Going anywhere with a toddler can be quite hard. For me, even going to the grocery store can be difficult with our little guy. So on our recent hosted trip to Disney World for a Disney Kids experience, we wanted to make sure that we were well prepared to tackle Disney World with a toddler and have as much fun as we can on our Disney Vacation.
The last time that we were in Disney, we went to Disney as adults and had some adult fun. There are so many tips out there that I had sorted through, but many of them didn’t really speak to how to tackle Disney World with a toddler, and more took on how to prepare for the trip and what to pack.
And though I’ll still be sharing what we brought and what I would recommend bringing with you, I want to dive more into what are the best rides, experiences, and restaurants to visit while in Disney with your toddler, because there are some that are great to go to, but some that aren’t really worth it or aren’t great to do with a toddler.
So as you navigate this post, make sure to save it or take some notes for reference as to how to tackle Disney World with a toddler and have the most magical experience that you can while in Disney.
PLANNING FOR YOUR TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD
WHEN TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
When you begin planning for your trip to Disney World with a toddler, you want to think about when the best time would be to go. Disney World can get pretty packed and pretty busy very fast, which then means that wait times can get pretty long, and we all know that toddlers are not known for their patience. Unless you’re looking to purchase Lightning Lanes or the Disney Genie+ experience for each park and numerous rides, you’ll want to head to Disney during non-busy times which are typically in the first three months of the year, early May, and mid-October or November. As you can see, there is no listing of the summer because that is when everyone is there and that is also when it’s the hottest.
Additionally, when planning your trip, aim for mid-week days. Even during times when it is not as busy, the weekends can still get pretty packed with locals who live in the area and park hop around the area, as well as anyone who is looking to just take a quick weekend trip to Disney World.
BOOKING YOUR TICKETS
There are two steps to booking your tickets. When you get park passes, whether it’s a specific ticket to one park or whether you purchase a park hopper pass, make sure to make a reservation to the park. Recently, Disney World has required that reservations are made regardless of whether you have a ticket or not, on the type of buying the ticket so that they can manage the number of people within the park each day. If you have a park hopper ticket, you can typically start park hopping without a reservation after 2 pm.
A FEW TIPS TO PREPARE FOR YOUR TRIP
- Purchase Lighting Lanes – these will help to save time and have you going to the front of the line with ease
- Book a Stay at a Disney Resort – splurge a little and stay at the resort because it will give you more access to transportation options and other Disney experiences
- Know All Transportation Options – know what transpiration options take you from your resort to the different parks
- Book Dining Reservations Early – booking dining reservations will make your life a whole lot easier finding a place to sit down and eat as waitlists are often closed or fully booked, just make sure that you know that it’s $10 a person charged to your card if you miss the reservation
- Sign Up for the Photo Pass – it’s super easy and great for getting photos while on rides and while navigating the park that you can’t take on your own
WHAT TO PACK FOR DISNEY WITH A TODDLER
As you get ready for your trip, there are some things that you’ll want to bring from home as well as some things that you can get while you’re there. But first and foremost, as you prepare for your trip, make sure to download the My Disney Experience App. This app is a lifesaver and will help you in so many ways throughout the day.
The My Disney Experience App is basically a one-stop shop for everything Disney. You can use it to check into the resort and as a key to get into your room, book and manage your tickets and park reservations, book dining reservations, review the map and see wait times, and basically anything else that is Disney related. We relied on this app during our trip to Disney with our toddler and it made things go so much easier especially when it came to dining and also what rides to do at what time to avoid long wait times.
But along with the Disney app, here are a few things you’ll also want to make sure you pack for your trip to Disney World with a toddler.
TRAVEL STROLLERIf you can get a compact stroller, I highly recommend having one. We have both a travel stroller and a larger stroller at home, but the travel stroller made it so much easier to navigate around in Disney World – especially in tighter areas. You do have the ability to rent strollers at the Disney World parks, but keep in mind that once the strollers are all gone, then there’s nothing for you to rent.
