Tips and Tricks for Taking a Toddler to Disney

By 1:23 PM , , , , ,

We just got back from an AMAZING vacation to Disney World. It was our son who will be two next month and husband's first visit and it was everything we could have ever dreamed of and more. Seriously. I was pretty excited about the trip myself but had very low expectations as I thought we were borderline crazy to take a toddler who is not even two to the parks for over a week but we had the best time. We had 7 day Park Hoppers and literally stayed in the park from opening to past midnight You can imagine what my steps on my Fitbit looked like. :)
That being said I thought I would use this post to share with you not only some of the amazing pictures from our trip but some of the tips and tricks we learned along the way to take a toddler to Disney and have a great time. I will share our schedule and planning tips in a separate post in the days to come. 

1. Build up the excitement ahead of time. We literally started talking to our little guy 6 months before we left on our trip. So much so that he was so excited that he insisted on taking his Mickey suitcase with him to school the last two weeks in case this was the day we were leaving. We watched all the Disney movies so he would be familiar with the characters and even watched YouTube videos of the parades and rides in the park so he would know ahead of time what to expect as far as the characters and rides go. And it paid off...big time! He shocked us how much he loved all the characters. He was not scared at all and we spent countless hours waiting in line to meet everyone and let him get autographs.

2. Let's talk souvenirs. Some of the best advice I can give you is to purchase souvenirs at home and bring goodies to pass your child while you are there - you can order an autograph in advance online. You will save a ton of money if you do this. Once you are in Disney the Walmart closet to Disney has a HUGE section of souvenirs and their prices are crazy cheap compared to the parks. The only two things you couldn't get at the Walmart were Christmas ornaments (we have this tradition where we like to get an ornament on every vacation we go on and Walmart did not have any Disney ones) and stuffed animals. Walmart actually does have stuffed animals but they were really bad quality and not many to choose from. They are $10 at Walmart and $20 at the parks and Disney Springs. If you want a stuffed animal for your child I would recommend purchasing in the parks. 

3. Stay on Disney property. There are so many perks to staying on property that it makes the additional costs 100% worth it. The biggest being the Magic Bands, Extra Magic Hours, and the ability to book Fast Passes earlier. More on that to come. This was one of those things we seriously debated skipping on when we booked the trip but I think we absolutely made the right decision and will definitely stay on property again on our next trip. We stayed at Art of Animation and loved it. If you stay at this resort I would recommend the Finding Nemo or Cars Suites or rooms. They are much nice than Little Mermaid and Lion King. And make sure to go underwater in the Finding Nemo pool ;). We stayed in Cars and our little guy LOVED saying night night and good morning to Mater and Lighting McQueen everyday.

4. Skip the meal plan. If you are wanting to save some money I would recommend you forgo the meal plan unless you book the time of year that it is free. We made a huge Walmart run before leaving for vacation and stocked up on easy lunch foods and snack foods and made a backpack full of food to take in to the park everyday. We did purchase a good bit of park food but found out when we compared after that not only did we save $500 but many of the food items we purchased would not have been covered on the food plan. 

5. Where to splurge on food. Our favorites were: Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom (you need to make these reservations as soon as possible which is like 3 months out if you stay on property) eating here is the only way to see Belle's Castle and you must try to the Grey stuff; Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge (great all you can eat buffet and a great way to see all the animals); and Chef Mickey's character breakfast. As far as food in the parks there is lots of great options at Disney Springs and we really like our apple cider slushy from Galveston's Tavern in Magic Kingdom and the Mexican restaurant across from Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom. The absolute best food we ate was hands down in Epcot. There was lots of really good affordable food from the Flower & Garden Festival and lots of good drinks for Mommies and Daddies if you catch my drift. ;)

6. Parades and Fireworks are a must and location matters. Best parades are the two in Magic Kingdom - the 3pm character parade and the night time light parade. The best firework show is in Magic Kingdom as well. The best seats in the house are on the front lawn directly in front of the castle (best view for the laser shower and to see Tinker Bell fly out of castle) and the lawn in front of the restrooms and restaurant back by Tomorrow World (best view for the fireworks). Make sure you are at your location prior to the night time parade as the fireworks are immediately following and you will not be able to move after the parade starts. For the 3pm parade the two best locations we thought were at a little restaurant (where you can sit down and see them up close) right before they cross the bridge to head in front of the castle or Main Street. Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios is also really good but scared our toddler a bit. It has lots of bad guys in it. Our least favorite firework show is the show at Epcot. If you have to miss one this is the one to miss. 

7. Get free water. No need to lug water bottles throughout the park. Any restaurant will give you free cups of ice water. Amazing.

8. Utilize Fast passes & Rider Switch. Both the Seriously though. The way Rider Switch works is one or two people in your party go and stand in line (when they get in line ask for a rider swap card) and ride the ride and then up to three people can come back and skip the line with the past by going in the Fastpass line to ride the ride again. Amazing. The entire time someone is waiting the other half of the group can be seeing characters with the toddler. Disney seriously thinks through everything. Fastpass is also awesome. You can book three fastpasses in advance per day (I plan to ride a separate post soon on which rides to get fastpasses for). I would recommend trying to book all three prior to noon because as soon as you use your three you can book another fast pass for everyone in your group. As soon as that one is scanned you can book another and so on with no limit. I would literally be booking another fastpass as we were getting on the ride. You can still get a Rider Switch pass even if you have a fastpass which I would highly recommend in case you want to ride the ride twice. 

9. Meeting Mickey. Hands down best Mickey in any of the parks is a hidden jewel in Magic Kingdom. This Mickey talks to your child and has a personalized individual experience with your family and if you hit up this Mickey right when the park opens first thing you won't have to wait in line. Mickey is in the theater to the right when you first walk in the park. Make a bee line for him and you won't have to wait. So very worth it.

10. Don't skip the shows. They are incredible. I plan to post another post on the best shows and rides and which rides to Fastpass soon. However for a preview our favorite shows were Beauty and Beast in Hollywood Studios, Nemo in Animal Kingdom, and Lion King in Animal Kingdom. 

11. Every park has a water play area or a ride to get you wet. Plan accordingly. The parks get hot and it feels nice to cool down but your toddler will be miserable in wet tennis shoes all day. We packed a pair of flip flops in our backpacks to change in to for adults and a bathing suit, swim diaper, and flip flops for the toddler so he could run and play in the water and then get back in dry clothes. Bringing a towel was a great idea too.

12. Last but not least - characters. Epcot has a character in every land more like Aladin, Jasmine, etc. . The Mickey and Minnie in Hollywood Studios were are second favorite. Hollywood also has Buzz and Woody together and army men and all the Disney Junior characters. If you get in line as soon as park opens you won't have to wait. The rest you might want to consider getting fastpasses for. There is also a jungle themed Mickey and Minnie at Animal Kingdom and we got to the Bugs Life character there, Flik. At Magic Kingdom our highlights were Mickey, Buzz, and Pooh and Tiger. 

We had an amazing trip! I hope you find these tips and tricks useful. Stay tuned for an additional Disney posts on the best rides and shows and what to fastpass and our schedule for the week. 

You Might Also Like


  1. I'm so happy to read this! We are planning on taking our daughter next spring and she will be just under 2! You're making me excited and glad that we have decided to go!!