When we decided to take Cameron to Disney for the first time, I knew I needed to do some research because it was a whole new territory from going before without a child. So many people told me not to put to much effort into the trip because she wouldn’t remember any of it. While that may be true, I still wanted to make it the best trip ever because she only will ever get one first visit to Disney. Not to mention, with my love of Disney I wanted to enjoy the trip just as much as I wanted her too.
After some googling, and YouTube watching I decided that while those tips were great, we sort of had to see how she acted and reacted to our surroundings while we were there. So take what I’m writing with a grain of salt because this information could differ for you depending on your child, and the time of year you may be venturing to the most magical place on earth.
For this particular trip we were already in Florida for my brothers wedding, so travel to Disney was a bit easier because it was just a quick drive from Tampa to Orlando. If you want to read more about traveling with an infant check out my blog post To travel or not... We loaded all our stuff in our rental car (which was a minivan) and headed to Disney.
While we were staying in Orlando we chose to stay “on property”. Now that is in quotations because while I feel the resort we stayed in was in fact on property, it is not a Disney resort, and it may not be in fact on property if my geography is wrong, but we went under the Disney arch so I’m calling it like I see it. We stayed at Wyndham Bonnet Creek in a 2-bedroom villa because not only was it our little family, my parents were with us too, and my brother and sister in law came for a night. It was so nice to have the extra space, the full kitchen, the washer/dryer, and still be close enough to the parks. This also helped because we were able to go to the grocery store and stock up on snacks and breakfast items for Cameron so we weren’t paying the park prices. I know Disney does rooms with kitchenettes or even full kitchens, so if you can, I would highly recommend reserving one of them. If Disney prices are out of your reach, then renting an Airbnb with a full kitchen would be perfect too, as long as you’re ok being away from all the Disney magic. For us, we have been to Disney so many times that we don’t always have to be right there in the middle of everything.
Next, I’ll talk a little bit about what we did/rides we rode. As I stated before, we’ve been to Disney plenty, so I was trying to make sure we tried to center our trip around what would be fun for Cameron. Not only was this her first trip, but we were celebrating her 1st birthday (even if it was a little late). So when I was thinking about fast passes, and game plans, I was trying to keep her in mind. I knew the one ride I wanted her to ride was frozen, so you best believe I was up at 4am PST the day that window opened up for fast passes for that particular day to try and get one. I was successful so I felt like as long as we got that done we would just sort of play everything else by ear. We rode the typical kid friendly rides, we did Epcot one day and Magic Kingdom one day with a day to relax and go to Disney springs in between. In Epcot we saw characters, then rode Imagination, Nemo, and Frozen. This was our first day there so we really didn’t know what we were getting into as far as how she would do in the park and all so we didn’t get to do much, and Epcot doesn’t have THAT many rides she could do. In Magic Kingdom, we rode the carousel, met a few princesses, rode the teacups, dumbo, little mermaid, small world, twice, mickeys Philharmagic, and pirates of the Caribbean. Once again, we didn’t do too much because we didn’t want to be burned out or do anything to make Cameron upset or overwhelm her. We also didn’t want to do too much because we went the week of thanksgiving so we knew lines would be crazy, and little miss does not do very well in lines, not to mention, she wasn’t walking at the time so had to be held, and even with 5 adults taking turns, that can take a toll on you. So we only tried to ride things with minimal waits or if we had a fast pass. Now if this is your first trip and will be your only one for a while, not doing everything may not be an option for you. We are very fortunate to get to go often because we love it and have family that live near by. But I know that’s not the luxury everyone has. But I will say, take into account what you think your child will like, can handle, and will even want to do. Then you can dust in there some rides that you want to do as well and use the rider switch option. We didn’t utilize that so I can’t speak to it very much but I’m sure if you were to google the topic you could find some good information.
Let’s talk a little about naps and bedtime. For us, since we weren’t staying in a Disney resort, we didn’t have the option of taking Disney transport to the parks, so while we could have left the parks to go back to the hotel for Cameron to nap, it just didn’t seem like a good use of time to make sure we were getting to do everything we wanted. I also wasn’t sure if she would be to stimulated to nap at all. She luckily did both days we were in the park. The day we hung around the hotel, she napped too, but she was more on her regular schedule so that nap time wasn’t as hard to figure out. In Epcot she took 2 slightly shorter naps, both of which were in her stroller. We have a standard Graco stroller, which we brought with us, because I figured she’s napped in it at home when we’ve been out and about so I thought she would be more comfortable than had we rented a stroller in Florida. We tried to find some quieter places for her to fall asleep, there was an alcove over by MouseGear, and an area behind Club Cool where she spent her morning nap. Then in the back corner of the France pavilion is where she slept in the afternoon. All we did was put a light blanket over her stroller, turned her stroller fan on, and pushed the stroller back and forth until she fell asleep. In Magic Kingdom we did the same steps, but there wasn’t many places that were really quite that we found, so we just hoped she fell asleep. Which she did, but she did only take one nap that day. For bedtime, we tried to keep as close to her night time routine from home that we could. We brought her blanket, her sound giraffe, and a small fan for noise so that she could feel as close to home as possible. I didn’t see many issues with her night time sleep, besides maybe an earlier rise time, but I figure that was because she was so excited to go see Mickey Mouse.
Lastly, I want to talk a bit about what Cameron ate while we were in the parks. Because she’s under 3, she not only gets in for free, but you pretty much don’t need to order a meal for her cause she can eat off your plate. Now, we did not go that route and I completely regret it. A few times I ordered her something off the kids menu and paid for the meal thinking that she would eat enough of it and we could finish whatever she didn’t. Well she ended up not eating much of it at all, not because she didn’t like it, but because she was stealing bites from everyone’s plates, getting a nice sampling. So I would suggest, just ordering something for yourself and letting your child have some of it. Or split a kids meal with them if you don’t think you’ll eat much. Now, that’s if the child is eating solids. If not, you can bring in food or formula for the baby. We did make sure to pack plenty of snacks for Cameron because this child loves her food. We did end up buying a Mickey pretzel and a pickle in the parks for some snacks which she happily stole most of.
One last miscellaneous thing, I didn’t think I would make use of the baby care centers that they have in each park, but I for sure did. I think we went to the Epcot one 3-4 times. It was air conditioned, fairly quiet, and clean. So when she threw a tantrum shortly after we arrived I knew it was probably a better place to go rather than standing about in the sun trying to figure out what was wrong. Turns out she was hungry…shocker. So I would say, that if you can and want try to make use of those centers! For us they were a lifesaver.
I would like to think she had a great first trip, and even second trip because we’ve been again between our first trip and when I’m finally getting around to posting this. I know there are so many options, and tips, and tricks out there for how to do disney with a child/infant/toddler, this is just how our first trip went and what I learned while planning and executing that trip. Do you have any great tips? Or things you wished you had known before going!?