A trip to Disney World is an ideal first vacation for your preschooler. Help your child get the most from your Disney vacation by choosing the right resort, packing the right gear and experiencing the best rides and attractions for little ones.
When to Go
Preschoolers don't have a firm school schedule, so plan your Disney vacation for the time of year that suits you best.
Tip: Keep an eye out for special promotions in the fall for preschoolers to enjoy once the "big kids" have gone back to school.
Where to Stay
Disney resorts have been designed with families in mind, and each resort has something different to offer. If you are traveling with preschoolers, look for fun themes, childcare activities and easy dining options.
- Your preschooler will enjoy the bright colors and familiar characters featured at the All-Star Movies resort, and you will love being able to park right in front of your building.
The Port Orlean's French Quarter resort has a fun swimming pool, complete with a whimsical alligator band and dragon-shaped water slide, and the resort food court offers an array of choices designed to tempt even the most finicky eater.
Guests at the Wilderness Lodge have easy access to a fun-filled childcare center, and to one of the loudest and most fun places to dine in all of Disney world — the Whispering Canyon Cafe. The Wilderness Lodge also offers a convenient location and great transportation choices (including a complimentary boat ride to the Magic Kingdom).
Each Disney theme park offers rental strollers for daily use. Use a stroller to get around the park quickly, and to give your preschooler a chance to rest his legs between rides. If you bring your own stroller from home, opt for an easy fold umbrella stroller — you will have to fold the stroller to take it on most Disney transportation, including buses, boats and trams.
If you don't use a stroller, look for rides that are also transportation — the railroad at the Magic Kingdom is not only fun to ride, it can get you from one part of the park to the other and save you some walking time.
Rides and Attractions
Some Disney theme park rides are clearly not for preschoolers — roller coasters and other thrill rides have clearly posted height restrictions. Others may be dark or have loud noises — and some can be absolutely terrifying to small children. The best rides for preschoolers include those with gentle motion, easily understood story lines and familiar characters. If you are in doubt about an attraction, ride it yourself first to be sure it will be acceptable to your preschooler.
Character greetings are an important part of the day at any Disney theme park. Disney characters are very large, and can be intimidating to small children. Even if your preschooler is not afraid of a character, be sure that the performer knows your child is there, and help your little one learn good character greeting manners.
If your child is too young for an attraction that others wish to ride, look for a kid-friendly option to make the most of your waiting time. Some attractions offer waiting areas designed with little visitors in mind, and most rides have shopping areas and snack facilities nearby.
Another option is to use Disney's Rider Switch Program which allows one adult to ride while the other waits with your little one... then you switch places without an additional wait.
Most Disney restaurants are kid-friendly, and almost all offer a children's menu. If your child has a favorite character, consider booking a table at one of the character meals — you can meet princesses, playhouse Disney stars, and classic Disney favorites at these locations. Children under three eat free at Disney character buffets.
Not into character dining? Try out the Coral Reef (Epcot), where every table has a view of the exotic marine life featured at the adjacent Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilion, or head to the Rainforest Cafe (Disney's Animal Kingdom) and dine as life-sized animatronic wildlife looks on.
Tip: Visit Les Chefs de France on a weekday and see Remy, the star of Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille, as he visits each table at lunch and dinner.
Edited by Dawn Henthorn, Florida Travel Expert since June, 2000.