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- Child Care FAQ
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Mickey's Table - I
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Hearing Medical Needs
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Size Concerns: Visual Impairments
For International Visitors
INTRODUCTION: This FAQ page is designed to help you plan a trip to Disney with your child, not to tell you whether you should take your child to Disney. Each child is different and reacts to stimuli differently than other children their same age. This page will help to guide you as you search for useful information on how to have a wonderful trip with an infant or toddler.
Inside the Parks
Deciding to Go
Absolutely! It has been done many, many times by many, many families successfully. You will need to plan accordingly and prepare yourself to take care of your child in a very unique situation. Disney can be overwhelming for the average adult, but without the proper care, it can be even more so for an infant or toddler.
A trip to Disney takes a great deal of planning. But with an infant/toddler the demands of the trip will require even greater preparation to ensure that you and your family have a fun and rewarding vacation.
The purpose is to enjoy spending time with your family at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Depending upon the age of your child, they will remember some experiences. There are many different lights and sounds to keep them interested as you visit. It is quite enjoyable to see your child engrossed by the attractions.
It is a priceless moment when they see the castle, or Spaceship Earth for the first time -- how their eyes light up and they start pointing and squealing, and it is a great photo opportunity.
Not at all. A carefully arranged trip with adequate preparation will ensure that you will have a great time. This FAQ will help you to plan the many phases of your trip until your child is older.
First you should realize that this trip will be different from any other trip you have taken or will ever take to Walt Disney World. You child's happiness and well-being will have to take precedence over your own desires to see every single attraction at Disney. If you can relax on your trip and realize that you are not going to see every single thing, then you can have a great time. If you are the commando type that must see and do everything from sun up to sun down, then you might want to consider waiting for your child to get a bit older.
Of course. You won't be able to see quite everything, but with some planning and flexibility, you will be able to experience the majority of attractions in and out of the parks. It just takes a little more work and a little better planning. Remember that you are taking this vacation to spend time with your family. Including your baby in your trip can be a very rewarding experience as you see their reaction to all the stimulation of the parks.
You know your child best. Certainly if you have any medical questions, discuss them with your doctor.
Here are some things that may help you learn if your child is ready for a theme park:
You need to take a look at the schedule or patterns of your child. This will help you to plan around their nap/meal/sleep schedules and habits. Disney is not the place to try new schedules with your child. It will be much easier to follow their schedule than for them to follow yours. Some things to ask yourself:
How do they act in a public
Do large and loud crowds frighten them?
Does the dark frighten them?
Do they have scheduled nap times or are they flexible?
When and what do they eat?
Are they fussy or do they seem to be more calm?
Have they traveled before and how did they do?
What type of toys or props helps to comfort them?
How do they sleep in a strange location?
Have they been on an airplane/train/bus before?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself about your child. Most are just common sense and none should preclude you from taking your child to Disney. Thinking about them will help you to plan a little better and make sure that all involved have a good time.
With proper care, any time of the year can be enjoyed, but there are a few times that are better than others. It is best to visit with a child when it is less crowded and cooler. See the Historical Attendance and the Weather pages for some additional information. Having a young one gives you lots of flexibilty about when to go as school calendars aren't an issue yet.
One of the best times is in December up to the week before Christmas. The crowds are light, the weather cool, and the parks are decorated for the holidays. Another good time is in January after the first week until mid-February.
Additionally, from the end of spring break (early April) to early May before school lets out is good. Early October through early November usually has great weather and lower crowds (but beware of hurricanes!).
Summers tend to be very crowded and extremely hot. It is very taxing on anyone, but especially so on a small child. Holiday periods are very crowded and make pushing a stroller very difficult. Long attraction lines lead to restlessness and limit the amount of attractions that can be experienced. Spring Break is very crowded and warm.
All the Walt Disney World Hotels are great and go out of their way to make sure you have a great trip.
Something to make your trip easier is to enjoy one of the home-away-from-home or Disney Vacation Club resorts. These resorts offer extra amenities that can aid in the care of an infant. Some of these include; a kitchen to cook meals and refrigerator to store formula and milk, separate bedroom to offer the child peace while napping, and larger living rooms to give your child space to play.
Consider staying in a lagoon view room over at one of the Magic Kingdom hotels, either The Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village Resort, or Contemporary if you can afford it. "Our 2-year-old daughter would sleep and my husband and I would go out on our verandah with snacks and watch the water parade and fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. (Barbara Anderson)
The Beach Club, Yacht Club and the Boardwalk Villas are great places as they are only a five-minute walk to Epcot and slightly longer walk to the Hollywood Studios. There is also a boat to take you to Epcot or the Studios (figure about 20 minutes).
