Disney World with a 3 year old (top tips for stress free vacations)

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Planning for a 3 year old at Disney World feels like a lot of work, but having done it multiple times I’d say it’s easier than an older child!

Three year olds are pretty go with the flow, can easily be carried or put in a stroller, and still find the magic in everything without needing too much entertainment.

What can a 3 year old do at Disney World?

Three year olds can do most of the rides at Disney minus a few roller coasters and steep drop rides. 3 year olds can also meet characters, enjoy shows, watch parades and fireworks and eat lots of Mickey Shaped Snacks!

How many rides can a 3 year old ride at Disney World?

There’s over 30 rides at the four Disney World Parks that a 3 year old can ride… plus a few more rides if your 3 year old is tall for their age! This doesn’t include all of the shows and attractions that have no height limit, plus the play spaces found at each park! Each of the water parks at Disney World has a kid themed area with rides that three year olds can do as well.

This post may contain affiliate links, read my full disclosure here.

Disney for 3 year olds- 6 topics to cover for a successful 2023 trip!

1.Traveling to Disney World with a 3 year old

I honestly think that traveling is the *worst* part of the trip. Some might argue it’s meal time or bed time, but for me, it’s the ‘how long till we get there’, ‘ i’m tired’, ‘I’m hungry’… on repeat while you drive or fly!

It goes without saying, but hype up yourself and your kids for the trip. Pack a separate trip bag with clothing and snacks so you don’t need to dig into your luggage. Plan for entertainment from sticker books and nick nacks to tablets and activity pads!

Lastly, remember that once you get to Disney World it DOES get easier! There’s snacks and meals on every corner, Playgrounds to enjoy and explore, and lots of things to distract (I mean entertain) the kids!

2.Best items to Pack when Going to Disney World with a 3 year old

Besides the obvious items and the custom items, there are a few things I highly recommend you pack.

  1. *at least* two pairs of shoes (I’d recommend three!) so you can alternate each day to avoid blisters. We’re a big fan of crocs for the parks. Consider if you’d need moleskin or extra large bandaids or lots of socks.
  2. Pack a Stroller Poncho, or a regular poncho in case it rains. Consider a sunhat or sunglasses.
  3. Fun light up toys or bubble makers (or budget 30 dollars per item in the parks)
  4. Noise Maker for nap time or bed time.
  5. Kid’s water bottle. I’d avoid the one with a straw as it gets funky after a day or two (or bring a scrubber!) Grab an autoseal bottle since straws aren’t ideal, but neither is spillage!
  6. Portable potty seat for the resort. We use the jool seat from target (and also on amazon), as it folds up and is so easy to use while traveling (and also easy to clean) . Plus mini post it notes for using over the automatic toilet seats!

Does a 3 year old need a stroller at Disney World?

Yes, yes and yes (though you could use a toddler carrier if you felt up to the task!). Even our 6 year old needs a stroller at the end of the night! And I would only recommend skipping the stroller if you plan to be in the parks for less than half the day.

You can rent strollers at Disney World, but they are weird plastic ones that I don’t really recommend when you can rent them elsewhere for cheaper! We use Kingdom Strollers for rentals and they are awesome! The price is cheaper, there’s better cleaning, and it’s more comfortable (plus they have cribs/pack n plays for rent too!)

See more reasons why strollers are recommended for Disney World, plus what age kids no longer need a stroller at Disney World.

3. Best rides at Disney World with a 3 year old

Each park has rides that a 3 year old can do at Disney World (including the water parks!) But there are a few rides that my kids are absolutely obsessed with!

At Magic Kingdom, my 3 year old loves Dumbo (especially as it has a playground!), The Little Mermaid and The Grand Carousel.

At Animal Kingdom, it’s the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Triceratops Spin in DinoLand, and The Safari in Africa.

Over at Hollywood Studios, the favorite here is Toy Story Mania. Mickey and Minnie’s runaway railway is kinda fun, but there is an element of anxiety here that makes it a ‘once in awhile’ ride for my 3 and 4 year old. Watch some youtube videos if you are unsure if your child would like it!

Then at EPCOT, my three year old is obsessed with The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Frozen Ever After, and the Gran Fiesta Tour Boat Ride in Mexico. (we also like Living with the Land!).

4. Meeting Disney Characters with a 3 year old

I’ve seen three year olds react three ways to meeting characters (both my kids and others!) and it’s without fail that one of these three things will happen.

There’s the shock/excitement/amazement.

There’s the silence, not sure what to say, disinterested.

There’s the fear or hiding (sometimes screaming).

