There’s just something so exciting about going to Disney World with toddlers. Maybe it’s the way they see things; everything is still so magical to them. And really, if you look at it through their eyes, you start to see things differently too!
And when it comes to planning a trip to Disney World with toddlers, there are more than a couple things to keep in mind. While tots are able to enjoy more of the parks than babies, there are still some things to take into consideration.
First, of course, is knowing which rides are good for toddlers, and which of the Disney Parks are the most toddler-friendly.
Second, you gotta know the best times to go. It’s nice to be able to avoid the most crowded times of the day and of the year, especially with a toddler in tow.
And then, there are all sorts of neat little tips and tricks for making the most out of your Disney vacation with a toddler. From character meets to special places around the park for them to enjoy to where to find free stuff! We’ll dive into all of it.
But first, let’s start with some of the basics of Disney World vacation planning so you know what you’re getting into from the start…
Special Note about current Covid 19 procedures!
So yes, I’ve taken all my kids ( infant, toddler and preschooler) to all the orlando theme parks since the reopening. Some of it has been fun, some of it is not so fun.
What’s not fun? The masks. Kids 2 and up are required at Disney World (3 and up for Universal and 8 and up for Legoland). My kids can’t keep them on. We ended up putting the 2 yr old in a back carrier and taking off her mask, and also letting her spend a lot of time in the stroller. We found that if we were outside (not in a store, restaurant or queue) that no one said anything if she was “put up” and away from others.
What is fun? Seeing characters and being at Disney World when it was closed for so long! Staring at the same four walls just isn’t fun, so getting to adventure to somewhere new, somewhere fun and full of special activities, is just magical!
If this is your ONLY trip for the next several years, I can see why you might skip it. But if you are comfortable with significant limits on everything (literally everything!) then go and have a great time!
This post may contain affiliate links, read my full disclosure here.
Quick tips for Disney World planning with toddlers
Download the My Disney App!
This handy little app is so useful for planning your trip! Once you’ve got the basics down about the parks, restaurants and transportation, you can begin looking at ADR’s (advanced Dining Reservations) and booking your fast passes (they are free! It’s how you get to skip the line on rides). Super helpful, especially with a toddler!
IMPORTANT NOTE: The ADR’s can be accessed 180 days in advance and the Fast passes can be booked 60 days in advance.
If you worked with a Disney Travel Agent, they can help you with planning your Dining Reservations and Fast Passes.
Please DON’T make plans until you decide what parks you are visiting on what days. WHY? Because you might accidentally make a reservation for a park at the same time as a fast pass- OOPS!
What do you need for your Disney vacation?
I highly recommend getting a packing list together- at least a month ahead of time, so that way you can get everything you need. This especially helps when you’ve got a toddler to pack for, too!
But good news- Amazon Delivers! So if you forget something, order it and have it sent to your resort.
The top 3 items I recommend to everyone:
1. Portable Phone Charger– your phone WILL go dead using the MyDisney App, and some of the rides will drain your battery as your phone looks for signal. The alternative is good ole pencil and paper- just make sure you can access your plans and reservations for the day!
2. Insulated Water Bottle– It gets HOT at Disney. Even in the winter you are dealing with the sun, the wind and way too much walking. Animal Kingdom also doesn’t do straws or lids- so you need a water bottle to prevent spillage.
3. Body Glide- This stuff is phenomenal. I use it for anywhere my skin might get irritation (like shoes in sneakers or thighs in shorts). It’s only a few bucks, so better to have it and not need it- then need it and not have it!
Know the best times to go to Disney World
Walt Disney World is such a popular resort that it can get a little crowded.
I’ve been on some of the busiest days of the year, and while it is still magical, it’s not very fun waiting in a two hour line… especially with little kids! What you can do is check the best weeks to go and pick the week that works best for your family!
I recommend checking out this crowd calendar here. It will give you an idea of when you should go.
Check out the full and complete Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for more helpful information!
Now let’s talk about tots!
The park that has the best (and most!) rides for toddlers
This award easily goes to our favorite and most popular park, Magic Kingdom. At Magic Kingdom, you’ll find so many parks for the younger ones to enjoy. (Though Haunted Mansion could be scary- depends on your kid, My 2 yr old is NOT a fan!)
Some of our favorites include the Dumbo ride, (especially because it has a hidden playground inside!), and the Jungle Cruise.
We also love to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean and you absolutely HAVE to do the people mover.
The people mover is Walt Disney’s gift to those people that want a solid 10 minutes to do nothing and just relax!
The Best Disney World park with the most play places for toddlers
We all know that kids love to play. And while Magic Kingdom has quite a few smaller hidden areas for the littles to run around, they are often small and tucked back.
But if you want an actual playground that you don’t have to catch a boat or jump through a ride to get to, head to Epcot!
Yes! Epcot, which is world renowned for festivals catering to adults, actually has a lot of great stuff for the little ones. You’ll find most of the larger play spaces in Future World. There’s a full-fledged outdoor playground in the middle of the world showcase.
