Wondering if a trip to Disney World with toddlers is worth it? Traveling with littles is never easy and Disney World presents its own set of challenges – long lines, crowds of people, long days and extra late nights.
But the Disney World parks can be a magical experience for toddler-to-preschool-age children. At that age, princesses are REAL and everything is so very MAGICAL. Character meals blow their tiny little minds. Take advantage of those first-time visit photo opportunities! The pictures you take will create a lifetime of memories and your little chatterbox will relive every detail of every encounter for years to come. Disney with toddlers is a magical vacation.
Before you venture off to Orlando, Florida with visions of Hidden Mickeys and character breakfasts, keep these tips in mind.
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1. Costumes are abundant at Disney parks.
I’m not talking about the characters. It’s the kids. One out of every five kids you’ll see in the theme parks will be in costume or sporting a Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse shirt. Of course, once your kiddos see this, they’ll want to join the club. Think about this RIGHT NOW, before you get to Disney! Princess dresses in the parks run close to $60. Do yourself a favor and hit a Walmart or Target to buy one before you board that Disney-bound flight. Or check out the wide selection available on Amazon.
I was able to find a Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) dress and tiara for $27 total. I packed it in our luggage without our daughter knowing. (Hint: Keep it in a bag or your clothes will take on that glittery princess look as well.) Once we arrived, we had the princesses leave it as a “surprise” in our hotel room one morning. She wore it every day we were there. In retrospect, I should have bought 3 dresses and skipped packing normal clothes.
Read More: Complete Disney World Packing List
2. Consider your child’s mobility when doing Disney with toddlers.
Strollers are great and many kids end up using them for rest and/or naps during the day. Take into account what your child-to-adult ratio will be, how many kids you’ll have with you and your kiddos’ rest needs. If you do bring a stroller, you’ll need to park it outside of rides, which can slow down your progress getting through the ride line. Make sure you add something to make it easy to find after!
On one of our trips, my daughter was barely 3. We brought a baby carrier and she walked a lot of the time with small periods of rest riding in the baby carrier. On our next trip, we had more kids with us, so we brought a stroller and were thankful we did. (Here’s how we managed to travel WITHOUT a baby crib, thanks to my TravelingDad husband.)
Keep in mind that strollers rented in the parks from Disney cannot be taken to other parks. You’ll need to grab a new stroller at each park. So depending on whether your park tickets are hoppers or not, you may want to consider renting a stroller from off-site. Bringing your own stroller? Make sure it meets Disney size requirements.
3. Take advantage of the Disney Baby Care Centers.
You may be saying “Wait, I have a toddler, not a baby.” Yes, but the Baby Care Centers are still amazing. The entire
My husband loves that you can buy Pedialyte there, which we always give to our kids to prevent dehydration. Be sure to pay the center a visit. Each park has a baby care center.
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4. Plan out toddler-friendly Disney rides in advance.
Toddlers won’t be able to go on everything (sorry kiddo – no Space Mountain for you!). There are height requirements, and you’ll want to keep fears and attention spans in mind.
We have an entire series of articles on kid-friendly rides for doing Disney World with toddlers. Here they are sorted by Disney park:
Best Rides at Magic Kingdom For Toddlers
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Best Things to Do with Preschoolers
EPCOT with Preschoolers
We also cover our favorite parks to hit with toddlers here. While our lists include classic fan favorites like it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, we also cover some fun new rides you shouldn’t miss!
5. Just because they’re tall enough doesn’t mean they’re old enough.
Have a tall kid? So did I. She could ride almost everything at a very young age.
I made the mistake of bringing her on DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom. Oops. As almost everyone who has been on that ride can attest, it is not very kid-friendly. She was horrified. It was dark and bumpy. Dinosaurs jumped out. There was a threat of our annihilation.
Above where I mentioned those great articles we have on the kid-friendly rides in each park? This is your warning. Go back to them and bookmark them! I wish I had done more research on the “fear factor” of some rides. Even a simple boat ride like Pirates of the Caribbean can be scary for a toddler who doesn’t do well in the dark.
6. Do you want to meet a princess? How to find Character Meets.
Princesses are a little more scattered than they used to be. We are sharing where they can usually be found but the best way to find daily character meet times is in the My Disney Experience app. Don’t miss your favorite character! Check it every morning. Here are locations where my family has found princesses in the past.
At Disney’s Magic Kingdom:
Princess Fairy Tale Hall is the place for princesses. Lineups can change but standard rotation princesses include Cinderella, Elena, Princess Tiana, and Rapunzel.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If you are staying on-site in a Disney resort and there are extended evening hours, character lines are short! So if your kiddo is a night owl, take advantage.
Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland is the place to find the Little Mermaid. Bring a dinglehopper for a fun photo opp!
Merida’s meet and greet can be tricky to find, but I highly recommend it because you get to do a little archery with her. There are no Fastpasses available for Merida. She is located to the right of the Cinderella Castle. Walk on the bridge like you are headed to Tomorrowland and look for the path off to the left.
