I absolutely love Disney and everything about Disney, but let's be realistic... traveling to Disney with toddlers is crazy and can be overwhelming if you don't know how to plan accordingly.
I am not a expert on Disney by any means, but I have been about 15-20 times, however, only twice with kiddos.
In July we visited Disney for my little girls first birthday (we went for my little boys first birthday as well). I absolutely love Disney and everything Disney!
People always ask, why do you take your kids at such a young age, they aren't going to remember it? No they won't at the age of one, but as a parent you will remember the trip and creating that memory with your little one and seeing their face light up from pure excitement. Don't let the naysayers talk you out of going to Disney…there is something magical about introducing your little one to Disney at such a young age and the memories you create are magical and last a life time!
With that being said, you do need to be realistic about the traveling to Disney with little ones. Traveling by car or plane, the time change, the sun beating down on you and a lot of walking, will make for some cranky kids. If you are prepared and understand that this will ultimately happen to maybe both you and the kids, then you'll be alright. Remember though, there is NO crying at Disney...yeah right...LOL!
Our Disney 2017 Trip
Friday, July 28th: We drove from Atlanta, GA and stopped for the night in Tifton, GA (4 hours). Nothing too exciting to see there. LOL!
Saturday, July 29th: Left Tifton and drove to the DoubleTree in Orlando (4 hours). The DoubleTree was awesome! We had an amazing room...the room was a huge bedroom with an attached living room and two full bathrooms and we could see Hollywood Studios in the distance. It was super nice and very comfortable! I could stay there again for sure!
After arriving at the hotel and getting settled, we spent a few hours at the pool and then had dinner at a hibachi restaurant down the street from the hotel.
Sunday, July 30th: After breakfast, we packed up the car and headed to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
After settling into our room, we decided to explore the hotel, see the animals, take an adventure and ride all of the Disney transportation (bus, ferry boat, monorail, smaller boat).
On our adventure, we found an arcade in the Contemporary hotel (it worked out great because there was a pop of rain storm).
After playing for a few hours, we took the Monorail to Magic Kingdom and then the smaller boat to the Wilderness Lodge to have dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe. The food and service is wonderful and it is super fun, but get ready to be embarrassed a bit with all the antics from the servers (all in good fun of course).
Monday, July 31st: We had a full day at Epcot and then dinner at our hotel (Boma). It was cloudy and on the cooler side, which was awesome! I know a lot of people say there isn't much to do at Epcot with kids, but that isn't true. I absolutely LOVE Epcot and love it just as much with kids. Epcot to me is a "calmer" park and has more areas to sit and take a break and have a cocktail (or a few in the world showcase).
Epcot has two sections. The front area with Spaceship Earth (my little man calls it the giant golf ball) is called Future World where most of the rides are and then the back is the World Showcase. Both sections have lots for kids to see and do.
Attractions and Rides at Epcot:
Spaceship Earth is the giant "golf ball" that you see when you enter the park. It is actually a ride...a slow moving ride that takes you on a journey from the stone age to the computer age. This is a great ride when you need to take a break from the heat or from all the walking. There in an interactive touch screen game you get to play during the ride and at the end you get to see what your future looks like. Please note that during the ride it gets extremly dark, so if you little one is terrified of the dark either have your flashlight on your phone ready to go or bypass this ride.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
I love the movie Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, so I was super excited to introduce our kiddos to the ride and all this attraction had to offer. This building has several different attractions and can keep you busy for hours. The first part of the attraction is a ride, which is slow moving. You sit in a giant clam shell and go under the sea (without getting wet) with Marlin and Dory as they look for Nemo. When you get off the ride, you'll be in "The Seas," which is a large aquarium. There are two floors with exhibits and viewing locations where you can watch and learn about the ocean animals. Make sure to check out the interactive show Turtle Talk with Crush before you leave The Seas with Nemo and Friends. This is actually a very cute show where kids actually are able to talk and interact with Crush and be prepared for them to constantly say "dude" after.
Living with the Land
This trip was the first time I had ever visited this attraction. It was really cool and I really enjoyed it! It is a slow moving, relaxing boat ride that explains how people work and live with the land. You travel through HUGE green houses and learn about food productions. It is very interesting! The green houses are actually working greenhouses and produce the food there for Disney restaurants.
