Tips for Baby Mouseketeers

Recently, I received a comment on my main blog from a mom who recently took her 18-month-old to Disney World:

I wish I would have known about your blog before we went to Disney World. We went over Thanksgiving and although we did make some good memories we were really at a loss for our son's age group (16 months). He was NOT a happy camper and in turn, mom and dad were not happy campers! I want to go back but not for a very long time!

Disney can be challenging with a child that's too big to sleep in the stroller all day, but too small to really enjoy everything to its fullest. Here are some tips that might make it a little easier.

-Pack your own snacks. At this time, Disney is lenient on their food policy. If you know that Penelope is obsessed with Goldfish crackers, guess what you need to pack? Obviously, don't weigh down your backpack with pounds of food, but pack individual little snack baggies and a sippy cup that you can fill with water.

-Know that you can always return to Disney in the future. Plan the trip around what is easiest and most engaging for a toddler. Research Disney's website, and really, really detailed reports at Allears and make a list. List MUST-SEE attractions, MAYBE attractions, and then forget the rest. Seriously. Prepare your mind ahead of time.

-It will be pretty easy to determine which rides a toddler can't go on. Basically, it will have a height requirement. But at this age, toddlers are really interested in just the experience, sights, and sounds of a ride/attraction. Don't be worried if they don't "get" the premise of the ride.

-If you and your spouse want to go on a certain ride that Baby can't go on, Disney has a wonderful system called the Rider-Switch or Baby-Swap. Each ride handles this a little differently, but all you need to do is check in with the Cast Member greeter at the ride. They will usually give you a pass that clearly indicates the situation: Rider Switch. The first parent can get in line (or get in the Fastpass line if you have a legitimate one to use), while the other waits with Baby. Then after the ride, the parents switch and the other parent gets to go through the Fastpass line and take his/her turn. Isn't that great?!

-Sometimes you'll need a relax and regroup ride or attraction. Here are some ideas:
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority (MK): Get on and off as you please. It's a smooth tram-like ride above Tomorrowland that goes at the perfect pace. Wonderful for resting your feet. Another idea: if your toddler sleeps well while "moving," such as in a car, this simulates that experience. The scenery is varied enough to where the adults can chill, talk and relax while Wee Children take a power nap.
  • Hall of Presidents (MK): Climate controlled, auditorium-type situation. The lighting is dark, and it's rarely full, so this is also a good nursing opportunity if need be.
  • The Walt Disney World Railroad (MK) makes a big giant loop and is great for outdoor scenery and a nice breeze when the weather is right. Great resting for your feet!
  • The Liberty Belle Riverboat (MK) is just that: a slow boat ride within Magic Kingdom. When you hit it right, it's not crowded, and there are relatively good seating options.
  • Impressions de France (E): Theater-type seating with an IMAX-like film. Good for resting your feet, but unless you're sitting in the very back corner and it's not crowded, this probably wouldn't be the best place to nurse. The screen produces a lot of light from the film.
  • The American Adventure (E): Similar to the Hall of Presidents, this is a dark-theater situation. Good for resting/nursing!
Here are some exciting and engaging rides/attractions for toddlers:
  • Small World (MK)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (MK): You might need to shield the eyes in the first portion of the ride
  • Jungle Cruise (MK)
  • Country Bear Jamboree (MK)
  • Peter Pan's Flight (MK)
  • Dumbo (MK)
  • Disney's Philharmagic (MK): A personal favorite of mine! This does require 3-D glasses. However, if you just can't make your toddler wear them, it's okay. The screen will be fuzzy-looking to them, but they should still enjoy the experience. You will too!
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Cinderella's Golden Carousel
  • Mickey and Minnie's Houses (MK): Be aware that you walk through these attractions. However, they are stroller friendly, and touching things is encouraged!
  • Carousel of Progress (MK): Only if your toddler is fascinated by audio-animatronic people, etc. This isn't child-geared, but the changing scenes and AA people/dog could keep their attention. When in doubt, skip it. You can't exit easily because the theater rotates.
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (MK)
  • Spaceship Earth (E): Again, be advised this is about the history of communication/technology and there is no easy exit. Audio-animatronics are used and there are some neat lighting effects every now in then, but if in doubt, skip it.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends (E)
  • Turtle Talk with Crush (E): Not a ride; you sit on the floor. If you have an active toddler, skip it!
  • Journey Into Imagination (E): I'd call this a "Maybe"/If You Have Time ride.
  • El Rio de Tiempo (E): Boat ride in the Mexico Pavilion.
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid (DHS)
  • Playhouse Disney--Live (DHS)
  • Kilamanjaro Safari (AK)
  • Finding Nemo the Musical (AK)

-Disney offers Baby Stations that are a great place to recharge and regroup. There is an adult restroom, sinks, changing areas, high chairs for feeding, nursing rooms, etc. For a charge, you can purchase items you might have forgotten.

Here are the locations of the Baby Stations (from Allears):
Magic Kingdom -- At the end of Main Street, behind the Crystal Palace Restaurant on you way to Adventureland. It is tucked away in a small courtyard near the first aid station.

Epcot -- On the backside of the Odyssey Restaurant on the walkway from Test Track to Mexico. This is a very neat station as many times the workers from the Mexican Pavilion come over to relieve the cast members. It is great to talk to them about their travels and country while you are taking a break.

Disney's Hollywood Studios -- Just inside the entrance near guest services on the left as you enter.

Animal Kingdom -- Near the Creature Comforts gift shop on the left side of The Tree of Life.

-A lot of people like the Take a Break and Nap approach. They will go back to their hotel mid-day and really recharge. You know your kids best. If you will have meltdowns if they don't get that solid 2-hour nap, then it's worth taking the break. You don't want to ruin your vacation! However, if you think your kids can nap in their stroller(s) while you continue to browse, eat, etc., I say keep going. You know your kids best!

-Don't force a character meeting unless you really think your child can handle it. Start talking about Disney World early and discuss maybe meeting some characters (try not promise specific characters--you never know who you will run into!). Watch the Disney Planning DVD that you can get FREE!

-Dining arrangements will be different with very small children. I would plan on mostly quick-service meals, since you never know what state you'll be in at any given point in the day. If your child is nice and predictable about mealtimes, then maybe make one Advanced Dining Reservation a day, maximum. (Call 1-407-WDW-DINE or you can now reserve online!)

-Do not bother with Character Meals unless your child is really old enough to be excited about it and has shown an interest in Disney movies, characters, etc. Again, you know your child best!

As long as you do some preparing and planning, you really can manage a Disney vacation with a very small child. Just try to stick to your normal schedule as far as eating, napping, snacking, etc. the best you can. Breathe and realize that memories (for you as adults) is why you're doing this. Seeing Disney through Evy's eyes is something I literally can't wait for. I'm counting the hours until we take her for the first time!


Leigh said...

We just got back!!! I thought of you the whole time. I kept thinking Ashley would love this!! I'll put a link on your comments when I get some pictures on my blog. I have A LOT to go through, like 600 or so!! ;) The Christmas decorations were so beautiful there. It really is the most magical place on earth. Quick story... in the bathroom at Epcot, the paper towel dispenser was messed up and two paper towels came out at once. I said "look Emma, one came out for each of us!" Emma (age 4) said "I guess that's just the magic of Disney." I couldn't have said it better myself!! :)

Leigh said...

I posted my Disney pictures. Take a look if you want! :)