Traveling with young children to Disney is especially magical, as for them every Disney fantasy is real. Despite this, facing parks with younger children requires a lot of care and much greater planning in order to avoid any trouble.
Today, the tips I’m going to give are aimed at helping families traveling with young children to enjoy their trip to Disney even more.
This is a unique, magical and emotional moment for the little ones and for those who witness their enchantment with Disney magic. If you are traveling with children, I hope you find some interesting tips for your trip here. 😉
- 1 Tips for Going to Disney with Young Children
- 1.1 Get your child Excited About the Trip
- 1.2 Prioritize the best parks for Kids
- 1.3 Rent a stroller for the kids to rest
- 1.4 Bring snacks to the parks
- 1.5 Food outside the parks
- 1.6 Use the Baby Care Center
- 1.7 Check which attractions your child can visit
- 1.8 Enjoy more with Rider Switch
- 1.9 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Jedi Academy
- 1.10 Saving some Money
- 1.11 Enjoy every interaction with characters
- 1.12 Visit a themed restaurant
- 1.13 Stay at themed hotels
- 1.14 Respect your child’s pace
- 1.15 Consider starting a collection
- 2 Include different activities in the schedule
- 3 Consider a Disney Cruise
- 4 Extra tip: procedure in case of lost children
- 5 Are you going to travel? Get your Travel Insurance at a discount!
- 6 Guarantee the Best Trip to Disney
- 7 Secure internet for your entire trip
- 8 More Tips for Your Trip to Orlando
Tips for Going to Disney with Young Children
Get your child Excited About the Trip
If your child is young, most likely he still doesn’t quite understand what Disney is. So tell him that this is where a lot of the characters from the movies live and watch the movies of the characters you’ll meet on the trip. Building that anticipation and seeing which characters your child would most like to meet is a great way to get your child excited about the trip.
Just be careful not to create this expectation too long in advance, as you may have to hear the question “When are we going to Disney?” much more often than you’d like if you start cheering your child up too soon. 😛 Then start this warm-up for the trip one month in advance of the departure day, more or less.
Prioritize the best parks for Kids
If the purpose of the trip is to introduce Disney to young children, prioritize parks accordingly. I always advise people to read our itineraries in order to understand the purpose of each park and then define which ones are most interesting for your group.
That advice still holds true, but based on my experience, here’s a list of how I would prioritize parks with young children in mind:
- Magic Kingdom (ideal to visit twice with children)
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
- SeaWorld (if you like this park. A lot of people, myself included, don’t agree with the way SeaWorld treats animals)
- Busch Gardens
- Islands of Adventure
- Universal Studios and Epcot
Again, this is my personal opinion for a child with standard taste. I continue to believe that you will know how to prioritize parks better than I do based on the scripts and preferences of the children in your group.
If your child has loved Harry Potter from a young age, then Universal’s parks can be given more priority. If he’s a Star Wars fan, Hollywood Studios is the hot shot. Therefore, be sure to take your group’s profile into account when setting this prioritization.
Rent a stroller for the kids to rest
Days at the parks are extremely tiring even for adults, let alone children. So a good way to ensure that your child gets the rest he/she needs whenever he/she wants to, without having to be separated from the rest of the group, is to rent a pram.
These strollers, which can be rented both inside and outside the parks, are prepared to hold even older children, who at other times would not use a stroller. Of course, here is the common sense of parents or guardians to define when their child can walk or when he will need this break.
That way, when they get tired, they can hitch a ride in the cart and even take a nap in the middle of the day. There are two basic types of carts for rental at Disney:
- Simple (for children up to 22 kilos): US$15 for one day or US$13 per day for rentals of more than one day.
- Double (for children up to 45 kilos): US$31 per day or US$27 per day for rentals of more than one day.
In addition, several other Orlando companies also offer this service, often for a better price than the theme parks. It’s worth researching. Some people prefer to buy a cart just for the period of travel.
Considering the prices of a simple cart at Walmart Orlando, it really might be worth it, although I’m sorry to drop the cart there later. Anyway, it’s good to know that this option also exists and can even be cheaper, depending on the number of park days in your itinerary.
Bring snacks to the parks
When we travel with children, we are always concerned about the diet and hydration schedule. In the euphoria of being in the parks, children won’t even remember their hunger and thirst, so it’s up to us to remind them of the importance of being well nourished.
