Touring Disney Parks with a Baby

Guest blogger Becky Breiland of the Mousetalgia podcast (www.mousetalgia.com) shares her experiences at Disneyland and Walt Disney World as a new mom.

Whenever I told people that we were headed to a Disney park with a 3-month-old in tow, they looked at me like I was crazy. During our first hour at the Magic Kingdom, I was almost convinced that all the naysayers were right. We made it to the hub (coming from our room at the Contemporary) before the precious girl decided it was time to eat. I sat down on a bench to feed her. About 5 minutes later a very loud street show began, resulting in a screaming, frightened child. Minutes later, a diaper issue of epic proportions presented itself. Not having figured out where the closest bathroom was, and not knowing how close we were to the Baby Care Center, I decided to just change her in the stroller while she continued to scream because of all the noise. By the end of all this, we were all exhausted and sweaty.

I’m happy to report that this is where the difficulty ended. The rest of the trip was an absolute breeze (for the most part). In fact, I’m almost convinced that 3 months might be the easiest age to take a child to a Disney Park. At 3 months, they still sleep anywhere, don’t ask for souvenirs, and feeding them is pretty simple. We’ve taken our daughter to Disney World at 3 months old, and Disneyland at 5 months and 7 months old. So what’s the secret to staying happy with an infant in tow?

First off, consider the wonders of Disneyland over Disney World. While I love both resorts, I tend to be more charmed by Disneyland. This is especially true when carrying an infant around the parks. The size of Disneyland is much more manageable than what I found Disney World to be. We could walk to both parks from our hotel, and were never more than 15 minutes away from the peace and quiet of our hotel room. This was a huge advantage over the sometimes 30-40 minute commute from the parks to a hotel room at the World, depending on what park we had chosen to visit.

I credit a large part of our happiness in touring the parks with an infant to a good baby carrier. It quickly became clear that viewing the parks from a stroller was very overwhelming for our little one. Baby wearing has become quite trendy in the last few years, and is also very practical. The basic idea is that the baby is strapped to the adult, using any number of products, allowing baby to feel close and secure, and giving the wearer two free hands and a ton of mobility. Once I put our child in the carrier, she could not have been happier. During our first two trips, we used the Baby Bjorn Active, and have now graduated to the Ergo Performance Carrier. Both have been excellent. Our baby absolutely loves going to the parks because it means that she gets to hang out close to mom all day and there are always people to look at. Additionally, she’ll sleep in both carriers. We have continued to tour the parks while she slept because we could still visit the shows and attractions. I love that there is no stroller to park or retrieve, and crowds are not nearly as overwhelming because she is kept close to me. When our Mouseketeer was three months old, I ate almost every dinner of our 14 day trip with her asleep in the baby carrier. It was very convenient.

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While our baby does sleep well in the carriers, the importance of an afternoon nap should not be overlooked. Many people have sung the praises of the afternoon nap. This is not only important for baby, it is also important for mom. While I tend to be a napper at the parks, even without the baby, this 1-2 hour break (minimum) from carrying her around and time to relax was a necessity. Our daughter also seems to enjoy the time to spread out and she needed the quiet, climate controlled room at the hotel.

This brings me to my next point, a little more space may be worth a few extra dollars out of your pocket. I really enjoy having a couch in the hotel room. It provides an additional place to nurse and is a great makeshift changing table (we always travel with changing mats to put over the couch). We also find that everyone sleeps better if the portable crib can be placed further away. A good night’s sleep helps to make a more enjoyable vacation and so I’m willing to pay a little more to make sure that happens.