MISTING FANIf you’re going during hotter months in Florida, I highly recommend a misting fan. They do sell them at the parks, but they are quite pricey, and it’s easier and cheaper to buy one at home. The misting fan will have everyone feeling so much better as you navigate around the park. It kept our son cool and not cranky in the heat, and it also kept him entertained waiting in the lines.
PORTABLE CHARGERWe all love to take tons of photos and videos when we are out and there will be plenty of opportunities, which will most likely drain your phone. So bring a portable charger to keep your phone alive especially if you’re using the Disney app as your tickets and to access your lightning lanes.
SNACKSWe brought snacks for our little guy so that he stayed powered up through the long day. There are snacks in the park, but it was very hard to find snacks that he actually enjoyed and weren’t too over prices that weren’t just sugary treats.
TACKLING EACH DISNEY WORLD PARK WITH A TODDLER
Disney’s MAGIC KINGDOM WITH A TODDLER
Magic Kingdom is the best park to go to in Disney World when you’re going with a toddler. There is just a lot more experiences and rides tailored to preschool-aged children than there are in the other parks. Since Disney World can be energy draining, I suggest going to Magic Kingdom on your first day when your little one(s) has the most energy and so do you.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY
When going to Disney World with a toddler, get to Magic Kingdom as early as possible so that you can get a jump on heading to Cinderella’s Castle as soon as possible to take photos with not a lot of people in your shot. It’s also magical just to see the castle in the early rise of the morning and see the park just as it opens. When you get there, find a spot right in front of the castle so that you can watch the opening ceremony which is just an epic experience and so fun.
Magic Kingdom is broken up into 6 lands: Main Street, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frotierland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland. There are great things to do in each section, but keep in mind that each section is quite large, and getting from one place to another can be quite a walk, so have comfortable shoes on for the day.
There is quite a lot to do at Magic Kingdom, so I always recommend spending a full day and a half at this park using the Park Hopper passes, and pairing the half day with a visit to Hollywood Studios or EPCOT.
RIDES TO GET ON
There is quite a long list of rides that you can get on at Magic Kingdom with a toddler, and some are a little more exciting than others. While there are some that you can miss if you’re not looking to spend the entire day there. We took Carter on all of the rides that he could get on at Magic Kingdom, and from those rides, we’ve come up with a list of the rides that he loved while leaving out some of the ones that weren’t really worth it.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – ride along a boat and see the lifelike figures from the Pirates of Caribbean
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – the line for this ride goes super fast because there are two of this ride and like many of the other rides that go up and come back down the height isn’t terrifying and it’s perfect for little ones
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – this ride is super fun and it allows for those sitting in the front to control going up and down while those in the back can go make the carpet wiggle back and forth
- Mad Tea Party – these tea cups can actually spin pretty fast once you muscle it enough to begin spinning, but it’s super fun
- Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – this ride isn’t a fast ride, but it’s so cute because it takes you through the story of Winnie the Pooh and as you’re waiting in line, there are plenty of interactive areas to entertain your toddler
- Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel – toddlers love carousels and this one doesn’t have a long wait
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – you can get go through different sections and try to compete against your family as you take aim and try to defeat the cyborgs; definitely a must-ride
- Journey of the Little Mermaid – this is a great ride for those looking to sing-along to some of the famous Little Mermaid songs from the movie
- Peter Pan’s Flight – a cute little ride that takes you along the story of Peter Pan; the ride is dark with a blacklight but it’s slow and steady and gives the illusion of flying
CAN’T MISS EXPEREINCES
When in Magic Kingdom for doing Disney World with a toddler, make sure you make time for some of the great experiences that you can either get in line for or just wait along the street to experience. There are so many great things and you just have to know where to look for them and how to prepare for them.
- Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade – get there slightly early and pick a spot along the route so that you can get front and center of this parade where you can see a variety of different princesses and other Disney characters
- Meet Mickey in Town Square – right at the entrance, you’ll find the hall where you can meet Mickey Mouse; get there early because the lines get pretty long
- Princess Fairytale Hall – meet the visiting princesses which change each day and throughout the day; there are typically four in the hall with two per each of the two lines; the Disney app will typically show who is visiting
- Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor – enter into a room where you’re entertained by jokes from characters from Monster’s Inc; what makes this great is that each show is different because they spotlight and interact with the crowd and base the jokes on who they see, who they highlight, and how each person responds
- Disney Enchantment – stay for the closing fireworks that is typically set by when it gets dark; the fireworks and show displayed on the castle make for a magical end to a night in Magic Kingdom
RESTAURANTS TO EAT AT
Magic Kingdom has some great options for eating, but just make sure that you book early and know what the price points are so that you don’t stun yourself when the menu comes. Keep in mind that some of the restaurants have a pre-fix menu where you can choose some items per each course and that many of these restaurants, especially the ones with character dining, book up early so make reservations ASAP. Some great restaurants to dine while in Magic Kingdom are:
- Be Our Guest – dine in Beast’s castle where you can eat in one of three rooms (the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing, or the Castle Gallery) and be greeted by Beast himself as he welcomes his guest – unfortunately, Belle doesn’t make an appearance
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – dine inside the Cinderella Castle and meet Cinderella herself; you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner here, but I recommend breakfast or lunch as if you have a late dinner around the firework show it’s not the easiest process or best experience
- The Crystal Palace – with great views of the castle, you’ll love this little restaurant and may even get to see some characters visiting from Hundred Are Wood
- Tony’s Town Square – this Italian restaurant is themed after Lady and the Tramp, so grab some spaghetti and recreate that iconic little kiss
Disney’s EPCOT WITH A TODDLER
EPCOT is a great park, but I will say that it’s mostly focused on adults or older children. But that doesn’t mean that EPCOT can’t be a great place to go and bring your toddler. EPCOT’s main focus is showcasing the world and providing experiences to eat and drink through the many lands that are in the park. This park is great for those who just want to be out, take in Disney World, and be away from the bigger crowds since this park is usually a lot less busy.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY
EPCOT is a large park that is divided into two sections. Though it’s not the official location definition, I typically like to say there’s the main part and then there’s the back part, but officially, it’s the East section, which is Future World, and the West section, which is the World Showcase. If you’re staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, you can walk into one of the EPCOT entrances via the boardwalk, which is a five-minute walk, but otherwise, you’ll arrive at the main gate.
RIDES TO GET ON
At EPCOT, there are a lot of attractions, but the majority of the attractions that are there are toddler friendly with only a couple having height requirements. Here are the recommended rides to make sure to get on while at EPCOT:
- Frozen Ever After – this super cute ride is a favorite at EPCOT; just make sure to get there early or get a lightning lane because the wait time can tend to be long due to the slow loading
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – this is a must-do at EPCOT; the 3D immersive, ride takes you along with Remy as he avoids the dangers of the kitchen; this ride is so amazing people actually will wait in long lines twice to ride it multiple times
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends – ride along with Nemo and friends as you get to see their journey through the seas with live animals that are in the aquariums at Seabase
CAN’T MISS EXPERIENCES
EPCOT also has some fun experiences that are must-see while at the park. We made sure to go to some of the ones that we knew Carter was going to like and that was going to keep his attention. Some great experiences for toddlers are:
- Turtle Talk with Crush – this is a super fun experience that allows you to interact directly with Crush through asking questions and just talking with him; it’s great because each time you enter there are different experiences based on what questions the audience asks
- Seabase – outside of Turtle Talk with Crush and The Seas, there is a mini aquarium to see some of the live marine life at Disney World
- Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along – have fun singing along to some fun Beauty and the Beast songs; great for when you need a little break from walking around the park and want to listen to some fun songs
- Harmonious – EPCOT’s famous water and firework show which is one that you won’t want to miss
- Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus – you can meet the princesses near the Frozen Ever After ride; just check the times when you can meet them to time your arrival
- Disney Character Meets – with so many worlds and many characters being from different regions, you can find a lot of characters to meet at EPCOT at each little world upon checking the Disney app
RESTAURANTS TO EAT AT
EPCOT is a foodies delight! There are quite a few places to eat at this park because each world has at least one restaurants that serves the delicacies of that culture. My recommendation for eating at EPCOT is make sure that you make reservations way in advance because these fill up quite quickly and the waitlists are often impossible to get on. For picking out restaurants at EPCOT, it mostly comes down to what food your toddler will eat. Our picky toddler wasn’t into eating at some of the more culturally tailored restaurants, so we ended up at Connection Eatery which offered a variety of different foods.
