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 easy to have a great time at Walt Disney World, even with several small children in tow.
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.
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Your birthday! Your anniversary! Your graduation! Your retirement! Your recovery! Your promotion! Your reunion! Your return from service! Your new baby! Your college acceptance! Your big win! Your engagement! Your honeymoon! Your new job! Those are just a few of the reasons people celebrate. And they’re also some of the reasons people celebrate at Walt Disney World.
When I’ve answered questions for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, one of the most frequently asked types of questions was, “I’m celebrating X event at Walt Disney World. What can I do to make it special?” So what’s the answer? How can you make a celebration special at Walt Disney World?
MAYBE THE TRIP IS THE CELEBRATION
Please consider that you need not jump through any magical hoops to make a Disney celebration special. A trip to Walt Disney World is special all by itself. Space Mountain and a hug from Mickey! Seriously, life really can’t get much better than that. If you’re celebrating something for a child or a first-time guest, just walking through the front gates of the Magic Kingdom will make them feel on top of the world. Indeed, for a sensitive or easily overwhelmed youngster, a fancy to-do may be counterproductive, resulting in tears all around.
OK, MAYBE YOU WANT A JUST LITTLE BIT OF SPECIAL ATTENTION
Disney has long offered free buttons to guests as a way to publicly proclaim that they’re having a special day. These buttons are available at the guest relations offices at each park. Additionally, they often have a supply at the hotel check-in desks and at general ticket sales windows. (Please be aware that the free buttons are NOT the same thing as the for-purchase trading pins.) Buttons come in may styles and periodically change. Over the past 2-3 years I’ve seen: First Visit, Happy Birthday, I’m Celebrating (with a blank to fill in the occasion), Happy Anniversary, Family Reunion, Just Engaged, and Happily Ever After. These buttons don’t confer any special priorities, but they do let cast members and other guests know that you’re having a special day. You’ll likely get lots of extra smiles. Tom Bricker gives more great insight into birthday buttons in the post Celebrating Your Birthday at Disney.
If you want to take things up one notch further, you should make a point to tell EVERY cast member you encounter that it’s your special day, this includes cast you speak to when making room and dining reservations. Nothing is guaranteed (really, I mean it), but it’s not uncommon for birthday or anniversary celebrants to get small perks like free cupcake at dinner, a commemorative certificate, or a balloon in your room.
IT’S NOT A PARTY WITHOUT A CAKE?
Your first instinct when planning a celebration is to order a cake. If that’s what you want to do, Disney has a special hotline set up for just this purpose. A cake hotline. Why does this not exist in the real world? To order, call 407-827-CAKE (407-827-2253).
Not to be a killjoy, but I’m going to ask you to think out of the box with me for a minute here and say maybe you don’t actually want or need a cake, even for a birthday. This goes double if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. Here’s my thinking … First, there are desserts at Walt Disney World that are far more delicious and delightful than a plain old slab of cake. I’d rather have crepes from Chefs de France, ‘Smores from the ’50s Prime Time Diner, or the bread pudding at ‘Ohana. Slip your server a birthday candle and they’ll bring it out singing. Also, if you’re on the Dining Plan, your meal comes with dessert. Do you want cake on top of that? The answer may be yes, but I’m asking you to think about it.
My point is, do something different. Try to conquer the Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream. Have Dole Whip for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sample every kind of fudge at the Main Street Confectionery. The more off-the-wall your sweet treat is, the more your special someone will remember the celebration.
This cake went uneaten. We were completely maxed out on dessert consumption.
DECORATE YOUR ROOM
A great way to add oomph to your celebration is to decorate your hotel room. You can do this with streamers and balloons brought from home. When my family spent our first Christmas at Walt Disney World, I purchased several small artificial trees at Target, and we brought them on the trip and decorated them at the hotel together. If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer you can enlist the help of the Disney Floral and Gift Basket team. These dreammakers can be found online or at 407-WDW-GIFT. They have a number of room decorating packages available. They can also customize a basket for you. If you have something very specific in mind, get on the phone and speak to someone directly.
Beyond these basics, the best way to “plus up” a Disney trip to make it a Disney celebration trip is to take an honest assessment of the person or event you’re celebrating. For example, my family celebrated my twins’ sixth birthday at Walt Disney World. At the time, the were relatively indifferent to many of the rides at WDW, but were completely obsessed with meeting the characters. To make their day extra special, we booked not one, not two, but three character meals for that day: breakfast at the Crystal Palace, lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner at Chef Mickey’s. Obviously this was faaaar more food than we needed to consume, but it was the very best thing their first grade minds could imagine, so we indulged. And six years later, they still talk about it.
Just because “women like spas,” or “men like sports,” doesn’t mean that’s what you should automatically turn to for your celebration. Take the time to talk with your special someone about what their wildest dreams are. If the celebration is meant to be a surprise, you can be oblique about this, or enlist a trusted friend to do some sleuthing for you. For example, if my husband sent me to a Disney spa for my birthday, I might feel awkward or uncomfortable, but if he brought me a bouquet of those fancy Mickey balloons they sell on Main Street (something I’ve always wanted but never had), I might possibly faint from bliss. This is truly at time when it’s the thought that counts.