Finally, use the Baby Care Centers. I found the Baby Care Centers, especially in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, to be extremely nice. The Baby Care Centers (in all 6 U.S. Parks) provide a place for moms to nurse, high chairs, large changing tables, places to rinse cloth diapers, and small toilets for potty training kids. They also sell a variety of baby items from food to diapers. Disneyland’s Baby Care Center is located on the right side of Main Street (when facing the castle), just before you get to the Plaza Pavilion. Disney California Adventure’s Baby Care Center is a little more out of the way, at the “back” of the park near to what has been Mission Tortilla Factory. I have no problem nursing in public. However, the air-conditioned quiet of the Baby Care Centers always breathes new life into both me and my baby. Because of the size of Disneyland and the location of the center, it gets my vote for best Baby Care Center in the U.S. Parks. It is completely worth the extra five minute walk it may take you to get there. I’ve been offered glasses of water by the friendly attendants, and they always coo over my child. Anything I could possibly need I can find there, and my daughter really appreciated the softer changing tables that they provide.

All in all, these trips have been a blast. I love that my daughter laughs out loud on Pirates of the Caribbean, and that the minute Minnie shows up she wants to eat her nose. While visiting the Disney Parks with an infant may be different, it is still special and worth doing. I’m glad I didn’t let other people’s intimidation stand in my way.

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About the author: Becky Breiland has been traveling to Walt Disney World and Disneyland since she was three. One of her fondest memories is getting Mickey Waffles for breakfast on those early Disney trips. Becky, her husband, and two friends comprise the Mousetalgia.com podcasting team. Mousetalgia is a show dedicated to the exploration of Disney’s past, present and future, emphasizing the theme park culture and the people who have imagined Walt’s happy place into existence. Go “Carpe Kingdom!”

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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17 Replies to “Touring Disney Parks with a Baby”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Our trip in November will be my sons 3rd trip before he turns 3 (he’s still free!), and every trip is is like a new experience. I hear parents all the time saying how they were going to wait until the kids are older(speaking about 4 & 5 year olds) and I always make sure they know that the kids may not remember much, but you sure will. It will be years before my son, Walt, understands why he got his name, but I’m here to tell you there is a reason they call it “The Happiest Place On Earth”. Whether your kids are 1 month old or 31(like me), take them to Disney. If they are not in school yet, take advantage of the off season and free dining. Heck, if they are in school take them out, they’ll learn and grow more that week than they will all semester in some crowded classroom. We get back from our trip on November 19th, and we will start thinking about our next trip on November 20th.

  2. We have taken our kids and babies to WDW for years and will be taking our 8, 5, 3 yr old and 2.5 mo old in Dec. As a nursing mom I have found a lot of great places to get in a cool quiet nursing break without missing a beat. First, the baby centers (sponsored by formula companies, haha) are great, but not always convenient. When we are close we always stop. I really like that the whole family can take a cool quiet break there, with a quiet toy and coloring area, places to sit, snack, nurse, and clean– not so busy bathrooms and changing areas. The baby centers are the next best thing to going back to the hotel for a break. There are also tons of places to sit and nurse outdoors or in restaurants, but there are many attractions the whole family can go to and you can get in a 15-20 minute nursing session, usually without anyone noticing. Some of my suggestions would be monorail and train rides, milder theater environments like the Hall of Presidents, The American Experience, The Carousel of Progress, The Circle if Life, France Movie, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Bird Show, even small world and pirates, but those aren’t as long. And depending on how distracted your baby is – the younger they are the less distracted they get – even Country Bear Jamboree or Disney Junior. I have also sat on the floor or benches to nurse while my family looked at the aquarium or played at the animation studio or explored innoventions. My favorite time to visit WDW is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so then I would add the candlelight processional to my list. I also love the Flower and Garden show in the Spring. All through Epcot they add landscaped play areas, which are such a great “normal” thing for the kids to do for a change from the lines and rides. Benches are always available which are great for me to nurse the baby and my husband to take a break. And of course babywearing helps babies to feel comfortable, sleep on and off and strangers don’t touch them as much. Wearing a sling really helps with nursing privately, too. One of the most important things is to be aware of your babies hunger cues so that you can start feeding before an all out breakdown occurs and you find yourself looking for the nearest exit. I’m sure I could think of more to add, but my point is that having a small nursing baby doesn’t mean that you have to miss most of your day away from your group because you have to find the perfect place to nurse.