Soarin' (height restriction: 40 inches (102cm) or taller)
Not a ride for little ones, but you can get a parent swap pass if you really want to ride this ride. I haven't been on this ride in years, but on this ride you are airborne and you "hang glide" above some of the worlds most breathtaking views or the world.
Test Track (height restriction: 40 inches (102cm) or taller)
Mission Space (height restriction: 40 inches (102cm) or taller).
Character Meet and Greet
Gran Fiesta Tour Starting the Three Caballeros (Mexico)
This is a fun ride an a hit with kids! It is a slow moving boat ride where you help Jose and Panchito travel around Mexico looking for Donald Duck. It is off in the far, left back of the Mexican Pavillion. A lot of people don't know it is there, so it is always quiet and usually there aren't any lines. You can usually get on, ride the ride and then get back on if you line without waiting.
Frozen Aver After (Norway)
Unfortunately, we weren't able to ride this ride during our trip. We had fast passes to this ride for 8pm, but at 7pm we got an alert saying the ride had been shut down for the rest of the night...never found out why. We were bummed! What to expect though...a slow moving boat ride as the boat hoists its sails into the wondrous wintery world of Frozen.
Outside of the Germany pavilion is a huge model train set. If you have a train enthusiast like I do, you could be stuck there for hours. Unfortunately, due to the weather the day we were there, the trains weren't running, which was a huge let down for my little guy. Next time!
Tuesday, August 1st: Magic Kingdom:
I love Magic Kingdom! It is the most popular park and the most crowded park, but has the most rides and activities to do. When we went to Magic Kingdom for our little mans first birthday, we did everything and every ride. He loved it and we loved that he loved it! This last trip, unfortunately, Magic Kingdom wasn't the most magical place on earth. It was so hot and overwhelmingly crowded. Compared to our last visit to Magic Kingdom, this wasn't too exciting! Of course little girl loved it, but little man wasn't really in the mood. He wanted to be carried everywhere and that is really hard to do in the heat and with all that walking. We decided to ride the carousel a few times, ate lunch, climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House (little dude loved that) cooled off with some Mickey ice cream and then we rode the rides that we had fast passes for (It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted House) and then left and headed back to the hotel.
It was just too much for us that day. Had I prepared a little better maybe it would have worked out. Maybe if little guy wasn't starting to get sick (didn't know at the time) it would have worked out. Who knows, but I also think there might be an age where you just shouldn't go to Magic Kingdom and that is age 2 to age 4. That might just be me and I am happy for anyone to tell me otherwise, but I feel that little ones don't understand that they have to wait in long lines and when the sun in beating down on you and you are sweating bullets, emotions are high and they don't understand the word wait. As a parent you are trying everything to explain, but it is difficult and ultimately it will stress you out and you become miserable. Back at the hotel, after we rested and cooled off at the pool, we had dinner at our hotel again (Boma)...it was that good and I highly recommend it!
Wednesday, August 2nd: Time to leave Disney and drive to Savannah, GA (4 hours).
We were sad to leave Disney, but knew we had a couple days to literally chill at the pool. We stopped in downtown Disney, now called Disney Springs, to get little dude Mr. Potato Head accessories that are unique and only sold at Disney. I'm not going to lie...I was pretty excited too. I think I might have been more excited. Haha! You can find them at One Upon A Toy!
Tips for buying Mr. Potato Head accessories:
Do Not purchase the Mr. Potato Head body if you already have one at home.
Do get the Disney arms because the Disney accessories do not fit the store bought arms.
Do get a right and left arm. If you get the Mickey gloves, look for a right and left glove (didn't realize that either...ugh!
Accessories are rotated from time to time.
After arriving and getting settled in the new hotel in Savannah, we went for a walk on the river walk and explored.
We've been to Savannah several times and love to visit our favorite Candy Store, River Street Sweets. We got some sweets and took our time walking back to our hotel.
After crashing from the sugar (it was also nap time) we headed to the roof top and spent the evening at the pool and ate dinner up there as well.
Thursday, August 3rd: We enjoyed a full day at the roof top pool where we had a cabana and ate and rested all day. It was so nice to play in the pool and relax!