In order to avoid having to stop all the time to buy a snack or a juice (which will cost exorbitant prices inside the parks), consider buying some basic items at the supermarket and taking them to the parks.
If you rent the stroller as mentioned in the tip above, you can leave the bag of food hanging in the stroller and only worry about it when you want to get something to eat.
Check out our Orlando supermarket guide to choose the best place to buy your snacks, as well as our post to find out what you can and cannot take with food to the parks.
Food outside the parks
Some children are more relaxed and eat everything, while others miss Brazilian food a lot. If you think you might have problems with your child’s diet, the tip is to choose a hotel with a kitchen to prepare (or even just heat up) an easy meal in the way you know he’s going to eat at least a little bit.
Many supermarkets, such as Publix, sell lots of natural and healthy items for you to prepare at the hotel such as beans, rice, nest milk (here in Orlando it’s called Nido) and even Bauducco toast, guava, condensed milk, etc.
In fact, Publix and Whole Foods have food areas like a buffet by the kilo. You take what you want and pay at the checkout. There are great options!
Also, if you want to go to a Brazilian restaurant, you will find here several that we have already reviewed. But my favorite in terms of cost-benefit by far is Ana’s Kitchen. Well-cooked food at a fair price and you can even take it out frozen. So if you’re in a hotel with a place to heat up food, you can even avoid having to cook while on vacation. 😛
Use the Baby Care Center
All parks have a baby space, fully equipped so you can take care of your baby or toddler. The space includes a larger changing table, a small kitchen with space to heat baby food or snacks, a high chair to feed them, a more private space to make the children sleep, among other amenities.
Usually the Baby Care Center is close to the park entrance and any employee will be able to tell you exactly the location, in case you need guidance. We’ll tell you more about how it works here.
Check which attractions your child can visit
Some park attractions have a minimum height requirement for safety reasons. Make sure your child has the minimum height to ride an attraction before allowing him to get excited about the idea.
There is no way to bypasses the height limit rules. This requirement is to ensure your child’s safety and that’s why Disney is so strict on this point.
If children smaller than the specified height enter the attraction, they could be injured.
Therefore, they never make an exception in this case. Click here for a list of attractions that require a minimum height.
Enjoy more with Rider Switch
This is probably the main tip of this article. If you and your entire group want to go to an attraction but your toddler is unwilling or unable to go, you can take turns who goes and who gets the child, but you will only get in line once.
Both Disney and Universal offer this benefit under the name Rider Switch (at Disney) or Child Swap (at Universal).
We explain in detail how they work here in this other post, but here’s a summary:
It works like this:
- When you arrive at the attraction you want to go to but your child cannot or does not want to go, go with the whole group to the employee who will be at the entrance of the ride and ask for a Rider Switch. At Disney, the Disney employee will ask to see the card or MagicBand of everyone who will be waiting. Up to 3 adults can take the Rider Switch. At Universal, the waiting part of the group can wait in a small room. In most cases at Universal, you walk the entire line with the child and only then arrive in the small room to take turns at the attraction and who stays.
- With MagicBands/cards, the Disney employee will add the Rider Switch to their My Disney Experience account. If you look at your app after that, it will show up as an additional Fastpass+ in your account, with a pre-set time (usually between 20 minutes and 1 hour after the appointment, depending on the attraction’s queue time).
- When the rest of the group leaves the attraction, the person who was taking care of the child will be able to enter the attraction by “jumping the line”. In the case of Disney, the queue is cut along with people who booked Fastpass+. At Universal, you will enter right in front of the entire line. So that the visitor does not have to go alone, the Rider Switch can be used by up to 2 people in your group, that is, one lucky person can go twice to the attraction.
- Note that the Rider Switch has an indicated time to start being used, almost like Fastpass+. So you need to keep an eye on My Disney Experience to see when you can use it. To avoid bouncing around the park a thousand times, I generally recommend using your Rider Switch as soon as you get the chance.
Extra Tip: Note that Rider Switch works as a Fastpass+ for a limited amount of people. If your group is small (up to 4 people+ child) and you actually have a child who cannot/want to go to attractions, then you can maximize the use of your Fastpass+ as follows:
- Take the Fastpass+ for half of your group for attractions your child will not enter. Before using it, go with the whole group to talk to the cast member and ask for his Rider Switch.
- Once you have the Rider Switch registered to your account, use your Fastpass+ so that half the party doesn’t have to queue up.
