While there is no one perfect age for a first trip to Disney World, every year millions of families choose to visit with little ones in tow. And since theme park admission is free for kids under age 3, many families try to come at least once before a child's third birthday.
Visiting Disney World with a toddler? Here are tips for getting the most magic out of your trip.
Stay Near the Magic Kingdom
Of all of Disney World's theme parks, the Magic Kingdom is the most toddler-friendly, with myriad rides and attractions geared to little ones. (Seriously, you could spend an entire day exploring the new Fantasyland alone.)
Since this is where you're likely to spend most of your theme-park time, choosing a nearby hotel makes it easy to nip back to your home base when everyone needs to unwind and recharge. Three deluxe hotels are moments away on the monorail, and budget-friendly Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is a quick water-taxi ride away.
There's no need to lug all of your baby gear with you. Pack ‘n Play cribs and bed guardrails are available upon request at each Disney Resort hotel, and every restaurant has plenty of high chairs.
Go During the Off-Season
One huge advantage of traveling with kids under 5 is that they're not yet tied down to a school schedule. The upside is that you can visit when big kids are in school and Disney World is less crowded.
Measure Your Child
Before you leave home, measure your child's height in the shoes she'll wear at the parks. Check online to see attraction height restrictions, so you don't accidentally book FastPass+ for an attraction your child can't experience. Don't worry—there are myriad attractions with no height restriction at all.
Bring or Rent a Stroller
Wear your comfiest shoes because you're going to walk for miles and miles. Even if your child is outgrowing her stroller at home, you'll be grateful to have one at Disney World. You can bring your own or rent a stroller at the entrance of each theme park. Need a stroller for multiple days? A length-of-stay rental rate knocks a few bucks off the per-diem price.
Lock in Times for High-Priority Experiences
Want to make the most of your time? An innovative new planning tool called MyMagic+ combines a smartphone app with wearable MagicBand bracelets containing a computer chip that holds all the components of your Disney World vacation—theme park tickets, room key, ride times, dining reservations—and it also acts as a resort charge card.
The result is a truly seamless experience that starts with your pre-trip planning, letting you schedule FastPass+ and dining experiences, and continues during your stay at Disney World.
Take in Some Live Shows
Disney World offers a phenomenal array of live entertainment that features familiar characters and sensational music. And, since shows are typically less than a half-hour long, they are perfect for toddlers' short attention spans. If you have to pick just one, make it the Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which combines fabulous costumes, wonderful songs, and an incredible mix of pageantry, puppetry, and acrobatics.
Take Advantage of Baby Centers
Each of Disney World's four theme parks has a Baby Care Center where you'll find changing and feeding stations and private nursing rooms with rockers. You can also buy essentials such as disposable diapers, baby bottles, formula and other baby supplies at a nominal cost. In addition, there are baby-changing areas in all restrooms, including men’s and family restrooms.
Build in Downtime
Want to enjoy the parks when crowds are lightest? Plan to arrive at the parks early and take a break in the middle of the day for lunch, afternoon naps, and downtime at the pool. You can head back for a second stint in the parks in the afternoon after everyone has decompressed.
Be prepared for the Florida sunshine and heat. In your day bag, bring extra sunscreen, a hat, and perhaps a sweatshirt for chilly, air-conditioned theaters. Every park has splash pads or misters where little ones can cool off—so think ahead and bring your child's swimsuit or an extra change of dry clothes.
Add an Pinch of Pixie Dust
Take the time to research other experiences that are extra special for toddlers, such as getting a first haircut (and commemorative mouse ears) at Harmony Barber Shop or meeting favorite Disney characters, as well as choosing a character dining experience.
Book a Sitter
If parents are looking for a night out without little ones, in-room babysitting is available for children ages six months and up through the independent childcare provider Kids Nite Out. For information and reservations, call 1-800-696-8105.