Disney’s ANIMAL KINGDOM WITH A TODDLER
Animal Kingdom is Disney’s largest park due to the animal habitats in the safari and other areas of the park, but I will say it doesn’t have as many rides as Magic Kingdom. It’s a great park to see different worlds and also being able to see wildlife and have some great entertainment. Since the park is so large, it’s easier to navigate through since you aren’t trying to dodge people, but that doesn’t mean that the lines are shorter and the wait times are faster.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY
When getting ready to tackle Animal Kingdom at Disney World with a toddler, know that this is probably the easiest park to do with toddlers because there are things to do and the crowds aren’t as dense. Prepare ahead of time to know what rides you want to go on and try to map them out by the most wanted to get on to the least. This will help for when you arrive at the park, you can head straight to the ones that you think may have a longer line and then work your way down the list. When we went to Animal Kingdom, we park hopped after being at EPCOT, and with arriving later in the day, we did see that many of the rides for toddlers at Animal Kingdom didn’t have long wait times even with it being after 2pm.
RIDES TO GET ON
Rides at Animal Kingdom are both fun and immersive, and if you’re looking one is into wildlife like ours in, than your toddler is going to have a great time experiencing Animal Kingdom. Here are some rides that our little guy loved and we also enjoyed during our trip to Disney World with a toddler:
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – the line for this goes super fast because there are multiple trucks that you load into and then take a ride around the habitats to see the different animals; I suggest going in the evening as more animals are out closer to closing since they sleep during the day
- Na’vi River Journey – this ride is slow but has great visuals; the ride immerses you in the world of Pandora as you float along the river
- TriceraTop Spin – similar to the magic carpets and the Dumbo ride, this great ride for toddlers lets you float up and down in the mini dinos
- Dinosaur! – this ride does have a height requirement of 40″ but even if your child does meet the height just be aware that this ride does have dinosaurs that pop out and can potentially scare you and your toddler
CAN’T MISS EXPEREINCES
In Animal Kingdom, you’ll also find some great experiences that you won’t want to miss. Again, these experiences are super immersive and fun for the entire family. With these experiences, just make sure to check to see whether there is an entry time (especially if it’s a show), so that you can get there before the line gets too long, but so that you don’t have to stand their for a long time waiting for them to open the doors. Here’s some of the experiences that we recommend for toddlers:
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug – inside the Tree of Life is this fun 3D show that plays with all of your senses; if your toddler doesn’t do well with flashing lights, being sprayed with water, or creepy crawly things, you may want to avoid this show
- Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond – this show was so magical and fun; it takes you along the story from the movie with songs that you’ll hear for the first time from this show; it’s a beautiful show and definitely kept our guy’s attention
- Festival of the Lion King – another great show with some amazing visuals that are fun for the entire family
- The Boneyard – explore along the dirt and sand as your toddler goes on their own dig in Dinoland
RESTAURANTS TO EAT AT
There is a great selection of dining at Animal Kingdom, both sit down dining options as well as walk up and find a picnic table options. With many of the places where you can walk up and grab a meal, I recommend ordering a head of time on the app. It’ll save you time in line and you’ll actually get your food faster. But if you’re looking for some sit down dining options, here are some great ones that toddlers will love:
- Tusker House – this restaurant has character dining with Donald Duck and friends; with great food options this is one to make a reservation for and visit for lunch or dinner while in Animal Kingdom
- Rainforest Cafe – easy to grab and eat cafe where there are plenty of options perfect for toddlers at Disney World
- Restaurantosaurus – in Dinoland you’ll find this family-friendly restaurant with great options for toddlers to eat like fries and hot dogs
Disney’s HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS WITH A TODDLER
Hollywood Studios is an awesome park at Disney World, but make sure that you head into the park with the expectation that it’s not about the rides, but more about the shows – because it’s HOLLYWOOD! Though there aren’t many rides here for going on when at Disney World with a toddler and some of the experiences and shows won’t hold their attention for super long, there’s still a good amount to do here to fill a good amount of time.
