This is a question that as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner I seem to get a lot. Often as I’m speaking to potential clients they will say “I would love to go but we are going to wait until my youngest can appreciate or enjoy it.” I get it, Disney and other theme parks are not cheap so of course you want to make sure that each family member enjoys themselves and lots of fun memories are made. What I like to encourage people is to keep in mind that often the parents or other adult relatives on the trip are the ones who will have the memories of their kids first time seeing the castle, or that first ride on Dumbo; those are the memories that last a lifetime. An added bonus of traveling with an infant is that at Disney Parks kids under the age of 3 are FREE!
What has helped to shape my opinion on this topic is that our daughters first trip to Walt Disney World was when she was three years old and to be honest, seven years later she still remembers some things about the trip but she LOVES seeing pictures of her first trip and us telling her the stories. Yes, there are challenges in taking younger kids; they get overwhelmed and over stimulated more easily, they tire out faster, they often haven’t learned impulse control so when they want to eat, rest, see something or do something they don’t understand that you may have to wait. The first trip with our daughter wasn’t all sunshine and roses trust me, she has always seemed to know exactly what she wants and is willing to do or not do, would get over stimulated easily with all the lights, people and sounds, needs downtime to chill out plus she is pretty stubborn so when she says she won’t take a picture in front of the castle she is not kidding, she seriously means it (and still does today lol).
The biggest advice I give people who are considering taking young kids to Disney (or other theme parks) is that you know your child better than anyone. What works for one family may or may not work for your family and that is okay. I knew that as long as I gave my daughter time to swim, run, explore at her own pace and rest when she was tired that we would have a great time. Did that mean that I did not get to ride Haunted Mansion because she was too nervous (and they didn’t have the rider switch option yet) sure, but I had a better time making memories of her and I riding Dumbo and her cracking up at me because I was nervous and she wasn’t (I’m terrified of heights, she is not). It was more about the memories of the first time her and my husband had a sword fight in the shop outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, still a tradition today with them. The memory of seeing her face light up when she walked onto Main Street the first time and saw the castle lit up for Christmas or how she laughed when we rode Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom because it seemed like a giraffe was going to try to get into the car with us. I never got a picture of her looking at the camera in front of the castle, but I do have a few pictures of my husband and I looking at the camera and our daughter with her hands in front of her face because she did not want to take the picture….it’s still one of my favorite pictures of my family because it’s an honest picture of our first Disney adventure as a family.
So, if you think you may be up to traveling to Disney with a young child, toddler or infant, here are my top five pieces of advice.
- Plan, Plan, Plan….but don’t be afraid to change your plans based on what your kid(s) really need. I am a planner, it gives me less stress and anxiety to have a plan and an idea at least of what we will be doing each day before we leave (also makes packing easier). With that being said, even as my daughter gets older, we still have days where one of us may be tired or just in the mood to do something different so we change up our plans as we go. It’s okay to have some flexibility.
- Use the Rider Swap option for the rides that your little ones cannot or will not ride. This way the adults can still enjoy the ride with older kids or other family members.
- Utilize the Baby Care centers at each of the Disney parks. These are especially nice for nursing mothers on those hot summer days as well as gives you a little more privacy to change or feed a baby in a more relaxing environment.
- Take Breaks. Plan some down time at the resorts and enjoy the pool or hop on the monorail or a boat from a park to a resort for a nice relaxing ride. Get a Mickey pretzel, Mickey ice cream or some popcorn and sit down to relax for a while. In Magic Kingdom, the Main Street Plaza Garden is a nice grassy, fenced in area where you can spread out to relax and little ones can stretch their legs and move around.
- Bring Snacks. Did you know that you can bring your own snacks into Disney Parks? Bring some fruit snacks or goldfish crackers and a few bottles of water so when you are waiting in line your little ones can have a snack.
Most of all, plan your vacation in a way that YOUR family will get the most enjoyment. Spend some quality time together and enjoy seeing the Magic that a Disney Parks vacation has to offer!
If you would like help in planning an upcoming vacation to Disney Parks (Disney World or Disneyland) please contact me for a free, no obligation quote. My services are free to my clients and I would love to help you plan. Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.Travel or Instagram at www.Instagram.com/KristieRyan.Travel.