First Trip to Disney? Over 20 Tips for Parents With Younger Children

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase via our links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you*

How to Have fun at Disney World with small kids.

Updated for 2018!

Shopping at the local grocery store can be overwhelming for a parent. My three kids are well past the elementary school ages now, but I talk with a lot of moms who have younger children. Many say there is no way they would tackle Disney World with younger children. I always laugh first, and then I tell them that it can be done with proper pre-planning and mental and physical breaks.

We asked our  Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans, with a large group of parents who have been there and done that, for their best advice for parents who want to take smaller children to Disney World. They gave us over 20 fabulous ideas to help plan your next vacation.

Read: 10 Things They Forgot to Mention About Walt Disney World Vacations

1. Take a Mid-day Break

Can your children make it 15-17 hours a day without a break?

Noreen, “If your kids are early risers, go to the parks early. Head back to the resort for a swim, lunch and nap. Head back to the park for the evening for a bit.”

Candie, “If your child is whiny – leave. Go back for a nap. Your trip, and my trip, will much more pleasant.”

Jenn,Get there early when the kids are fresh go until around nap / rest time then go back to hotel rest nap swim and go back refreshed when the rest of those at the parks are not as refreshed. Your kids will be happier and you will enjoy the trip better.”

Star Wars Mickey ears hat

2. Plan for Overstimulation

Colors, lights, sounds, characters are all sailing together to create the perfect storm for tantrums.

Julie, “Let them miss school and take them to WDW when it’s not crowded.”

Elizabeth, “Expect meltdowns, especially first day or two, we found our kids so overstimulated on their first day or so of each trip when they were little, just pack your patience.”

Read: Why Should YOU Not Plan Your Next Orlando Vacation? To Get All the FREE Stuff!

Disney Pin trading and Vinylmations

3. Have a Stroller

Adult feet struggle to walk miles and miles a day, so imagine little feet walking double to keep up with you.

Denise, “Bring a stroller or get one of the ones you can have dropped off at your hotel. Your kid might be asleep when you are trying to leave the park and you would have to leave the buggy behind.”

Aileen, “Also, even if you don’t use a stroller at home, you’ll want one at Disney world since you’ll be walking up to 7 miles a day…little tired legs lead to angry children.”

Theodore, “Bring your own stroller (the rental ones aren’t very comfortable and you have to return them when you leave the park), take advantage of the baby care centers!!, return to your hotel for a nap or if you find a quiet and shady spot you can get them to nap in the park… I got my son to sleep next to pirates but careful there’s an interactive game over there that shoots a cannon off, use the train at MK for a break and change of pace, spaceship earth is a great ride for young ones to get out of the sun.”

Disney Mickey Minnie Christmas decorations

4. Bring Entertainment

It’s not all about walking straight onto rides anymore; standing in line is the new norm.

Julie, “Bring small toys for them to play with while waiting in line or waiting at restaurants for a good distraction (we love those Disney figurine sets).”

Tracy, “Glow sticks from the dollar store for dark rides or lines. Saves money at night too.”

Jenn, “Also stock up on stickers coloring books ect from places like target ect so when your kids want that really expensive item you can pull out something fun for them.”

Read: Making a Disney World Scrapbook? Get These Disney Google Maps for FREE!

How kids avoid tantrums at Disney World

5. Use the Baby Care Centers

Shauna, “Take advantage of the Baby Care Centers. They are a great air-conditioned area to relax, nurse a baby, change a diaper or catch a cartoon that’s playing. Plus they sell essentials you might have forgotten like sunscreen, diapers, and even medicine and baby formula!”

Baby Care Centers are found in all four parks.

6. Use a Travel Agent

Planning for Disney trips is a complicated process these days. Why stress yourself out when you can get help, for free?!

Aileen, “It’s better to work with a travel agent with Disney experience than to try to ‘wing’ your Disney vacation (and in not just saying that because I’m an agent… Most reputable agencies do not charge fees, so there is no downside to using them. Disney can be complicated and we are trained to know the ins and outs of your destination.

Call our Disney Vacation Planner, Mike, at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at His services are 100% free for you!

Read: What Are the Top Three Character Meals at Walt Disney World?

Disney World tips for kids

# 7 and #8 are direct opposites. You should use what works for your family. 

7. Sleep In

How many morning can you wake the kids up early after having been to bed almost at midnight?

Amy, “Let your child sleep in. Don’t worry about getting there at rope drop. You can always stay late. Take a good stroller that lays flat for a good nap. Let them explorer and run around in areas where they can play. Bring silly bands or tape for them to play with while waiting in line. Play games like I spy with my little eye.”

