Disney World Park Tips for Kids: Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney World theme park tips for kids

Updated for 2017!

Let’s be honest. Taking children on vacation to theme parks, surrounded by thousands of people and potentially walking miles a day, can be overwhelming. For the Disney parks in particular, add in scheduling Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) and FastPass+ times, and you have a lot of information to absorb and keep up with.

We’ve amassed our best tips for taking children to Disney theme parks in one easy to follow guide. And away we go!

Read: Taking Baby to Disney World

1. Daily Schedule

Grab a daily schedule when you first arrive at the parks in the morning; this way you know what’s going on with scheduled events, entertainment, and character locations. You can also get a schedule from the front desk at all the WDW resorts. Children that can read might enjoy having their own schedule, which means multiple people in your party will be planning things down to the minute! 

Those of you with iPhones can use the My Disney Experience App. to see times and locations for character meet and greets, attraction wait times, and a limited schedule for some events like Casey’s Corner Pianist, Celebrate the Magic show, Flag Retreat, etc. Kids are totally tech savvy these days and will enjoy looking this up on a phone. 

2. Go Early

If you have spent any time on vacation with children, you know that they are usually wide awake and raring to go way before the adults. Most smaller children are in prime form in the mornings, crashing later on in the day. So it makes sense when traveling with kids to head over to the parks bright and early.

Theme parks are the least crowded first thing in the mornings (unless there is morning Extra Magic Hours), so you will have shorter wait times than from noon until later on in the afternoon. In the summer, it’s not yet hot and humid during the early mornings, and you can always come back to your room and grab a nap. Vacations are hard work; I am a big proponent of naps.

Items You Can NOT Bring to Disney Theme Parks

Disney World Theme Park Tips for Kids

3. Take a Picture of your Parking Row

Time to start your day off right. Cast Members say you wouldn’t believe how many people forget where they parked each day. Take a picture of the sign on your parking row and text it to yourself, or just text the information so you don’t forget how to find your spot.

If any child traveling with you has their own phone, have them take the picture (participation!) and send it to you. Let them be in charge of finding the car, with a little gentle supervision from you.

4. Take a Nap

As I said in #2 when discussing beating the big crowds by waking up early for park openings, I am all about the nap, both for me and for children. On a typical Disney day, but even more so when it’s summery-hot, kids start to lose it around lunch time. Even if you have active children who can handle a fair amount of walking, the Florida heat alone can suck the life out of you.

If your children normally take a nap, we recommend heading back to the hotel for a quick rejuvenating snooze. There are kids napping in strollers everywhere throughout the parks, so if they fall asleep before you make it back to the room, that’s even better for those left to ride roller coasters while the kids nap it out in the shade.

Read: FREE Drink Refills at Disney World Theme Parks

take a nap on a Disney vacation

5. Or Take a Break

Not every child will need a nap, but they certainly might need a break. There is so much to see and do in the parks and resorts (ever seen a child in a gift shop on the way to a park?!) that overstimulation is a very real possibility. If you have two adults, let one take the nap and the other adult can take the non-nappers for a swim.

Single parent of nappers AND non-nappers? This is where you turn the room TV on a low volume, turn off the lights, draw the curtains, and catch some Zs for yourself while those still awake watch some cartoons. Hanging out with the less-stimulated child is certainly ideal over the cranky and completely over-stimulated one.

Naps and breaks can make your vacation run much more smoothly.

6. You Can Rent Strollers

While parents can bring strollers from home, Disney also has molded plastic strollers for rent. These rental stroller are not suitable for infants or older babies, but they are certainly fine for toddlers to preschoolers. You cannot remove strollers from the theme parks, so if you park hop, just present your rental receipt at the next park to obtain a replacement. A $100 credit card deposit is required for strollers rented at the Disney Springs area.

  • Single strollers are recommended for children 50 lbs. or less. The daily rate is $15 and multi-day length of stay rate is $13.
  • Double strollers are recommended for children 100 lbs. or less. The daily rate is $31 and multi-day length of stay rate is $27.

To qualify for a Length of Stay stroller discount, simply pre-pay the number of days that you will need a stroller. Purchase a Length of Stay rental ticket, and show your receipt at the rental location to receive your stroller for the day.

In addition to stroller rental locations across Walt Disney World Resort, several private companies in the local area also offer stroller rentals.