Friday, August 4th: Our trip came to an end. We were sad, but we were ready to get home. (Drive from Savannah, GA to Atlanta, GA = 4 hours).
We had a wonderful trip and we can't wait for our next Disney adventure!
Tips for Disney with Baby and Toddler
Know Before You Go:
Kids three and under get in to all parks for FREE: Yay, for a Disney discount! If you order Magic Bands, your baby will get a band too, but you don't have to scan it for entry or for rides.
Get Magic Bands: This was our first time using the magic bands and I liked them, but not for the kids. The magic bands are your tickets to the park, the key to your hotel room if you are staying on Disney property, Fast Pass keeper, the link to view your photos from Disney parks and can even be used for purchases if you link your credit card information (DON'T link the credit card information to your baby/toddler/children's magic band). Hold onto your little ones magic bands...keep them in a safe place (the backpack that you'll be carrying, not in the stroller or unsecured place). I asked multiple Disney stores if they had magic band fasteners to secure the kids bands but they don't have those yet. Hopefully they'll work on those...hint hint Disney!
Disney Resorts: If you can budget to stay on Disney property, then do it! This trip was the first time I have ever stayed on property and it was amazing! They treat you like royalty, have a bunch of activities for the kids and transportation is so much easier (you don't have to drive)…you can take the bus, boat, or monorail to and from the parks.
Rentals: If you are driving your own car, you obviously won't need to rent car seats or even a stroller. The only time you’ll need car seats is if you are renting a car or in a taxi, otherwise they aren’t needed.
Down Time: If you are staying for more than 3 days, plan for some downtime. This is a must! Spend a day at the resort pool, participate in the activities they have at the resort, visit Disney Springs (used to be called Downtown Disney). Depending on your length of stay, try to have downtime every 1-2 days (ex: Park day, Park day, Down Time, Park)
Request a Crib/Cot (ahead of time): If your baby uses a sleep sack or blanket, bring it with you. The crib comes with just a fitted sheet. I always pack and bring two of our own fitted sheets (it has the familiar smells of home). Bring whatever your toddler needs to sleep as well; the cot will come with only sheets, pillow and pillow case.
Meal Reservations: Make your meal reservations ahead of time. Majority of the restaurants at the resorts and the parks require reservations. If you are wanting to experience a Character breakfast...you MUST schedule ahead of time. Reservations fill up fast for Character breakfasts, dinner at Cinderella's Castle and for dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant. You will always be able to find a place to eat, but it may not be exactly at the time you want if you just walk up and ask for a table.
Be Realistic: Traveling by car or plane, the time change (if applicable to you), the sun beating down on you and a lot of walking will make for some cranky kids. If you are prepared and understand that this will ultimately happen to maybe both you and the kids, then you'll be alright. Just go with the flow and be flexible.
Buy Disney Items/Souvenirs Before Arriving at Disney: items at Disney aren't cheap, so plan ahead and get items before. The dollar store has great Disney items. Do plan to get a few items though at Disney as they have some unique and exclusive items. Ex: the toy store at Disney Springs has unique Mr and Mrs. Potato pieces. If you are staying on Disney property and do purchase items, you can have them delivered to your room so you aren't carrying all the bags with you throughout the parks. If you aren't staying on property, buy souvenirs at the end of the day.
Download Disney Apps: 1) My Disney Experience - this is where your reservation, dinner reservations, fast pass info and so much more is located and also links to your Magic Band. 2) Shop Parks - Disney shopping. 3) Maps WDW - this app has every Disney park map and also shows you where the bathrooms are. 4) Disney Wait Times - this app has every park and every ride with the approximate wait time. 5) Magic Guide - has a couple repeats like maps and wait times but it also has park hours and dining options.
Bring snacks from home…lots of them!
Bring a bottle of sunscreen (or 2). It is hot and the sun is constantly beating down in you. Protect your little ones and yourself and don't get burned. That would ruin the entire trip.
Pack as light as you can when it comes to going to the parks. I know it is hard when the kids need so much (diapers, wipes, snacks, bottles, etc.) but try to keep your backpack light!