8. Go Early

Some of your children will wake up before you!

Melissa“Book an 8AM Advanced Dining Reservation at The Crystal Palace or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Arrive a little early and take advantage of an uncrowded Main Street for some beautiful pictures!! Disney photographers are there to capture the magic!! After breakfast head straight to Fantasyland and ride your little ones favorites before the crowds arrive!”

Karen, “If your kids are early risers definitely do Extra Magic Hours! We knocked out all the major rides and then returned to the hotel by lunch for naps! There where no lines.”

Over 20 Disney Character Autograph Tips from Fans and Parents

Port Orleans Resort

9. Rest Those Feet

It’s always a good idea to start walking way before your trip, but it’s hard to get ready for 10+ mile days.

Donald, “Use the train that goes around the park as a break. You sit for 30 minutes or so, It’s shaded, and also a ride. Kids stay entertained while everyone rests. Win win!”

Ida, “Plan on taking a lot of rest stops, so they don’t wear out by the end of the vacation.”

10. Prepare for a Day in the Sun

There is very little shade on the walking paths at any of the Disney Parks, and how long can your child walk in princess shoes with heels?

Cindi, “Put tennis shoes and socks on children. There is too much walking for little feet in sandles and flip flops. Wear hats and or sunglasses. The sun is strong. Give your child a good squirt of baby powder to help with the sweating.”

Read: The Top 5.5 Quick Service Disney Resort Restaurants – Chosen by Our Fans!

ways to enjoy your Disney World vacation

11. Be Understanding of Your Time limits

Disney is too big to do it all or see it all in one trip.

Yuuki,  “My best advise is that you may not see everything especially during the high-peak seasons like summer or during the holiday seasons. So do as much as you can possibly see and do and try to come back during the low-peak times and see and do everything that you haven’t seen.”

Charissa“Remember you’re on vacation! Tour the parks. Ride the rides. Watch the fireworks. But also, relax by the pool. Take a nap. And don’t stress about when the next bus will come. It will come. Give yourself plenty of time to get around the property.”

Susan, “Don’t try to do everything – don’t tell your kids about everything there is to do either – less disappointment for them, and stress for you to try to make it happen. Choose a couple of “must-dos” for each day, and go with the flow. Plan a few character meals and don’t spend all of your time in lines trying to get autographs. Definitely stop and enjoy the little things like the tree lady at AK or let them bang on the drums. Just don’t try to hurry. Also, plan table service meals in the early afternoon – provides a chance to relax in the a/c and also provides shelter for those quick moving rain showers that pop up.”

Read: Cheaper Breakfast Than Chef Mickey’s? This is One of Our Favorites!

Disney World vacation

12. Pin Trade

Jenn, “If they are old enough for pin trading, find an authentic seller. Kids love trading pins with the cast members. At least mine do.”

Cast Members are all wearing lanyards full of pins to trade, and pins are for sale in every gift shop. Parents enjoy this activity as well.

13. Hydrate

Holy Mickey Mouse Premium Ice Cream bars, it can get so hot and humid in the spring and especially summer.

Katie, “If it’s hot, carry bottles of gatorade around and sippy cups. Stop by a quick service place to get ice to keep it cold. Keep pushing the gatorade or water so they don’t dehydrate.”

Monica, “We bring in our own water bottles because water fountain water tastes gross. I am way too cheap to buy water and drinks all day, but kids especially need to be drinking lots and lots of fluids. 

Read: How Can You Get Merchandise Coupons for Disney World and Disneyland?!

toys kids love at Disney World

14. Let Kids Help Plan

Have you asked the kids what they want to see and do?

Katie, “When big siblings are riding the big rides, make sure to take them on the little kid ones with no wait over and over. You may get stuck riding It’s a Small World more than you’d like, but it will make them very happy. Finally, some things that you enjoy – like Hoop dee doo revue – may also be their favorites and things they talk about as though it was yesterday that they were there!”

Kerri,Watch as many disney movies prior to your trip so they are comfortable with everything. We also watched planning dvds.”

Kelly, “Watch You Tube videos of others experiences so the kids won’t be so surprised at everything its overwhelming. If they see other children happy about meeting a big mouse than they will more than likely be ok with it when they arrive.”

15. Parent Swap

Elizabeth, “If you have more then one kid, assign them to a parent each day, they ride all rides and sit next to that parent for all meals and bus rides, the next day they switch parents, this has alleviated sooo many fights for us on trips for our family.