  • Orlando Stroller Rentals: (800) 281-0884
  • Kingdom Strollers: (407) 271-5301
  • Magic Strollers: (866) 866-6177

Over 30 FREE Activities In Disney Springs

where to rent strollers at Disney World

7. Realize Strollers are Moved

Where did your stroller go? You know for a fact you parked it right here. Well, as they straighten up park areas, Cast Members will often move strollers around so everything looks more organized. There is no need to panic if you don’t find your stroller where you originally parked it. Look around for the huge group of strollers, and if you use tip #8, you’ll have no trouble spotting it.

8. Cheapskate Decorate Your Stroller 

You need your stroller to stand out from the crowd. Stroller decoration certainly doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take much time. Lots of families attach balloons, ribbons, or decorate bright-colored name tags so they can recognize their stroller more quickly. When you walk out of an attraction, you will then spot your distinctive looking stroller more quickly.

Personalization is especially important if you rented one of the identical looking Disney strollers. Pick identifiers your children will recognize, so they don’t climb into the wrong one. (Ask me how I know this happens…) You don’t have to spend lots of money for a Mickey helium balloon to make your stroller look special, but if you do, remember to take it home at the end of the day. I’ve heard stories from parents who say their balloon stayed inflated sometimes for over a month. 

Read: Disney World $.51 Souvenir Pennies

decorate your stroller at Disney World

9. What’s in Your Stroller?

I always tell people Disney World is a really safe place, both for your family and your belongings. I once forgot a backpack on a resort bench as we boarded a bus to Magic Kingdom. 20 minutes later after riding back to the bench, me in panic and with a furious husband, that bag was still sitting right there with all the contents, untouched and in place. Chances are anything you leave in your stroller will be right there upon your return, but…

Just in case, make sure anything you leave unattended will not ruin your trip if you come back to find it missing. If your child can only sleep with that one specific Mickey doll, perhaps that Mickey doesn’t need to be in the stroller. Or maybe you need to bring two Mickeys, one for the stroller and one for the room. Chances are everything will be fine, but sometimes it’s not worth taking a risk bringing along financial or emotionally valuable items with you into the parks.

10. Stroller Fold Up 

Keeping in mind that you can’t take the rental strollers out of the parks, when you bring your own stroller on the Disney busses and trams, you will need to fold it up before you climb on board. This catches a lot of families by surprise, and stroller break down and bag organizing can take some time to get yourself together.

Strollers can be rolled onto monorails and some boats, depending on space, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared for fold up. Children should be ready to be in and out quickly. People behind you in line will thank you.

11. Bag Check Lines

Since we’re talking about potentially holding people up in lines, bag check into the parks is another area you should be prepared. You need to have every pocket of your bag open for Cast Members to check. Just for your information, they are looking for glass containers and weapons, not food.

Children traveling with you should have their bags open as well, even if it’s a small backpack or fanny pack. Trust me, people behind you in line will thank you.

Read: Haircuts at Walt Disney World For $20

find your stroller at Walt Disney World

12. Emergency Plan

If you become separated, do your children know where to meet? Do small children know what to do if they suddenly can’t find you? Should they stand still or walk around looking for you? It’s an excellent idea to determine a meet up place if you get separated or have a plan on what to do.

For children that are really small and unable to communicate how to reach their parents, many people tape phone numbers in their child’s shirt collars, take pictures of what they are wearing that day, and lots of other child finding measures. We have an entire article with tips to help you keep up with your children in the parks: How NOT to Lose Your Kids at Walt Disney World and Disneyland

13. Baby Care Centers 

Baby Care Centers can be truly helpful during your vacation. Open during regular park hours, each full-service Baby Care facility is FREE to use and includes the following:

  • Private nursing room with rocking chairs
  • Changing room with tables and a unisex bathroom
  • Feeding area with high chairs
  • Kitchen with microwave, oven and sink
  • Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa

There is an on-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase. These items will not be free.

Read – Disney World 4 Le$$: Miniature Golf

Disney World baby care center information

14. First Aid

What do you do what a child gets sick in the parks?  Or if the adult watching a child feels sick? Visit one of the First Aid centers. Nurses are available during regular park operating hours, providing over-the-counter medications, bandages and other quick remedies.

Use this link to see their locations in each park.