  3. Great post! It’s great to hear that so many people take the chance to bring their young children to Disney parks, even with others telling them they are crazy for doing so. I took my children on our first Disney trip to WDW when my daughter was 16 months old and my son was 5 months old. Nothing will come close to the overwhelming feeling of joy seeing my tiny daughter amazed that her idols–Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy–were standing in front of her at a private photo session in EPCOT. I remember almost being in tears at how touching that moment was. My 5-month-old son enjoyed the colors and sounds of the park and on all of the rides (of which there are a lot for even tiny babies).

    We have been back at least once, sometimes twice every year since, and they absolutely LOVE it! I would urge parents to take their children and not miss the opportunity to look at Disney through the eyes of the very young. It’s not always easy, but the rewards far outweigh the work you need to put in. You will never get that time back. Even the smallest moments turn into huge memories. I cannot wait to return again next year with our newest baby, who is due next month! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the report. Your tips were spot on! I have given those same tips myself. One additional tip, if you are in WDW, get a car rental and a AAA diamond parking pass if possible. It greatly reduces travel time to use a car (except for MK). It also allows the stroller to be unpacked and loaded with baby only once when you 1st park! We found this invaluable and have not stopped using this tip (even though my son is now 7).

  5. Hi Becky! What a great experience! I always tought that the best age to travel were from 7-8 y/o because they will remember the trip…but after a few trips I realize that the face of little ones when they see Mickey or Pooh is priceless!!!
    I still don’t have children of my own and I have another factors to consider in order to travel to the world (such as I live in Chile and I have to flight 6-7 hours to ATL o MIA then take the flight to MCO)…but believe me I will travel first with my nephew and later with my “someday future baby” just to see their smile!

  6. What great timing! We are leaving in Dec. for a week at the Poly with our 3 kids – 6 years, 34 months and 10 months. Our oldest has been 3 times and our middle child was only one when we went last year. But I have been wondering how it will be with a 10 month old. I am just hoping that having a large hotel room with easy transportation and plenty of time to go slow at a not so busy time of year will help. I have an Infantino (cheap) carrier, but I think I will look into the Bjorn you mentioned. Thanks!

    Becky replies: Definitely check out a more expensive carrier. I would probably recommend the Ergo over the Bjorn, just because it allows you to carry more weight on your hips, like you would a backpack. The Bjorn was amazing when our baby was little, but she’s too long now for it, and the weight was a bit much for me. I know that our local consignment that specializes in kids stuff often has some of the Ergos come through their doors. It might be worth looking into. Enjoy the Poly! I’m sure if you’re willing to move at the kids’ paces, you’ll have an amazing trip.

  7. Thank you so much for the info! We are heading to the World for the 1/2 marathon in January and it will be our first trip with our son, he’ll be 7 mths. We are staying at BLT so hopefully transportation to and from the resort won’t be too terrible. Looking forward to it!

  8. Hi Becky! You were reading my mind. We are taking our 6yr old and 16 month old twins this November and EVERYONE thinks we are nuts, partially since there are 2 tots instead of one.Been there plenty of times (haven’t since 09 cause of pregnancy and them being too young… well, kind-of) Any other tips or advice? Thanks

    Becky replies: I will say that twins are a whole other ball game, but plenty of people do it, and enjoy it. I think my biggest lesson has been that if it stops being fun, then stop and find something that you’re going to enjoy. Sometimes that means you won’t experience every attraction in the park, but you will experience enjoying being a family and I think that’s what really counts.

  9. Hi Becky!

    Thank you for the article! My husband and I plan to start trying for our first right after our next Disney trip (one more adult vacation and I don’t want to risk BEING pregnant when we go) and I love the idea of getting my kid’s first haircut done at the barber shop on Main Street. We are commandos when we go so maybe a baby is just what we’ll need to finally slow it down a bit!

