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10 Disney World Tips for Brave Parents of Small Kids

DisneyWorld585When our in-laws told us they wanted to take us to Florida to hit up Disney World over the New Year, my husband and I were excited. And also scared. Very, very scared. Because we have two kids — 22 months and 3+ — and we didn’t know how four days of park adventures would go. We’d had experience with lugging kids around parks and the meltdowns that sometimes ensue, so we figured there would be about 30 minutes of magical bliss followed by eight hours of tears. For four days straight. Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised and had a fabulous time. We also learned a few things about taking small kids to big parks. And to your benefit, dear reader, I’m sharing those lessons learned with you!

10 Disney World Tips for Brave Parents of Small Kids

1. Go in with low expectations. Set the bar low, and you won’t be disappointed. Kids are unpredictable, and they won’t be smiling blissfully with Mickey the entire time. They’re used to schedules and routine, and Disney is far from routine. There are pirates and haunted houses and roller coasters and flying Peter Pan rides! It’s not their average day, and they may be overstimulated the moment they walk in. Go in with a good attitude, prioritize a few of the must-see attractions, but expect a few tears. Then, hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly and magically surprised!

2. Nap if you can. Both kids were exhausted from travel the day before and a couple of the park days they were ready to nap by 10 a.m. Do not fight the nap! It’s too much trouble usually to get out of the park for a nap in the car, so make the stroller as comfortable for naps as possible. Use throw blankets or jackets as makeshift pillows and walk (or wear) the kids until they pass out. Even a quick 45-minute sleep session saved our days. Mine both slept through the entire Pirates of the Caribbean line and ride — and my husband’s arms were feeling it (I was the lucky one with the lighter kid in the Ergo)!


Make the naps happen and everyone will be happier!

3. Think stroller logistics. We rented a double stroller and brought our Ergo, and they were fabulous to have. The rented stroller was way easier to push and get them in and out of than our monstrous double. It took some work getting into and out of the park without a stroller, but hauling a stroller would have been almost as much trouble as it would have been help. Taking it on a tram or monorail? No thanks!

4. Snacks. Also saving the day were snacks. When you can see a meltdown coming on, try a snack. Often my kids were just hungry and needed a quick munch or drink and they were good to go again. Fruit snacks saved the day when we were deep in a line or waiting on a meal at a restaurant. You cannot be over prepared on the snack front.

5. Characters. Meet a character. It is worth the time to stand in line to meet a Disney character. We met Jake, Sofia, Ariel, Pooh, Tigger and Mickey Mouse (obviously!). Seeing my son give Pooh and Tigger huge bear hugs may be one of the highlights of my entire life.


Worth the price of admission.

6. Fast Pass. This is obvious, but hit up the Fast Pass to bypass long lines. It’s free, and you simply swipe your entry card to get a ticket with a set time to hit up a popular ride. You skip the long wait and jump almost to the front. It’s huge.

7. Rider switch. This one is the best tip of all: If not everyone in your party can ride a ride because of height limits, you can talk to a cast member and they will hook you up with a pass when you exit the ride. That way, the parent that’s waiting with a shortie can ride the ride without waiting in line again.

8. Cook if you can. We stayed in a condo, and with kids, it was so convenient to have the option to cook breakfast and dinner. By dinnertime we were too afraid of what the tired kids would do in a restaurant situation, so we usually opted to stay in and at least cook for them if not ourselves. Plus, it’s way cheaper and healthier than going out every night.

9. Prioritize endurance and strength training beforehand. Nope, I’m not just saying this because I run health and fitness websites. My husband and I were seriously committed to keeping our running and strength training strong just so we wouldn’t be totally wiped out by the parks. And it worked! The 3-year-old is at the fabulous stage where she doesn’t want to sit in a stroller but she also can’t keep up with walking too terribly far, so there was a bit of carrying. Okay, a LOT of carrying. While yes, we were exhausted and our arms were sore from hauling, we didn’t feel nearly as wiped out as we have in the past at parks or long days at the zoo.

10. Eat the cake. Magic Kingdom had this chocolate cake at some of its restaurants that was to die for. My husband and I shared one both days, and I’m still thinking about it. Eat the cake! You’ve earned it.

We had so much fun, we can’t actually wait to go back. That place is seriously magical! Have you been to Disney World? What tips would you tell other parents before they go? —Erin

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