15. Souvenir Pick-Up for Toys/Merchandise

Have the kids have picked out souvenirs too large for you to carry? Or maybe you don’t want to leave expensive items in your stroller? Decide you have to purchase something breakable? Good thing you have an option. Theme park merchandise can be delivered to a designated location near the front park entrances for convenient pick-up as you exit the parks. To utilize this service at the time you make your purchase, let the Cast Member who rings up your items know you want everything delivered to the park entrance.

You can also have items delivered to your resort room, but obviously don’t use this service if you are leaving early the next day. How awful would it be to miss your souvenir delivery!

Disney for Le$$: Chocolate Extinction at T-REX in Disney Springs

have items delivered to yoyr resort room on a Disney World vacation

16. It Gets Loud

Small children can be really noise sensitive, as can be children with special needs. Fireworks and music in Fantasmic!IllumiNations, and Wishes can be really loud. If your children are noise sensitive, pack some earplugs; if you forget, they are available at First Aid. If possible, try not to sit too close to the front.

17. It Also Gets Dark

If your younger children have never been on “dark rides” before, you may be shocked by their reactions. I’ve seen kids wailing in Small World, and this is a happy dark ride! Start explaining to them that some rides and shows may be in the dark. A great way to do this is by showing ride videos found on YouTube.

Once you arrive in the parks, don’t push your children into something they can’t handle. If the tears start in the first dark space, then don’t continue going into dark ride after ride. You can always come back when they are older.

Read: How to Pack the BEST Disney World Theme Park Bag Ever!

Disney World tips for kids

18. Lines/Queues are Long

Stand-by lines can frequently get really long, like hours long during holidays, and this can be stressful for both adults and children. Many parents recommend that kids play on iPhone apps. or try looking for Hidden Mickeys while they wait. Hidden Mickeys are just Mickey-head shapes/three circles that appear where you wouldn’t expect them.

This is also a great time to have a conversation with your child, especially teens, because now you have a captive audience!

19. Ride Before Parades & Shows

People can start lining up for shows and parades nearly one hour or more before they actually start. This means while large groups are gathering in one spot, you can take advantage of what can be shorter wait times for roller coasters. The lines will fill back up right after the entertainment ends. I’m not saying choose rides OVER parades and shows, because Disney absolutely has some of the best of both. But if your group isn’t that into seeing live entertainment, then use that time wisely for more popular rides with potentially shorter waits.

Read: Less Stress on Vacation

avoiding long likes at Disney parks and resorts

20. Tips For Big Theaters

Shows like PhilHarmagicLittle Mermaid, and the Muppets 3D movie are all housed in large theaters. Your impulse will be to hurry inside, but the better plan is to hang back. The first guests through the doors are instructed to walk all the way to the end of the rows. If you want to sit in the middle, our favorite viewing spot, let other people go in before you.

However, if you do rush into the theater and find yourself sitting at the beginning (which is now the end) of the row, cheer up, because you are in prime position to get out of the theater faster to move to your next attraction.

21. FastPass+ 

If you haven’t been to Disney World in a long time but are now taking kids with you, know that things have drastically changed in the last few years, especially changes from the paper FASTPASSes. Now, you can schedule FastPass+ rides in advance, but you cannot make them for the same ride. You should have seen my sons’ faces when I said we were unable to schedule three passes for Space Mountain. Both over the age of 15 now, this is a disappointment they still suffer through every single trip.

You can ride the same rides over and over, but you will find yourself at the mercy of the Stand-By lines, and those can be lengthy. Make sure the kids understand this before you arrive, or stress and tears can ensue. This is a HUGE change for people who haven’t been to Disney in a long time.

Read: Surviving Disney World at Christmas

Disney World Fastpass + tips

22. FastPass+ is Inflexible

FastPass+ ending times are now strictly enforced. Long ago, if your FASTPASS paper ticket said 2:30 and you showed up after 3:00 with your paper pass, Cast Members waved you through. But now with the use of MagicBands and a crack down on times, you will not be allowed on a ride if you show up outside of your return time window, no matter how much you smile or how much the kids beg. So plan accordingly, which can include writing your time frames down or storing screenshots of them in your phone for easy access.

23. Additional PastPass+

When the initial switch was made from FASTPASS paper passes to FastPass+ and MagicBands, you were only allowed three passes per park per day.  You can now get more PastPass+ passes once you have used your original three, but warn the kids, what is left at the end of the day will probably not be their first choice ride. There’s not much left by the end of the day in terms of really popular rides.

