Aaah, toddlers. These fickle little people swing wildly between melting your heart and making you want to pull your hair out. It can be a challenge to make it through the day with them at home – and then you decide to throw all caution to the wind and bring them to Disney. Such brave parents!
Disney can be a magical experience for your toddler-to-preschool-age child. They are at the age where princesses are REAL and everything is so very MAGICAL. The pictures you take will create a lifetime of memories and your little chatterbox will relive every detail of every encounter for years to come.
1) Costumes are abundant at Disney.
I’m not talking about the characters, I’m talking about 1 out of every 5 kids you’ll see. And if they’re not in a costume they’re probably in a Mickey/Minnie shirt. If you are doing Disney on a budget, thinking about this fact ahead of time can save you a bundle. It is natural that once your toddler sees everyone else in a princess dress she’ll want one, too, and think it’s part of the experience. Princess dresses in the parks run close to $60. Do yourself a favor and hit a Walmart or Target prior to your Disney-bound flight and pick one up.
I was able to find a Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) dress and tiara for $27 total and pack it as a surprise into our luggage (Hint: Keep it in a bag or your clothes will take on that glittery princess look as well.) Once there we had the princesses leave it as a “surprise” in our hotel room one morning. She wore it every day we were there. In retrospect, I would have bought 3 dresses and forgone packing normal clothes. Savings: $33
I definitely don’t advocate renting a stroller just to have one on hand. A lot of folks recommend renting a stroller because your kiddos will be so tired you’ll need it. But if you do rent a stroller and don’t use it then it’s just one more piece of gear to lug around and parking it outside every ride cuts down on the speed with which you can make it through. Our daughter was in the late stages of toddler-hood at 3 for our last trip. We did not bring a stroller; we carried a Bitybean baby carrier (one was provided to me for review). This carrier can be used for children up to 40 pounds. I found it to be good for short periods of time where a quick break was needed for her. It is compact and the size of a water bottle. It easily fit in one of my husband’s cargo pockets. The nylon material also did well in the rain which is important because it rained every day we were there. If you decide to use a stroller consider renting off site and having it delivered to your hotel. This will enable you to use the stroller outside of the parks and between parks.
3) Don’t feel bad about taking some adult time.
One of the very best things we did during our trip was leave our daughter at the Sandcastle Club. The Disney Children’s Activity Centers are based on the stuff that kids dream about. Every princess dress that exists was there and available for dress up. She made a crown and they fed her dinner. My husband and I had a chance to ride all the grownup rides. It was magical. If you ask her today what her favorite parts of Disney were you will get 3 answers: the carousel, meeting Anna and Elsa, and the “kid care place”.
4) Do you want to meet a Princess?
The 4 hour wait horror stories are, unfortunately, true. Yes, the pictures of signs at 300 minutes to meet Anna and Elsa are not just cruel photoshop jokes. However, at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom the Princess Fairytale Hall is a great way to meet a few princesses at once. We found consistently across our experience and that of other TravelingMoms at Disney that if the sign shows a “mystery princess” (or a blank slot) that 9 times out of 10 it was Anna and Elsa. So, if you see a blank slot on the sign get in the line. Usually it will take 15 minutes to get through and you may be pleasantly surprised. Worse comes to worse and it’s not them? You waited very little time and still got to meet 2 other princesses.
5) Budget for the Memory Maker PhotoPass option.
This option allows you to tap your Magic Band every time your picture is taken (on the Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, with the princesses, in front of the castle) and puts them into your My Disney Experience account where you can download them later. You must add this option no less than 3 days before your trip starts. The pictures we got off of this option far exceeded any that we took. These are trained professionals clicking a mile a minute and they may capture the moments in between funny face and scowl that are pure perfection. Above all other advice you get have fun! Breathe deeply. Remember that perfection will not happen and is unrealistic but you can have a memorable time that will stick with your little one for years. Then you will get to be the fun grandparent when they bring their kids to Disney years from now in their flying car. Disclosure: I was at Disney as part of a sponsored trip for our annual TravelingMom writers’retreat; however my opinion of how to make it easier with toddlers comes tow comes merely from desperation and the fact that I am a mother not because we all got cute Magic Bands with our names in them.