By Jennifer Lynn (Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade Finale) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Anyone with a toddler knows those little tyrants can ruin a good time faster than you can say, “tantrum,” but with a little foresight, you can have a fun vacation to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, this theme park is very family friendly and provides amenities to ensure little ones are happy, including a Baby Care Centre, hidden just off Main Street, USA. Regardless of what the park offers, there are a few things to know before going in that could make or break your magical memories.
First, work with your baby’s schedule.
You may be feeling pressure to cram as much activity as you can into the short amount of time you have, but your baby is already out of his element, and would do best if you kept his routine in mind. Is he a late riser? Plan to head into the park once he’s well rested. Is she a night owl? This means you can actually stay for the fireworks! If your little one is NOT a happy camper after 7PM, consider calling it a night early. The trek back to the hotel will take some time, so don’t push it until Baby is already hysterical to leave the park.
While you may not want to miss a thing, going to a theme park with a very young child means sacrificing some aspects of the vacation. Trust me, you won’t mind when you see the look on that happy baby’s face as she meets her favourite character for the first time.
Do what you can to get squeeze that all-important nap in.
Some moms find a baby carrier is a godsend in crowded areas like this. Not only does it keep the baby close to you (and heavier toddlers can be worn on the back with sturdy carriers), but the motion tends to lull them to sleep. May I suggest a breezy ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover while Baby snoozes on your chest?
This doesn’t mean you should skip the stroller. You’ll want your full-sized stroller to store the diaper bag and any other items underneath. And sometimes, you need to strap the baby in for her own safety and your own sanity, whether she likes it or not. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover and the stroller provides speed, shade and another place to nap for Junior.
Bring the right tools of the trade.
Empty out your diaper bag in advance and pack only what you’ll need in the park. Should you forget something, the Baby Care Centre does have a store with nearly everything you can think of, but you will pay a hefty price for the convenience. Keep in mind that you may be waiting in long lines, so bring lightweight items to entertain your little one, and plenty of snacks. You may also want to use a backpack for this purpose so that you can easily (and comfortably) bring the bag with you on rides when you have to leave the stroller behind.
Check the weather in advance and be prepared with a plastic stroller cover and towels in case it might rain (It is Florida after all, and when it rains, it pours!). The stroller parking is usually directly in the rain and that vehicle is carrying all of your belongings, so a cover is a worthy investment. Also, forgetting sunscreen in any weather is a rookie move!
Rethink expensive souvenirs in exchange for the PhotoPass.
While there are ways to do Disney on a budget, things definitely add up! Before you spend money on matching family t-shirts, mouse ears, or light-up toys, consider whether you and your family will ever use the items again. If you realize the souvenir you’re buying is essentially a one-time-use item, you may think twice before splurging. Before you spend a penny on something sentimental for your toddler, be honest with yourself: will he still have that snow globe when he’s 16? Will she have long-since donated that stuffed animal by the time she is 12? Instead, consider spending money on one of the PhotoPass options, in which a professional photographer snaps pictures in front of iconic scenery, and the best part is that the entire family can be in the photo! Everyone will look back on these photos with fondness at any age.
Be open to a change of plans.
The most important thing to remember when going to the Magic Kingdom with a 1-year-old is that you need to be flexible. Perhaps your baby will fall in love with the characters and hate the rides. It will then be worthwhile to spend the day waiting in long lines to take pictures with them. Or maybe she’s terrified of Mickey in real life, in which case you shouldn’t turn into Momzilla and force her to try and get that one perfect photo. Keep your schedule and your plans loose. Accept the fact that you might have a better time if you go back to the hotel for lunch and a nap mid-day. This is one time the rule changes to If Baby Ain’t Happy Ain’t Nobody Happy. Unless you live in Florida, it may actually be smarter to purchase a multi-day pass to enjoy the park over the course of a couple days.
Before having a baby, I always thought people were crazy to take them to theme parks. That’s because I imagined they were doing the park the way I was as an individual: arriving when the park opened and staying till close, enduring achy feet, sunburn and dehydration all the while. That’s no way to enjoy a vacation! Bringing a baby gives you an excuse to slow down your pace and go with the flow, so enjoy it while seeing and doing only what is most important to your family.