So I just took a casual NINE MONTHS off here…… is this thing still on? Mom, Dad, can you hear me?
We recently went to Disney with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old when the crowd scale was measuring a 9 out of 10 and the result was worth resurrecting the blog over. I’m here to share a few tidbits of info others may find helpful or encouraging before they embark on taking mental terrorists to the happiest place on earth. This post is over 3000 words so grab a cup of coffee and dive in or feel free to skip! I have a lot to share about our house that I need to circle back to! It only took me an hour to remember the password to login to this bad boy and a little longer to remember how to post…
The most important part of going to Disney with babies: Ready your heart, Mama.
I kind of joke (but not really) that I set my expectations at rock bottom going into this. When I thought of Disney I thought of crowds, a lot of crying, a lot of sweating, and a lot of waiting and to be honest a week or two before we went when we realized the crowds were expected to be almost at a 10 we questioned if we had lost our sanity. (This little trip was tacked on to the end of a family vacation in at a Florida beach) It is expensive right? You feel like you have to sell an arm to go and you can’t do that right? Because you need that arm! For holding a kid or two! And what do we adults do when something is expensive? We want to get our money’s worth of course! So you want to savor every minute? Come away with a treasure box of photos where everyone is smiling and wearing adorable matching Disney clothes? You want to ride all the rides and do all the things? Hold it right there. Order the tickets, set aside your cash to spend in the park, and forget about it completely. Don’t think about it again. You’ll get your monies worth but it won’t at all be in the places you thought you’d find it. So mamas, let’s recap step one. Ready your heart. Start each morning being grateful you’re there and remember that your kid won’t be the worst behaved one there that day. TRUST ME. They won’t die if they have cotton candy for breakfast, sunscreen WILL find a way into their eye despite all your effort, and there might be tears…they might even be your own but you’re about to see your kid have the best time of their life. The image of Everly’s face after she left Tinkerbells house is forever burned into my memory.
Dad’s—The best thing you can do is be a little extra attentive to your lady in the mornings. They are preparing for battle so tell them they look nice one extra time, for the love help them pack those bags for the day (Mom’s will likely forget the things THEY need for themselves…does she have her sunglasses? Does she have an extra shirt for herself for when the baby spits up or poops on her mid day?), and remember the pace you’re setting…slow it down partner. You will not ride all the rides and see all the things (because, kids) so trust me when I say it’s fine if your toddler can’t find her shoe and you miss the parking shuttle 3 times because of it. Your wife will be SO thankful if you don’t act like you’re in a hurry to get everything right and perfect the first time. Breathe in, breathe out…it’s only 8:30am. Oh, and try to snap a few pictures of your wife with your kids…I bet she’ll take a million pictures of them, a bunch of you too, and she’ll treasure the ones you got of her with the babies! (I swear we weren’t really holding up this line this badly!)
Diving straight in…..
What is your #1 defense against cranky tired tiny humans? SNACKS. Disney is gracious enough to let you bring in your own snacks and drinks so you don’t have to sell your other arm (you need those arms, remember??) for a lemonade the size of their head and a pretzel they’ll declare is “nasty”. We brought in the kid’s favorite things right down to the apple juice. In a completely overstimulating environment I think having 5 minutes of something familiar helped re-center everyone. In the Magic Kingdom at the end of main street before the castle are some little AstroTurf areas that were my favorite spot for the girls to chill out for a minute.
So lets talk food. If you want to eat in a sit down restaurant you most likely need a reservation. We just didn’t do this…I was not at all impressed with the food in the Magic Kingdom…I’m not a hot dog and fries girl on a hot day so maybe it was just me.
We found the best place for food options and value was actually the Starbucks on Main Street. They had sandwiches and salads that seemed not only healthier but just more appetizing for hot weather. The prices were better for what you were getting ($10/person/meal) vs. $10 for a hot dog. The coffee prices were also very similar to what they would be anywhere….we were surprised at the lack of mark up. An iced coffee in the middle of the day was clutch. And if your kids can handle getting off the routine just a little it helps tremendously not to be eating meals at the usual meal times because it will be a lot less crowded!
Speaking of feeding….Each Disney park boasts that they have a baby care center for nursing mothers. This was the only thing I found disappointing about the trip. It’s a TINY space at the very front of the park that smells like the worst dirty diapers you’ve ever smelled and only has two stalls for nursing. I assumed it would be like a big room for mothers where they could nurse…false….it was a small “waiting room” full of dads and other kids and a line of mothers waiting for the stalls. I gave up on it because I’m truly in the camp of my kid shouldn’t have to wait in line to eat in a stall so the rest of the world isn’t offended. It took us a few minutes of walking around to find a bench that wasn’t smack in the middle of 600 teenagers. Hollyn won’t take a bottle so that was our only option. Even if you have bottle fed babies taking breast milk I’d choose wisely because I can’t imagine finding a place to pump there. Just a heads up to nursing moms, choose your own outfits with all this in mind. I found myself in a dress one day feeding Hollyn in a bathroom stall while 100 toilets flushed simultaneously around us. YUCK….but because of my dress (which I thought would be cooler for me) I was locked in to this.
