As I mentioned last week, we recently took on Disney World with our 21 month old toddler in tow. It was awesome. And it was exhausting.
I did a little prep work leading up to our trip, and I definitely appreciated the wisdom others shared on how they made it work. Here are a few things I found…
1. Have a Plan
While going willy-nilly at Magic Kingdom may seem spontaneous and exciting, in reality it is stupid and exhausting (at least with a toddler). I halfway heeded the advice of those who went before me and created a rough plan on how we’d maneuver around Cinderella’s castle. In hindsight, I should’ve had a concrete plan (with willingness to change it up if needed). The second day we hit up Animal Kingdom with a much more thorough plan – not only knowing what attractions we’d like to see but also creating a route for which to see them & factoring in fast pass times & show times – and it resulted in a much smoother day. One tool that I found helpful in creating a toddler friendly plan is the Disney Magical Beginnings Guide. (FYI: Minnie’s Country House no longer exists at Magic Kingdom, despite all the promising I gave My Girl that we’d be visiting Minnie’s house that day.)
2. Take Advantage of the Fast Pass
I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t do this – but the 90 minute stand by wait time at the Kilimanjaro Safaris is an indication many people don’t. But you’ll be smart enough to get your fast pass, return during your designated hour and breeze through the line in 15 minutes. Then come back and thank me for this gem of advice.
3. Bring Your Nice Camera
I didn’t bring my fancy camera but a point-and-shoot to document our trip. I thought the bulkier camera would get in my way and I’d be super annoyed at lugging it around and making sure no one could swipe it from my stroller. Big mistake. My point-and-shoot pictures are sub par at best (though admittedly I probably have a sharper eye post-photography class and perhaps wouldn’t cringe at the difference pre-class), and after an hour of taking shots, I was kicking myself for my bad decision. My Girl will only experience Disney for the first time once, and I wasn’t able to capture the moments as well as I’d like. Live and learn.
4. Consider the Disney PhotoPass+
If you don’t have a nice camera or aren’t the type to hyper-document your trip with pictures, I would definitely encourage you to investigate the Disney PhotoPass+. While everyone can have pictures taken by Disney photographers at specified locations around the park with a simple PhotoPass, the PhotoPass+ could save you a lot of money. I did not purchase the PhotoPass+, but due to the aforementioned sub par point-and-shoot pictures, I purchased four individual photo downloads for $14.95 each with a PhotoPass. That’s nearly 60 big ones for four images. If you pre-purchase a PhotoPass+ at least 14 days in advance of your trip, you can pay a one time fee of $149. (It is $199 at the park.) If you’re thinking it may be nice for a professional photographer to take your shots instead of yourself (meaning you can actually be in some of them!), it may be a good option worth investigating.
5. Bring Your Own Snacks
Awesome alert: you can bring all the snacks and drinks you want into all the Disney parks! But I thought the water fountain water tasted funny, so I splurged on bottled water anyways. But we sure did cram our diaper bag full of quick bites for My Girl. Cheap and easy.
6. Go Early or Be Ok with A Lengthy Commute
Multiple websites say to get to the park 30-45 minutes early. This we did not do. Orlando is an hour ahead of Nashville, so that would mean we’d be getting to the park at 7:15 our time (with a toddler who really despises snoozing in a hotel and therefore does not do much snoozing). No thank you ma’am. However, it did take us about 45 minutes to park our car (My Hubs had a conference in Orlando and we did not stay on property), hitch a ride on the tram from the parking lot then hop on the monorail to the park. In the future with older kiddos, we may try the early bird option, but we were totally ok with the wait. Totally up to you.
7. Don’t Listen to Anyone Else
Here I am giving all this advice, but you know what? You know your kid best and what will work for her. Multiple sites suggest leaving the park for a midday break and nap time. My Girl isn’t a napper and a 25 minute stroller snooze was all that she needed. Maybe yours is the same. And I read time and time again and was told by more than one friend that Animal Kingdom isn’t the most toddler-friendly park, and I should think about changing my plans to Hollywood Studios. But My Girl isn’t old enough for movies or the princesses, but she loves some animals, so I went with my gut and bought the Animal Kingdom tickets. And it was a raging success! Go with your intuition and your trip will be too.
Things we’re glad we brought…
1. A change of clothes
2. Lots of wipes
6. A diaper bag for me to carry and a backpack for My Hubs (the extra storage was pretty crucial and both bags could be stuffed in our stroller basket)
And things we wish we would’ve brought…
1. Rain gear
2. Small towel (My Girl is like a moth to a flame when it comes to water attractions and we ended up buying a big ol’ $30 towel to dry her off every time. Post-purchase it was really nice to have to cushion our booties on the bleachers during shows too.)
3. Toys or books to keep My Girl occupied during ride wait times
And that’s what I’ve learned after spending two days at Disney with a 21 month old! What has your experience been like? I’d love to hear what worked for you!