You can also parent swap on rides where children are too short to reach the height requirements, which doesn’t leave one parent sitting on a bench all the time.

Read: A Disney Cruise: Book It Now and Pay It Off Later!

Why kids love Disney World

16. Go at a Slower Pace

Days are long at Disney; sometimes kids just want to stop to look around and touch things.

Tonia, “Definitely go at your child’s pace! I would say this for anyone taking children under the age of 12. You won’t see everything, but, you wouldn’t anyway. And take breaks! Last but not least, use a stroller for as long as possible! We rented from an outside source for our 5 year old… When she got overwhelmed she jumped right in! We decided not to get one when she was 6 but then rented a park one.”

Kerri, “My best tip is slow down; do not try to do everything. Letting my son look at the fancy birds while we eat was remembered by him more.”

17. Keep a Normal Schedule

Do you have a child that thrives on a regular schedule?

Melanie, “Try to stick to your normal schedule as much as you can. Take breaks and naps as close to normal times as possible.”

Patty, “It’s really hard for us to deviate too far from the kid’s every day schedule. They need meals on time and naps if we want to avoid serious melt downs. Come to think of it, parents need those too!”

Read: The Disney World Do-Over: Tips for Planning a Better Vacation

favorite toys for kids at Disney World

18. Pack a Good Bag

If you don’t want to purchase forgotten items or go back to your resort, you need a well packed park bag.

Rebecca, “Keep a washcloth in a ziploc bag – you can wet it down and let them suck on it or use as ice pack – for heat, ouchies, etc. Bring empty ziploc bags (big and small) for unfinished meals. Bring snacks and drinks! Extra clothes in ziplocs. Take wet wipes/baby wipes. Go to Walmart and buy a misting fan – those keep the kinds cool AND entertained, and they are much cheaper than buying them on property.”

In this article, our fans explain what are must haves for park bags: How to Pack the BEST Disney World Theme Park Bag Ever!

19. Pack Your Patience

Kids and adults alike lose it when exhaustion sets in.

Elizabeth, “Expect meltdowns, especially first day or two, we found our kids so overstimulated on their first day or so of each trip when they were little, just pack your patience.”

Michael, “You need to try to remain calm, cool, and collected while you are at Disney. This is not the time to start yelling and flipping out over minor things. Parents get tired just like kids. Patience is your best friend on a WDW vacation.”

Read: Over 10 Ways Kids Can Earn Money for a Disney Vacation

tips for kids at Disney World Disney Springs

20. Make a Financial Plan

Are you giving your kids money? How much?

Sarah, “It’s a good idea to explain to your kids how much money they have to spend, because they will want to buy everything they see. Rides exit into fabulous gifts shops! We keep a running total of what our children spend in a little notebook to show them daily. This can prevent shopping tantrums.”

21. Just Go!

Is there ever a perfect age to take your kids to Disney? Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Angela, “Go! Just go! Go as often as you can, plan ahead, take your time, enjoy it at their pace, don’t force things. Take lots of pictures.”

Julie, “Let them miss school and take them to WDW when it’s not crowded.”

Pam, “Don’t wait till they are older. Our youngest is 8, and she’s already been 4 times. To see her take her first steps at Disney was awesome for me. She doesn’t remember. Then at 3 she was all about the princesses. At 5 she was into the characters, and at 7 she was into the thrill rides and water parks. And yes, I’m planning a trip this fall just to see Elisa as she is all about ‘Frozen.’ And this will be our first time without a stroller. Take snacks for long lines, and go with the kids. If they aren’t having a good time, then you won’t. And DONT be one of those parents that are screaming at their kids in Disney. If the little ones are tired, find a movie to watch and let the kids take a short nap. It’s amazing how a 20 minute nap on the Carousel of Progress can reboot the little ones. Again don’t wait. You can enjoy Disney and all it’s wonder with the little ones!”

Read: Over 20 Disney Character Autograph Tips from Fans and Parents

Space Mountain Fastpass

The idea of Disney World with small children can be daunting to many parents of small children. Planning, packing, slowing things down to a child’s speed can make for a vacation filled with happy memories.

Remember, that saying about how they grow up too soon is all too true. They’ll be gone before you know it, so why not take a Disney trip. You can photograph them on every ride, so even if they don’t remember every detail, you will!

Tips for taking kids to Disney World

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you headed back to your resort for a nap with the kids.

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

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Mike Ellis

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