If you’re anything like me, you love Disney and have tried as many ways as possible to brain wash your child into loving it as much as you do. As soon as I found out I was pregnant (which was ironically, at Disney World), I couldn’t wait to bring my little one to visit. Our daughter is almost one and a half, and believe me, I heard all the “she won’t remember” to “she can’t do anything” you can image. But that didn’t stop me from booking our first family vacation, including her first ever flight. Overall the trip was a success and I’m so glad we decided to bring her at this age! We learned a few things that can help make traveling, and your own Disney experience with your little one just a little bit easier!
Unfortunately, the only affordable flight to Orlando was at 5:30 in the morning. The main thing I was stressed about was throwing Ricki off of her regular schedule. But, we survived our first flight with Southwest with iPad games, Uncrustables, and an under booked flight. We were lucky enough to have our own row and for future flights, I would definitely consider paying extra for her to have her own seat. (Most flights offer discounted child tickets. Double tip for Southwest: You have to download their movie app prior to flying in order to purchase a movie to watch. They have on demand TV and movies that you can watch without the app, but no cartoons for the little ones. You also cannot watch Netflix or Hulu even if you purchase wifi.)
Trip Booking Tips
- Magical Express
Disney will send you your magic bands and your luggage tags for the Magical Express (if you’re flying) about a month in advance of your trip. (DEFINITLEY SIGN UP FOR THE MAGICAL EXPRESS!!!) If you didn’t sign up for the Magical Express while booking your room, you can call and get it booked before your travel dates. PSA- A taxi ride to the Disney area runs you about $60-$70 and the Magical Express is free AND delivers your luggage to your hotel room within 2 hours of your arrival. (Southwest allows you to have 2 free check-in bags per person.) Once your flight lands, you go straight to the Magical Express bus area, scan your magic band, and they direct you to the right bus. The day before you leave the resort, they put a note on your door with your flight information and what time you need to board the bus to depart.
- Value Resorts #SaveThatMoney
We stayed at the Allstar Music Resort (believe me, I wish it was the Floridian or the Polynesian, but lets face it, ain’t nobody got time to spend $600 a night on a room they are only sleeping in.) My all time favorite resort is the Art of Animation, but I am saving that for our next trip when Ricki is older. The Art of Animation is still a Value Resort, but offers Suites and super cute themed rooms. They have Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and (my personal fav) The Little Mermaid. #MermaidsAreReal.
- DON’T Pack That Pack-N-Play!
Most people don’t know that Disney has Pack-N-Plays on site that they will deliver to your room so you don’t have to worry about lugging yours to the airport or in the car. (We did bring our own sheets and blanket for her.) When we got to the Allstar Music Resort, we were 5 hours early for check-in. They promptly switched our rooms and we were able to start napping within 30 minutes of our arrival. We got the Pack-N-Play and our luggage delivered to our new room almost immediately. (You can check into any Disney hotel starting at 7 am.)
- The Busses Ain’t So Bad!
The main concerns I had while booking our room is that it is so much easier to take a monorail to the parks than it is to take a bus. To be honest, Ricki loved looking out the bus window (wildin’ out with no car seat for once) and our bus ride was only 10 minutes tops.
- Fast Pass Hack
Once you buy your tickets, you can book 3 fast passes. Once all of your 3 fast passes are used that day, you can book another one immediately and continue to do this throughout the day after you use the current fast pass that you have. This trick kept us from ever having to wait in a standby line. Our first fast pass was to meet Mickey at Town Square (these book up so fast so book them as soon as you buy your tickets.)
What You CANNOT Miss
- Disney Springs
Disney Springs is probably one of my favorite places to go (and it’s not just because they have a brand new Kate Spade but that’s definitely a Mom Perk). We booked reservations for Rain Forest Café at 4:45. (I had these reservations booked for about 2 months, but you can book them up until the day of.) They recently finished renovations on Disney Springs and it has tons of awesome new shops and new restaurants. They also have live entertainment throughout the area. Our favorite was a rap battle that took place in front of the Coke-a-Cola exhibit. It’s hilarious (& kid friendly.) Disney Springs also has a Cirque du Soleil show (Crispy Mama recommends!), a bowling alley, movie theater, and a 4-story arcade (which is sadly closing down in July, but I’m sure they’ll replace it with something just as great).
- Kid Friendly Rides
Our top favorite rides were the Tea Cups, Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid , The People Mover, and The Haunted Mansion. Maybe we have a weird daughter, because she laughed at all the ghosts. Ricki wasn’t the biggest fan of Flying Dumbo or Aladdin’s Magic Carpets because of the drops, but you control going up and down, so we stayed in the same spot through out the ride.
- The Big Circus Water Area
Right next to the Big Top Souvenirs, there is a water area that the kids can run around in. Ricki LOVED this. (We did not bring her swimsuit the first day so we had to purchase a new dry outfit, noted to bring a swimsuit in the future. They also sell them right next to the water area if you wanted to buy one there.)
- Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
This show is in front of the Castle and it is SO cute. It includes almost every character with singing and dancing. We were able to get very close to the stage and we only got there 5 minutes before the show. (They typically do 5 showings a day starting at 11:30 am and the last one at 4:15 pm.)
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
We did not do this attraction this trip because Ricki does not know the princesses yet, but for anyone with kids who love Belle, this is THE attraction to do. It is a small group of people in a room in the Beast’s castle and Belle comes out and interacts with all the kids. They do a short show and she then takes pictures with each one.
- Free Interactive Treasure Hunts
Next to Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a stand that offers free interactive treasure hunts throughout Adventureland. They provide you with a map and clues and you start your hunt, using your magic band to trigger the clues. (The clues are objects that move/talk.) This is an attraction that isn’t well known and is one of my husband’s favorites!