Regarding bathrooms. The very first show we went to was Disney Junior Live at Hollywood Studios and we had such high hopes for Everly loving it. We had a fast pass (more on this below) and so we got all situated inside and Everly announced she had to pee. Of course, right?? That’s how this thing works. My Disney rookie self panicked a little and asked her if she could hold it (what was I thinking??) So, I went to a “cast member” and told them our situation and she flashed a huge smile and told me there was a bathroom right through a nearby set of doors. It was the nicest bathroom I saw while at Disney and we were back in our seats just in time for the show to start. It was there that I first noticed how tailored Disney is to small children and I counted that as the start of the magic. When it came to diapers I changed Hollyn’s wet ones in the stroller quickly. There were changing tables in all the bathrooms for more complicated changes but I avoided it as much as I could because I just am not a fan of public changing stations….ya feel?
At the advice of a friend I got this little potty seat a while back for use in a public restroom. It folds up small and makes it easier for a tiny one to sit on a big potty and keeps them off of it. Just keep it in a zip lock bag along with some wet wipes and potty breaks will be a breeze.
DON’T CRY OVER SPILT BEER
While in Epcot one day we decided to try a beer in the Mexico section. At $10 a pop it was a little cheers to us for surviving (and enjoying) our trip! Before Blake could even take a sip from his Everly accidentally knocked it over. No crying over spilt beer right? Blake said “I wonder if they’d give me another….” I laughed and said “no way it’s not their problem we spilt it!” He went to the counter and explained what happened and pointed to the park bench where we were with a wet ground under it. Wouldn’t you know it Disney replaced his beer for him at no charge….I’m telling you…they are dedicated to your family having a magical time 🙂
PARKING & STROLLERS
If you stay off property (we did) parking will cost you $20/day and you can reenter as you would like. This is just a fun fact in case you’re staying off property and trying to get an idea of budget together. The parking lots have little tram looking shuttles running back and forth which you will have to fold strollers up to get onto. Just an FYI don’t deck out your stroller to perfection just how you want it for the whole day as soon as you get out of the car. Because 20 yards later you’ll be folding it all up and then having everything checked at the entrance.
You don’t have to fold up your strollers on the monorail or the ferry which is definitely a plus if your kids are snoozing away in them. Everly hasn’t napped in a stroller in well over 2 years and she was sound asleep in hers by the end of the day all 3 times. Disney World is magical like that!
Speaking of sleep….we stayed out pretty late with ours (9ish each night) and Everly went straight to her bed and straight to sleep every night. Do not pass go, do not collect $200…she was absolutely ready to sleep so that’s a win to not fight a toddler bed time after you’ve walked 14000 steps that day. The baby on the other hand….I’d say whatever kind of sleeper you have at home you’ll probably end up with at Disney as well. Hollyn still got up to feed at night the same way she does at home.
Stroller parking was something I’d read about before going but was a little unsure of to start with. Everyone just leaves their strollers and all their contents while they go into shows and on rides. I was nervous the first time so I took in our fans and a couple other items but quickly realized parents are so totally on the honor system there I wasn’t worried. There are also attendants constantly reparking strollers so don’t be alarmed if yours is in a little different spot when you come back….count it as lucky someone was looking out for your stroller I guess. I walked by a stroller one day that had two big YETI cups in each cupholder….if that’s not trust in society I don’t know what is.
We own a double stroller but we opted to take two umbrella strollers instead because they take up less room in the car. I’m happy with our decision because we could split up if we wanted to and it seemed easier to maneuver around crowds. If I had it to do over I may have purchased one of those universal stroller organizer bags and a cupholder? We were just throwing all of our stuff in the baskets under the stroller which was fine but a little disorganized at times. Also, we spotted this squirrel in Epcot feasting on snacks he could reach.
Unfortunately he actually chewed through this stroller basket despite us shewing him aggressively away….we left a note on their stroller that their apple had been contaminated.
A must have for a warm weather visit is a stroller fan!
We had one already but got this one on Amazon and everyone in the park was asking us where they could buy them. The park sells the fan mister bottles for $20 each but those were the only in park options we saw.
DISNEY WITH AN INFANT
I really didn’t realize that Disney let’s you take your baby on pretty much whatever you want. Hollyn rode nearly every ride that Everly rode which I was surprised by…we figured one parent would have to wait at each ride. It was so much fun to ride everything as a family. Some of the rides I just turned Hollyn in to me because I felt like they were too stimulating for her. We also rode Pirates of the Caribbean which has a little drop in the dark that no one warned me about…..I held her tight and it was fine but just FYI if you go on that ride holding a child….I was surprised about it. Here I was trying to take a family selfie on the Toy Story ride.
