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What's one thing that could make you dread going to the most magical place on earth? For me, it was the prospect of bringing my baby to Disney World. I wondered if I would even get to enjoy any rides, if it would be hard getting around with a stroller, and if my baby would be miserable with the hot sun and crowds.
I needn't have worried. Of course one of the most family-friendly places in the world is totally doable, if not downright enjoyable with a baby! You just have to know a few insider tips before you go.
I was lucky enough to have my very own Disney expert with me - my mom! That lady loves Disney World and knows every tip and trick in the book. We had just moved down to Florida, and when she and my dad came to visit, we decided to make a trip to Disney with our 2-year-old and 8-month-old.
Sure, I had extra sets of hands with me, but knowing exactly how to enjoy Disney with a baby would help so much even if my husband and I went by ourselves.
How to Do Disney World with a Baby
1. Bring a stroller AND a baby carrier.
Hear me out. Normally I'm a fan of minimalist packing - don't bring more than you need! However, in this situation, I think it's actually really beneficial to have both a stroller and a baby carrier.
Your stroller will be like your family's mini home for the day. You can store bags, snacks, and water bottles in the basket underneath the stroller. You can put your baby in there to hide them from the sun. I've even seen families attach mini fans to the stroller to give their little one a nice cool breeze. You also might be able to get a nap or two out of your child by pushing them in the stroller and closing the sun shades.
Now, when you get to the rides and attractions that are baby-friendly, you're going to have to park the stroller and carry the baby. If your kids are anything like mine, your arm will feel like it's falling off after 10 minutes, and some of those lines stretch for 45 minutes to an hour. Here's where your baby carrier comes in handy. Strap the kid in and enjoy some hands-free time in line trying to entertain your toddler.
Related: The Best Stylish Backpack for Travel
I use the Lillebaby carrier for a few reasons. It's made of breathable material which is a necessity in the hot Florida sun. It has a little zipper pocket for your cell phone on the front of the carrier, which as a mom-tographer is absolutely necessary. You have to be able to whip out your phone for pictures and Instagram stories at a moment's notice. You can use this carrier for babies of all ages and stages up to 45 pounds. And most importantly, it's the only baby carrier I've ever tried that doesn't hurt my back because it has AMAZING lumbar support. Mom win! I got the grey one so my husband would be ok with wearing it in public, but there are all kinds of cute options!
2. Feed your baby in a comfortable spot.
Did you know Disney World has Baby Care Centers in every park? I didn't realize this until I had to bring a breast pump along with me, and needed to find a place to use it! Breastfeeding moms have the "luxury" of being able to feed their baby anywhere, but some might want a quiet cool spot to do so, especially if your baby is in the stage where he or she gets distracted during a feeding.
Just ask any Disney Cast Members where you can find the Baby Care Center and they'll point you in the right direction. The one in Epcot even has a tv and playroom where dads and older kids can hang out while you feed the baby. There are also kitchens where parents can mix formula or prepare baby-friendly food, rows of changing tables, high chairs, and private bathrooms.
3. Make use of the Rider Switch Service.
I'll let Disney explain what this service is:
"If a child does not meet the height requirement or a Guest does not wish to board a particular attraction, no problem! With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again!" - Walt Disney World website
You'll just have to make sure that the ride you're going on offers the Rider Switch feature, then pick up a pass from the cast member attending that ride, and you'll be assigned a spot to wait. This is one of my favorite features at Disney World - they truly are family-friendly, and try to make the experience as seamless as possible no matter what age your kids are.
4. Look for rides with no height requirement.
These are the rides you can bring your baby on. Magic Kingdom is a great park to do with little ones because there are so many great rides with no height requirement: think Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, It's a Small World and so many more. Check out Disney's Planning Guide for Parents of Preschool Kids and Little Ones for more info.
5. Pack snacks and water.
The day I no longer have to use my stroller, otherwise known as my snack buffet on wheels, will be a dark day indeed. (Who wants to lug all of their snacks and water bottles around in a backpack?) Disney allows you to bring your own food and beverages into the park, so plan accordingly. If your baby is eating solids, go ahead and throw those baby-friendly snacks in a portable cooler. Also, nursing and pumping moms need to stay hydrated and nourished throughout the day, too! You can find my favorite water bottles to keep water ice cold for hours here and here.
6. Stay at a Disney Resort.
There are options for every style and budget when you’re staying at Disney. There are value options like the All Star Resorts and gorgeous luxury options like the Grand Floridian. Wherever you choose to stay, you can be sure that Disney World Resorts will accommodate even the youngest member of your family. Just request a travel crib and make sure your room as a refrigerator for milk storage.
The main reason you’ll love on-site resorts when visiting Disney World with a baby is that you have easy transportation to and from the parks so you can go back for naps or early bedtimes. Some of the higher end accommodations use the monorail for transportation, which means you can keep the baby in the stroller while you head to and from the parks. If you’re taking the Disney buses you’ll have to fold up the stroller.
7. Dine early.
If you’re planning on eating at one of Disney World’s many incredible restaurants, whether that’s a character breakfast or just a restaurant in the parks, make sure to make reservations for an earlier dinner time. The restaurant will be less crowded so you won’t feel as stressed if your baby is fussy. Also consider using the Disney Dining Plan since kids 2 and under eat for free, which is awesome if your baby is starting to eat solids.
8. Arrive at the parks before they open.
Whether you’re making use of Extra Magic Hours or already in line right as the gates open, you’ll appreciate being in the park when it’s cooler and less crowded. Babies are usually up at the crack of dawn anyway, so this is a natural fit for families. Our strategy when doing Disney World with a baby is usually to go hard in the morning, then head back to our hotel for an afternoon nap or a low-key swim.
Depending on the baby’s age and whether they can sleep in a stroller, we might go back to the parks after nap time and try to stay until the parade and fireworks.
9. Be strategic about rides.
I picked up this tip from my Disney VIP Tour Guide, Michael. He was leading our little family around Magic Kingdom, and mentioned that the best way to do Disney World with little kids, and babies especially, is to alternate indoor and outdoor rides.
The reason for this is that it gets so hot during the day in Orlando, and this gives you and your children a chance to sit in the shade and air conditioning to get a break from the hot sun. It helps to plan out which rides and shows you want to hit, then map them out to see what order makes the most sense.
You’ll also want to incorporate your FastPass+ strategy into this, scheduling what time of day you’ll be in each park round your FastPass+ times. Make sure to choose rides like Peter Pan, Splash Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean that always have long wait times.
10. Dress for the weather.
When doing Disney with a baby, it’s important to remember hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lots of water. Pack a lightweight muslin blanket for extra breathable shade if your baby is napping. Even if the forecast says the weather will only be in the 70s, it always ends up feeling a lot warmer than that with the hot sun blazing down.
Sometimes it’s cooler in the morning, so just layer everyone in a long sleeve shirt that you can shed when the sun comes out full force.
We’ve made the mistake of forgetting a hat for our bald babies, and it makes the day so much tougher when you’re trying to hit all the fun rides and stay in the shade at the same time. Babies have such sensitive skin, so keep them protected, and don’t let the weather ruin your day!
Even babies love the Mouse! Don't let having tiny kids hold you back from experiencing such a fun family vacation. In fact, I would argue that Disney is one of the best places to ease into family travel because they truly cater to families. Then you can work your way up to hiking the Grand Canyon and trans-Atlantic flights.