- When the first half of the party leaves the ride, the second half also uses the Fastpass+ queue, but using the Rider Switch. Thus, using only 2 Fastpass+ at a time, the 4 of the group can go to the attraction without lines and you can divide your Fastpass+ among a greater number of attractions.
- “But Renata, do Disney employees let you do this?” Yes! Today at least, they do. Some people think this is wrong, but I beg to differ. Without the benefit of multiplying Fastpass+ with the Rider Switch, families with young children would still take twice as long at all attractions as they would have to queue twice each time.
Universal parks offer Rider Switch/Child Swap for all attractions.
At Disney, the attractions that accept this benefit are:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Splash Mountain
- Space Mountain
- The Barnstormer
- Stitch’s Great Escape
- Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Mission: SPACE
- Test Track
- Frozen Ever After
- Rock & Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Expedition Everest
- Kali River Rapids
- Primeval Whirl
- Flight of Passage
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Jedi Academy
If your kids are fans of princes and princesses, they’re sure to love the idea of turning into one or one. Disney offers this kind of transformation for children over 3 years old with a unique experience at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (where girls become princesses and boys princes).
If you want to read about the experience of a child (and parents!) at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, I highly recommend Luciana Misura’s report on her blog, Collagem.
In addition, there is the Jedi Academy, a show where children learn to be Jedi and even fight the saga’s villains. The show takes place several times a day at Hollywood Studios. To participate, parents must register children early in the day at the ABC Sound Studio.
While I recommend Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to children of any age and nationality, I recommend the Jedi Academy only to children who meet the following requirements:
- Know what a Jedi is
- Children who are very uninhibited or who know a little English
- Don’t be afraid of a figure like Kylo Ren or Darth Vader
In other words, I only recommend it for a small group of young children, but when they grow a little, they will enjoy the Jedi Academy better 🙂
Saving some Money
Even if you or the children are not interested in Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Jedi Academy, children may want to dress up while visiting the parks.
Truth be told: transformations in these salons are unique experiences, but they’re not cheap at all. Even buying a princess costume at a Disney store is already quite expensive.
To avoid getting surrendered in the situation where your child feels he NEEDS a costume to enjoy parks, the tip is to plan and save by buying these things in advance on Amazon, where you can find beautiful costumes and much cheaper.
This goes for princesses, super heroes, pirates, mermaids, Star Wars, Harry Potter and whatever else you want.
Another alternative is to buy a costume in Party City. There the options may be a little more limited than Amazon, but you find good prices and don’t need to have it delivered to your hotel.
Enjoy every interaction with characters
One of the most traditional experiences of a trip to Disney is the interaction with characters, especially when traveling with children who still believe in these characters.
It is very magical to witness the enchantment of a small child meeting their favorite characters. In order to get the most out of this experience, make sure you’re planning on having all the major types of interaction that Disney offers:
- Secure a good spot at the stop so your kids can wave and see the characters up close.
- Book a character meal your child likes.
- Take a photo with the characters in the parks.
Visit a themed restaurant
In addition to character restaurants, children tend to love themed restaurants. To cite a few examples: the Rainforest Café is all forest themed, the T-Rex is all decorated with dinosaurs and the Sci- fi is just like a drive-in of yesteryear. Book a meal at one of these places and get in the mood with the kids.
Just an addendum: before making a reservation at such a restaurant, probe your child to see how much the topic will appeal to them.
I was a very cowardly child, I would surely be scared to death if my mother invented taking me to the T-Rex or Rainforest Cafe when I was 4 years old. Everyone knows the children they have, right? She never even tried.
Stay at themed hotels
Along the same lines, themed hotels may not be essential, but without a doubt they are the “something extra” that is also very popular with children. Disney and Universal themed hotels make you feel in the mood of the parks during the entire trip, 24 hours a day.
It’s not uncommon for kids to freak out at these hotels’ pools more than they enjoy many of the parks. To help you decide which hotel to choose, see our list of Orlando’s best themed hotels here.
There’s a pirate’s room, a princess’ room, Nemo’s room, Lion King’s room, Minion’s room and so on.
If you want a themed hotel with at least a microwave to heat up any food for the kids, my recommendation is the Art of Animation family suite.