24. Special Holiday Parties = Closing early

During certain times of year, there are “hard ticket” events that cause the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios to close early. Without a ticket for popular parties like MNSSHP (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) and MVMCP (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) you will be leaving the parks around 7 pm. This was a real shock for my crew when we were instructed to make our way to the exits way before 10 p.m fireworks. Be sure to have your Travel Agent check the dates for you or check themselves using this link to Disney’s Special Event Ticket page. 

Read: Buying Disney World Souvenirs on Ebay

Tips for Disney World Christmas party

25. Extra Tickets

If you want to purchase a ticket for these special events so you can stay after 7 p.m., know that prices will vary. You can expect a starting price of around $55- $65 for children’s tickets and $65-$75.00 for adult tickets before tax. You get sweet treats, special photo opportunities with characters, music and light shows, and time in the parks when the general public has gone home. How Much Are Tickets to Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas Parties? Grab Your Disney Visa!

Starting in April 2016, Magic Kingdom park will stay open for three extra hours after the park closes to other guests on certain dates. This is called Disney After Hours. You can enjoy favorite attractions and character greetings with very little wait time, but it’s going to cost you $149 before tax for both adults and children.

Of it’s being offered, the Early Morning Magic program will involve one hour and 15 minutes of park time before opening with three rides and a breakfast buffet. The rides are The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. This cost $69 for adults and $49 for children in 2016.

Disney is providing lots of way for you to visit the parks without huge crowds, but it will cost you extra, and a fair amount extra at that.

26. Sleep In

You may have days when you just can not wake up super early without a child (or adult! I’m thinking of you, dear husband) committing mutiny. It’s not the end of the world to sleep in. So you miss a few rides…you can make up for it later with a good attitude and a rested body.

27. Stay Late

Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are times the parks open early or stay open for those guests staying at Disney resorts. This extra time a perk of staying on property. The parks will thin out as non-resort guests leave, but they also get replaced with on-property guests coming over from other parks. If you have small children, Magic Kingdom Extra Magic Hours are your best option, because when the really popular roller coasters have long lines, there are still lots of other attractions for kids without crazy waits.

If you managed to catch a nap, then enjoy Extra Magic Hours late at night, when the summer temperatures and humidity are lower.

Read: 10 Ways to Save Money on Disney World Food

Disney Moms tips and tricks

28. Show the Bands

If you are attending Extra Magic Hours, you will need a MagicBand/park ticket for every person you are traveling with to show a Cast Member for admittance. You will not be allowed on rides or in shows without a ticket or band, and that rule goes for every person in your party. So make sure you keep them with you.

29. Night Time Shows

This may be tough with small children, but if they can stay up later, (naps help tremendously here) some of the best shows start after 9 p.m. I’m referring to the Main Street Electrical ParadeWishes, and Celebrate the Magic at Magic Kingdom, IllumiNations at Epcot, and Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios. These are all excellent shows that start after most younger children’s normal bed times. If Disney offers a second show time, the second showing is generally regarded as being less crowded than the first.

 30. Prep. for Holidays

Holiday crowds at Disney World are indeed crazy. If you go vacation during a holiday when kids across the country are out of school, then you better be mentally prepared for long lines, people everywhere, and more waiting in lines. Should you take your kids out of school? More and more parents are these days, so they can hopefully enjoy lighter crowds, but Christmas is definitely the busiest time of the entire year. Prepare your own children for possible long waits and crowded situations.

Other holidays are packed out as well; if the kids are out of school, crowd levels will be pretty intense. 

Here are two articles that can help you prepare for the holiday madness.

Are You Crazy Enough to Go to World Disney World at Christmas?

What Are the Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World?

Disney World Christmas snacks

31. Need More Tickets?

When the kids are having a blast at the parks, if you decide (to make them happy, of course!) you would like to add another day or days to your current tickets, go to Guest Services. You need to make this decision before you are on the final day of your tickets. Extra days are not as expensive as your initial four or five days. Unless it’s the last day, you have the option to add more days, park hoppers, and water parks options.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you headed toward the Magic Kingdom, pushing a small child in a stroller…

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Save Money on Disney’s Characters In Flight

save money on Characters in Flight at Disney Springs

Updated for 2016!