Bringing a stroller is a definite with a small child. Remember that Disney does not rent strollers outside of the parks, although there are a number of reliable rental companies. (See Orlando Stroller Rentals' ad on this page.) So if you are touring the resort hotels, the Boardwalk, or the Disney Springs area and you do not have a stroller, you will have to carry a tired little one. You will want to have a stroller available.
Renting a stroller within the parks versus carrying your personal stroller into the parks is a personal decision. Read the Stroller FAQ for further details.
While many people like the freedom from having to drive while at Disney, it is probably best to have a car if you are planning to take an infant/toddler. Flexibility is the key with an infant/toddler and having your own transportation will aid you in being able to change plans at a moments notice.
A few reasons to have a car with an infant/toddler:
You can make a quick getaway from the parks if necessary. Sometimes waiting for a bus with an infant/toddler is not the best situation. With your own automobile, you will be able to leave immediately.
Some bus rides can be very long. Holding exhausted children, bags, strollers and souvenirs while hot and sweaty for a 30 to 45 minute bus ride is not very fun. In your own transportation vehicle, every one has their own seat and is much more comfortable, plus all of the junk goes in the trunk.
You will have immediate transportation if you need it when the busses are not running.
You will be able to change route if necessary very quickly. As unpredictable as kids are, this is an important feature.
You can leave your car seats in your own transportation. You don't have to transfer car seats from taxi to taxi to go off-property. Cab drivers will not allow a child to ride unrestrained in their cab.
You can go off-property if needed. Many times off-property restaurants are less crowded and offer a more relaxed dining experience.
For more information to help you decide about your transportation, see the Transportation Options page.
Make sure you read and understand the law for the State of Florida (and any state you may be driving through).
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle - Child Passenger Safety and Occupant Protection at the bottom right of this page are important links to Florida information.
Restraint Requirements - (The
First Paragraph) Every operator of a motor vehicle as defined herein,
while transporting a child in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways,
streets, or highways of this state, shall, if the child is 5 years of
age or younger, provide for protection of the child by properly using
a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device. For children
aged through 3 years, such restraint device must be a separate carrier
or a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child seat. For children aged
4 through 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child seat, or
a seat belt may be used.
Inside the Parks
Infants and toddlers under the age of 3 are admitted to the parks free.
The Florida sun, heat, and humidity is always a factor when you travel to Disney.
Because most pediatricians recommend not using sun screen on infants, make sure that you keep the direct sun off of your child by shielding them with a stroller cover. Make sure that you allow air to circulate. Dress your child in light colored clothing that is cool.
Keep your child hydrated at all times. Ask your pediatrician what you need to give your child to keep them from dehydrating. This is critical as the heat can be dangerous to a young child.
Venture into the air conditioned shops and attractions at frequent intervals to help keep everyone cool.
Get a battery-operated portable fan to help keep everyone cool. Some even have water bottles attached that sprays a mist of water in addition to cooling. They really work well to beat the heat, but try to buy one before you reach the parks as they tend to become expensive on Disney property.
Disney does allow you to bring snacks and water into the parks but NOT in glass containers! It is very advisable for you to bring some of your child's favorite small snacks in resealable sandwich bags for a quick treat when needed. When your child gets a little hungry, then you have a snack that they like and you don't have to stand in line.
You will want to arrive early to make sure that you can get as many attractions in as possible with as few lines as possible. This is best accomplished first thing in the morning right when the park opens.
A great idea is to get a park map and mark the attractions that you think the children would like to see and the ones that you are sure that they wouldn't. That way you will be sure to visit each attraction that you wish to see. In addition, start in the back of the park first. Many times it is uncrowded at the beginning of the day as most guests ride the first attraction that they see.
Try the child-swap. The child-swap is designed to allow both parents to experience an attraction that
your little one may be two small to ride and not have to wait in line
twice to do so.
It works like this. At the entrance to the attraction, you mention to the cast member that you would like to do a child-swap. They will instruct you on how to proceed on that particular attraction. You will all go into the attraction line and one parent will ride the attraction while the other stays with the child. When the first adult is finished, they will take the child and the second adult will then ride. This is especially fun for an older brother or sister who is large enough to ride the attraction. Many times the cast members will allow the child to ride with both adults, which gives the child the chance to experience the attraction twice without having to wait in line.
Be sure to ask the Cast Member at the entrance of the attraction about the procedure you are to follow.
FastPass+ is a great system that helps you eliminate some of the longer lines -- you basically receive a virtual "timed ticket," so that you can shop, eat, or do other things instead of waiting in the traditional line. When your reserved time comes up, you can then proceed directly to the ride. For more information on FastPass+ visit the FastPass+ page.
The FastPass+ system lets you, as a parent, plan more efficiently around longer waits by getting a time frame to return to the ride and enjoy other portions of the park. Although the Fastpass+ line can involve some waiting, it is generally less than the traditional queue.
FastPass+ is a great way to keep your child motivated through the longer lines, a fussy period, or even getting them to nap. By knowing when you're going to go on Winnie the Pooh, for example, you can use that as incentive to take a nap, eat, or give them something to look forward to during a tough time of the day.
Baby stations are cast member-staffed areas in each of the four major parks that are set up for helping you to care for your child. They have changing areas, high chairs for feeding, breast-feeding rooms, adult restroom, hot water, sinks for washing, and a room with toys and videos for your older children. These amenities are free for guest of the parks.
In addition, the stations can supply, for a small charge, emergency items that you may have forgotten to take to the park that day. Things such as formula, diapers, Disney baby clothes, children's medicines, and other small necessities to help you get through the day. Use these stations often to get away from the hustle and bustle of the parks and to get off your feet.
These are not day care facilities so there is no place for your child to nap, but they are a great place to get your baby out of the sun for a few minutes. You will love these stations once you use them.
The First Aid Stations are usually adjacent to the Baby Stations!
Magic Kingdom -- at the end of Main Street, behind the Crystal Palace Restaurant on your way to Adventureland. It is tucked away in a small courtyard near the first aid station.
Epcot -- on the back side of the Odyssey on the walkway from Test Track to Mexico.
Disney's Hollywood Studios -- just inside the entrance near guest relations on the left as you enter.
Animal Kingdom -- near the Creature Comforts gift shop on the left side of The Tree of Life.
A mid-afternoon nap is a very good idea for all involved in the trip, not just your infant or toddler. A Disney trip is very tiring with all of the walking that is done. In addition, the parks are very stimulating, which causes additional fatigue for everyone. Arriving when the parks open, enjoying the attractions with the smaller crowds and then leaving in the mid-afternoon to go back to the hotel is one of the better ways to feel refreshed throughout your stay. After a short rest for recharging, you and your whole family will feel much better for the evening activities. Return to the parks and you will notice quite a difference between how you feel and the guests who did not rest during the day. Many will not be enjoying their evenings.
Character experiences with your children can be one of the best events of your trip. There are a few tips to remember. The characters are very large (compared to a toddler) and can be very intimidating to small children. Do not try to force your child to hug Mickey's neck if it is obvious that they don't want to have anything to do with him. Although a toddler's behavior can be considered unpredictable at best, you can try to prepare them for their first meeting with a Disney character.
Some ideas include:
- Get the Disney vacation planning DVD or go to YouTube.com and let the child see the characters in action so that they know
what to expect. The animated character is very different from the
- Talk to your child about
the size of the characters. It depends upon the maturity of your
child, but continual positive reinforcement about the "Big
Mickey" or "Big Minnie" at the park can help prepare
your child for the meeting.
- Watch movies or Disney Channel with the various characters in the show. Talk to your child about how "nice" the character is and how they want to be friends with your child. This can help to create a favorable opinion of the character before the child ever sees them.
- Take your child to a themed
restaurant in your local area if possible. Some have characters
that are lesser known, but offer the same type of feeling that
your child will experience at Disney. Judge from their reaction
to these large characters how they might do at the parks.
- While at the park, allow your child to see the characters from a distance and see how they react. If they seem to accept the character with no problem, then you can approach a little closer. If the child is very reluctant to get closer to the character, then wave to Mickey from a distance and head to another attraction. Your child is not quite ready to have a close up experience with a six-foot, costumed character. Their time will come and they will eventually come around, if not on this trip then on another.
- It may be a good idea to
avoid the "Villain" characters until you know your child
is ready to meet them.
These may help to make that first experience magical rather than terrifying. By gauging your child's reaction to these large animals, you can help to make this a great trip for you and your child.
Unfortunately, Disney does not have organized child care programs for children under 4 years old. However there are some alternatives. Read about these at the Child Care FAQ.
In addition to the tips below, be sure to check out our Tips Database!