Princess Jasmine can be found in Adventureland near The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
At EPCOT Disney:
Morocco. Princess Jasmine is near the Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco.
Anna and Elsa now reside at the Royal Sommerhus in Norway near Frozen Ever After. You can also make dining reservations at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. They are not always included in the lineup there. Morning diners have reported them coming in frequently and it puts you right where you need to be to queue up for Royal Sommerhus.
Mulan meets kiddos near the entrance to the China Pavilion in the World Showcase. It’s the only place to catch her.
Belle and Aurora both have meet and greets in France.
The best way to find many of your favorite Disney characters is to check the My Disney Experience App while on site. Many of the “pop up” meet and greets in EPCOT don’t have Fastpass available.
In Animal Kingdom:
Pocahontas is a regular on the Discovery River Cruise. Check daily showtimes on the app.
We’ve also met Kevin (bird from Up!), Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Chip, Dale, and Donald Duck at Animal Kingdom.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
There aren’t any current princess meet and greets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, there are tons of fun characters. Disney Junior characters like Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, Pluto and Fancy Nancy hang out in the Animation Courtyard. Sully from Monsters Inc. is at Walt Disney Presents in the Animation Courtyard. BB-8, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader hang out at Star Wars Launch Bay. You can often spot Donald Duck on the front entrance balcony on Hollywood Boulevard. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are located at Red Carpet Dreams and Olaf gives warm hugs at Celebrity Spotlight near Echo Lake.
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7. Don’t judge a ride by its cover when visiting Disney with toddlers.
Frequently I see folks overlooking shows or quiet rides in favor of thrill rides. Going to Disney with toddlers forces you to look past that. Remember, every ride at Disney has a story behind it, so even some of the slower ones can be enjoyable.
If it hadn’t been for my toddlers, I likely would have skipped some of the fun sing-along shows at Disney, such as the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studio’s For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.
Even play areas such as the Storybook Circus near Dumbo the Flying Elephant have hidden details if you slow down and look.
8. Disney with Toddlers Tip: Buy the Memory Maker PhotoPass option.
It’s a must for Disney with toddlers.
You’re at Disney, you’re herding around your family. Moods fluctuate with possible toddler meltdowns, you feel like a hot mess. Do you really also want to be responsible for all of the photo memories of this trip? No! You want to be in the photos too!
Memory Maker allows you to tap your Disney MagicBand every time your picture is taken. The photos are added to your My Disney Experience account so you can download them later. You must add this option no less than 3 days before your trip starts.
The pictures we were able to download were so much better than the ones we took. These are trained professionals clicking a mile a minute. They may capture the moments in between funny face and scowl that are pure perfection.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Disney photographers will take photos with your smartphone. It’s one of the best free things at Disney!
9. Think about a trip before your kiddo turns 3.
Children younger than 3 get into Disney for free! Some folks think that Disney should be a trip you do when your kids are older and will remember. That’s great! For us, though, we’ve brought most of our kids before we had to pay for their ticket. They still loved it.
And while my daughter at age 28 may not be able to articulate her trip to Disney at age 2, right now at 8 she can. She can tell us about what she saw, what dress she wore and what we ate. Memory fades over time, but to her right now? That experience was worth it.
10. Safety First!
Disney World is a magical place. It’s also crowded and chaotic at times. It’s important to be prepared in the unlikely event that you and your toddler get separated. Before going to the parks, snap a photo of your child in their outfit for the day. If they’re too young to remember their last name, where you’re staying or your cell phone number, put the info into their day bag or a pocket.
When you arrive at the park, point out Disney Cast Members to your toddler and let your child know that if they get lost, they can ask for help from Disney staff with name tags.
11. Relax and enjoy!
Remember, above all other advice you get, have fun! Breathe deeply. Perfection will not happen and is unrealistic. However, you can have a memorable time that will stick with your little one for years.
Then you will get to be the fun grandparent who brings her grandkids to Disney years from now in a flying car.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What are the best rides for toddlers at Disney World?
A: Some of the best rides for toddlers at Disney World include “it’s a small world,” Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Q: Are strollers allowed in Disney World?
A: Yes, strollers are allowed in Disney World. You can bring your own stroller or rent one from the park.
Q: Can toddlers go on all the rides at Disney World?
A: No, not all rides at Disney World are suitable for toddlers. Some rides have height restrictions or may be too scary for young children. Be sure to check the height requirements before getting in line.
Q: What are some tips for keeping toddlers entertained during long lines?
A: Some tips for keeping toddlers entertained during long lines include bringing snacks and drinks, playing games like “I Spy” or “Simon Says,” and bringing small toys or coloring books.
Q: Are there baby care centers in Disney World?
A: Yes, there are baby care centers in Disney World where you can change diapers, nurse, and purchase baby supplies.
Q: What are some good places to eat with toddlers at Disney World?
A: Some good places to eat with toddlers at Disney World include Be Our Guest Restaurant, Crystal Palace, and Chef Mickey’s.