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Walt Disney World with a Toddler: The Trip Report

Walt Disney World with a Toddler:  The Trip Report

 

Recently I posted a pre-trip planning article for our Walt Disney World trip with our two year old.  We have two older sons, but this trip was all about our youngest and we timed it to celebrate his birthday.  Most everything we did was a success with him on this trip and I have a few pointers for those of you considering or planning a trip with your toddler.

When considering your resort think about your toddler.  We initially booked our vacation at the Yacht Club for the convenience and location (we are an Epcot family), but at the very last minute I got a super deal by moving over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I was leary of this decision since that resort is relatively far away from all of the parks except the Animal Kingdom.  However, I couldn’t have made a better choice.  My son loved watching the animals from our balcony (we had a savanna view room).  Each morning he walked out to tell them good morning, and on our breaks he would sit out there and pick out the animals from the identification sheet we had.  We drive, so the distance from the theme parks wasn’t that big of an issue for us.  I am so happy we moved to the Animal Kingdom Lodge–it was a great choice for our toddler.

We also upgraded to stay Club Level when we made the resort switch.  I knew Club Level would be a nice benefit when traveling with my teenage son, aka the Bottomless Pit, but it was also a great fit with a toddler.  The cooler at the Kilimanjaro Club was stocked with small apple juices and milks, so we were able to grab a couple to take to the parks with us or back to the room, along with having it there for him to drink.  The Club lounge made breakfasts so quick and convenient (even though our room was not on the same level as the lounge).  And any time we were there we felt comfortable letting our toddler watch the non-stop Disney Junior on the TV as we enjoyed the offerings.  It was also great to go up at snack time and grab a banana or a cookie (or a delicious pumpkin scone) to eat while watching those animals on our balcony.

 

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One thing that we ended up doing a lot of this trip was meeting characters.  On the trips with our big boys we don’t do this as much as we used to, so I was curious how my toddler would react.  On our first morning in the park we went to the Character Spot at Epcot, and let him ease in to meeting Mickey, Minnie & Goofy with us by his side.  He was familiar with these characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Jr. and was excited to see them.  By the end of our trip he was walking up to any and all characters on his own–even the face characters who were talking to him.  Bonus:  we just met Santa Claus and he was not afraid!  Be sure to know ahead of time where the characters your child knows from TV and movies are located-they are found in different parks.  For instance, the Disney Junior characters are only at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the fairies are only at Magic Kingdom.  You don’t want to promise your child you’re going to meet Sophia the First on your Epcot day.

Where dining is concerned there is a lot to consider when traveling with a toddler.  On this trip we didn’t schedule very many table service reservations, but I would recommend scheduling any reservations you make on the early side.  With all of the stimulation in the parks toddlers get hungry quickly.  And a hungry toddler is not a happy toddler . . . and we all know where that scenario goes (& quickly)!  Since you should be arriving in the parks early to avoid lines, you will probably be hungry earlier than you would be at home too.  For lunch try to eat before 11:30 to avoid the crowds at Quick Service and to get in quickly with your Table Service reservation — or as soon as the restaurant opens.  With the same philosophy for dinner, try to eat before 6:00pm.

Choose restaurants that your toddler will enjoy or that will keep him or her entertained.  The biggest hit of our trip was the Play ‘n Dine Breakfast at Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The food was average and I wouldn’t recommend going there without a toddler or pre-schooler, but it is well worth it if you have a little fan of Disney Junior.  My little one loved meeting his friends from Disney Junior and loved the interaction with them.  And you really can’t go wrong with Mickey waffles, even for a picky toddler.  Character meals are generally good picks for toddlers, but you may also consider some other options with an entertaining interior:  Coral Reef with its large aquarium, Sci-Fi Dine In Theater with its big screen movie loop, or Be Our Guest with its snowy windows, music box and West Wing.  But beware!  Some of these restaurants can be too much and too loud for toddlers–Rainforest Cafe, T. Rex and even the West Wing of Be Our Guest can be frightening.  A dinner later in the week at Grand Floridian Cafe resulted in a bored toddler being taken out into the lobby for entertainment while I stayed to pay the check.

And, when you make your dining choices consider the menu.  There are plenty of apps that you can acces in the parks–including Disney’s official My Disney Experience app–that will show you up to date menu choices.  At Table Service you can always ask for something special for your picky toddler like plain noddles with butter or mac and cheese, but Quick Service is a little more limited in the kitchen as to what they can offer specially prepared.  Remember, children under 3 are not included on any of Disney’s Dining Plans.  Whether you are on the dining plan or paying out of pocket, they can share from your plate (or make their own at a buffet), or you can order them their own meal (paying for it if you are on the Dining Plan).  Don’t forget you can also bring food and drinks into the park.  This worked really well for us on this trip.  We had a small cooler bag and brought ziploc bags for ice to keep things cold.  While my husband and I grazed around the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot we kept my toddler happy with applesauce pouches, Mickey shaped cheese slices and puffed snacks.

Choosing the right attractions for a toddler is also important.  If this is your first trip to Walt Disney World you may not want to start your toddler off on Pirates of the Caribbean even though it is a classic and if you are a Disney fanatic you may feel that it is your duty to “christen” your child’s Disney experience with it.  It is dark, somewhat loud, a bit scary with the fire, and then there is that little hill.  I will never forget my first trip to Walt Disney World–Pirates was our very first ride and for the rest of the trip my younger sister was terrified to try any other ride (although she did) because she thought they were all going to be dark like pirates, and I (the ride weenie) was afraid every ride would have a hill.  (I do now recognize that it is a very small hill and Pirates is now my favorite ride).  Start off with Dumbo or Peter Pan or it’s a small world.  And know your toddler.  Ours didn’t really care for the bouncing Tigger scene in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Who’d of thought of that?  Be prepared for multiple rides on the carousel, it’s a small world, and spinner rides like Dumbo.  Luckily my toddler does enjoy classics like Pirates of the Caribbean too.  And don’t forget about the shows—all of the colors and music and action are great for the younger set.  Our toddler especially loved the Festival of the Lion King show, and of course Disney Junior Live.

I am so happy and thankful that we were able to take our toddler on a solo Walt Disney World vacation without his brothers so we could really concentrate on him–we made some very sweet lasting memories.  Now that is 2 sons down, 1 to go on solo trips–and ironically it is the oldest who hasn’t had his turn yet.  But, I’m holding out until he is 16 because we have some backstage tours on our list!

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).