“We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.” Walt Disney
It goes without saying, that the Walt Disney World Resort is one of the most magical destinations on earth. Children of all ages enjoy spending time at any of the four enchanting parks. I often hear people say that they want to wait until their child or children are older to invest in a Disney vacation, but I believe that taking young children can be wonderful! With 3 successful trips with children under the age of five, I have a few helpful questions to help you get started in planning your trip with small children.
1. What is your typical day look like at home?
This may seem simple, but I believe that overlooking the normal or typical routine of home can set you up for disappointment in the parks. Is your child used to a structured day or are they more relaxed? Do they still nap? All of these things are important when planning your days in the parks. Some children are able to adapt easily to a full day in the parks, but others need to work up to it.
My oldest daughter was only 2 and half years old on her first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. My first step in planning was looking at our day-to-day routine. She had always been an early riser, so I had to throw out any ideas of staying in Parks late. We all know that a tired kid can be a grumpy kid. In fact, I messed up on our very FIRST night in the Parks! My daughter missed her nap, and by her normal bedtime, she was crying over the littlest thing. I realized my mistake and we headed back to our resort and she fell asleep before the bus passed the Contemporary Resort. I know my daughter needs her rest in order to enjoy all that these parks have to offer. We take naps almost every day, even now that she is 6 years old!
2. Does your child like Mascots/Characters?
Many children LOVE Mickey Mouse! However, when Mickey is standing in front of them over five feet tall, a lot of children become terrified. This is very different than their personal stuffed animals at home or on their television screens at home.
My husband’s job allows us to be around sport mascots quite a bit, so we had an idea of how our children would respond to the big masked characters in the parks. Of course, they loved the Princesses, but they needed to warm up to the idea of a BIG Mickey Mouse or Winnie The Pooh giving them a hug. Knowing that my girls almost ALWAYS wake up early, for our family we make the most of Character meals that serve breakfast. It’s a great way to start our day with some characters that are walking around the room and we can fill up on some delicious food! Some of our favorite character meals are 1900 Park Fare (at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) and Tusker House (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park). They get excited watching the characters circle the room while they are eating one of the delicious meals. By the time a character arrives at our table, they are ready to get that big hug and smile for the camera!
However, I know some children who are frightened of the tall masked characters all together. One of my friends took her daughter recently and we discussed in depth where characters would be located so they could avoid even seeing them. This is actually not as easy as it sounds, since there are often characters ready to greet guests as soon as they come through the turnstiles at the Magic Kingdom! But with a lot of planning, the family was able to enjoy a day in the park, enjoy Fantasyland, and meet several princesses without any contact with “scary” characters. If this is an issue with your child, don’t hesitate to talk to a Cast Member (CM) who can help you know where characters might be out around the Parks.
3. What about RIDES?
Of course, no trip to Walt Disney World Resort is complete without riding some amazing attractions! Dumbo, The Flying Elephant and it’s a small world are just two of the iconic rides that top the list of “must do’s” in Fantasyland, and luckily, neither of these rides have height restrictions. Everyone, from the baby to grandma can enjoy riding plenty of attractions together and have magical memories that will last a lifetime. There are a few rides that do have height restrictions, but many of those rides also offer Rider Switch. Rider Switch is a wonderful tool to be able to enjoy a ride without having to wait in line again. We have used Rider Switch several times in the last few years and it has been a wonderful way for my husband and I to each enjoy taking our oldest on a ride while the youngest was too small. My oldest daughter LOVES Rider Switch, because she gets to enjoy the ride TWICE.
Some rides can be scary to some small children and one tip I suggest is to look at pictures or search for YouTube videos. My oldest daughter was quite timid when it came to rides at fairs or carnivals, so we took time to look at pictures and videos so she would be prepared and ready to enjoy rides and attractions.
Have you taken your small child to Disney? What tips or suggestions do you have?