? We had an awesome time, and sometimes it worked for the better!

Like when we missed a fastpass (this is like a free pass to skip the line on a ride), but instead ran into Aladdin fulfilling my daughter’s dream of meeting him!

Or how instead of pushing my family to get up at the crack of dawn to hit Toy Story without any lines, we scrapped those plans to sleep in and instead get last-minute reservations for a character brunch that turned out to be one of our favs! Sometimes the things that go “wrong” are the best part.

There were some super unsavory mishaps, like my one toddler literally puking in the stroller every single day except for one! He has a weak gag reflex and stomach… the poor kid is just a puker. The heat and all the yummy treats just pushed him over the edge no matter how much we tried to prevent it. By midway through the trip all we could do was laugh and pull out the extra wipes.

Know Where the Baby Care Centers Are

These are hidden gems and must-know for going to Disney World with toddlers! In all of the parks, they have a baby care center.

Inside there are rooms with high chairs, rocking chairs, TV’s with movies playing, a kitchen, bathroom, changing tables, and necessities for purchase like diapers or formula if you run out. It’s also a great place to pump if you need to, and of course you can nurse anywhere in the park, but if you want privacy, this is the place to do it!

Oh, and did I mention they are air-conditioned? It’s like HEAVEN after the heat outside.

My husband took the twins here while I was with my daughter getting her princess makeover, and it was super easy for him to tend to not just one, but two toddlers there. Then we also found ourselves there after more than one puke incident.

The best and most important tip is to just enjoy. There will be a few meltdowns and things will not go exactly as planned, but that’s ok. That’s life. Have fun.

The truth is that it was an exhausting, but amazing trip. We made memories we will never forget, and somehow we survived Disney World with toddlers.

What about you? Any tips? Share them below in the comments!

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After spending 10 days driving from Pennsylvania to Orlando, FL for our very first Disney vacation as a family, I am starting to wonder, is vacationing with kids even worth it?

It was just a few days after we got back from a recent trip to Disney World when I was already getting that itch to start planning the next trip, and convinced my husband that we needed to make the pilgrimage again next year. The bags weren’t even fully unpacked yet, and here I was ready to load them all back up again.

 

Maybe I should rethink another trip with the kids so soon…

My husband, Mike, is quite the introvert. You might not know it from talking to him because he’s very verbose, but he declares all the time that he literally hates people.

He doesn’t hate you, or any particular person. In fact, he’s very sweet, sentimental, and willing to help anyone who needs it. But he hates people, and more specifically being around people.

Me, on the other hand? While I do enjoy solitude and don’t necessarily open up easily, I also love being in crowds and big groups just to people watch and absorb the vibe. Disney is my happy place, even though I am quite the crunchy mom and hippy with a dash of minimalist thrown in there.

Big corporations and excessive spending/accumulating stuff, isn’t my thing. Except when it comes to Disney. They have me wrapped around their Mickey-gloved finger, and the fact that I have a princess-loving 4-year-old, doesn’t hurt either.

So even though it took Mike a lot of effort to work up to being in such a big place crowded with people for a week, I never wanted to leave.

But… and this is a big but…

Even though the trip was absolutely magical about 50% of the time… the other 50% was a bit of a trainwreck. To be honest, I was not anticipating having such a large portion of our trip be a hot mess. Though looking back, I don’t know how I could have expected anything BUT a bit of a mess considering we were traveling with a 4-year-old and twin almost 2-year-olds.

Little kids always complicate matters so much, don’t they? And when you are vacationing with kids, it really isn’t much of a vacation, but more of another day of parenting, but in a different location.

Before making any sweeping statements about whether or not it’s worth vacationing with kids, let’s talk about the pros and cons.

Kids are… unpredictable.

 

Nothing tops off a wonderful dinner with your family like catching your toddler’s vomit on a plate. While my one son’s weak stomach meant he ended up puking almost every.single.day of the trip, we never knew when old faithful was going erupt… making it only somewhat faithful.