If you made the trip to Orlando for some theme park visiting, it’s always a good idea to have a “free” day with no park tickets. We’ve devised the ultimate early morning plan for Disney Springs, leading you to an amazing coffee shop, an awesome and discounted balloon ride, followed by world-class Disney shopping. Sorry, roller coaster enthusiasts, but it may not get any better than this! Not for this price anyway…

So here’s what you’ll do for a morning at Disney Springs as you head over to climb aboard  Characters in Flight.

get a discount on Characters in Flight at Disney Springs

Save Time

Traffic is so crazy at the new Disney Springs, with construction going on at every turn and intersection. The whole complex is really going to be fabulous upon completion, but parking and highways are a big mess right now. If you don’t get an early start, you could be headed for some major delays. By getting to Disney Springs before most stores even open, you’ll be looking at a relatively empty parking garage. Several hours later, traffic and parking will be congested and frustrating.

Arrive at Disney Springs by about 9 a.m.

Now walk straight to the new Starbucks right next to Characters in Flight, which is the balloon that takes guests up 400 feet in the air.

where Disney Springs Characters in Flight is located

Enjoy a Snack

Have you been to the new Starbucks by the lake at Disney Springs? As much as I dislike the Starbucks that replaced the bakery on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, I LOVE this Starbucks location. It’s not that I am anti-corporation or anti-Starbucks coffee. I just disliked how they removed the seating. Perhaps they noted my complaints and set out to rectify that mistake at Disney Springs.

Go in, order a breakfast snack or drink and take a seat. Starbucks prices are not unreasonable, and many drinks and snacks are part of the Disney Dining Plan. I’m not sure there is a coffee shop with a better view anywhere than this Disney Springs location. When you go to the Disney Starbucks early in the morning, I can’t tell you how relaxing it is, without having to wait for a seat or stand in line to order.

Sitting inside smells like coffee with a view. To see more pictures, use this link:

I Completely Disliked Starbucks at Walt Disney World, Until This Happened…

tips for Characters in Flight

Outside seating, interesting on its own, has an even more fantastic outlook of the lake and the balloon. The combination of wood, stone, vegetation, and fire is soothing to the soul. Did I mention how much I LOVE this particular Starbucks? I don’t even like coffee, and I practically run from our car straight here.

To see prices from Starbucks menu, use this link:

Disney World’s Main Street Bakery: Can You Afford Starbuck’s Prices?

how to enjoy Characters in Flight

Grab a table and enjoy the scenery!

save money at Disney World

When to ride the Disney World balloon

Enjoy the Ride + Save $$

Finish your snack by 9:30, 9:40 at the latest, and then walk over to buy your tickets at the balloon. 

Characters in Flight is an attraction that takes guests 400 feet up in the air on an Aero30 tethered gas balloon that was custom-built for Disney by Paris-headquartered company Aérophile S.A..

The yellow striped balloon has hand-painted silhouettes of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin, Jasmine, Buzz Lightyear, and Tinker Bell. On its 19-foot diameter gondola, up to 29 passengers and an Aérophile-certified pilot can take a ride straight up, floating skyward with the help of up to 210,000 cubic feet of helium.

Because the balloon is tethered, it will not travel beyond 400 feet at any time.

Is Your Starbucks Coffee Habit Taking Money Out Of Your Disney Vacation Fund?

save money on Characters in Flight

If you purchase your ticket and travel up by 10 a.m., ticket prices drop from $18 for adults to $10. For adults, that’s almost half off! You’ll save $2 per child’s ticket. It’s called the Early Bird Special. Kids under the age of three fly free everyday.

Now, this special could change at any minute with no notifications for you or me, but a Cast Member said this promotion had been going on for a long time.

So up you go, Early Bird, but first be sure you have read our ultimate guide to Characters in Flight.

Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide

Characters in Flight discount

cheap fun at Disney Springs in Orlando

Tips to Know Before You Go Up

The balloon will not fly if winds exceed 22 mph or if there is a storm.

Maximum balloon capacity will be affected by wind speeds.

Items that are not permitted aboard are bags, food and drink, smoking and strollers. You’ll need a place to secure these. 

There is a safety net, but the holes are large enough that you could drop your camera or phone. You won’t save enough on Early Bird tickets to replace anything electronic that you drop, so hold on tight. 

best things to do at Disney Springs

Do Some Shopping

Well, now you are now at the perfect time to do some shopping, assuming you are finished with the balloon by around 10 a.m. Stores at Disney Springs traditionally start opening at ten, so the crowds aren’t crazy yet. Temperatures in the summer start to rise at this point, so being in the air-conditioned stores will keep you cool.

