As Prince would say, “Dig, if you will the picture..” You arrive at Magic Kindom; sunscreen applied and bag perfectly packed. Both of your two littles sit nicely in their Disney-approved double stroller quietly taking in all of the magic. No one’s fighting, everyone’s hap-hap-happy and you proceed to have the best day EVER.
Now hopping on down from cloud crazy, I’m about to unleash a truth bomb.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been on a vacation with my children that has not been a mild to moderate disaster.
The words “vacation” and “toddler” generally don’t jive. However, fear not mama dearest. Lucky for you, I just got back from almost two weeks in Walt Disney World and it WAS magical. I was there with an 18-month-old and a 3 1/2-year-old, and we all survived! I learned some tips to help you navigate through truly one of the most fun places in the great old US of A.
Let’s get down to business…..(to defeat, the Huns!- Mulan, anyone? Anyone?)
Plan as many things early as humanly possible
It may seem like common sense to you, but for me, hot mess momma extraordinaire, it went a long way in ensuring our vacation went as smoothly as possible. We planned extensively and early. At first, for me, this sounded counterintuitive. Being a mom of small children, I almost never plan out every minute of every day because you have to plan on the unexpected happening.
You cannot do that with Disney planning. Disney generally allows you to reserve things like resort rooms and meal plans the summer before your trip. So if you can plan early, do it, mama. Also, it’s helpful to look at Disney’s calendar of events to try to help predict crowd levels. Let’s be real, it’s always going to be busy. However, if you don’t realize there’s a big art festival or a RunDisney event happening during your stay, you might be dealing with more crowds. Which unfortunately equates to longer wait times for attractions with little ones. Yikes.
If you want to do all the things and stay where you want to stay, you must plan like a maniac. I say this with one caveat. Plan every second of every day, but be willing to be flexible, too. Personally, I’d rather have the option to go do a ride or attraction that I have planned into the day and voluntarily forgo it instead of waiting in a crazy long line, wingin’ it, because, you know, toddlers.
Which brings me to my next tip: Booking Fast Passes. As of February 2020, Disney allows you to book 3 fast passes per guest per day up to 30 days prior to your visit. What’s a FastPass+ you ask? It gives you lower wait times for any given attraction at a time of your choosing. These babies were a LIFESAVER. I REPEAT A LIFESAVER with our 3-year-old. He does not have the patience to wait in line for 2 hours for a 2-minute ride. I mean, I’m not even sure I do at this point in life so I can’t say I blame him. FassPass+ allowed us to get him on things we knew he would enjoy with a way shorter wait time. Book your FastPass+ people.
Parent Swap was also a great feature with the FastPass+. It allowed a group to stay with my son or daughter if they were unable to ride while the first group rode the ride. The second group of those tall enough then got a FastPass+ to ride the same ride so the little ones weren’t waiting super long again. It was also a game-changer and allowed us to do more things rather than wait in line.
The meal plans were totally worth it for our family. Disney has tiers that you can choose from to best fit your needs. We picked the one that included snacks. I had heard stories about people not using the snacks up by the end of their trip. What’s great is you can use your “snack credits” on things like the Mickey Rice Krispy treats, Disney themed goldfish crackers and other things that you could take home with you should you not use all of the credits by the end of your visit.
We did not get a meal plan for the 18-month-old, as most places that we ate, we knew we would be able to feed her off of our plates. And she’s super picky to boot, so I wasn’t about to spend that kind of money on food we’d be throwing away. I would evaluate how much your family eats and plan accordingly. Disney also let us take snacks and water bottles in the park from outside as well. This was great for the picky diva queen.
One great tip: Disney sells popcorn buckets that are refillable! There was a one time cost of $16 to buy them and then refills were $2. They were our go-to snack as it was shareable and super affordable. It reminded me of slightly less buttery movie theatre popcorn. It’s a must-do if you and your family like popcorn.
Our diaper bag ended up being a lifesaver. I will admit though, I overpacked it the first day, which left me annoyed and digging through unnecessary stuff to get to what I needed. With kiddos of different ages, of course, yours may vary but here’s what I ended up actually using when we were out and about in the parks:
- Diapers and wipes
- make sure you have enough of both- especially if you are staying at the resort! I made the mistake of not having quite enough wipes and ended up having to pay-are you ready for this- $5.00 for a pack of sixteen wipes. SIXTEEN. It legit gave me chest pain. Remember to pack enough. They are available in pretty much any gift shop, but it’s gonna cost ya girlfriend.
