5 Tips for how to make your infant’s first trip to Walt Disney World extra magical
For most of my adult life, I dreamed about the day that I would bring my future child to Walt Disney World for the first time. On all my previous visits, I loved watching families share special moments like first rides, magical meetings and more. So when we found out we were expecting, I was SO excited to start planning our first trip as a family.
I wanted to plan it for her first birthday, but seeing she did not arrive until December 20th and we did not want to deal with Christmas crowds, we celebrated a little early. Once our family found out about our plans, everyone wanted to be there to celebrate with us. From grandparents to aunts, uncles, fiances, and boyfriends, our group grew to 14 people!!
While most people would be intimidated by planning a trip for that many people, what overwhelmed me was planning a trip with an infant for the first time. There is much more to consider when traveling with a little one. Here is my experience and how it can help you plan your trip.
The first thing I did was decide on a resort. While we typically like to save a little money allowing us to take more trips, we decided that convenience was our priority. We knew we would be spending a lot of time in the Magic Kingdom, going back and forth for naps and didn’t want to worry about folding up the stroller if she fell asleep before we got there.
Another thing you may want to consider is the room layout. We wanted to be able to spend time with our extended family, watch tv or play games even if the baby was asleep. It is our vacation too, and we did not want to spend it whispering in the dark!! We ended up with a one-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower – the DVC resort attached to the contemporary. (DVC is Disney’s Vacation Club a timeshare program, but they keep a certain number of rooms available for nonmembers to book) When it comes to choosing a resort, you will want to decide what is most important to you… theming, budget, or convenience.
If you choose convenience, you will then want to figure out where you will be spending the majority of your time. If you are spending the most time in the Magic Kingdom, you will definitely want to consider a monorail resort. The monorail is the only mode of transportation where you never have to fold up your stroller. Other resorts with boat or Skyliner access are great to consider if you need to balance convenience with the budget, but you may need to breakdown the stroller depending on its size, the size of the vehicle or the number of people..
There are so many options when it comes to strollers in Walt Disney World. You can bring your own, rent from a third party company, or rent from Disney. They all have their pros and cons.
Because Annabelle was so young and was going to spend a lot of time in the stroller, I wanted to ensure it was something she was comfortable with. We have a Chicco Bravo that we use for travel. It is so easy to fold, has a significant recline and great storage. We take advantage of gate-check for our stroller when we travel, so we have it in the airport should we need it if our flight is delayed. I definitely wanted it to traverse MCO as the walk to the Magical Express seems endless!!
Because we knew we wanted to operate at a much slower pace for this trip, we decided planning a lot of dining would force us to slow down. Because there were so many of us, it was essential to book what we wanted when the ADR window opened 180 days before our trip. The hard thing about that was anticipating what her nap schedule was going to be six months in advance. Luckily a few weeks before our trip, I was able to gradually adapt her nap schedule to what I had planned.
We had added the dining plan to everyone’s reservations for convenience. With such a large group made up of people from both my and my husband’s family, I feared regular arguments over who was going to pick up the check. It worked out great!!
The dining plan is not available for children under 3. They can eat off your plate, or you can order an item off of the children’s menu for an additional cost. I thought because she was so young and just starting to eat solid food, we would do a lot of the first. She is such a voracious eater that we ended up spending a lot more on meals for her than I had expected.
For our next trip, I will plan more family-style or buffet meals because we were able to make her plate, and she could have as much as she wanted. I loved the few buffets we did do because she was able to try new things without me having to spend money on them. The salmon at Biergarten was a big hit!! I also was extremely nervous about planning character meals because I didn’t know how she would respond. She ADORED each character she met and loved both Chef Mickeys and Storybook Dining at Artist Point.
When planning your park touring with an infant, the number one thing you need to do is be FLEXIBLE!! We made it through an entire week of over-stimulation and shortened naps with only one meltdown because we adapted to her schedule. If she seemed tired we brought her back for a nap even if it wasn’t during the scheduled time and meant missing a FastPass or dining reservation.
If you are traveling with grandparents or another family, be willing to split up. You do not have to be together every moment of every day. Let them ride Flight of Passage while you are letting your little one toddle around an empty Pandora the World of Avatar. If it is something you don’t want to skip, make sure you are using the Rider Swap option. If you have someone in your party who does not meet the minimum height requirement, you can tell the cast member at the attraction entrance you would like to use rider swap. As the first half of your party gets into line, they will give the remaining members a card to return using the Fastpass entrance.
Take advantage of early mornings!!
You have a young child. They wake up early. Take advantage of that by beating the rest of the crowds to the park. I was able to let Annabelle run around because there weren’t many people in the park in the morning. You will also have shorter lines.
One thing I wish I had allowed for more of is downtime in the park. With such a large group it was hard to get in everything that everybody wanted to do. Some of the best moments were the unplanned meetings with Minnie Mouse at the International Gateway and playing the drums in Pandora. For our next trip I will be planning less and allowing for more spontaneity.
Every child is different. How they behave at home may completely change in a new atmosphere, or they may surprise you with an even better temperament than you expected.
I thought for sure that the characters would terrify Annabelle, but from the first time we approached our first princess, she just wanted to wave and give hugs. When our meeting with Cinderella went well, I quickly changed our next Fastpass to meet Mickey. She went right in for a kiss! Every time we saw a new character, we stopped to meet them because she enjoyed it so much.
Our biggest head-scratcher… she hated the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and screamed the whole time but loved Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.
Plan to reride their favorite attractions. You are lucky that at this age, it is likely to be something that doesn’t have a long line. Most attractions popular with the infant set have same day Fastpasses available.
Our first few days, we spent a lot of time looking for family restrooms or switching off bringing her to the bathroom to change. In a pinch, we ended up changing a diaper in her stroller, and it became our preferred changing spot. We would find a quiet area (please do not do this near a snack cart or quick service location) tilt the stroller back and change her there. It was much more comfortable for her and much easier to keep her contained… not to mention a lot less germy.
Another way you can prepare for a more enjoyable trip with a baby is not to try to cram everything into one trip. I work with a lot of clients with young children who requested a 1 or 2-day ticket for their multi-day trip because they don’t think the kids can handle a lot of park time. You would be MUCH better off doing more days in the parks but spending less time. Half days with afternoons at the hotel will make for a much happier child, then trying to spend a whole day in the park.
It is a lot to consider and a lot to figure out. Remember, you do not have to do it alone. I would love to help you plan your baby’s first trip at no additional cost. For the same price as booking directly with Disney, I can help you with you choose your resort, make dining reservations and reserve your Fastpasses. Just request a quote at the bottom of the page.
Where do you even start?
I understand how you’re feeling, I know all too well how easy it can be at the beginning to start researching online, just to find yourself 3 hours down the line more confused than when you started. But don’t panic! I can help you plan your dream Disney vacation without any of the stress of hassle – starting with the ‘A Disney Trip without Overwhelm, 5 Easy Steps’ Guide. These 5 steps will help keep you focused on organizing the best trip ever, while giving you peace of mind that everything will be done, and nothing will be left out.
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