To get your thought process rolling, below are some ideas about activities you can add to your Walt Disney World vacation that will increase the celebration factor. Please note that while some of these ideas are quite expensive (tours, private events), many of them are inexpensive (personalized Mickey ears), or even free (watch Wishes from the beach).
On your honeymoon, proposing, celebrating an anniversary? Here are some ideas to put the romance in your trip:
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride at Port Orleans or Fort Wilderness.
- Have the Disney Florist send two dozen red roses to your room.
- Book a dinner at the posh Victoria & Albert’s restaurant.
- Order in room service, then place the do-not-disturb sign on your door.
- Grab a blanket or extra towels and watch the Wishes fireworks presentation from the beach at the Polynesian.
- Book a private fireworks cruise.
- Snuggle into an arcade photo booth for some mid-kiss portraits.
- Win your sweetie a prize at Animal Kingdom’s Fossil Fun Games in DinoLand, U.S.A.
- Enjoy a couple’s massage.
- Go for a midnight swim in your resort’s “Quiet Pool.”
- Sit in the backseat of a car with a fancy drink and watch campy movie clips at the Sci-Fi Dine-In.
- Drop the kids at a Disney child-care center and sneak back to your room for some alone time.
- Take the Characters in Flight balloon ride at Downtown Disney to get a bird’s eye view of the world. (Just don’t drop the ring if you’re proposing.)
- Arrange a vow renewal with Disney Weddings.
- Offer to let your sweetie sleep in, while you take the kiddos to the park.
A romantic hiding spot at the Animal Kingdom.
ADULT FUN CELEBRATIONS
Celebrating a milestone birthday, college graduation, or military retirement? Here are some ideas for adults looking to celebrate:
- Drink around the World Showcase at Epcot.
- Spend a day at the Saratoga Springs Resort spa.
- Take a backstage tour at the Magic Kingdom.
- Book a suite or stay in a nicer resort than you usually do.
- Dine in a Signature Restaurant.
- Invite a surprise guest.
- Create a special Touring Plan, using only the guest of honor’s favorite rides.
- Plan a shopping spree.
- Stay at the park until the very end.
- Go parasailing or waterskiing at the Contemporary.
- Get tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Downtown Disney.
CHILD FUN CELEBRATIONS
Is your child celebrating a birthday, straight-As on her report card, or scoring the winning goal? Here are some ideas for kids looking to celebrate:
- Book three character meals in one day.
- Get a makeover at the Bibidi Bobbidi Boutique or the Pirate’s League.
- Go to the Downtown Disney AMC theater and let your child create the ultimate custom Coke Freestyle beverage.
- Go on a candy crawl through Epcot.
- Ride Space Mountain ten times in a row.
- Meet your child’s favorite character, every day of the trip.
- Go on a pirate cruise.
- Have tea with Sleeping Beauty.
- Take the Wild Africa Trek (one of the few backstage experiences open to children).
- Start a pin or Vinylmation collection and spend the trip trading.
- Let the child choose the day’s itinerary.
- Put a present under your child’s pillow to find when he wakes up.
- Host a party at Goofy’s Candy Company at Downtown Disney.
- Try to find all the hidden Mickeys at the Magic Kingdom.
The Wild Africa Trek is great for kids.
CELEBRATING WITH A GROUP
- Go to the Hanes Design-A-Tee Store at Downtown Disney and get matching shirts for everyone.
- Have dinner at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue – the ultimate in festive dining.
- Arrange for a private IllumiNations dessert party.
- Get a private cabana at a resort pool or water park.
- Conquer the Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream.
- Have the ultimate mini-golf tournament.
- Spend a sing-along evening at Jellyrolls on the BoardWalk. They’ll play all your favorite songs.
- Get personalized Mickey Ears for the gang.
- Have a photopass photographer grab goofy shots of the entire group. Order and share the CD.
- Make a Disney “goody bag” for everyone in your group.
- Participate in a Run Disney race together.
- Create a Disney trivia scavenger hunt. Have a friendly competition among members of your group.
Overall, it doesn’t really matter what you do to celebrate as long as it’s heartfelt and joyful. But those giant Mickey balloons sure would be festive wouldn’t they? Not that I’m hinting or anything
What special celebrations have you had at Walt Disney World? What milestones have you marked in the parks? Have you found a unique or innovative way to celebrate? Let us know in the comments below.
If you bring small children to the Disney parks, you’re going need the poop on the diaper situation. (Sorry, I had to. :-))
On the plus side, finding a place to change junior is no problem at all. Disney knows its clientele well and has outfitted nearly every public restroom in the parks and resorts with a changing table. Even most of the men’s rooms are equipped with changing facilities. All the restroom locations are noted on the park maps, or just ask a cast member to point you in the right direction.
