I always dreamed of the day I would take my daughter or son to Disney World. My husband and I went to Disney many times before we finally had our baby girl. It took a few years for that dream to happen so while we were waiting, I kept picturing the perfect vacation with our little prince or princess.
I was pregnant when we went to Disney World in 2015. We could not wait for our baby to get here! We knew we would take our baby in January or February because of cooler weather and less crowds. We also were comfortable knowing she’d only be 18 months at the time.
Everyone around me knew my plans for wanting to take her at that age and I heard comments about how hard it would be and how crazy we were or how she wouldn’t remember. I knew when the time came it would be a different kind of trip than I was used to. What I couldn’t do was bare the thought of having anything short of a magical vacation.
So, I researched and researched. I thought about what would make taking a baby or toddler to Disney as smooth as possible. After almost 2 weeks of vacationing with an 18 month, I can tell you what worked for us (and what didn’t) .
Keep your baby’s schedule in mind.
I planned our first full day too early for our little night owl and this was the result😂
This was taken at park opening. Luckily, this was one of our only real early days for the whole trip. I learned this from day one and cancelled an early dining reservation for later in the week. I knew it was going to be too early for her but it was our first day in Disney World!!! I was so excited and thought maybe the Disney magic would hit her and she’d be awake. Obviously that wasn’t the case but we still had a wonderful first morning! These pictures are priceless.
After this day, we were back on schedule and she napped during the time she normally does for the rest of the trip. It was nice for us because she’d be asleep in her stroller in the late afternoon and the husband and I could just leisurely walk around and have ‘us’ time. We loved this at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival since we got to try so many things at the food booths and really take our time taking in the sights.
It’s all about what works for your family. If your child is an early bird then getting to the parks early will be fine for your family. That’s ideal really, because then you can go back to your room for an afternoon nap!! I can never say it enough that you can get so much done within the first few hours of park opening if you get there early.
Time of the year.
We usually go in January or February because of the weather and light crowds. The summer months or busier times can be more stressful with a little one. If you can go in the off season, definitely do it! It’s cheaper too!
Extra help is amazing.
When we went to Disney World, my mom, dad, brother, and cousin went with us for the first 8 days. Then it was just my husband, Cam, and I for the rest. It was the best of both worlds. We had extra hands yet alone time with our little family. On the days my family were there, my brother and I would get up early and hit the parks then in the afternoon everyone else met up with us. My hubby and daughter got to sleep in and I still got to do my early Disney mornings. I know my husband thoroughly enjoyed this part because he hates me getting him up so early while we’re there!
I’m not a huge thrill ride junkie so when the rest of the family wanted to do those things, Cam and I just got to hang out by ourselves. Everyone got to do what they wanted and I’m so grateful that my Disney loving family wanted to be there for Cam’s first trip. Even when it came to her Autograph book they were helpful. I was not used to having one and kept forgetting to get it out and signed because I was so focused on getting video and pictures! Luckily, a family member was on it and remembered to get it signed for us. It’s little things like this that were helpful.
When we were at restaurants they were lifesavers! As you know, going out to eat can be hit or miss with a baby! We have been very lucky in that she hasn’t caused too many scenes while out to eat but I’m always so nervous that it’s going to happen. It was especially nice at table services to have extra people there so that they could help entertain her and pass her around since those take longer. One thing I took from this trip is that next time we will probably try the Quick Service dining plan instead of the Plus Dining plan. We’ll just pay out of pocket for a character meal or two. At this age she is just not about sitting for long periods and with all that is going on around the parks and her seeing outside, she wanted to be on the go! She definitely is my child in that sense!
If you have grandparents or other family that want to go to Disney with your little one, let them. There’s nothing better than family memories plus you’ll have some extra help. I’m thankful I was brought up on Disney by both my parents and grandparents so it was even more special to see my parents there with Cam.
Take a ton of videos and pictures.
“Why would you take a baby to Disney when they will never remember it?” I’ve sure heard that comment a time or two! The thing is, is that no, she won’t remember it but my husband and I sure will!! Those moments of her first meeting Mickey and giving him nonstop kisses that made me teary-eyed and her walking around Disney Springs with pigtails, her shades, and her stuffed Mickey in hand, taking in all the sights, are some of my absolute favorite memories.
Start getting outfits as early as possible.
