Taking your children to Disney is such a magical experience. When you are able to watch their eyes light up when they meet their favorite character, or see the amazement they experience when they watch Happily Ever After, you can’t help but smile. Moments like those are the ones that make it all worth it, the planning, the packing the expense….that stress just melts away. For many families traveling with more than one child the question will always come up “how young is too young”?
I brought my first child to Disney for the first time at 2 ½ years old. That was the longest 2+ year wait of my life. I had been going to the parks several times a year since I was 4 years old. I was scared that she wouldn’t enjoy it or that it would wear her out. Our experience was quite the opposite. She was amazed and made it through the day like a champ! Another successful parenting victory. Just about a month afterwards I heard that a family member of mine was bringing their 7-month-old to the park and my immediate thought was “are they nuts”?
Now that I have been blessed with a second child I realized that my older daughter’s annual birthday trips to Disney would be much more difficult but I didn’t want to take them away. Parenting multiple children will always throw you curveballs so I set out to find a way I could do Disney with an infant and not be completely overwhelmed. After much more research and planning then usual we finally found the perfect balance. Breathe easy parents with young travelers, it will be much more pleasant than you think if you do it the right way.
Plan your travel accordingly:
Little ones are up early for the most part so whether you are driving or flying then be sure to leave at a time that won’t break their normal routine. No one wants to deal with a cranky baby on a mid-afternoon flight because the baby missed their nap. If your child usually sleeps all night then consider traveling later. Whatever works for your normal routine is what you should base your travel time around otherwise both you and the baby will be miserable.
Plan trips during low seasons and cooler months:
Navigating Disney with children is difficult to begin with. Some things that can really make it worse are long wait times and scorching temperatures. If there is any possible way that you can avoid traveling during peak times such as holiday weekends and summer then by all means take that option. Do you want to be on a line in 90-degree weather with an infant for 2 hours? Nope, neither does your baby.
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Take midday breaks:
Spending a whole day in the parks is exhausting, even for adults. It is five times as difficult for a sleep deprived and over stimulated child. I found that the best way to break up the day is to go early, take advantage of that morning energy that babies have. Once the temperatures and the crowds start to rise then make a break for your resort. If the baby gets a nap and some quiet time and you get a break in the air conditioning then it’s a win-win for everyone. Doing this will also recharge you for round two in the evening. Going back to the parks at night means way shorter lines, no hot sun, and best of all fireworks!
Childcare (if you really need a break):
No one really wants to leave their child’s side at Walt Disney World. However, if you have more than one child and your youngest’s schedule is ruining things for your older children then a few hours of childcare may be a consideration. When you first start looking into on property childcare you may notice that Pixar Play Zone starts at a potty trained age. However, Disney does offer another option which is in room babysitting and it starts as young as six months. It works out best for everyone because your child won’t be exposed to germs of school aged children while getting the one on one attention that babies love. It starts at $18/hr. which some people may see as steep but it definitely can be justified. Disney employees are highly regarded as the gold level of service, they are checked to make sure that their background is squeaky clean and with childcare providers they make sure of this. It may let you enjoy an evening with your older children and not have to focus a majority of your attention on the baby. While this option isn’t for everyone it may be something to consider.
Attractions and height requirements:
Disney is geared towards families and they have designed most of their rides with that in mind, if you think that your baby won’t be able to enjoy the rides then you may be wrong. While most of the thrill rides are out for little ones, most of the tamer rides at Disney world have no height requirement at all as long as there is an adult to accompany the child. If you want to take your baby on The Seas with Nemo or Pirates of the Caribbean? Go ahead! Peter Pan’s Flight or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? Take your baby right on those too. If you want to experience attractions like Space Mountain or Expedition Everest with your older children then Disney offers a parent swap pass. One family member will wait with the kids who are too small to ride while the other adult gets to enjoy the experience. Once they get back then you get to switch places without going to the back of the line. They truly think of everything!
But babies have so much stuff:
Packing for vacation with adults only is bad enough. If you start making a packing list for a baby it is completely overwhelming. There are diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, etc. Dragging all that along with you will not only make your luggage overweight but it’s a stress that will no doubt make you forget something. When traveling with kids that require this much it’s best to save yourself the hassle and have it all delivered to you. This is really an example of how Disney thinks of everything and makes your trip as convenient as possible. While several sites offer hotel delivery or an- in store pickup for a prepared order, the favorite of most guests by far is www.gardengrocer.com. Imagine the convenience of having all of your baby care supplies, snacks and drinks for your family waiting for you when you arrive at your hotel. It’s almost too good to be true. For only about $14 (plus the cost of your order) you can take advantage of this service. That is a small price to pay when you think about all the hassle it saves you at home.
Baby Care Centers:
Don’t forget to take advantage of Disney’s Baby Care Center located in each park. These are great places to go enjoy some air conditioning with your little one, nurse in a rocking chair, let your child watch a Disney film, purchase supplies you forgot to bring into the park with you, and have some room to change diapers and outfits when needed. Truly a life saver when in the park!
As scary as it may initially sound to bring a child that young to Walt Disney World it can in fact be done, and it can be a great experience! Pack up your little ones and brave this experience like a champ. They may not remember it but the pictures and memories that you have will be treasured forever.