Right now I’m in the middle of planning a trip to Disneyland with my Cars obsessed toddler twins (I know, I am insane). Last time we travelled the (now) middle child had just turned two and we made so many toddler travel mistakes. So here you go, learn from my failures and master taking your toddler (or toddlers) on a successful Disney vacation.
Bring your stroller
This is one area I actually didn’t mess up, but it could have been disastrous. I flip flopped on the idea of actually bringing the stroller at all since we typically wore our toddler at the time. She was tiny and effortless to carry in the Ergo so it seemed like a great way to avoid the burden of a stroller. In the end we did end up wearing the toddler in the airport, but not necessarily out of choice. A family member that travelled with us didn’t bring her stroller (opting instead to rent in the park) and found there was no easy way to contain her heavy 18 month old. The stroller was a huge lifesaver not just as a way to contain the toddler and lighten the physical load of carrying her, but it was also super useful to carry all the toddler crap. Win-win. Click here for more reasons why you should bring your stroller.
With the exception of candy and ice cream, my toddler didn’t much care for the food options in the Disney park. In fact, all of my kids struggled to find something that was a decent balance of healthy and tastey while we were there. Plus snacks at the parks are ridiciously, budget blowingly expensive.
Toddlers need to eat more often than adults do and when they they’re hungry, watch out. Ward off a few meltdowns by packing toddler-friendly snacks each morning. You should aim to bring about double what you think you’ll need for to recover from an inevitable spill or you needing a snack too. Don’t forget to stay hydrated too.
Dress for the weather
Toddlers are especially prone to temperatures and sunlight so make sure to keep them in mind when you’re spending all day in the park. Something we weren’t prepared for was how chilly it got in the evenings when the sun went down since we travelled in the winter time. We ended up needing to pick up a fleece oneise from the gift shop for the littlest one to stay warm. Make sure you bring everything you need for the varied weather when you head to the park or be ready to return to your hotel to retrieve needed items. Some lightweight and verstile ideas for toddlers are legwarmers and small blankets for cool weather and a portable fan when it’s warm. If you’re using a stroller take special consideration of how it’s being affected by the weather. In the heat use a light weight sun shade but never drape a heavier blanket over top because it can get dangerously warm. Be careful not to park it in direct sunlight when you’re taking a break and stick to shady areas during the hotter parts of the day. When it’s cool don’t forget that the toddler’s going to be cooler than you in the stroller because they’re not moving around.
Cater to the toddler’s nap schedule
This one is going to vary a lot depending on your toddler’s personality. My kids adapted well to being dragged around during naps and past bedtime because they were so excited to be at the park. The toddler napped well in the stroller and it worked out great. Not all toddlers are going to be that way, though! If you think your toddler’s going to need some extra quiet time to nap (and will be a monster if they skip) seriously consider either staying on site or at a place that’s only a very short distance away. Walking distance or somewhere with free transportation is ideal or else you’ll need to budget for those extra travel costs. Also consider how long you’re willing to wait going back and forth and how much time will be lost due to naps. When booking airfare, consider how your toddler naps. If you think they’ll sleep on the plane try and schedule a flight during naptime but if they won’t aim for first thing in the morning.
Go with the flow
Toddlers are unpredicatable and no amount of forward planning can possible prepare you for all the things these tots can throw your way. At some points during your Disney trip you’re going to need to just go with the flow and follow your toddler’s lead. That might mean adapting your schedule a bit to suit their needs or spending a bit of time at the pool instead of in the park. Something to keep in mind when you’re toddler is doing one of those classic toddler meltdowns is that even if you feel judged no one at the park is going to see you again. You and your toddler are part of the everyone that’s welcome at the Disney parks and it’s just as much the toddler’s vacation as it is someone else’s. Do what you can but don’t let a few bad moments ruin your day or trip.
Some bonus tips:
- Pack a few treats alongside snacks to help pacify a toddler who saw something they want or needs a small bribe
- Bring small toys or activities to play with while waiting in line
- Let your toddler have periods of unstructured time to recharge
- Make sure if you’re using a stroller that your toddler gets time to run around too
- Avoid gift shops when possible
- From personal experience adorable toddlers, especially in costume, get special treatment from the cast
- The park is loud and overwhelming, keep that in mind and manage your expectations
- If your toddler is a runner a baby carrier, stroller, or even backpack harness is a great option