Secure your items. If you plan on leaving anything in your stroller, especially food while you are riding rides, make sure you secure your items. Little girl was napping in the stroller wile my husband and little man were riding Spaceship Earth at Epcot. I saw a squirrel go into multiple strollers and eventually he found something delicious. He pulled out a bag full of colorful macaroons. I was in shock. I sat there watching a squirrel eat someones macaroons as they were riding rides. LOL!
Changing stations. The changing stations are sponsored by Huggies and they have diapers and wipes, however, you'll pay a pretty penny (of course) if you need those items. You will also find changing tables in the bathrooms and if you are anything like me you just might pull our your changing pad and change the kids on a bench or even the ground while your husband and the stroller block the view. LOL!
Rides: Don't be afraid to take your babies/toddlers/kids on everything. Your little ones can ride just about everything, except the roller coasters. They can sit on your lap or next to you. If you have any doubts trust your instinct, however, for the more "dangerous" rides, Disney requires you to be a certain height (40 inches or taller) to ride the rides.
Once Upon A Toy! If you plan to make a trip to Once Upon a Toy in Disney Springs to get Mr. Potato Head accessories, have your Mr. Potato Head with you. Your little one will want to play with the new accessories and it will keep them entertained for a while!
Travel and Packing Lists
Available to purchase Her Travel Checklist at Mommy of Minis Shop
Available to purchase Her Travel Checklist at Mommy of Minis Shop
Available to purchase Her Travel Checklist at Mommy of Minis Shop
If you are planning on driving to Disney like we did, here is the Essential Disney Road Trip Packing List (you can also use these items if you are flying; may just need to pack differently):
Snacks (Cheerios, Puffs, Teething Biscuits, Yogurt Bites, Protein Bars)
Water and Juice Boxes (juice boxes were a special treat since this was a special vacation)
DVD's or movies on iPad or iPhone (I made sure we had lots of Disney movies downloaded and available since we were on our way to Disney. I wanted the kids to be super excited!)
Activity Bags - I had a lot of fun prepping the kiddos activity bags and it's crazy what you find in your house when looking for Disney stuff (like the Mickey and Minnie that are attached to the handles of the bags...who knew I had those already...)
Little Man's Activity Bag and since this was a Disney trip, everything was Disney related
Clips with Magnets (purchased from the Dollar Store)
Mickey Mouse Crayons (purchased from the Dollar Store)
Disney Coloring Book
Disney Flash Cards
Mickey Mouse Figures (see in picture above)
Lion Guard Figures
PJ Masks Figures
Toy Story Figures
Animals (Purchased at the Dollar Store)
Little Girl's Activity Bag and since this was a Disney trip, everything was Disney related (at least tried for her bag).
Pretend Phone (Nemo; purchased at the Dollar Store)
Hotel Room key
Plush Minnie Mouse doll that sings and lights up
Lots of crunchy toys
Singing toys and books
Sophie the Giraffe
Remote (I took the batteries out of course!)
Mirror (babies LOVE mirrors)
Empty bottle (the bottle that the puffs come in...little girl like to put the top on and then take it off...keeps her entertained for a while)
Travel Backpacks: Each kiddo had a backpack (Mickey backpack for little man and Minnie backpack for little girl). In their backpacks were two diapers each, travel pack of wipes, pacifiers (2 each), backup clothes, hand sanitizer, travel sunscreen, and a sippy cup (Mickey and Minnie of course!). These are great for the car and traveling, but I wouldn't suggest taking several backpacks to the parks as you won't want to carry them all day long.
I hope my tips and my packing lists have helped you. If you are interested in planning your next Disney vacation, I highly recommend contacting Lori Bartik with Be Our Guest Travel Company. She takes care of all the details...she creates your personalized itinerary, arranges for ground transportation, makes dining reservations, gives you a crowd evaluation calendar, provides FastPass and Magic Band guidance and so much more and it is all for FREE to you! We are planning to book a Disney cruise for 2018 and who do you think we will use as our Disney travel agent? Lori Bartik!
Get to know Lori:
My name is Lori Bartik and I am a travel consultant with Be Our Guest Travel Company, An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. I am your Travel Consultant for your family travel needs, especially Disney destinations! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort and other destinations is time-consuming and stressful, so let me help you plan the vacation of your dreams. When you book your vacation package with me, my concierge-level planning services are free.
I have traveled to Walt Disney World Resort many times and I have always been our family trip planner.