And the little one wasn’t the only one who was a vomit machine. Even my eldest got sick at Epcot one night from one too many spoonfuls of ice cream.

Plus, no matter how hard you try, when you’re on vacation all the kids are off their routines and schedules. I have kids who are used to going on a ton of day trips and doing some minor travel around the state. They can roll with changes pretty easily.

But the excitement of Disney meant that no matter how hard Mike and I tried to keep them to nap schedules and bedtime routines, everyone was seriously in need of more zzz’s on the trip. Some days my twins even refused to nap at all, which always seemed to happen on nights that we had planned to stay up late, like for the fireworks or Halloween party.

Did I mention the complaining and whining? To be honest the twins were angels for the most part… aside from the puking.

And my daughter was mostly amazing too given the long hours of heat and walking we did. But she’s at that age when she has a LOT of opinions and strongly asserts them when we contradict them. Her attitudes and acting out are absolutely appropriate for her age.

But it is really hard to not take the whining and complaining personally and assume your child is a spoiled brat who doesn’t understand gratitude in the least when they’re complaining for the 1000th time that day. I did a lot of deep breathing on some days to keep my cool when I wanted to tell her we were never coming back if she didn’t buck up a little, and for the most part my husband and I were able to roll with the 4 going on 14-year old’s moods.

Going with the flow and letting the kids be kids on the trip was a bit challenging for my type-A personality, but it was a lesson I needed to learn on how to let go of my idea of a perfect vacation and enjoy the one we had.

 It can be really expensive

I was pretty smart about how and when I booked our vacation, but we still spent a small fortune on our Disney trip. To be honest, it was a pretty big stretch for our budget.

Besides the hotel, gas, tickets, food, etc. there were also a ton of other miscellaneous costs like making sure the kids all had enough clothes so we didn’t have to do laundry while there, or ensuring my daughter had all of the princess dresses she could desire based on her ever-evolving tastes.

Not to mention I hadn’t bought new hot weather clothes basically since I started having kids…

I’m pretty proud of how well we did with our spending while actually on the vacation, but thinking about how much the overall trip cost us does make my blood pressure go up just a tiny bit.

Disney is known for being so expensive nowadays, but basically any vacation you choose with kids is going to cost a pretty penny.

Parenting isn’t a job that has a vacation

This one goes without saying, but just because you are on “vacation” doesn’t mean you get to relax or that your responsibilities get to go on pause.

Perhaps you get to take a short break from the typical day-to-day routines, but if anything, going on vacation with kids can be even MORE work than staying at home.

So instead of spending most of our day lounging around a baby pool in the shade, or in the comfortable AC, our vacation consisted of walking 8-10 miles a day in 95+ degree heat while pushing a double stroller. It was probably the most brutal part of the trip.

As a northerner, we might have a day or two during the summer that gets that hot, but we are not accustomed to such sweltering temps.

I think I sweated more than I ever have in my entire life.

So, why even go vacationing with kids?

There is one simple reason. The memories.

Whether you’re doing a staycation, a cross-country road trip, flying across the pond to Europe, or doing the quintessential Disney vacation as we did, the memories will be priceless.

EVEN THE BAD ONES.

That’s right, even the bad memories (and there will be some) make your trip memorable and something that will live on in your family’s mythos.

The thing that binds us together as a family (besides love) is our shared history and stories.

We all have those stories in the family that get retold over and over and over again. Most of the time those stories aren’t about when things were picture perfect.

Nope.

The stories that get retold over and over and over again are the hilarious ones where everything went wrong.

While my daughter and I might reminisce a little someday about how she was turned into a princess at the Magic Kingdom, the one thing we will probably all always remember is how Mike lost his magicband one day and went all Sherlock Holmes trying to find it.

And I’m sure my poor Sebastian will be picked on from time to time for his puking proclivities… and sweet Max will have a bit of teasing for his fear of rides AND characters.

That’s what family does. We tease, we remember, we love. And don’t worry if your kids are too young to remember… you will.

So yes. Even with all of the stress and the pitfalls, vacationing with kids is totally worth it!

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