We were new to the fast pass game but caught on fairly quickly. You get 3 fast passes you can schedule ahead of time and <em>after you use all three </em>you can get one more at a time. Because of the way this works it would benefit you more to schedule your fast passes during the first part of the day. People constantly pick up and drop rides so every time you refresh the fast pass options new rides may pop up…it’s worth constantly checking. We used these for nearly everything we did there and we were able to do everything we wanted to do in Magic Kingdom without standing in lines (for longer than 10 minutes). There are kiosks in the park you can check fast passes with or you can download the Disney app and do it on your phone. It may be worth taking on of those extra battery chargers for your phone because if you use it for your camera like we did our batteries were very low towards the end of the day.
WHAT WE RODE
Our favorite rides (for a two year old) were the jungle boat, the little mermaid, magic carpets, dumbo, people mover (in Tomorrowland…there’s like no wait for that), it’s a small world, swiss family tree house (no line…just walk through), Mickey’s Philhar magic (this was AWESOME), the carrousel, teacups. This may not seem like a ton but ya’ll…it took the ENTIRE DAY. We ended up being there for the 9pm light show which did not disappoint but it was actually the perfect time to see some princesses. If your little one wants to see princesses and could do without the fire works head to the Princess Hallway during the night show….we walked right in with no line to meet Cinderella and Rapunzel and a couple others.
Things that we didn’t love—peter pan (WHAT is the hype over this???), the laugh floor (Monsters Inc comedy thing…it all went over Everly’s head).
We didn’t get to do Winnie the Pooh because it closed but we heard good things! We visited Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot. I’ve listed the things we did in Magic Kingdom just because it was largest but if anyone has questions about the other parks feel free to ask!
Another thing I had no clue about was the playground at Dumbo. When we went there was a 35 minute wait (we had a fast pass though so it was maybe 5 minutes for us). However, if I’d known about the playground inside the circus tent I wouldn’t have wasted a fast pass on this. You get a buzzer like at a restaurant and your kids can play in a really cool black light playground within the circus tent until it’s your time. To me, an indoor playground would have been a great spot to hang out and a bonus!
WHEN IT RAINS
I haven’t mentioned yet that it rained every day we were there. At some times it was POURING. We knew they were calling for rain so we bought ponchos at Walmart prior to the trip for $4 a piece instead of the $10+ ponchos you can by in the park.
It’s a pretty nasty feeling strolling around when it’s raining but it’s another one of those “adjust your attitude” moments. It is what it is and you’re there and can’t do anything about it so just don’t let it get to you. Your kid definitely doesn’t care about the rain and it’s still really warm outside. Have towels in the car (and we had pajamas to change the girls into) and it’ll all be ok. The parks do allow umbrellas but that just seemed like such a hassle. Take a zip loc bag to put the wet ponchos into when done. And trust me, you’re going to look like George Bush a few times fighting with those ponchos haha!
WHERE WE STAYED
So I mentioned previously that we stayed off property (near Sea World). This wasn’t any big deal for us. We drove in each day with no trouble, parked and were in the park with little hassle. The day we went to Magic Kingdom the monorail was down in the morning and it took nearly two hours to get into the park because they could only take people by bus or shuttle. Even those staying on property had to do this so that still wasn’t an advantage. Kids were absolutely losing their minds, parents were at their wits end by 10am but Everly thought the ferry boat was the first ride and she was PUMPED about getting on it. We had snacks and it wasn’t ideal but we just kept getting Everly excited about the “ride” (the ferry) and she was fine. We are just lucky she didn’t pull a “I have to pee moment” in THAT line.
You can definitely find affordable rooms in the park as well! For us, with the two kids we prefer the hotels that are more like a suite style where Everly can sleep on a pull out sofa. If you have Hilton points or something where an off park hotel would be better for you I would definitely not feel discouraged at all about the convenience of it all. With small kids you’re going to be moving at a slower pace no matter where you are! I mean, who would be in a rush to get this babe out of her Minnie pjs??
The last day we ended up leaving Epcot early and going to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) to have dinner at Rainforest Café. I would highly recommend this for small kids! We had read the reviews saying the food was terrible but the atmosphere is just so cool for kids! We ordered a really large appetizer for dinner and drinks and actually thought everything we ate from the sampler platter was really good food! So I was again, pleasantly surprised!
We didn’t spend much time at Disney Springs but it seemed like a fun atmosphere and there is a GIGANTIC Disney store where your little one can pick out just about any Disney toy they could dream up! There was also a cool Lego store. Parking at Disney Springs is complementary and the best place to park we thought was in the “Lime” parking deck.
We had such a fun time and will definitely be taking the girls back! Maybe next time we’ll aim for the off season but if you find yourself going during peak season, with two small kids, and only rain in the forecast…FEAR NOT! You can have a great time!!!! I’m so happy Blake snapped this picture of me and the girls before we headed out for the day… Even though by the end of the day everyone was a wet mess, this is how I’ll remember it! For those wondering where I found the girl’s ears, here is the link for the hair clips. The headband is under that same link. Both stayed in really well for us given a day of running around the Park!
Anyone else have any great hacks for doing Disney with babies? I’m sure people would love to know them (I know I would!) So feel free to drop them in the comments!