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  10. I took my daughter for the first time in April, when she was just barely 8 months old. Everyone thought I was absolutely nuts. I would not trade that experience for the World. It was like she couldn’t take it all in fast enough! Everything was new, delightful and exciting to her. And meeting Mickey for the first time at that age was amazing. Planning (and nap times, you’re right!) were key! We also found staying at the Contemporary the best– closest to the MK and quickest to the monorail!

  11. We took our 7 month old a few years ago and he loved it, and we are going back in less than a month with him (he is now almost 3) and his 7 month old brother. We are excited! Thanks for the blog and the good advice; helps me to not be so nervous!

  12. We’re big Walt Disney World fans but are heading to Disneyland for the first time this fall with our seven year old (who has special needs), 4 year old, and 7 month old.

    I’m thrilled to hear that Disneyland is so manageable and that everything is close. But I’d love to know where you stayed that your room was never more than 15 minutes away.

    I’m finding trip planning for Disneyland much trickier than WDW. Just figuring out which hotels are closest and how they compare is a huge challenge. As is having all the “good neighbor” off-property hotels to consider.

    Becky replies: Sarah, we normally stay either at the Candy Cane Inn, or one of the Disney Hotels (mostly Paradise Pier). I feel like all those hotels are pretty quick to get to, but we are also two fairly tall adults with long walking strides. I would recommend checking out the /Unofficial Guide to Disneyland/. They have a nice map showing the location of all the hotels. Also, don’t forget about the rate and review section on allears.net. That’s a great resource for what the hotels are like and people often mention how long it took them to get to the park. I suspect that Disneyland will be just as magical, but seem much more managable for your family. I hope you have a wonderful trip.

    Laura replies: You can also check out the Good Neighbor Hotel FAQ we have here on AllEars: http://allears.net/dlr/acc/faq_gn.htm – we provide the distance from each hotel to Disneyland’s main entrance plaza.

  13. Our first family trip to WDW was when my oldest daughter was just turning 3 and my youngest was 4 mos old. People thought we were crazy. While we did have the help of my siter and parents, it was a very enjoyable trip and one that we have many fond memories of. The best picture I have of my baby at that time, is one of Pooh holding her. Pooh actually sat on the floor and held his hands out for her. Though she certainly does not remember the trip, I do believe that it was an enjoyable expierence for her at the time. We have taken a couple of trips since then approximately 5 years apart, and each one was unique and special in it’s own way. We are going back this Thanksgiving (the girls are now 14 and almost 17) and are looking forward to expierencing the World with two teenagers!

  14. Thank you so much for this post! My hubby and I have been “trying” for the past year, and we always talk about how we’ll have to wait so much longer for our next Disney trip after having a baby…Your post has given me more confidence that we can successfully take a trip with a little one in tow.

    Thanks again!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your positive feelings on taking an infant to Disney. It was refreshing to hear! We are leaving in 10 days to WDW with a 2mo old and most of my friends and family think we are crazy! We opted for the extra room and ease of transportation too and will be staying at the Poly. Hope our trip goes as smoothly as yours…

  16. Thanks so much for posting this – your timing couldn’t have been better for our family. We just had our son a week ago and we’ve been trying to figure out when we should plan our next Disney vacation for and how difficult it would be to visit with an infant.

    Becky replies: Excellent! There seem to be advantages (and disadvantages) for each age. I hope that your family enjoys it as much as we have.

  17. I have been taking my children to Disney World since they were 5 months old. One year all 7 of them were 7 and under. 2 strollers and everything else in toll. It was so much easier. Now there are all hitting their teens and they are so ungrateful. Constantly fighting, not wanting to do what the other wants to do. Last year it was the trip from hell. So we are not going this year. And they wonder why. It was cheaper when they were younger and they were happy just being at Disney. I tell anyone that has little ones to go, you’ll never get this age back and the look on their faces and their excitment is priceless.

    Becky replies: Teens can be a surly bunch. I cannot imagine bringing 7 children 7 and under. Busy! Maybe it’s time for adults only trip. 😉