You may have heard we recently took a trip to Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. There was a brief moment of debate. Do we leave our 2 year old at home? No, we take him. And we're so glad we did.
Sure, toddlers may not remember the entire experience when they are 30. But seeing your two year old lose their mind over meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time is worth collapsing a ginormous stroller at 10:30 PM to get on a packed sweaty bus to ride back to your hotel. Promise.
Here's what you need to know to make the most of your Disney World vacation with a toddler.
1. Bring a Stroller That Your Toddler Loves
An umbrella stroller might seem like the best option because it folds up so small but if your toddler can easily climb out or HATES being in an umbrella stroller, it might not be the best choice. We brought our Stokke Xplory which is big and folds in two pieces but it also has a great sunshade, reclines, is easy to maneuver and - most importantly - Will loves it.
2. Take Transportation Other Than Buses
Strollers must be folded on the buses, BUT you do not have to fold your stroller on boats and the monorail. If you have a park hopper pass and stay at a Monorail Resort or an Epcot Resort, the only time you have to take the bus is to Animal Kingdom. We stayed at the Beach Club, which along with Boardwalk and Yacht Club, make up the Epcot Resorts. To get to Epcot we walked, we took the boat to Hollywood Studios and to get to Magic Kingdom we walked to Epcot and then hopped on the Monorail. The only time we needed to get on a bus was to go to Animal Kingdom. Folding a stroller is only a big pain at the end of the night after fireworks when everyone is hot, sweaty and tired.
3. Rider Swap!
Rider Swaps are basically like a fast pass. When you get in line you point out the part of your group that is waiting with the toddler and you receive a ticket for a Rider Swap. Rider Swaps are good for the entire day and allow you PLUS 3 additional riders to go on the ride. This is awesome because neither of us had to ever ride alone! On rides like Space Mountain, my husband and I each took both girls with us.
It makes your day so much more enjoyable. Rider Swaps can also be used with Fast Passes and it doesn't use up the Fast Passes of the additional riders. Works great for the siblings who get to do all of the big rides twice!
4. Snack, Snack, Snack
Disney World is really great about letting you bring in your own food and water to the parks. We placed an advance order with Garden Grocer and water bottles along with our favorite snacks were waiting in our room when we arrived. Each day we filled the stroller basket up with bottled water, Go-Go Squeez applesauce pouches and other on the go foods. If our two year old got cranky, we handed him a snack. There's nothing worse than a HANGRY toddler!
5. Plan Toddler Time
This isn't an issue with every family, but in ours we had kids ranging from 9 years old down to 2. The big kids were happy to wait in line for Will to meet Jake, Doc McStuffins and ride Dumbo. There is plenty to do for everyone, but if you have older kids make sure to plan toddler time for the youngest family members.
6. The My Disney Experience App is Your Friend
We used the app constantly from figuring out what rides our toddler can go on to wait times. You can also snag last minute dining reservations and Fast Passes on the app. It's very user friendly and an invaluable tool no matter how old the children in your group are.
Also, all of the Memory Maker photos are on the app and can be instantly downloaded and shared. This app is the best!
7. Start Off Small but You May End Up Big
The first ride we did at Magic Kingdom was Winnie the Pooh. Then we moved on to Dumbo and the Tea Cups. Then the Barnstormer and then Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Yes, our 2 year old rode Mine Train and LOVED every second of it! We've been home for a couple weeks and at least once a day he says, "We go on Mine Train today?" and he is always disappointed when we say no. Using the My Disney Experience App, we knew that Will could do anything 38" and below so once we saw his adventurous side, we could plan the rest of our time at the parks. Some of the height restrictions are surprising so make sure double check so no one is disappointed.
8. Epcot is Great for Toddlers
If your toddler is on sensory overload, spend a little time at Epcot. Not only does it have a more relaxing vibe, Epcot has your favorite classic characters like Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, some fun rides for the smaller set like Finding Nemo. There's also a shaded playground and lots of places to get ice cream. And adult beverages for the parents to enjoy. Fireworks at Epcot are also earlier than the other parks so if that's on your list, Epcot is a great spot to stay late, but not too late.
9. Take A Resort Day....and Night
Just the resort itself is packed full of fun! The pools are amazing, at Beach Club we had a real beach where Will just wanted to play in the sand all day long. The resort staff has scheduled activities all day and night. If you're paying to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, take advantage of it!
10. Plan Your Day But Know It Probably Won't Go According to Plans
If there's one thing we know as parents it's that toddlers are unpredictable.
But the good news is that the majority of resorts guests and visitors have kids with them, too. At sit down meals there is always going to be a kid throwing a fit. Yesterday your toddler would only eat chicken nuggets and today they look at you like you're crazy for suggesting them. Take a deep breath, it's okay. Everyone is or has been in the same boat. No judging if I see your kid flipping out in the stroller, that could be my kid in 2 hours. Prioritize and do what's at the top of the list early in the day and then be flexible and stay calm. The good news is you're at Disney World, there's tons of distractions to get your toddler out of their funk!
Do you have any tips on making the most of your Disney vacation with a toddler? Leave them in the comments!