Walt Disney World is a place for all ages, and that includes the very youngest of our families as well. Parents might be hesitant to take their infants and toddlers on a Disney vacation for many reasons, but I think that if you’re comfortable leaving home with your child for any length of time, then there’s no reason you can’t take them to Walt Disney World.
Here are some baby friendly tips for enjoying the Disney Parks.
On our first trip to Walt Disney World as parents, we realized very quickly that our park strategy and touring style would be different with our 7-month-old daughter with us. We became more laid-back in our approach. Our expectations of how much we would see and do were lowered. Despite that, we still had a wonderful time. In some ways, it was even better. Even at that tender age, we could tell that Bella was very interested in what was going on all around her. Any fears we had that it would be too noisy or over-stimulating went out the window. The slower pace allowed us to soak in more of the magical details of Disney, and seeing the World through Bella’s eyes gave us a whole new perspective.
Baby Care Centers:
Each of the 4 major theme parks has a Baby Care Center. They provide an excellent, air-conditioned and quiet location to tend to your child’s needs, whether that be changing, feeding, or even napping. They also have supplies available for you to purchase should you need.
Remember this: “Baby Care is to the LEFT!” How far into the park the Baby Care center is located is different for each park, but they are all on the left (from the perspective of the main entrance to each park).
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s immediately on your left once you enter the park. In the Magic Kingdom, you hang at left at the end of Main Street USA and walk around Casey’s Corner. In EPCOT, it’s on your left in between Future World and World Showcase; and in Animal Kingdom, once you’ve crossed over onto Discovery Island, you turn left and head towards Africa. The Baby Care center is on your left hand side just before you reach the bridge.
We used the baby care centers at least once per day. Sometimes, when we needed a break the baby care center was just too far from us. There were plenty of cool spots inside restaurants or indoor attractions to escape the heat, or a shady bench to take a rest, and all the bathrooms are equipped with changing stations, even the men’s rooms.
Children under the age of 3 are not charged admission to Disney Parks, which is good. Unfortunately, if you are using a Disney Dining Plan, that means they get excluded from that. They are allowed to eat off your plate, however. So if your child has started eating table food, it might be a good idea to consider eating at one of the many buffet-style restaurants Disney offers. This way, you can load up your plate with extra food for your child and not feel like you have to go without. You can also reload the small cooler you brought to the park with some fruit or other goodies from the buffet to have as snacks for later. Yes, Disney allows you to bring small, soft-sided coolers into the park. And those coolers can be filled with snacks and food that does not require heating.* If you want to warm up baby food or formula, there is a microwave in the Baby Care Center. If your resort or hotel has a freezer, use it to freeze bottles of water the night before. They will serve as ice packs in your cooler and provide you with cold drinking water as they melt.
We packed snacks and bottles for Bella, and water for all of us. Bella did well eating off our plates to supplement her bottles. Our main concern was keeping her hydrated.
*Animal Kingdom has slightly stricter guidelines on food, such as no juice boxes or other items with plastic straws. This is for the protection and safety of the animals.
There are many families who will tell you to leave the parks in the heat of the afternoon to go back to your resort for a nap, or a swim, and to relax. This can be a good idea. Is it what you HAVE to do? Not at all. It’s really up to you. For us, our kids have been able to catch their Zs in the stroller while we were in the park. To us, that was a big plus. We were able to find some quiet areas to sit, relax, and enjoy a snack while they got their nap in.
Some of our favorite quiet areas for a nap are:
- Tomorrowland Terrace seating area
- Castle Rose Garden
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Ellen’s Energy Adventure
- UK gardens
- American Adventure
- Dinosaur Trails
- Discovery Trails
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Echo Lake area
An alternative to going back to your own resort for a nap is to just head to the nearest Disney resort to relax. You don’t need to be staying there to enjoy lunch in one of the resort restaurants, or to just find a comfy seat in the lobby or other common area. There are 5 different resorts either a boat ride or monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom. EPCOT has 2 resorts within walking distance of its International Gateway entrance. Those same resorts are accessible from both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios by boat. The Animal Kingdom has one resort just a short drive or bus ride away.
The monorail and boats are another nap opportunity. Especially in the afternoon hours when they are less utilized and you can ride them around as long as you like.
What to Bring:
A stroller is a must. Disney rents strollers at each of the parks, but you can only use it inside. Consider bringing your own or renting one for the length of your stay through a local business. Bring your own diapers, wipes and ointments. Disney does sell these products, but the variety is limited and you’ll pay a lot more for them than you would at home. Alternatives to packing all these things in your suitcase is to have them shipped to your resort, or shop at a local Walmart or Target in Kissimmee. There are also services that will deliver groceries and other items to your resort. We used Garden Grocer once and it worked out great.
What to Do
Every park has something that the little ones can enjoy. Meeting characters is always fun and makes for great memories. It may take a little time for your little one to warm up to these larger than life characters. Character meals are a great way to get your child comfortable with seeing characters interacting with people. Splash areas are great for letting them cool off, and each park offers at least one. And if there is something you want to do that your child cannot, then be sure to make use of the child swap to get in those adult must-dos.
Here are some of our top picks for what to see and do with your little one at the parks:
- It’s a Small World
- Prince Charming Regal Carousel
- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Dumbo, the flying elephant
- Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
- Jungle Cruise
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Pirates of the Caribbean*
- Journey of the Little Mermaid*
- Mickey’s Philharmagic**
- Spaceship Earth*
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- Journey into Imagination
- Gran Fiesta Tour
- Living with the Land
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Finding Nemo the Musical
- Festival of the Lion King
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!*
- TriceraTop Spin
- The Boneyard
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid
- Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
- Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D**
- Disney Junior, Live on Stage!
- Toy Story Mania
- “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” playground
*Denotes rides that are dark or have some scary moments
**Require 3D glasses
Bottom line: Every child is unique, and you’re the best judge of your child. How long you decide to wait before bringing your kids to Walt Disney World for the first time is entirely up to you. No matter what the age, there is magic for everyone to enjoy!
How old was your child the first time you brought them to Disney? What did you think of the experience? Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!