This one may sound crazy but when I heard “girl” on our ultrasound, it was all over. All I could think of were princess dresses and adorable Disney outfits!!
I knew we were going to Disney World when she was 18 months old so that gave me plenty of time to look for sales and I knew what size to look for. If you are familiar with the Disney Store then you know their stuff can be pricey but they also have awesome sales from time to time! I loved the excitement of finding deals and it even got me more excited for our upcoming trip with each outfit. I found Snow, Tink, Belle, Alice, and Jesse dresses for super cheap!
Other places besides the Disney Store sell really cute Disney clothes for cheap too! These were at Walmart!
This again depends on your child. I didn’t know what to expect while meeting characters but I had a couple of character meals and meets planned.
One thing to consider is there a difference between fur and face characters!! My daughter absolutely loved meeting the fur characters. Being me, thinking all princess everything I couldn’t wait for her to meet all the princesses in those super cute dresses I was just telling you about!!!
She couldn’t have cared less about the princesses😒
Get Memory Maker.
Most of the pictures on here are from Memory Maker and I love the candid ones they capture. I have always been the picture taker of the family so it’s nice to actually be in some pictures. This allowed me to video and or just be in the moment which is hard to do sometimes because I’m afraid I’ll miss snapping something. It is $169 (as of June 7,2017) if purchased at least 3 days before your trip and it is worth every penny! You even get ride photos!
Baby’s can ride so many things/Baby Swap
Most people don’t realize that babies can do so many attractions! They can’t do the coasters and big thrill rides obviously, but that still leaves so many rides! They can even ride Pirates of the Caribbean & Frozen Ever After even though they have tiny drops! I’m not going to lie, I was anxious about taking her on those but she did great. She wasn’t a fan but she didn’t cry!! Actually, the ride she wasn’t about at all was the People Mover when it goes dark inside Space Mountain! 😂
I was so nervous about taking her on the Haunted Mansion because of the beginning scene with the thunder and room turning pitch black. When that part happened all we heard was a little voice say “Uh Oh” and everyone around us started laughing. It was little moments like that that made our vacation so special and that was mainly because of her age!
A great thing about Disney with little ones is that if your child is too small or doesn’t want to ride a thrill ride you can do Baby Swap. This is how it works and is taken from the Disney website:
Each park in Disney World has Baby Care Centers to use and you can find them on the maps or the Disney Experience app. In Magic Kingdom it is between Casey’s and Crystal Palace at the end of Main St on the left, In Epcot it is before World Showcase Mexico in the Odyssey building, In Hollywood Studios it is right at the entrance where guest relations is, and in Animal Kingdom it is right beside Pizzafari.
They offer a clean, quiet, and private place for you and your little ones. They have changing tables, private nursing areas, feeding area with highchairs, microwave, oven, and sink, a tv area with seating and coloring pages, and best of all air conditioning! They also have a shop for formula, diapers, baby food, wipes, sunscreen, and more.
You won’t get it all done and your plans may not happen.
This was probably the hardest for me. I knew this going into it but it was still a hard pill to swallow for someone who plans everything to the T. Even though we were there for a good amount of time, we still didn’t do everything I had hoped and planned. We didn’t do Festival of Fantasy, Fantasmic!, Star Wars fireworks, or even some of my favorite rides. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an amazing trip that just gives us reason to start planning the next one!
We never get park hoppers because we like to stay in one park a day and never really had reason to hop. Since kids are so unpredictable you never know how long you’ll be at the park or if they just need a long break, park hoppers are something to consider. I wish that we would’ve upgraded to hoppers so we wouldn’t have missed as much.
For example, I only scheduled one day at Hollywood Studios thinking we would be there all day. That wasn’t the case and I already had dinner reservations or hard to get fastpasses for the other days so I really didn’t want to change things up. If I had purchased park hoppers everything would have worked out. We could have went to Hollywood in the morning then hopped to a different park in the evening or vice versa.
I’ll also let you in on things I bought before vacation and what we brought into the parks with us in another post. I’m not an expert at taking a baby to Disney by any means but I really learned some valuable things for next time and I hope this will help you too. It wasn’t the most perfect trip but it was my favorite trip after going dozens of times. I got to experience my favorite place with my favorite little person. I got to do things I’ve never done before like Harmony Barbor Shop for baby’s first hair cut and the Disney Junior show. That Disney World vacation was honestly a dream come true.
If you have any extra tips please leave them in the comments!