There is so much to do at Disney Springs, you could easily spend half a day here. Even with the current construction woes, it’s a great place to spend some time on vacation.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with an almost finished Starbucks coffee in hand, headed for the ticket counter.

 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Taking Baby to Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

how to take a baby on vacation

Updated for 2016!

I have a good friend who struggled for years to have a baby, and when she finally got pregnant, my first question was, “When are you going to Disney World?” She said she and her husband had discussed it, and they decided when the baby turned five, that was a good time. I think I gasped. I seem to recall my mouth fell open. I thought she was joking, until she said that considering what the vacation would cost, they knew they wouldn’t have any fun at Disney with a baby.

When you talk about Disney World being an expensive vacation, that would be a valid point. Given the cost added to babysitting duty, can you really have any fun with a baby in tow at Disney World?

Babies are work, man, lots and lots of work. I believe you can have fun, although it may not be the most relaxing vacation you ever take. Is life ever easy with a baby? I’ve seen parents struggling at WDW with wailing infants that looked four days old, all the way up to those babies reaching up to touch Goofy in Chef Mickey’s. There are a lot of babies hanging out at Disney World, probably more than you would expect.

Vacationing at Disney World? Then You’ll Need a Nap!

take a baby to Disney World

 Why Take a Baby To Disney?

1) No school to miss. Babies have all the time in the world, and there are no tests or home work to make up. And baby is learning anyway, all about colors, shapes, and songs, and he’s picking up language while you talk to him.

2) Food is practically free for babies. Breast feeding a baby is free.  If you are bringing formula and baby food from home, that is a normal every day expense for you. It is also nowhere near the cost of a childs’ meal. So food is not really an additional expense, because you had to feed her anyway.

3) Tickets are free. There is no Disney admission charge for children up until they reach the age of three. A one day ticket for a three-year-old child starts at $97 (2016 one-day ticket price increase,) so think of the money you are saving by not buying tickets for that precious baby.

4) They take up very little space in a hotel room. If you didn’t bring your own Pack ‘n’ Play, you can borrow these at the resorts. Check for availability when you make your reservation. My babies have slept in laundry baskets before; they can’t roll out of it, and we packed up the hotel room with the basket when we left. Multi-functioning bed at its finest.

5) You can still ride roller coasters. Rider Switch, which is sometimes called “Child Swap,” is a pass system that allows people with small children to take turns riding the “tall people” rides while the other person/people wait with the child. Now you won’t have to miss the ride because someone has to watch the baby in line. With your entire group  present, tell the Cast Member that you would like to use Rider Switch. The “waiters” receive a Rider Switch pass, similar to a FastPass, and the “riders” proceed on through the line. When they finish, you will swap. This will also work if a child is tall enough but doesn’t want to ride.

6) You Love Disney. Here is the part where I am talking about you having funIn reality, this vacation isn’t really about the baby, who wot remember the vacation anyway, it’s about YOU! You love Disney, you love spending time with your child, so overcome your fears and combine your two loves.

“Best of the Best” Walt Disney World Freebies

take a baby to Disney World on vacation

Anyone who has spent time around a baby knows that life can be stressful, especially if you have ventured out of your comfort zone and onto a monorail with a stroller. Here is a list of things that I believe can make your time with a baby at Disney a little easier.

Things You Need

1. Nap

Number one on my list is a nap. You need one and baby needs one, and I suggest you go back to your hotel room to take it. Everybody wakes up refreshed and happy. That said, my babies took naps on the Peoplemover, the monorail, and occasionally in a stroller. I know some Disney moms worry about schedules, but altering regular plans slightly for a few days won’t cause permanent damage.  You should definitely get that nap in though. Power nap = happy momma.

There are babies and toddlers asleep all over Disney parks. Babies can and do nap on shoulders, in strollers, on slow-moving rides like the train, and in movies like The Muppets 3D Adventure, etc. They can nap most anywhere. While baby is asleep, have some fun pushing the stroller through a gift shop.

2. Distractions

For those babies old enough to eat solids, snacks can make waiting in line a little easier. So can distracting toys and the occasional song sung softly in a little ear. If baby gets fussy in line, it’s not the end of vacation if you step out and take a break. You can hop on a ride later. While you walk baby around, have some fun just looking at the Disney architecture and the other people on vacations.