- Disney Junior Live
This was honestly the show that made our trip. It is a live show of Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse that includes Sophia the First, Doc Mcstuffins, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates. I’ve never seen Ricki dance and clap so much in her life.
- Toy Story Mania
You have to get fast passes for this ride because the wait time is always close to an hour +. This is a shooting arcade game/ride that spins. This was Ricki’s favorite ride, right behind the Tea Cups. (She enjoys all the spinning!)
9. Meet Mickey And The Gang For Free!
Most people don’t know, but the Mickey at Town Square talks. It was really awesome and he even sang the Hot Dog song to Ricki. (If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, you soon will.) I would 100% recommend doing this, it is more personal than breakfast and also free! One of the less crowded spots to meet Daisy, Donald, Minnie, and Goofy is at Pete’s Sideshow Circus. I have never seen a wait longer than 20-30 minutes (you can get fast passes for this also, if needed).
10. Nap Time!!!
The entire pre-planning-trip time, I assumed we would have to go back to the hotel room to nap and then go back to the parks. Ricki is the baby who refuses to nap anywhere but her crib. To our surprise, she fell asleep the first day in her stroller. (Side note- Disney with a stroller is SO MUCH easier than Disney without a stroller. I finally had a cup holder to hold my pretzel cheese.) The Tomorrowland Terrace is the PERFECT nap spot. It is only open for the fireworks at night (unless there is a special event) so you don’t have to worry about it being noisy. Ricki’s nap time is around 10:30 am, so both days we pulled the stoller into the Terrace and relaxed while she napped. The great thing about the Terrace is that we could see all the shows and parades going on Main Street and it had easy access to the bathrooms and to Starbucks (my fav).
If you want to eat breakfast at Magic Kingdom, the only places open are Starbucks (but they have a decent sized menu) and The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (they offer Mickey Waffles and strawberry fruit topping that looks/smells delicious.)
My favorite restaurant is Columbia Harbour House, which is located across from the Haunted Mansion. Their menu is mainly fish options and it has a lot of healthier options to choose from. My second favorite quick service restaurant is Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café. This is located on the corner of Frontierland and Adventurland, before you turn right to get to Splash Mountain. They have a variety of Mexican food that includes a nacho bar with lots of different sides and toppings. I felt this was the best bang for our buck and we did not have to wait in line at all to order.
What You Can Skip With a Toddler
- Unfortunately, Animal Kingdom
My all time favorite park is Animal Kingdom, but there is nothing that a toddler would enjoy doing there. Lion King and Finding Nemo are AMAZING shows, but besides that, all of the rides are for older kids and adults and not worth spending the extra cost, in my opinion. We did an extra day of Magic Kingdom instead.
- The Peter Pan Ride
I like Peter Pan, but the ride is pretty bland and always has a 60-90 minute wait. We got fast passes for this ride, but it is something we could have definitely skipped. Not bad, but also nothing to write home about.
- Character Breakfast
This was the day that we had all been waiting for- Ricki gets to meet everyone from Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse! We booked reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort. The Contemporary is within walking distance of The Magic Kingdom, so from your resort you can take the bus to MK and either walk or take the monorail to the resort. We took the monorail because it brings you right to the entrance of Chef Mickey. The monorail goes to the Floridian and the Polynesian aswell, so if you book dining with them instead, you can take the bus to MK and proceed to the monorail. We got seated and Ricki started to see all the characters walking around. She was super excited to see them… until they came up to her. While Goofy is her favorite character on TV, but he’s a little bigger and scarier in real life. A couple Mickey waffles later, she happily met Donald and Minnie. My honest advice is that you don’t need to do a character breakfast with a 1.5 year old. She was slightly overwhelmed and my husband and I did not eat $100 worth of Mickey waffles. But, if you do want to do character dining, I always do breakfast because they are about half the price compared to lunch and dinner.
Other Pro Tips
- We bought a stroller fan while there, it was surprisingly only $14.99, but the batteries died after the first day. (Guest relations, at Magic Kingdom, gave us batteries, but did not have a screwdriver to replace the batteries. After asking everyone, the resort gift shops have screwdrivers that will work. So, if you ever need one, they’re your people.) But, I would have purchased the fan/water bottle in the future instead of the fan. It keeps you much more cool and the kids love them.
- Kids 2 and under eat free at all the buffet meals but, most kid’s meal prices are very reasonable. At the quick service restaurants, they are around $7.00. (This includes an entree, a drink, and 3 sides.)
- You do not have to purchase park tickets for children 2 and under, so we will be visiting again before Ricki is 3.
- The trick to never paying for water bottles during the trip is knowing that Quick Service restaurants give out free cups of ice and water, but not every stand has a drink fountain. The places we frequented for ice and water was Fantasyland’s Cheshire Café and Tomorrowland’s Lunching Pad. You can also get free water at your resort’s food court. We brought 2 decently sized water bottles and filled those up each day and when we ate at the resort. (You can bring outside waters and snacks into the parks.)
- I have 2 favorite photo spots that are rarely crowded. The first is on top of the train station, overlooking Main Street. We always hit this spot right when we get to the park. My second favorite spot is right in front of the castle by the stage. You can still see a majority of the castle, but with no one photo bombing your pictures.
- Magicbands can fit all sizes! To make them smaller, you just have to pull off the surrounding grey part. This fit Ricki snug enough to not fall off and she kept it on our entire trip. This is important to me because if anything was to ever happen and we were to be separated (nightmare status), a cast member can easily scan their band and see our information.
So, there you have it! The ultimate tips to taking your toddler to Disney and not going insane, straight from a former Disney employee! Have you been to Disney with a toddler? What was your favorite part and what was the hardest? Share in the comments!
(Blonde BFF of The Crispy Mama)
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