Planning a family Disney vacation is full of anticipation and excitement. You save money and plan meticulously for months to have that perfect, magical experience. However, it’s often underestimated how quickly things can go from exciting to scary for the youngest Disney guests. Navigating four theme parks with a little one can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t anticipate what may trigger a reaction. Here we look at ways of preparing kids for Disney vacations.
I’ve seen kiddos get freaked out by 3 main things:
- Mickey and characters (they’re bigger than you think!),
- Fireworks (sure they’re pretty, but man are they loud!), and
There are a few things that you can do in advance to prepare your youngster for the magical world of excitement that awaits!
Buzz and Woody are big, even for adults!
Meeting Disney Friends:
Kids see Mickey, Minnie, and all of their favorite characters in movies and on TV, but it really doesn’t prepare them for how large they are in real life. One way to help prepare young kids to these large friends is to expose them to some local “life size” characters like at Chuck E. Cheese or mascots at any local sporting event. This is a great test run to see how a youngster can handle these larger than life characters. It’s also a way to help them sort through any anxiety they might have, so when they meet Mickey it won’t be so overwhelming. If they already love Chuck E. Cheese, then you can cross this concern off your list!
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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.
Welcome to the first installment of my three-part series: Teens n’ Tots Touring! Nowadays, there are a lot of families with kids over age 10 and kids under age 5. Planning a Disney itinerary is hard enough without negotiating between these vastly-different ages, so I’m here to help. In this first installment, I’ll focus on families that have multiple teenagers.
Five years ago, I became a big sister. My little brother took his first Disney trip (not counting in-utero) when he was 11-weeks-old. Ever since then, my beloved parents have been coordinating the desires of two teens with a Buzz-Lightyear-loving-somewhat-bold-heat-hating tot. But until my big brother went to college, my parents had one thing on their side: there were two teens. How could this possibly be helpful? Simple: safety in numbers. It meant we could leave our parents without being alone. It’s hard to find danger in Disney, but it can happen. And in case of a medical emergency, having a brother or sister there is parentally reassuring. While my big brother and I were gallivanting through Tomorrowland or screaming on our fourth ride of Test Track, our parents could ride It’s a Small World with my little brother sixteen times in a row. In addition, separating the teens and tot meant that the youngster could go take a nap at the resort while the adolescents stayed in the parks. Mealtime is a great excuse to rendezvous. Just don’t forget to give teens their tickets so that they can FastPass attractions, and make sure they have a cell-phone or walkie-talkie.
However, it may be that you have younger teens or you can’t trust them to run off without you in an unfamiliar place. The answer to this dilemma is splitting up the parents. (This post assumes that there are at least two adults in the group; I’ll give advice to single parents next week.) Whichever adult – the mom, godfather, or grandpa – is most daring and, it should be said, has the best health, can accompany the teens through the parks. But let the kids lead itinerary-wise. If at all possible, send a willing non-parent with the teens; they’re far less likely to be accused of acting “embarrassing.”
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