Planning for Florida... With a Toddler!
Today marks 90 days until my next Disney adventure, a girls trip for one week to watch two of my dear friends tie the knot with a side of Mickey magic. That is, until my 3 year old crashed the trip!
Calvin was literally a perfect child for two weeks straight when we went to Disney World last fall. He never asked for anything in the stores, he never threw a fit over a show or attraction, and most importantly he ate like a human garbage disposal. I could not have asked for anything more, and it’s memories of those sunny days that get me through some of the tantrums of today.
When we decided to go to Disneyland Paris for Halloween I started to worry that my angelic toddler I had for two weeks a year ago might have been a fluke. Surely now that he was older, with a better sense of time, available options, and the sting of disappointment, he was going to have some tough times adapting at the parks when things didn’t go to his plan?
Nope. Another week of insanely awesome behavior, super flexible attitude and a healthy appetite prevailed. My kid is made for Disney! So it’s not surprising that I turned to hubby on day two of Paris and said, “I’ve got to take him to Florida in March!” I didn’t even wait to get home, I literally called my friend who is going with me in the car on the drive home from the airport to ask if she minded him joining us, and since she is also his godmother, she was more than thrilled.
So now, the preparations for the trip are taking a slightly different turn, to accommodate having a toddler in our party, but they’re also getting amped up for full on magic!
Here are some of my tips for doing Disney with a toddler, or toddlers in some cases:
Plan for naps/rest time.
- Now, at DLP this was a quick hop back to the hotel, at WDW it means a trek back to the room so you need to plan accordingly! It takes roughly and hour to get back to the room, so don’t leave it too late or your toddler will be over tired. It’s usually best on the days you plan to go back to do a big breakfast (we love the character dining at Tusker House or Garden Grill to start our day) and then grab something light to eat on the way back to the room or at the room even. We usually had some fruit at the bus stop and then grabbed a light bite at the hotel quick service option to munch in the room while he watched a “bedtime show”. It kept some routine, gave him fully belly to sleep on, and we also saved money by splitting a quick service since portions are huge! Early morning hours are great for this plan, or a pre-park opening breakfast reservation, so you can make the day longer which carves out time for the 3/4 hour nap break.
Take a stroller.
- I know you may not use one much at home, but the parks are different. Some families walk more than others, but we clock about 12-15 miles A DAY at Disney World (we did 9-12 at DLP and even have a 20 mile day!) Those little legs will need a rest, so bring one even for the big kids. You can park it in a designated stroller parking area and leave it if you want freedom to roam and then go back to grab it when little ones need a break. I cannot recommend a City Mini stroller enough. I make no exaggeration when I say it tops my list of trip essentials with kids, for three big reasons: Full sun shade and lay flat seat with ventilation, one handed steering, ONE HANDED FOLD. This is key for getting on and off of buses, monorails, boats and even tucking into your hotel room. It’s compact, fairly light, has a ton of storage and is a comfy ride for the wee one.
- Get a pocket bag from Bath and Body Works and hang it off your bag for quick access. You’ll be grabbing snacks, munching popcorn and tearing into bags of candy left right and center and going to the bathroom just to wash hands before a meal or eating is a total pain. It also give you peace of mind, after all the handle bar grabbing and fence climbing that you have a bit of defense against the germs.
Buy light up toys BEFORE you go.
- This is a huge one for me. Those light up toys they push around on carts are enticing, and seeing lots of other kids with them can be cruel to your little one if you don’t want to shell out $20 for one, so head to the store before you go and pick up one that no one else at the park will have! Theirs will be unique and special and they’ll love it all the more, plus you can save yourself about $15. Sometimes you can find some good ones on eBay too, from the parks, that people are wanting to sell on.
- Even if you are on the dining plan, pack snacks. In all honesty, toddlers can eat like little birds so unless you’re in the mood to split they’re a waste of a snack credit, to put it bluntly. You’re better off just taking few familiar favorites from home that you can pop in your park bag for those moments when they just want a little something. We did this and yes, we ended up with snack credits left at the end of the trip, but they were better off being used to get treats to bring home like big bags of candy or rice krispie treats, than wasted on half of a cookie from Starbucks. Also, the room they take up in your suitcase means room for souvenirs coming home!
Test pack your park bag and take it on an outing.
- Okay, so this is where I sound insane, but go with me here. Your park bag is the make or break element to your trip. It will be your hold all for the insane amount of stuff you need at the park with kids, so you need it to be accessible, with room for extras, comfortable, and easy to get through security with. Its not the same bag for everyone, but I would start by making a list of all the things you need to carry to get an idea of how big a bag you’ll need. This varies by if your kids are in diapers, on bottles, on baby food, if they need sunscreen or sweatshirts, those types of variables. I like to get a park bag and pack it for a day out to the zoo, or something like that, to take it for a spin and make sure it holds enough and is comfortable. Remember what I said earlier about 20 mile days? Comfort is key. Also, security has to check your bag so I highly suggest clear bags for inside to organize, whether thats Ziploc style bags or toiletry bags, or even ones from Amy’s Small World (@amysmallworld), which are my personal favorite.
Research the height requirements.
- Don’t take your kid to a ride entrance to measure them without knowing the requirement because that is how you get tears and tantrums. They will be so upset if they’re not tall enough, so check out heights at home, measure up your wee one, and if they’re old enough, brace them before you go that they won’t be able to ride everything. There is so much to do with no height requirement that it shouldn’t be too hard to distract them.
Those are some of my most essential tips for Disney planning with a toddler. I’d love to hear what you think of them, and would love even more for you to share some tips of your own in the comments!
Have a magical day,