I have a confession: I have never been into Disney. In fact, the thought of going to Disney World with a Toddler never appealed to me at all. I went once or twice as a kid, but after that, nothing in me wanted to go back. Then I had my daughter, and that all changed. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to go.
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“Old enough” is probably relative. I assumed we would wait until Valentina (now 2.5), was a little older, because Disney World with a toddler didn’t seem like a good idea. But as we saw her fall in love with Minnie Mouse and fully immerse herself in Frozen, we figured, “Why wait?” So, we booked Valentina’s (and my husband’s) first trip to Disney World.
Planning a vacation with a toddler? Read my Tips for Traveling with a Toddler
We decided on a five-day trip and stayed off site at this resort in a Park View room. The Park View room has a view of the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks.
We didn’t want a full Disney immersion for our first trip but wanted to try it out. Having now been there and had a memorable and wonderful experience during our stay, I would say five days is the minimum length of time to stay. It gives you three full park days to use as you’d like. If you want an extra day or two to enjoy the resort and have some down time or visit more parks (Epcot and Animal Kingdom), a seven-day stay is the way to go. That’s probably what we’ll do next time.
Disney Travel Advisor
Feeling clueless and overwhelmed, I used a Disney Travel Advisor for this trip. She was fine and helpful in some ways, but didn’t rock my world. She got us a better rate at our hotel and a room upgrade. She also helped with booking dining reservations which I’ll get to later. Finally, she suggested an itinerary and provided a list of rides that were age-appropriate for Disney World with a toddler.
Her service is free, but you must commit to a minimum of three park days to work with her, which is the standard for any Disney travel agent. She didn’t, however, follow up with us to make sure we had a nice time, so I won’t share her information here.
Disney World Itinerary
Here’s a Disney World Itinerary of how our trip went. We decided on three half days at the parks as the perfect amount of time for us. That allowed us to spend our afternoons at the hotel pool which had some amazing water features including a splash pad for kids, slides and a lazy river.
Arrival Day: Disney Springs
We arrived early afternoon and got settled at the hotel. Then we headed to Disney Springs for dinner and shopping. I highly recommend doing this your first night to get into the Disney spirit and purchase the bulk of your souvenirs. We ate dinner at The Boathouse which was average.
I had forgotten my makeup so we headed to Sephora and then the Disney Store. Valentina had a blast in the Disney Store (and secretly, so did David). She walked around picking out everything she wanted and we ended up with some really cute souvenirs that also kept her entertained in the hotel room without screens while we got ready for the day or dinner. On our way out of the shopping center, we walked past a concert so we followed Valentina’s lead and stopped to dance. Valentina got to sleep way too late that night but she fell asleep tired and happy to be at Disney and so did we!
Day One: Magic Kingdom
This day ended up being one for getting acclimated and learning how to use the app and genie+ for joining lines. If you’re a first-timer, I would factor that into how many days you plan to be there. We’re not the type of people that need to do it all and all at once so we took it easy. After the Goofy and Friends Character Breakfast at the Four Seasons, we arrived at the park a little later in the morning. Note: This breakfast only takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays so plan accordingly. I loved this breakfast because we booked one of the early times and it was less busy. Also, the characters took their time to interact with each child. They paused long enough for pictures and it was a nice way to kick off our first park day.
Once we got to the park, we took it all in and got the lay of the land. It was very hot so we had to manage a couple of toddler meltdowns due to heat, sensory overload and not understanding how a theme park works (no, you don’t have access to the characters on demand and no you can’t ride the rides unlimited times). After our first day, it was smooth sailing. We ended up riding a couple of rides and going back to our hotel to let Valentina nap.
Day 1 Rides: It’s a Small World and Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
Day Two: Hollywood Studios
We started our day at Hollywood Studios with the Frozen Sing-a-long which was a huge hit with Valentina. She absolutely loved it and David and I thought it was so well done as is everything at Disney. After the Sing-a-long and the purchase of an Anna doll, we headed over to meet Olaf. This was such a cute experience for her. After a snack break, we met Mickey and Minnie. We ended the day with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway which was a really cute animated experience. There was light rain this day and the temps were cooler so we didn’t encounter many crowds or long lines.
Day 2 Rides: Frozen Sing-a-long, Character Meet and Greet (Olaf, Mickey & Minnie), Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Day Three: Magic Kingdom
This was another hot day and since it was Saturday, it was significantly busier. We started with Mickey’s Philharmagic then by Valentina’s special request we rode the carousel and went on to meet Cinderella. After some ice cream, we headed over to Dumbo The Flying Elephant. My dad sent me a photo of my mom and my sister on the same ride circa 1982 so I knew I had to recreate that photo.
Day 3 Rides: Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, Princess Meet & Greet, Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Minnie Ears and other souveniers are all over Disney and if you want ears, you can certainly buy them there. I decided to get ears before we went. I bought these Minnie Ears and I’m glad I did. I liked them better than the options available at the park and they were significantly cheaper. They fit both me and Valentina comfortably enough that we could wear them the entire time we spent at the park.
Food and Dining at Disney
Apparently, the food is good at Disney. Dining reservations open 60 days before you arrive and they can be hard to get. This is another place where having a travel advisor was helpful. However, after eating at The Boathouse on our first night, we decided to cancel our dinner reservations at the parks and eat dinner at our resort instead. We were happy with that decision because the food at the resort was very good and it gave us more time to enjoy the pool in the afternoon. On our last night, we had plans to eat dinner at the park and stay for the fireworks but decided against it. It ended up being a good decision because the fireworks were delayed that night due to a torrential downpour. That said, I’d like to try and do this another time.
Genie+ and Lighting Lane at Disney
We used this to join the line for almost every ride, experience and character meet-and-greet unless the line wasn’t very long. I’m certain it’s the only way to go to Disney with a toddler so you can avoid waiting in long lines. It also saves a lot of time. I can’t say I truly understand how it works enough to explain it here in writing. It’s definitely confusing but I figured it out enough to get by for our three days there. If we go again, I’ll probably have to re-learn the entire process. It’s not easy!
Some of our other recent travel with a toddler: