5 Expert Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World with a Baby, Toddler or Preschooler

toddler at Walt Disney World

When is the right age to take your child to Walt Disney World?

Today’s guest post comes from Jeffrey Merola, author of three Disney World guidebooks, including his newest: The Busy Family’s Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015, available in paperback and Kindle ebook editions.

It seems nearly every parent wants to take their child to the family vacation capital of the world, but the question that many ponder over is, “At what age do I take my child to Walt Disney World?”  My daughter visited for her first magical experience at sixteen months and my son’s rite of passage was at the ripe age of eight months. So, when do you take your child to Walt Disney World for the first time? I believe you can bring a baby or a toddler to visit the “Mouse” at any age! My tips for bringing a child under the age of five will offer you a helping hand.

1) Don’t underestimate the importance of a stroller.

The Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are large and can be overwhelming for little ones. Their small legs will only be able to handle walking for a short time. You can rent a single or a double stroller at a Walt Disney World theme park for $15 or $31 for the day. You do have the option of bringing a stroller from home and that will save you up to $105 (which would be the cost of renting a single stroller for seven days). My wife and I brought our personal stroller year after year. It may have been a hassle at times, folding it up to get on the Disney bus, but it was with us everywhere, whether it was in the theme parks or the resort when the kids were exhausted. They had a place to crash! My kids even took naps in the stroller while in the theme parks.

2) Take advantage of the Baby Care Center in the theme park you are visiting.

The TriceraTop Spin at Walt Disney World

The TriceraTop Spin at Walt Disney World

The Baby Care Centers will accommodate all of your needs if you have a baby. The centers are quaint and have highchairs, rocking chairs, microwaves, televisions, bathrooms, washcloths, and a private area for breastfeeding. My wife enjoyed the privacy of the one in the Magic Kingdom that is next to Crystal Palace. A tip to go along with the baby topic is to pack your diaper bag for the next day before you go to sleep. Make sure to include enough diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, breast milk, an extra outfit (just in case of any accidents), and an ice bag. The wife and I would pack 7 to 10 diapers for the day.

3) Take advantage of character dining.

You can begin to make reservations in one of the Walt Disney World’s restaurants 180 days in advance of your trip. I recommend booking at one or more of the following: Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort, Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Donald’s Safari Breakfast at the Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian Resort, and breakfast at Cape May in the Beach Club.

One tip my wife and I learned is that a young child will either love getting close to the characters or try to dive out of their highchair when the characters are around! You know your kids best, so go with what you think will keep everyone sane.

4) Know the best attractions for toddlers and young kids in each theme park before you arrive.

Walt Disney World has incredible attractions throughout every theme park. The following are just a few that your child under 5 will enjoy.

Magic Kingdom’s best attractions for toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Fantasyland area
  • Storybook Circus area

Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ best attractions for toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s best attractions for toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • TriceraTop Spin

Epcot’s best attractions for toddlers and preschoolers:

  • The Living Seas
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

5) Enjoy the big rides by using a “child swap pass.”

The concept is a novel one. Let’s say, for example, you are in Disney Hollywood Studios and you want to ride the Tower of Terror. However, you know that your child is too little to go on so what do you do? You will ask a Disney cast member for a child swap pass when you get to the front of the line at the Tower of Terror. One adult will stay with the child that is not riding while everyone else rides the elevator. When they have dropped over and over, the adult who waited with the child can now ride with little wait and take up to 3 family members along.

Jeffrey, thanks so much for sharing your Walt Disney World insider tips with us! Mr. Merola has spent around 165 days on property at Disney World, researching and enjoying the theme park with his wife and young children. For more help planning your busy family’s visit to Walt Disney World, use the The Busy Family’s Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015.

Get Jeffrey's updated guide packed with tips for visiting Walt Disney World with children.

Get Jeffrey’s updated guide packed with tips for visiting Walt Disney World with children.

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Do you have another helpful tip for families heading to Disney World with a baby, toddler or preschooler in tow? Please share a comment below! Know someone else who could use these tips? Please forward or share with the buttons above (or below if you’re reading this in email).

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby 

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Walt Disney World photos for this post provided by DNPR Sites. Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.