Disney Under Three: Tips for Making the Most of the Magic With Littles

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At first glance it might seem a bit like we lost our minds that day.

But no, we were there, fully lucid albeit rather sleep-deprived, traipsing round the Magic Kingdom with a 23 month old and a five week old.

Did I mention it was 92 degrees out?

Yeah. There was that.

Originally, a one day excursion into a Disney Park didn’t seem like a big deal, even with a little one in tow, but when you throw the temperature, frequent nursing, and a nap shy, overheated toddler into the mix, you’ve definitely got a recipe for making a family memory or two.

Just not the kind folks usually head to Disney World for.

Granted Walt Disney World has a lot to offer new moms and infants; a private nursing area and ‘baby center’ can be found beside Cinderella’s Castle, various baby items can be purchased throughout the park, and entrance for under threes is of course free.

Hey, with kid’s tickets only running about $6 less than adult tickets that alone is reason enough to give the under three Disney vacay some serious thought.

Sadly though, we just couldn’t quite escape the fact that our newborn was uncomfortable in the heat (no matter how many fans pointed towards him), the lines were still a little too long to avoid toddler edginess on most preschooler friendly rides (think Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, or Flight of Peter Pan) and those sporadic torrential downpours that are so very common in Florida? Well, they’re just a little too likely to push tiny people and their parents over the edge for my taste.

In my honest opinion toddlers and preschoolers can have a BLAST at Walt Disney World, but a bit of forethought and a simple plan of action go a loooong way towards making the magic last the whole day.

So here are a few tips and tricks for the Magic Kingdom (the most preschooler friendly park) that I hope will save anyone attempting what we did, a few tears, while adding in a few more moments of family magic.

Things I Wished I’d Brought:

  • A clip-on fan and batteries.
  • A Frogg Toggs cooling towel.
  • A travel pillow for impromptu toddler stroller naps.
  • More toddler-friendly snacks than I could shake a stick at.
  • A water bottle with built in filter and sports drinks mixes – those water fountains can taste pretty nasty.
  • Ponchos/umbrella/waterproof stroller cover — Florida downpours can be exciting with tiny ones, no?

What I Wish I’d Known Before:

  • The journey to Magic Kingdom takes the better part of an hour. There’s driving to the parking lot, paying, parking, walking to a shuttle (or if you have a monster double stroller like we did, walking the whole way to the ticket kiosk if you’re buying on the day). Then you take a ferry across to the park where you wait in line to have your bags checked and enter the park itself. This whole hullabuloo makes it fairly unappealing to quit midday for naps and regrouping, only to head back to the Magic Kingdom later the same day. In the future we’ll likely aim for shorter days starting early (at least while the kids are still this young), or purchase park hopper tickets to make the most of our afternoons at some of the more easily accessible parks for shorter bursts of family fun!
  • You’ll lose your stroller in a heartbeat if you don’t make it stand out. Cast members move them, they get swallowed by the other 15,000 strollers outside of attractions, and frankly as new parents you sometimes forget which one was yours to begin with. Tie on a scarf, a family sign, a balloon, whatever it takes — just remember what to look for.
  • Rider Switch will allow thrill-seeking parents to enjoy a few of the more grown up rides too. We worked this out towards the end of the day, so when the kids passed out in their stroller the hubby and I took turns making the most of Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, while the other one took up a spot in the shade with the team. Camaraderie folks.
  • There are no cheap snacks or beverages in the Magic Kingdom. But there are water fountains, free cups of ice available wherever food is served, and if you want to share a family-sized portion of something sweet for around $5, head over to Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland and order one of their warm cinnamon rolls. Seriously yum, and it fed three of us easily!
  • Book Flight of Peter Pan months in advance (no I’m not joking) or be prepared to wait over an hour. We skipped this all together with the tiny ones. Next time though, we’ll be reserving our fast passes 60 days in advance since we’re staying on Disney property!
  • Clip on fans can be tricky to find in the parks. We quickly discovered that we needed one (like yesterday) for our infant, as the day turned out hotter than was forecast, and I ended up traipsing all the way back to the first park store you arrive at when you enter through the gates (the one on the left, FYI) to purchase one for $15-$20 dollars. And then batteries on top of that. Not a great start. My advice? Bring your own from home with a generous supply of batteries (the park fans eat them up like the dickens, we went through two packs in one day!), and maybe even a water squirter/mister to help cool you all down while you’re at it.
  • Fancy a story? A little known activity is Belle reading the story of Beauty and the Beast beside Cinderella’s Castle! Snuggle up for a quick break from the park crowds and enjoy this classic tale.
  • Hey, the Disney magic really does extend further in the Magic Kingdom; here, Dads can change diapers too! Every male restroom that we entered in the park had great baby changing facilities and while I had to stand in line for often 15 minutes to change one kiddo, my husband just waltzed right in and was done in minutes, no line, no nothing. Congratulations babe, we have a winner. The diapers are all yours from now on at Disney.
  • Fancy meeting some classic characters but don’t want to battle the huge lines with little ones? Head over to the ‘circus’ close to the Dumbo ride to meet Goofy, Donald and Daisy. Sure, they’ll be wearing brightly colored circus costumes rather than their usual garb, but they’re instantly recognizable, their appearances are frequently repeated, and the lines tend to be waaaay shorter.

Wishing you all a magical summer folks!

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