Going to Disney World with a toddler is an absolute blast. Seeing their little faces light up when they see Mickey or Cinderella for the first time is priceless, and snapping those adorable photos of them in front of the castle is just wonderful. Besides that, the free admission that comes along with taking a child under 3 to Disney World is pretty fantastic as well.
All that said, there are some challenges that come along with toting a toddler to Walt Disney World Resort. Toddlers can be hard-headed and they tend to get pretty cranky if they miss naptime.
Another big challenge? Mealtime with toddlers.
Let’s face it, no child under the age of 5 is going to sit still for long in a restaurant if they aren’t being entertained. On top of that, toddlers can be picky and they often require a lot of extra preplanning.
Fortunately, there are ways to make dining in Disney World with a toddler more fun and less stressful. Here are our top tips for doing just that.
Know Where to Eat
Where you choose to eat is a pretty important part of dining in Disney World with a toddler. In the case of table-service Walt Disney World restaurant locations, it’s important to choose places that offer some sort of entertainment to keep the little one occupied. A character meal is always a good choice. In some cases, you can even find extra magical quick-service restaurants that will help entertain your toddler while the family enjoys a meal.
Of course, the food is important as well. Fortunately, most Disney restaurant locations do offer some sort of toddler meal such as chicken nuggets or Mickey waffles.
Some of our favorite places to eat with toddlers in Walt Disney World Resort include:
Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Disney character dining with Mickey Mouse and other disney characters at breakfast and dinner. As a bonus, traveling to this Disney resort often involves the monorail, a toddler favorite.
Coral Reef in Epcot – Dining next to aquariums full of sea life.
Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom- Animatronic alien puts on a music performance.
Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Character meal that often includes Disney Junior characters.
Make Reservations and Use Mobile Ordering
We all know that toddlers aren’t exactly the most patient people. Avoid long waits by making dining reservations for table-service restaurants in advance. Keep in mind that character meals tend to fill up quickly, so you will want to reserve those as soon as your 60-day booking window opens.
Another way to save time and avoid waiting for food is to make use of mobile ordering when visiting quick-service restaurants. This allows you to place your order online and pick it up when you get to the Disney dining location.
Include Your Toddler in the Head Count
When you do make reservations, make sure you include your toddler in the headcount. A lot of people think that because their kid doesn’t need a ticket yet, they shouldn’t be included in the total number of people dining. This is incorrect, and not adding the tiny diner to your party total might mean waiting longer for a table, or being turned away entirely.
Know Where Toddlers Eat Free
One of the major perks of taking a toddler to Disney World is that they dine for free in some places. If you can, book buffets and all-you-can-eat “family-style” meals. Your toddler will not be charged to eat in these locations, but they will be allowed to munch on whatever they like.
This means your little one can chow down on the items they like and eat as much as they like, and you won’t have to pay a dime.
Park the Stroller
If you’re headed to Disney World with a toddler, you will almost certainly be taking a stroller with you-and if you aren’t planning on it, you might want to reconsider. This means that when you dine in a theme park, you will arrive at the restaurant with said stroller. This leaves some parents wondering whether they should head in with the stroller or leave it outside.
The answer? Leave it outside.
Strollers take up valuable space in the restaurant and are a tripping hazard. There are designated stroller parking areas near every park eatery, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one where you can park the stroller, unbuckle your toddler, and head inside without the extra luggage.
While most theme parks don’t allow guests to carry snacks in, Disney World isn’t like most theme parks, and guests are definitely allowed to carry snacks through the gates. We highly recommend taking full advantage of this fact and packing a variety of snacks that you know your toddler enjoys. This will be extremely helpful if your little one ends up not liking any given meal, and will help prevent meltdowns due to hunger.
Carry Your Own Silverware, Placemat, and Bib
Other things you’ll want to carry? Toddler-friendly silverware, a bib, and a placemat. Some parents find these items invaluable when it comes to enjoying their dining experience with their toddler. Unfortunately, Disney World does not have disposable versions of these things available in their eateries. For this reason, if these are things you want or need, you will need to pack them in your park bag before you head out the door.
Don’t Forget the Wet Wipes
Finally, we have to remind you to pack the wet wipes. Not only will you want regular baby wipes, you might also want to pack some disinfectant wipes. These are fantastic for cleaning the high chair and tabletop before you sit down for a meal, and they do great when it comes to cleaning up baby’s mess at the end of a meal. Meanwhile, the regular baby wipes can be used for wiping your little one’s hands and face after they’ve eaten.