While finding a convenient spot to change the baby is easy, finding fresh diapers to change your baby into can be more of a challenge. Diapers and wipes are sold in all of the resort gift shops, in vending machines in select restrooms, and at the in-park baby care centers (locations are noted on the park maps). However, the brand and size selections available here are extremely limited. Generally, you will only find Huggies brand size 3 or 4 sold in the parks and resorts, generally at a premium price. If you’ve got a newborn or an older toddler, or are price sensitive (and aren’t we all), you’re out of luck. Similarly, pull-ups and other specialty diapers are in short supply.
Typical WDW resort gift shop baby care supply section.
This means that you’ll need to acquire your diaper supply in one of the following ways:
- Bring a box from home. Easy if you’re traveling by car, somewhat more difficult if you’re flying.
- Stop at a local Orlando-area supermarket, drugstore, or discount store. Works if you are using a towncar service or rental car.
- Arrange for a delivery to your hotel from a local grocery service such as gardengrocer.com. A good choice if you also need baby food, snacks, water, and other items delivered.
- Arrange for a delivery to your hotel from a local drugstore such as turnerdrug.com. A good choice if you also need prescription or non-prescription medications.
- Mail a box of supplies to yourself at your hotel. You can do this directly or through a mail order retailer such as Amazon.com. A good choice if your have mulitiple children in diapers or will be subject to substantial airline baggage fees. Call the hotel to get the exact mailing address.
Before deciding which route to take, it pays to do a bit of math. There may be delivery fees with any of the services noted above. Be sure to factor those costs in when making your budget projections.
While each family will develop their own strategy about how to manage diaper supplies, because of the possible lack of availability of the right size/style while touring, you’ll want to bring several more diapers that you think you’ll need into the park each day. What worked for us was stocking a large diaper bag with two full days worth of supplies. We left the bag in the stroller while we enjoyed the rides and attractions. However, each time we left the stroller, we were sure to bring at least two diapers (as well as our valuables) with us in a small purse or backpack. This way we were not weighed down in lines, but felt safe that we had enough baby care supplies on hand for emergencies.
Potty Training Strategies
Once you have your supply situation sorted out, changing diapers at the parks is a breeze. A more difficult problem is taking a child to the Disney parks (or to any new place) while he or she potty training or newly potty trained. The hyper-stimulating theme park environment can make even the most skilled preschooler forget firmly established bathroom habits. With many guests booking vacation travel months or even years in advance, it can be difficult to predict exactly where your child will be on the potty training spectrum at the time of your trip. With one of my children, I actually delayed fully training one of my daughters, keeping her in pull-ups until after a WDW trip, because I wanted to avoid potentially messy accidents.
Look for restroom and baby care center locations on the park maps.
If you are going to bring a training or newly trained youngster to the parks, you should be aware of the following:
- Each theme park has a baby care center with a toddler-sized flush toilet. However, there is only one per park. Planning to use this as your main toilet is not a realistic option.
- Your child may be too distracted to tell you when he needs to go. Try taking him to the restroom before every ride or two. Be sure to factor in wait times as well as the length of the actual ride when estimating how long you’ll be away from toilet facilities.
- Use tools like touringplans.com and Lines to minimize time in lines. However, if you do find yourself in a lengthy queue and a bathroom emergency arises, you might be able to return to your spot in line without additional wait time. For attractions with Fastpasses, cast member attendants have the discretion to issue you a special pass to use the Fastpass line. While this is not guaranteed, speak to the cast member at the queue entrance if you find yourself in this situation.
- Most of the in-park restrooms have automatic flush toilets. These are motion sensitive and are prone to mid-business activation by squirmy toddlers, thus terrifying them. A common solution is to bring a roll of painter’s tape or a pad of Post-Its into the restroom to cover and temporarily disable the motion sensor. Just remember to throw out the tape or paper when you’re done.
- There are no mini porta-potties for sale at Walt Disney World. If that’s the only way your child can go, you’ll need to bring one from home.
- Our personal lifesaver was a portable folding toddler toilet seat. This item compacts to about the size of a hardcover novel (not tiny, but easy enough to fit in a backpack), costs less than $20, and can be found at retailers like Babys-R-Us and Amazon.com. This converts any regular toilet seat into just the right size for a training tush, eliminating fears of “falling in.”
Disney posts signs near each of its many pools which state: “For your safety, diaper-age children must wear plastic pants or swim diapers…” The lifeguards do not police this policy and leaves the use of swim diapers to the discretion of the parents. If you feel that your child is not “diaper-age” any more, then you can skip the swim diaper.
Pool rules for diaper-age children.
While Disney leaves a lot up to individual families, you may want to consider that WDW is a new and challenging environment for some toddlers. They’re tired, or they’re preoccupied with having fun in a place they’ve never been, or spending all day in the water is a new experience, etc. And the child might forget some recently learned skills. When in doubt err on the side of caution. There are swim diapers for sale in the gift shops at the water parks and most of the resorts. Again, sizes are limited and prices are high, so bringing some from home can make things easier.
Have you brought a diaper-aged child to Walt Disney World? What were your challenges? What solutions did you devise? Let us know in the comments.