We just got back from a wonderful vacation to the happiest place on earth. Hubby and I had been before, but this was our first trip as parents. Although I spent more time walking around with a sleeping baby in the stroller than most anything else, this trip was amazing. The most wonderful thing was that the kids really thought everything was real and amazing. I misplaced the cord that connects my camera to the computer, but rest assured that photos are coming. In the meantime, here are my tips for doing Disney with a preschooler and a baby:
1 – I read a lot of advice before we left, and the most common recommendation was to stay in the park. We stayed outside the park in a time share, saved a bunch of money, and didn’t really see the disadvantages. We could barely make it to the park by 9:00 a.m., and the kids were ready to go by 7 p.m., so the “extra magic hours” would have been lost on us. We found the parking to be convenient, and with Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and MGM, it was only a short (5 min) tram ride from the car to the gate. We did not go home for afternoon naps, but that is just the way of my kids. The older one skipped her nap and the younger one is young enough to nap in the stroller.
2 – Bring your own stroller if you can. The rentals are crazy expensive and no child could sleep in them. They also don’t offer much in the way of sun/rain protection. Tie something colorful to your stroller handle so you can find it in the sea of stroller parking. They move them around constantly to make things more organized, so you can’t count on just remembering the exact spot where you left it.
3 – Bring snacks. Just do it. Every bag inspector looked at our bags of goldfish, cheese, grapes, cheerios, etc., and not one said a thing about them.
4 – The height charts on the website did not line up with the height charts in the park. The park requirements were generally less strict than the website indicated.
5 – Learn to use the FastPass system. Less waiting = Good things
6 – If you have a little girl, autograph books are the big thing now. They make all kinds of books, and all the princesses and other characters can sign the books. Buy a big fatty pen so the characters with giant foam hands can actually use it. We got one with spaces for photos next to the autographs. My daughter loved getting the autographs, and it has become one of my personal favorite souvenirs (and probably the cheapest.)
7 – Make lunch and dinner reservations as far ahead as possible. We made some as we arrived at the parks (Tony’s) and some a couple months ahead (Cinderella’s dream dinner). For any meal that you plan to eat sitting down at a table, you can make a reservation. It wasn’t that crowded when we were there, but the waits for tables without reservations were 45 minutes plus, while our reservations got us in in 5-10 minutes. Also, Tony’s in the Magic Kingdom is the only place where my kids actually ate the food. It is a cute little restaurant made up to look like the spaghetti place in Lady & the Tramp. Best food in the park – Cinderella’s castle (also most expensive, but included a personal meeting with Cinderella documented with 8x10 color glossies.)
8 – Baby Care Stations. Learn about them and whether they are for you. They have little rooms with little kid-sized tables and chairs, public-use microwaves and bottle warming stuff, high chairs, and a t.v. showing Playhouse Disney stuff to keep the older ones occupied while parents feed and diaper the little ones. They also sell diapers and other baby care stuff and are attended by helpful cast members weirdly dressed up like nurse maids or something. These rooms are also billed as breastfeeding spots, but I beg to differ. If being in an approved location is what you need to feel good about nursing at Disney, then this is for you. If you need to not be touching the person next to you, to have an armrest, or to not be stared at by the kids or daddies who are standing around waiting for the mommies to finish whatever else they are doing, then you are better off finding a secluded park bench and hiding behind your family and stroller. Seriously- the “breastfeeding” area consisted of a row of wooden, armless chairs lined up along the back wall. Women were using it, but not comfortably.
9 – First Aid Stations. Bring your own. There is one per park, located next to the Baby Care Station, which is inevitably at the opposite end of the park from the kids’ playgrounds and the splash pads.
10 – You have to be a little persistent to catch the princesses. They come out for photos and autographs and immediately get a line. They really take their time with each kid- never saw anyone rushed- so a line of 10 kids is easily a 30 minute wait. BUT- the princesses have to go away before the parades and shows to keep up the space time continuum and all that, plus they do get potty breaks, so they have handlers. The handlers will close out their lines when they estimate that it is too long so that no one waits in line and gets turned away. This is all good, but what it means to you, mother of small star-struck girl, is that the line to see Snow White will be closed within 15 minutes of her appearance, even if she is going to be out for an hour. What you have to do is ask the line handler when she will be coming back and steak out your spot. It seriously took us 4 days, 6 encounters, and my husband lurking on Main Street for 20 minutes to get a meeting with Snow White. Photos will be up soon, and I’m sure you will agree that it was worth it.
*BONUS – ask to ride with the driver on the monorail. They will say yes, and it is way more fun that you would think.
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