There’s also two splash pads in this area (more in splash pads in a bit!) AND if you go in the back entrance to Mission Space, there is a playground indoors with A/C.
The best for Low Stress with a Toddler
I don’t know about you, but after lugging around this stroller and this diaper bag and chasing after too many kids, mama needs a break.
That’s when we get lost in the rain forest and other foreign cultures at Animal Kingdom.
This park is so laid back and easy to explore, with lots of animals and walking paths. There are some super fun and cute shows, and an entire area dedicated to kiddos at DinoLand USA which also has a giant play area!
The Best place to meet toddler friendly characters
Meeting characters is so incredibly fun for the little kids! While I’m a big fan of doing character meals with my food allergy babies, I also know it’s fun to meet characters at the parks!
The best place to do this is also the home to all things Star Wars, Hollywood Studios. Here you’ll find lots of crowd favorites like Mickey and Gang, plus the only place you’ll find our lovable snowman Olaf.
AND this is the ONLY place you’ll find some of the beloved Disney Junior Characters to get their signature and a big hug!
On that note, let’s talk more about character meets with a toddler!
First off, timing matters
You know this because you’re probably trying to get 5 minutes of sanity to read a post about how to make this vacation more magical for your little tike that you’re trying to get 5 minutes of peace from.
But TIMING MATTERS. Not yelling- just really putting it out there.
Nap time? Bad idea to meet characters.
Evening time? Probably even worse.
So, the best time we’ve found between our three kids and watching other people with theirs is in the morning time, when the characters first come out (and it helps to be at the best parks for character meets too!)
Because it’s less time for meltdowns and crazy outfit changes. More time to meet the characters without feeling rushed. And this ties directly into my very last tip for getting the most out of your character meet.
Prepare for long lines (or go to character dining)
Something that many people aren’t expecting are the lines to see characters. Especially at places like Magic Kingdom where it’s mostly in the A/C, character meets can get well over an hour even on the slower days.
Then if you think about somewhere like Epcot, or Animal Kingdom, where many of the meets are totally outside, and it’s no surprise why people pick the A/C!
It’s also one thing to wait in just one 20 minute line to meet one character.
But most people aren’t going to want to meet just one person- what’s Donald without Daisy? And Goofy really is one of the funniest characters we’ve ever met!
So the alternative to the longer lines is to:
- Get a fastpass (but not all meets have a fastpass+ and even then, you could wait up to 20 minutes, but more like 10)
- Go to Character Meals where you can meet 3-5 characters while you eat (yes, you can go to character meals with food allergies!).
- Go to a special additional ticket event like the Halloween and Christmas Party.
Free Stuff for Kids to do at Disney Springs
While Orlando has the Lego Theme Park (with all it’s fun things to do!) Disney Springs has some pretty fun things at the Lego Store. There’s little interactive things, from building stations with Duplo blocks to more complicated stations for the older kids. There’s little interactive computer stations, places to build mini Legos, and Lego RACES!
And yes, you can design your own vehicle and compete against the other people in a semi outdoor arena.
This has to be one of the big secrets at Disney!
Dun dun dun…
They have hidden little splash pads around the parks.
Yes, they have areas where you can get wet from rides, have water shot at you from hidden things, like a spitting camel, and they have fans with misters in certain places.
What I’m talking about, are full on, water shooting, designed with kids in mind, splash areas.
These little splash areas can be found throughout the parks.
There are two Epcot, one is right by test track, and the other is on the main walkway between future world in the world showcase.
There is one in Magic Kingdom, all the way in the back by Fantasyland, called the KC juniors splash pad and this area by big top is all kid themed.
Another splash pad is in Disney Springs, in the back by Goofy Candy Company.
Samples and treats (chocolate, hand washing)
So many samples! From complimentary eats at the goofy candy store, to free chocolate at the Chocolate Shop, to playing with the bubbles and soap over at Basin soap shop! It’s got something for everyone!
Inside of the T-Rex Restaurant, you’ll find one of our favorite free activities! The Paleo Dig! It’s a fun kid friendly spot to cool off and play for a minute. But parents beware–there’s a ‘Dino Build-A-Bear’ inside the shop.
There are so many amazing and kid friendly photo spots! For one–if you have the memory maker option, there’s a few spots around Disney Springs for some good photos (no lines) and there’s a photoshop studio. We love stopping here to grab some updated pictures. The wait line is small, the props are plentiful, and there’s lots of room for everyone to get in the shot without the weather acting up.
You’ll also notice spots all around for pictures. Many life sized Disney Characters are found throughout the Springs–too many to name!
Inside of the Disney stores there are many cast members giving out stickers- even better is that they aren’t all the same stickers! You can go to the big store, World of Disney, and go to the smaller toy store and get totally different stickers.
Conclusion: Toddlers + Disney World = Fun!
With the right planning and the right know-how (which you now have:) you can have an awesome time at Disney World with your toddler. It truly is a magical time for all ages, but when they’re that little and everything’s so new and exciting, it’s that much more fun!
Have you been to Disney World with toddlers? Tell me about your experience in the comments!