Despite copious planning with packing lists, it’s all but inevitable that mishaps will occur when traveling. Little Billy gets a fever during your trip and you neglected to bring the Children’s Tylenol. You thought you husband was packing toothpaste and he thought you were, so now you have none. You accidentally left your sunscreen at the pool yesterday and are now about to be burned to a crisp by the thousand degree sun.
All of these problems are easy to solve at Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line. (Disneyland’s close proximity to the external world makes access to replacement items less of an issue there.) The ship and hotel gift shops are well stocked, with most categories of personal care items represented. So while you won’t be totally left in the lurch in any of the above situations, you will likely pay a premium purchasing these personal care basics at a Disney location rather than at home. But how much of a premium will you be pay? Let’s investigate…
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If you’re visiting Walt Disney World with a child under the age of five, your new best friend is the Baby Care Center. This is a place in each park where you can find supplies, quiet, air-conditioning, and peace of mind, all for Disney’s youngest guests and their families.
So where are these baby oases?
There is one in each theme park. The locations are noted on the park maps, but just in case you need help finding them …
- Magic Kingdom: Go to the end of Main Street and hang a left past Casey’s Corner hot dogs. The Baby Care Center is between Casey’s and the Crystal Palace.
- Epcot: The Baby Care Center is in the Odyssey building. Technically this is in Future World, but it’s really quite close to the Mexico pavilion. Find the path just past Test Track that looks like it’s heading to Mexico and you’ll see the long brown Odyssey building.
- Animal Kingdom: It’s in the building next to Pizzafari. Bear left around the Tree of Life, pass Pizzafari, and it’s on the left.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: The Baby Care Center is immediately inside the front entrance to the park. Walk in, turn left and hug the turnstiles. It’s in the same building as Guest Relations.
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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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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.