I have often encountered guests nervous about bringing a baby along on a Walt Disney World vacation. While any trip with a little one can be challenging, a trip to Walt Disney World is about as easy as travel gets. Disney is totally used to having infants among their guest population and have systems and supplies on hand to make a visit with a baby as easy as possible. To make things even more smoothly for mom and dad, here are some things you should consider when planning a Disney trip with a baby.
Air travel can be tough on little ears
It’s difficult to predict how an infant will react to his first air travel. Feeding a baby, or offering a pacifier, may make it easier for the child to equalize ear pressure. If you’ve had a bad experience flying in the past, you may want to discuss with your pediatrician the possibility of using a pain reliever such as children’s Tylenol.
Your baby can go with you on any ride for which there is no height requirement
This gives you dozens of options at Walt Disney World. At the Magic Kingdom alone, babies can go on Buzz Lightyear, the Peoplemover, the teacups, the carousel, Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. And that doesn’t include shows, parades, or character greeting experiences. You won’t lack for things to do at the parks. If there are more intense rides that you’d like to go on, but which don’t allow tots, then you can take advantage of Disney’s Rider Swap option.
Your baby will likely be more comfortable in your own stroller
The Disney rental strollers are hard plastic with no padding or support. Additionally, the Disney strollers must stay in the theme parks. They are really most appropriate for toddlers or preschoolers. For a smaller child, you’ll want something softer that reclines. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a stroller than can be used throughout your vacation: at the airport, at your resort, at Downtown Disney, etc. If bringing your own stroller doesn’t make sense, you’re likely to be better off with an independent rental than with the Disney strollers.
Strollers are not allowed in ride lines. Have a plan for how you’re going to carry your baby while you’re waiting for rides
If you have a good touring plan, you won’t be spending tons of time in line, but even in the best of circumstances you’ll be spending at least a bit of your day hanging out in a queue. A fifteen or twenty pound baby can feel like a lead weight when you’re holding her in line on day six of your vacation. Consider bringing a Baby Bijorn or similar front carrier or sling to use in lines. In many cases, you can continue to wear your baby while you’re on the attraction itself.
If you’re using only Disney transportation, you won’t need a car seat during your vacation
Car seats are neither required nor permitted on any form of Disney transportation. This includes the Magical Express buses from the airport, as well as the resort-to-park buses, boats, and monorails. You can hold your baby in your lap on any of these vehicles. Of course if you’re riding in a car, your baby will need a car seat. Most auto rental agencies will also rent car seats. Of course you will also want to check with your airline about what their child restraint recommendations or requirements are.
Practice with the Pack n’ Play
The standard Disney crib is a Graco Pack n’ Play play yard. These are readily available outside Walt Disney World, perhaps you have one already or have a neighbor from whom you can borrow one. It may be worth it to have your child practice sleeping in a Pack n’ Play at home for a while so that it’s familiar before your trip. There may be a VERY limited number of standard cribs available to borrow at Walt Disney World. If you child won’t sleep in a Pack n’ Play, you may want to inquire about getting a real crib in your room. Or if you don’t want to take your chances on crib availability, there are a number of independent companies who rent baby supplies, such as cribs, in the Orlando area.
In my experience, the closer I kept to my daughter’s regular nap schedule, the better time we had in the parks. Naps give everyone a much needed break from the hyper-stimulating theme park environment. Be sure to put some down time into your schedule.
Modify your expectations
While you may have been a theme park commando in your pre-parent days, your baby doesn’t (yet) understand the allure of the Ultimate Touring Plan. To an infant, a duck swimming in the Castle moat and Donald Duck’s fuzzy wings may be equally, or even more, entertaining than a stage show or ride. It’s OK to have a loose plan, but give yourself permission to abandon it if circumstances warrant.
The Baby Care Centers are your friend
Each of the Disney theme parks has a Baby Care Center. Locations are noted on the park maps. The Baby Care centers are quiet and air-conditioned, a real haven during the warmer months. They have multiple changing tables, a darkened seating area, electric outlets for breast pumps, kitchen equipment for warming food or bottles, and a supply of baby food, formula, and diapers for sale.
It’s OK to breastfeed your baby anywhere at Walt Disney World
Florida law allows breastfeeding anywhere in public. However, if you’re looking for a quiet or private place to nurse, you can use the Baby Care Centers. Other good spots are longer or show-type attractions including Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, or Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom; American Adventure, Circle of Life, or Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot; Voyage of the Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; or Finding Nemo or Flights of Wonder at the Animal Kingdom.
Figure out your diaper strategy ahead of time
The Disney shops carry only a very small selection of diapers and wipes, at a hefty price premium. Check out our suggestions about ways to have your diaper supply at Walt Disney World more economically than that.
Figure out your baby food strategy ahead of time
The baby food situation is similar to the diaper situation. The selection is small and prices are high. Plan to shop in Orlando, get a grocery delivery, or bring your own feeding supplies from home.
Take lots of photos
Your baby may not remember a trip as an infant, but when she’s a bit older you can use photos to remind her of the trip. This can help set the stage for a positive future visit.
Don’t be afraid to bring reinforcements
If the number of babies is equal to or greater than the number of adults in your party, having an extra pair of hands can be a real sanity saver for all. My family made several Walt Disney World visits when we had three children under the age of five. It’s certainly possible to do this with two adults, but we had a better time when we brought along the grandparents, or even a babysitter.
So parents of teeny tots, what have been your best strategies for traveling to Walt Disney World with a baby? What do you wish someone had told you when you first visited as a parent? Let us know in the comments below.