Victoria L. Moynihan suggests: If you can, purchase small window clings for the airplane window. They are reusable, and keep my little girl busy peeling and resticking them to the window for most of the trip! When she gets bored with them, I tell her a little story about them, and animate it with the characters. This refreshes her interest. It is also good for the LONG van ride to Disney. She puts them on my mom's van window. A sheet usually costs around two dollars.
Karen Cangero adds that Disney Springs is a nice place for families to have a fun, but low-key outing. There's a small playground at the start of the walkway leading to Rainforest Cafe, which is just the right size for toddlers. Lego World is a fun stop too, plus there are a lot of places to sit down, relax, eat ice cream, etc.
Joy Zeh mentions: I have breastfed at LOTS of locations in WDW including: on the bus (!), in a rocking chair outside the gift shop near Splash Mountain, during stage shows, on Tom Sawyer Island (find a quiet bench), in the exit area of Tower of Terror and right outside the gift shop. Done discreetly with a strategically placed blanket, no one can tell you are breastfeeding!
Joy also reminds us that for toddlers there are plenty of places where they can GET WET, such as the Casey Jr. Splash N Play area in the Magic Kingdom. I have found it helpful to have my kids wear a bathing suit under their clothes, and to pack a small towel and dry undies in my fanny pack. Then when it is hot and we are at the play area, just pull their clothes off, let the kids run around & get wet (don't forget sunscreen), and when they are finished go into a bathroom or behind discreetly placed shrub to pull off wet suit (don't forget a plastic bag to put it in), put on clean panties and dry clothes and then off to another attraction.
Craig Putnal says do not expect to even come close to following any kind of "Disney or Die" program. It won't work, and everyone will be miserable. Pick out one, possibly two key attractions daily. Make sure you are at them early.
Dave Reich adds a number of great suggestions. First make sure to get a map of the park(s) you plan to visit and mark off the attractions you think the children would like to see, the ones you think they may be too scared, the ones that may be too popular, the "older kid" rides such as Space Mountain, and list them in preference and location so you can see as much as you want, and make sure to hit the attractions the kids will like the best. Any of the Disney guidebooks or AllEars.net can help you with what's where. Another interesting factoid is that you can do much better with the lines by getting there early and get to the BACK of the park as soon as possible. The attractions will be less crowded earlier in the day when people are going on the rides as soon as they get in the gates.
Taking snacks into the park is a must. Oftentimes when the kids want to eat, they get cranky, and waiting on a line to get food makes it worse since the only thing worse than a child crying that they are hungry is one who also has to wait on a line with nothing to do but be hungry. Drinks are easy to get at a moment's notice, and you might want to take a container full of cereal or carrots along with you.
Also, at many attractions and shops in the theme parks, Cast Members (CM's) have rolls of stickers of everything from the Disney characters. The shops around the parks, at the resort properties and even Disney Springs have CMs with these little gems. Don't be shy about asking for four or five of them. They will calm a child like (Disney) magic.
Use the "parent swap." Give each adult some "quality alone" time while the other parent takes care of the kids. Being alone for an evening without spouses and children really gives you an opportunity to look around. We also give each other a half day to ourselves. I head off to the spa while he does something special with our daughter and then on his half day, he usually heads to the golf course while I do something special with our daughter. (Barbara Anderson)
An alternative to a stroller for infants and lightweight toddlers is a sling. Our 2-year-old walked a lot, but at times she got tired and we put her in the sling. She could nap there and going through lines was a breeze because she didn't have to stand. When we took our 9-month-old son we put him in the stroller, but when we had to park the stroller we would just pop him in the sling.Your first priority is to plan around your child's schedule!
Consider arriving at the park as soon as it opens. The crowds will be the most manageable right after the parks open. You will see more attractions with less waiting. Enjoy the park for a few hours and then head back to the hotel for some relaxation and naps. This is not only good for your child, but you as well.
Remember to respect the people around you. If your child is tired, irritable and screaming at the top of their lungs, don't try to wait it out. Yes, you spent a great deal of money, but so did the other folks around you. A screaming child means that something is wrong, they may be hungry, they may be wet, or they may be tired. Whatever the problem, take the time to remove your child from the situation and fix the problem. A few moments with your child can save everyone a great deal of frustration.
Allow some fun into the schedule rather than continually following a rigid touring plan. Let the children play in the fountains at Epcot and the Disney Springs. Go back to the hotel and play in the pool. Revisit attractions that your child particularly enjoyed. When asked what their favorite part of a trip to Disney was, many small children answer The Pool!
Thanks to JeffC for his early work on this page.