Respect your child’s pace
We can make a thousand plans and think we know what the kids will like. However, it can happen that you arrive at the parks and your child doesn’t even call Mickey but becomes enchanted by the Disney Springs water fountain or the light toy that is sold on the streets at night. Respect his preferences.
If he wants to go a million times in a row in Dumbo, enjoy with him. If he’s sleepy, make sure he can sleep. If he gets scared, don’t insist. Respecting the children’s rhythm is very important for them to enjoy it as in the end, that’s all the parents want, right?
It’s thinking about it that at the beginning of the post I recommended two days for the Magic Kingdom. So you enjoy one day in the morning and early afternoon and the next, afternoon and night. With this, you prevent the children (ok, not just the children) to wear out and guarantee that they will be able to be well for the main attractions of the park at different times of the day.
Consider starting a collection
Since very young children can’t go to most attractions yet, a good way to keep them entertained is to start a collection at the parks. It can be a collection of autographs, pins, stuffed animals or many other options.
Include different activities in the schedule
Disney is full of less obvious options for little ones entertainment that not everyone knows about. The options are many and some of the most interesting activities you can find are:
- Fort Wilderness Pony Ride
- Bonfire with Tico and Teco, also at Fort Wilderness
- Mini Golf for the whole family. It can be used by children from 3 years old.
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, at Magic Kingdom and Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, at Epcot (which we’ve already talked about in the script for these parks)
- Bowling, hot air balloon ride at Disney Springs
- Pirate cruise to see the fireworks
Consider a Disney Cruise
I’m even suspicious to say because I’m a big fan of Disney cruises. I think it’s great for everyone, regardless of age, but in many ways, I find this experience even cooler than parks for young children – those who are no longer in diapers but are still too young to be able or want to go to many attractions of the parks.
On the Disney cruise, children have several opportunities to see characters and interact with them, there are activities for all ages, several pools and a super nice environment. Also, when the kids get tired, just go back to the bedroom! Without having to drive or park or anything like that.
My recommendation is to always leave the cruise towards the end of the trip, in order to relax well before returning home.
Extra tip: procedure in case of lost children
Many parents have asked me about the fear of losing their children in parks and whenever asked about this topic, I give my tips based on two experiences I had: working on the streets of Disney and having already found some lost children and of having lost my sister in the park once when she was six.
What I can say is that all staff are well instructed to find the child’s parents as quickly as possible while trying to prevent the child from being frightened by the situation.
Most employees are able to communicate quickly through the radio system to make it even easier for the family to get together and that is why these situations are usually resolved very quickly.
If you happen to find yourself in this situation, contact a park employee and follow their directions.
The procedure can vary, but at Magic Kingdom, for example, they will usually send you to the Baby Care Center, where they usually take children who get lost. In addition, here are some tips that we always follow in my family to facilitate a reunion:
- Once you arrive at the park, identify the Baby Care Center and try to find some easy way to explain to your child that this is where you should meet.
- Differentiate a Disney employee from the other adults in the park for your child. Instruct him to look for one of the people with the white badge in case he gets lost and not to talk to anyone else. You can leave him with a note in his pocket to show in case he gets lost or teach him a basic phrase. When I was 4 years old my mother taught me to say that I was from Brazil and that I didn’t speak English. But I think it might be more practical to teach him to just say he’s lost.
- Those identification tags can be annoying, but they’re a great convenience at this time. Leave your contact number and any other information you want on the tag wristband on your child’s arm every day you visit the park.
- Take a picture of the child with your cell phone every day before entering the park. That way, when you’re nervous, you can show a photo of her to Disney employees, and not risk forgetting what outfit she was wearing (which is normal to forget in a situation like this).
At Universal, there is no such clear-cut procedure regarding lost children, so the above recommendations are even more important.
Anyway, the main thing is not to panic as these situations tend to resolve quickly and in a short time you will be having fun in the park again.
Well, with all these tips I hope you and your children enjoy the trip to Disney even more, after all, it is primarily for children that all the Disney magic is created every day, we just get on the ride! Then tell us about the trip, okay? 😀
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Although several places in Orlando have free Wi-Fi, the connection is not always good and mainly, in several situations where you will be moving from one place to another we recommend that you have internet to use gps on your cell phone for example.
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More Tips for Your Trip to Orlando
As we talked about above, be sure to check out our youtube channel where we give several travel tips to Orlando.
In addition we show you lots of cool things to do there, do you want a better way to plan a trip than already living a little bit of what you will see there?
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