Hollywood Studios is split up into different sections including: Hollywood Boulevard, The Streets of America, Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Animation Courtyard, Pixar Place, and Sunset Boulevard. Each place has a different feel and each place immerses you into the land itself.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY
When planning your visit to Hollywood Studios at Disney World with a toddler, I would recommend only spending a half day here and park hop to another park. What we did was we spent the morning experience Hollywood Studios, ate lunch at the park, and then park hopped back to Magic Kingdom to get back on the rides that we loved or ones that we didn’t get to get on because there’s just so much to do at Magic Kingdom. Either way, just prepare yourself to sit through more shows than anything while at Hollywood Studios.
RIDES TO GET ON
Like I mentioned, there aren’t many rides here at Hollywood Studios, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t fun rides to take your toddler on that both the little one will love and you’ll love as well. We spent the majority of our time in Toy Story Land as there are three rides there for toddlers, but there are also rides in other places that are fun to get on. Here’s a list of worthwhile rides for toddlers to get on at Hollywood Studios:
- Slinky Dog Dash – this ride does have a height requirement of 40″ but if your toddler is able to get on it’s definitely a fun ride, but do keep in mind it’s a fast rollercoaster and can be a little much for a young toddler
- Alien Swirling Saucers – this swinging ride is fun and goes fast but not too fast to overwhelm a toddler
- Toy Story Mania – if you’re up for some friendly competition this ride is one to use your lightning lane pass on and shoot some pies and balls at the 3D screens and see who gets the highest score
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad – this is a ride and experience all in one and is one that you definitely will want to get on and use your lightning pass; you’ll start off by standing watching a quick clip and then blast into the ride where you’ll jump on a runaway train that is so fun you’ll want to go on again and again
CAN’T MISS EXPEREINCES
Hollywood Studios has a great amount of experiences including some amazing shows that you have to see for yourself. There are great ones for toddlers that will engage them and keep them sitting for a little which helps when you’re tired from walking or it’s hot and you just need a place to sit and rest. Some shows worth checking out for Disney World with a toddler are:
- Frozen Sing-Along – if your toddler loves to sing along to Frozen songs then this is the experience that you’ll want to have
- Disney Jr. Play and Dance – toddlers at Disney love this Disney Jr. show that is basically a fun dance party with all of their favorite characters and friends
- Fantasmic – watch as Mickey puts on a show like Fantasia where you’ll see sparks and some amazing characters
- Beauty and the Beast on Stage – this shortened version of the Disney movie will have you singing along to your favorite songs while seeing the show live under covered pavillions
- Lighting McQueen’s Racing Academy – this is a great experience if you’re looking to get out of the heat for a little and entertain your toddler while watching a life-size Lighting McQueen interact with his friends as he teaches you how to race
RESTAURANTS TO EAT AT
Like all of the other parks, Hollywood Studios has a great selection of dining options. And as always, if you’re looking to sit down, make sure that you make reservations ahead of time. Depending on the land you’re in, you’ll see different types of family friendly menus and each one having it’s own experience and theme. Here’s a list of restaurants to dine in:
- Hollywood & Vine – this restaurant has character dining with Minnie and friends; you’ll select options on the pre-fixe menu while you are greeted by characters like Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto who also have mini dance parties at various times during your dining experience; make sure to make a reservation if you want to dine here during your visit
- Woody’s Lunch Box – a great grab-and-go option when you’re in Toy Story Land; there are places to sit down in the area but the area can get very crowded very quickly
- Mama Melrose’s Restaurante – this restaurant serves great pasta and pizza and does fill up quickly but it is probably one of the few restaurants that you can get on the waitlist on the day of
- Oga’s Cantina – this restaurant doesn’t have much seating, but if your toddler likes Star Wars it’s worth heading in here to grab a bite and simply find a place outside to eat