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Tips for Traveling to Disney World with Young Children

By March 22, 2017 April 8th, 2019 No Comments

I get this basic question a lot – “what is the best age for a child’s first trip to Disney World?”  I typically answer, “any age!” because 1) I love Disney and believe there is something special for even the youngest visitors and 2) kids under three years old enter the parks for free, which is a great deal.  But the reality of traveling with very young children – we’ll say kids five years old and younger – is that it requires a different set of skills, plans, and preparations than does traveling with school-aged children. So… What do you need to know about traveling to Walt Disney World with young children?

Be prepared to…

  1. Take a break. If it was just you touring Walt Disney World (WDW), you might be able to plow through the days without much downtime. But chances are good that your child will need a mental and physical break, each day, from all the Disney fun he is having. I recommend taking a daily break where you leave the theme park for some quiet rest at your resort. If your schedule can’t accommodate that, you can find peaceful spots inside the parks (some even have phone charging stations!) where everyone can rest their feet and gear up for an evening of touring. If you are visiting WDW for multiple days, consider taking one of your mornings “off” – sleep in, watch a little Disney Junior on the tv, check out your resort’s pool, and generally take things a little slower before you hit the parks. Even if you don’t see every show, every character, and every attraction, I guarantee your child and your feet will thank you.


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  1. Wait and sit. There’s no way around it: at some point during your WDW vacation, your young child is definitely going to wait in a line and/or be required to sit still in a seat, and she may not be thrilled about that idea. Give your kids a way to pass the time to minimize tantrums and pushback. Some ideas:
    • Let your child choose a small souvenir from a Disney gift shop at the beginning of your vacation – think a small wind-up toy, a mini plush magnet, etc. – and let him tinker with it while waiting. At the end of the queue, he gets to board the attraction and the toy goes away until the next wait.
    • Bring a compact card game (Spot it! is a great choice) or stickers & paper that can be played easily while waiting. Another favorite item : Bubbles!
    • Bring small candy, mints, or gum to help wiggly little ones sit still during long shows or rides. Bonus points for Mickey-shaped goodies.


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  1. Have snacks. If you’re a parent to young kids, this tip is not news to you : you are probably very familiar with what your children are capable of when they are hungry and you forgot to pack a snack. Let’s make sure those kiddos are fed – well and often.
    • Did you know that you can bring your own food and drinks into the parks? You can! Whether you order groceries delivered to your resort, drive/taxi to a local store, or pack food in your suitcase, you can have your family’s favorites at the ready throughout your time in the parks. Great news for parents of picky eaters! (Also worth noting: children under three years of age eat free at WDW buffet meals. Most character meals are buffet style, as are many other terrific dining options, so be sure to consider those experiences when booking your dining reservations.)


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  1. Exercise patience; let your child call some of the shots. Have you ever been “that” parent, the one who loses her cool in public as her child is having a meltdown? (No, of course you haven’t.) Every time I go to WDW, I see “that” parent. You do not want to be “that” parent while at Walt Disney World! As you tour the parks of WDW, remember that your young child is excited and possibly overwhelmed, exhilarated but tired and out of her normal routine. When things start to turn down Tantrum Turnpike, take a deep breath; it’s usually time to take that break, eat that snack, or let your child blow off a little steam by running free and unscheduled for a little bit. Spots like The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom and Casey Jr. Splash ‘n Soak in Magic Kingdom are built for this purpose, but every park has a green space, fountain, or quiet corner that is perfect for your toddler or preschooler to have a little time to roam. Related to that, if your child is having fun chasing bubbles, then let her chase bubbles. Unless you’re already ten minutes past the end of your FastPass window, five minutes of chasing bubbles isn’t going to blow your day, but making your young child leave an activity before he is ready might. (I speak from experience: just let them play for a few minutes!)


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  1. Make your Disney vacation YOUR Disney vacation. This is maybe the most important tip, because it will dictate almost every decision you make for your vacation. Is your child going to be heart-broken if she doesn’t take a photo with Belle? Is he an early-riser or a night owl? Is your child easily frightened in the dark? Your answers to these kinds of questions help frame your itinerary, in terms of which attractions, shows, and characters best suit your family’s needs and wants. (And, honest plug : this is where a Disney Vacation Planner can really help you!) You know your child’s interests, personality, and limitations; let that knowledge guide your decision-making so that your vacation is special and tailor-made for you and your child.


With a little thought and a little planning, your baby, toddler, or preschooler will have as much fun as you do. And your trip will absolutely be magical, because there is nothing like experiencing Walt Disney World through the awestruck eyes of your child!

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A few more random tips:

  • If you have a child that may be scared of thrill rides or dark rides, show him YouTube videos of attractions ahead of your trip to get a sense of his interest and also to help prepare him – and get him excited! – for what WDW attractions will be like.
  • Many WDW resort hotels offer complimentary pack ‘n plays for your stay. Children who are still sleeping in a crib will often sleep in a pack ‘n play. Cribs are also available for rent from a number of vendors who will deliver the crib and accessories to your WDW resort.
  • Consider whether your child/children will want to ride in a stroller. Every family and kid is different, but my five year old still likes to hop in the stroller after a day or two of intense walking!

Pick up an inexpensive light-up toy and packs of glow sticks for your evenings in the parks. You can use the glow sticks to illuminate your stroller to find it in a crowd of parked strollers, and the light-up toys help keep the “gimme”s to a minimum when the cool-but-expensive WDW versions come out at night.