It's no wonder so many people are overwhelmed when planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World! This magical destination is 54 square miles consisting of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25 Resorts, 4 golf courses, and over 500 different types of dining experiences. Check out these tips for traveling with young children to Walt Disney World.
• If you are traveling with a child 5 years or younger, plan on using a stroller. You can expect to walk 5 to 10 miles a day and this can be hard on little feet and legs. You can bring your own stroller, rent one at the parks, or arrange to rent one through a local rental agency.
• The toilets at Walt Disney World® are the automatic flush types. If you have a little one who is terrified of the toilet flushing while they are sitting on it, bring a pack of post-it notes in your backpack and put one over the sensor when you enter the stall. This will keep the toilet from flushing until the post-it is removed.
• Try to keep to your child’s schedule while on vacation. Plan meals during his/her usual eating times, and take a midday break. This will help minimize tired melt downs that can ruin everyone’s mood.
• Locate the Baby Care Center…. an air conditioned oasis that is equipped with changing tables, rockers, highchairs, private nursing areas, and bathrooms. In addition to having a stock of diapers, wipes, and baby food, they have children’s Tylenol and Motrin. The cast members are welcoming to children of all ages (even my 6 year old who had a headache and needed Tylenol).
• Don’t want to go all the way back to your resort for a break? Hop over to one of the resorts closer to the park. Get something cold to drink from one of the quick service restaurants, sit in the lobby, enjoy the AC, and explore the resort. It will be quieter and less crowded than the parks, offering you a break from the hustle and bustle. Often the resorts offer activities in the afternoon for little ones. Check with the concierge for a list of activities. You do not have to be a resort guest to participate and they are often free of charge.
• Because of show schedules and crowds, it is difficult to do and see everything that a park has to offer in 1 day. Understand that you cannot do and see everything that Disney has to offer in one vacation. Prioritize each family member’s want-to-do list and focus on enjoying the magical moments that happen at Walt Disney World®.
• If you desire to dine at a sit down restaurant, make Advanced Dining Reservations well in advance. Because of the popularity of Disney’s Dining Plans, many restaurants book up well in advance and cannot accommodate guests without a reservation. Currently Disney has a 90 day window for making those reservations, but is planning to extend that window to 180 days in October 2009. For those guests staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, you can make all of your dining reservations 90 days in advance of your check in date. You can make your ADRs online or over the phone.
• Want to get pictures with autographs of the characters? Character Dining Experiences are a great way to do so and allows you to avoid standing in line at the parks!
• Each of the parks has a Character Breakfast at a restaurant that opens before the parks. An 8am reservation time will allow you to finish your meal and visit with characters in time to hit the park running!
• The crowds at Walt Disney World® pick up between 11 AM and 1 PM. Plan to arrive at the parks when they open so that you can enjoy the attractions with fewer crowds. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, take advantage of the Early Extra Magic Hour and get into the park an hour before it opens to the general public.
• Consider getting the Hopper Option added to your park passes. This allows access to more than 1 park a day. Each of the parks tends to be more crowded on the days of Extra Magic Hours. The Hopper Option allows you to take advantage of the EMHs. However, leave when the crowds pick up and visit a less crowded park. This option also allows you to spend the morning at one park, leave for a midday break and return to a different park for dinner and the nighttime activities.
• Traveling with little ones who don’t meet the height requirements? Disney offers “Parent Rider Switch” which allows one parent to ride, while the other parent stays with the smaller child. A cast member will give you a pass that allows the second parent to avoid standing in the stand by line. This is great if you have an older child, because the pass will allow you to take the older child on the ride a second time!
Martha Nichols has more tips and would love to help you meet Mickey!