For the most part, the first time meeting characters 3 year olds are shocked or silent, and then there’s always a few that are scared. The cast members and characters are very understanding and so sweet!

Since Character meets are back at Disney World, it’s a totally new experience after being off limits for 700+ days! Here’s all the best Disney World Character meets for Toddlers.

My top tip here is to take video and show it to your 3 year old after the meeting so that they are better prepared for the other character sightings! Try to meet characters in the morning for the best pictures, and consider a character meal if there is one character you can’t wait to see!

5. Top Tips for a 3 year old Walt Disney World Vacation

Set a reminder to take a picture of your child each morning so you know what they are wearing… yes, it’s me, I’m the mom that lost her kid for 10 minutes at Disney World. We found him in a coat rack crying because he didn’t want to leave Magic Kingdom… but I couldnt even remember what he was wearing! Take a picture, and consider something like a temporary phone tattoo or a gps device like an air tag attached to their belt loop (more on that below!)

Take advantage of the Baby Care Center! There’s one in all four of the main parks and they sell stuff you might need or run out of on vacation.

plan to use the Play Spaces/Playgrounds in the parks so your kids can run off some steam! Waiting in line all day is no fun.

Consider what you will do if it rains. Rain happens here at least once a week, most times a light sprinkle. Other times it rains for days! Will you make up your day? Will you power through? Consider the top things to do when it rains at Disney (literally save it for a rainy day!)

Since you’ll be on your phone for all the Disney Planning and Pictures (plus devices for the kids to use), consider a portable charger. I highly recommend the FuelRod System as you can swap out the chargers for new ones without being burdened to remember to charge them in the room.

6. Using a Tracking Device, or using an Airtag at Disney World for a three year old

Did I swear up and down that I would never use a tracking device or child leash before I had kids? Yes, yes I did. Did I also eat those words when I had kids, especially a ND child and three kids under 5? Also Yes!

Using a safety device at Disney World is VERY common. I see family units all of the time with connector harnesses or wristlets every time I go to Disney World (And I’m privileged to go weekly as a full time Disney World Blogger).

For my own kids, we use apple air tags. The 3 year old has two, one on his body, and one on his bag. The older two have air tags on their backpacks (which they happily carry with them) or on lanyards when they don’t have their bags.

Note the pictures below… I went with an airtag clip for the three year old, and I attached it to whatever he is wearing for the day (so belt loop, shoes, or any clasps) and then the older child has a lanyard that he wears under his shirt. This is so that I can see the lanyard is still attached, but it’s not tempting to play with. My older kids are aware the AirTag tracks there location and wear it with consent (plus it’s a layer of comfort, as we know all to well how easy it is to get separated at Disney in the crowds)

We are currently looking at a GPS watch, as many of those have communication capabilities. The apple airtags have limitations and I do like the idea of being able to call my kids if they get seperated from me.

Either way, do what you feel most comfortable with! It is common to see kids with an airtag now, and I’m sure there’s even more that aren’t visible when families vacation at Disney World.

I’d recommend everyone have an airtag for any important bags or essential strollers.

Shop Apple Airtags on Amazon.

7. Best Disney World Resorts for three year olds

While all of the resorts can accomodate kids, there are four resorts that I’d recommend for three year olds!

  1. Art of Animation (featuring popular characters, the skyliner, and themed rooms!)
  2. Port Orleans Resort (either side of port orleans is great, lots of playgrounds, and princess themed rooms!)
  3. Fort Wilderness (either Cabin or Campground, tons of playgrounds, lot of activities, very family friendly, boat to Magic Kingdom)
  4. Any of the Monorail resorts for quick access to Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is definitely the top park for three year olds, and it’s a good idea to ‘stay close to the magic’ at a Monorail resort. Port Orleans is also very close, and so is Fort Wilderness! Art of Animation is the best for an EPCOT/Hollywood Studios stay.

Common FAQs

Does Disney World verify the age of a 3 year old?

No! They will take your word for it, but they will ask you in front of other people or question you everytime you come into the parks if they think your child is over three.

Do I need to do all four parks with a 3 year old?

Nope! You can make your vacation all your own! You can do one park 4 times, or just one park and vacation elsewhere. I’d recommend at least two parks days, with one rest day in between.

Disney World with a 3 year old is a lot of fun and a lot of work

Do I recommend it? Yes!

Do I recommend you pack your patience and have the right expectations because it is harder to take a 3 year old than a 7 year old? Also yes 🥰

Going to Disney World with a 3 year old is magical in the best kind of way, and even better if you have less park time and more time at the resorts to play in the pool and enjoy the ambiance of Disney.

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