This past spring we took our first Disney trip as a family. The last time my husband and I visited the “Mouse” I was pregnant with our now toddler.
During that visit we made a promise not to return until our children were old enough to appreciate the experience. Fast forward a few years and we found ourselves about to enter the happiest place on earth with a 1 year old.
Let me tell you visiting Disney as a parent is a whole different ballgame then when you’re child-free.
First off you have the logistics. Before kids you could come and go as you please. Now you are bringing a stroller on shuttles and buses that get you to and from the parks.
Bathroom breaks take longer especially if your child is still in diapers. If you thought the lines for rides are long, wait till you get in the restroom and have to use the changing tables.
Your night at the park also ends sooner especially if you’re like us and dealing with a 3 hour time change on top of it. No more late night rides on Space Mountain. Instead, you’re heading home with a sleepy child after the early parade down Main Street.
I don’t say this to dissuade you from visiting. We had a blast and made memories that will last a lifetime. Rather, I say it as a warning, know what you’re getting into.
To help, I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts to make the experience even more magical.
- Take Disney Transportation if Provided – Disney World provides free shuttles to/from the airport, hotel, and parks. It can save you the hassle of having to worry about a car seat. While this might not be possible at Disneyland, you can still take advantage of the free car seats offered by most rental car companies.
- Pack Snacks & Drink Cups – Dining at Disney can get expensive even if you opt for a meal plan (children 2 and under are not offered a meal plan and can eat off your plate for not extra charge). To offset the cost, make sure to pack lots of snacks and drinks to enjoy throughout the day. There are also plenty of water fountains so make sure to bring a refillable cup.
- Bring Extra Diapers/Underwear – Accidents can happen and chances are your potty training toddler will be having too much fun to remember to go to the bathroom. Always pack extra!
- Bring Clothes/PJs for Nighttime – Staying for the evening parades or light shows means it will be creeping close to bedtime. To ease the transition back at the hotel, bring pajamas to the park and change your toddler into them before the end of the evening. Also, make sure to through in a sweatshirt and pants as temperatures can cool down after dark.
- Visit The Characters – Your child LOVES Mickey but is scared of the Easter bunny. Do you chance it? Heck yes! Even if they get scared, most of the characters are very good about keeping their distance for timid children. Also, make sure to have the cameras rolling for these unforgettable meetings.
- Keep Hydrated – Spending the whole day outside in the hot humid temperatures can get the better of us. In-between rides, make sure to drink plenty of water to keep you and your family hydrated.
- Bring Your Own Stroller – Strollers are available at the parks to rent but will cost you. Instead, bring your own and spend that money on an extra souvenir. Also, avoid the simple umbrella stroller. A larger one will allow for better storage of clothes, snacks, and beverages.
- Plan Ahead – This was the mistake I made during our trip. I decided to see what was what when we got there. Trying to figure out what we wanted to ride and where we wanted to eat cost us precious time. If possible, go in with a plan of action.
- Take Lots of Pictures – Both parks offer photo packages from you visit whether it’s just for a day or for the entire week. Splurge on this! Let the Disney professionals take over. You can still take candid’s with your camera or phone and have more memories to look back on when you return home.
- Forget Sunscreen – Whether you’re in Florida or California, the sun can be brutal. Make sure to put some on before you enter the park and then throughout the day as needed.
- Bring your Pack n’ Play – Hotels offer free pack n’ plays. I prefer to bring my own sheet, pillow, and blanket but the hotel can also supply that as well.
- Park your stroller in the wrong spot – Disney employees will come and move it if you leave it parked in a non-designated location. Believe me nothing is worse than coming off a ride and not being able to find any of your things.
- Fight Nap Time – Disney is fabulous and expensive and you want to get your money’s worth but nothing is worse and a cranky toddler. They can ruin your visit and others enjoying this magical place.
- Neglect Fast Passes – Waiting in an hour’s long line with a toddler? I think I’ll pass…..fast pass that is. This will guarantee you can get on your favorite ride while still enjoying the rest of the park.
- Forget to go on a ride you enjoy – Have a favorite ride you love but your little one isn’t big enough to ride? Trade off child duties with your partner. You’ll each enjoy some valuable one-on-one time with your little one while remembering what it’s like to be a kid at heart.
- Let the experience stress you out – The whole experience can be overwhelming but this is a time to build memories as a family. Try to enjoy each and every second of your visit, even the bad ones.