3. Essentials

You’ll need the essentials. Making a run to a store can be time-consuming and will be more costly than bringing these supplies from home.

Here’s a good generic baby packing list.

  • blankets
  • clothes, pajamas
  • bottles/extra nipples, formula, possibly a breast pump
  • bibs
  • diapers, wipes
  • pacifiers
  • toys
  • medicines, hand sanitizer
  • gallon size storage bags for emergencies
  • shampoos, soaps, and lotions
  • car seat
  • stroller
  • baby monitor
  • Pack ‘n’ Play, if you think you need your own.

What if you forget to take these items into the parks?  Can you buy them there? Sure, most of it.

All the theme parks, the water parks, and Disney Springs carry baby supplies like diapers, diaper pins, formula, and sunburn treatment. If you don’t see it, you can ask for it. You will pay a lot more for these items at Disney than at home, but you are paying for convenience and ultimately paying a high price for poor planning.

There are also baby care centers with supplies available in small quantities, which we will discuss further on.

4. Sunblock

I know there are rules and regulations on sunscreen use with babies of a certain age, but their little skin can get easily burned out in the sun, so cover them up or bend the sunscreen rules.  Sunburn is a great way to ruin a baby’s day and thus yours as well. I know people are having a stroke to get to the parks early. 

I’m thinking if you make an early day of it, go back to the room for a nap and/or a swim, and then head back to the park between four and six when the sun is going down.

When Should You Tell the Kids About A Disney Vacation?*

Cheapskate Princess Guide to taking babies to Disney World

What if Baby Gets Sick?

Many of the reasons we suggest babies go on vacations won’t make new moms feel any better. You’re not in your comfort zone on vacation, away from your home and a regular schedule, and things can go wrong.

If baby gets sick at the park, where do you go?

That would be every parents’ fear, that a baby would get sick or hurt on vacation. Colds can come on fast, little arms can get cut or scraped. Every park has a First Aid Center, and here is a list of where to find them:

  • Magic Kingdom- at the end of Main Street, turn left. It’s located between Casey’s Corner restaurant and the Crystal Palace.
  • Epcot – It’s located on the World Showcase side of Odyssey Center.
  • Hollywood Studios – You’ll find it in the Guest Relations Building inside the main Entrance.
  • Animal Kingdom- It’s located in Discovery Island, on the left side before you cross the bridge to Africa. It’s basically behind Creature Comforts.

The beauty is that in all four Disney parks, the First Aid Center is located next to the Baby Care Center. You can take a baby into any of the First Aid Centers, and they can handle anything from minor cuts and scrapes to allergic reactions.

Speaking of Baby Care Centers, what can they do for adults?

At a Baby Care Center, you can do the following:

  • change diapers
  • prepare formula
  • warm bottles and baby food
  • purchase supplies
  • rock in rocking chairs
  • nurse infants in special chairs

Dads are welcome at all the Baby Care Centers, and they can use most of the services.  Many men’s restrooms now offer diaper changing tables, so the burden won’t all fall on mom’s shoulders.

Beware of Buying These Disney Vacation Souvenirs on Ebay

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So are you ready to make those reservations and bring that baby to Disney? Summer is probably not the best recommended time to go with a newborn, but you can still have a good time, even if you sweat a lot. See my above plan for taking a nap mid-day when the heat is the worst.

When it comes right down to it, taking a Disney vacation with a baby isn’t really about the baby at all. It’s about you, and you want to go to Disney World, and baby will be happy just hangin’ out with you.

You may feel stressed and overwhelmed, but you can feel stressed going to Wal-mart on a particularly rough baby day. You’ll forget to pack things, baby will cry, and you’ll have a few moments where you question your sanity. But then you’ll remember I said to take a deep breath, stop for a second, and remember how much you love being at Disney World. Then you’ll be just fine.

For every bad moment, hopefully you’ll have 12 good ones, plus you’ll have some fabulous pictures to show at baby’s high school graduation party years later.

So start planning that vacation.

Should You Pull Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll probably see you in a Magic Kingdom restroom as you search for the diaper changing table. I’ll be the one green with envy, as my babies are all tall enough now to ride Splash Mountain without me. I sure do miss a baby asleep on my shoulder on the WDW train…

 

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Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.