- Extra clothes for each child
- Obviously for spills or accidents, but also for things that get them wet. I didn’t realize how many splash pads and water play areas there actually are. We ended up having to buy the 3-year-old a new outfit on one of our first days there because I only had extra underwear for him, not a whole outfit. Facepalm. Another expensive lesson learned. Also, to that same token, if your kids have crocs- take them. We packed tennis shoes and ended up buying crocs because of the whole splash pads everywhere detail. Trying to dry out tennies two nights in a row was a joke and we broke down and got $50 crocs. More chest pain.
- Self-explanatory, but again, pack enough. Powdered sunscreens are great for reapplication and squirmy kids. And as a reminder, because I can’t resist, SPF 30 or higher and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming. Skin cancer’s no joke and being burnt is real uncomfortable. Love, your friendly neighborhood dermatology provider.
- Water bottles for everyone and snacks
- It’s hot. Don’t get dehydrated. Or caught in a long-ish line without a fruit snack pack for your screaming kid. ‘Nuff said.
- Small first aid kit
- pack things like bandaids (for blisters), hair-ties, gum, ibuprofen, antacids, and antidiarrheals. Because no one likes diarrhea.
If you are able, bring built-in help
My in-laws are earth angels. My mother, father, and sisters-in-law with their respective significant others came with us. The extra help was ah-ma-zing. On that note, don’t be too proud to take the help, nor afraid to ask for help if you need it. My mother-in-law has this amazing ability to sense when my husband and I need a break trying to reign in our kids and swoops in to take over. They obviously listen to Grammie better. My sister-in-law’s superpower is to let me know when I’m being a tad bit of a psychopath and distracts my kids so I can cool off and reign it in.
If there are people in your village that help you like this, have them come with you if at all humanly possible. I legit have no idea how people do Disney with multiple kids without help. If you’ve done it, you are my hero.
Remember that they are just kids
It is easier said than done. I had to remind myself over and over that my babies are just that: babies. While a Disney trip is beyond magical, it’s also beyond overwhelming for littles. Who am I kidding? It’s overwhelming for me! What happens when your babe is taken out of their normal routine, overstimulated, get tons of special food they are not used to, likely doesn’t nap and is in general minorly inconvenienced? THEY LOSE IT. So don’t be surprised when meltdowns and “misbehavior” happens. It is going to. Remember when I had to hop on down from cloud crazy? THIS is what I’m talking about.
The first day or so in the parks, I was so all-consumed with making this trip perfect that I was stressing myself and my family out when things didn’t go as planned. I was able to enjoy vacation so much more when I let my kids be kids, accepted the screaming and the meltdowns and just rolled with the punches.
Do you know what I remember most about my time there? The squeals of joy and looks of pure exhilaration and happiness plastered on my kids’ faces 90% of the time. You’re going to have some unpleasant moments- it’s just life with kids. Do me a favor and let it go- just like my girl Elsa would do. You’ll be ugly-crying tears of happiness and feeling like your heart might burst in no time when your kid meets Mickey Mouse for the first time. Trust me, it’s gonna happen. Besides, everyone else’s kids are being tiny jerks too. You’re in good company.
Lastly, I’m leaving you with a list of resources that I found extremely useful in planning my family’s Disney trip:
- Disney Park’s Mom Panel has answers to any question you could ever have about a Disney Vacation- and it’s answered by mommas!
- Disney has a specific section geared towards young children that I found helpful
- This blog that I came across was super helpful in finding a stroller that fits in the guidelines that Disney has:
- Download the Walt Disney World App. It gives you real-time wait times for attractions as well as a hub for all of your itineraries and plans booked through Disney
I hope that your vacation is as dreamy as you have envisioned in your head and that your babies have the time of their lives and make memories they (and you!) will treasure forever and ever, amen!
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” -Walt Disney
“The impossible” like take your family to Walt Disney World. You can do it, Mama! I have faith in you!