So you want to bring your baby to Disney World?
We’ll be the first to say — we’ve been there. You’re thinking this beautiful little bundle of joy needs to experience the magic of Disney World, right? Oh, and it’s time to take advantage of Disney World’s “children under three are free” policy! 🙂
Take it from some parents who have braved Disney World with a babe in tow — bringing a baby to Disney World is totally doable, and can be great, but we learned some lessons the hard way.
1. Mickey Won’t Hold Your Baby
If you’ve come to Disney World to snap the perfect picture of Micka Mou holding your smiling little bundle of joy, we hate to crush your dream buuuut there’s a really good chance Mickey and Minnie won’t scoop your baby up into their little mouse arms.
This is ultimately for your baby’s safety, but you can still get some amazing pics with characters — you’ll just need to be in the shot too.
Other important note: there’s a 50/50 chance (truly) that your child will be fascinated by characters or absolutely terrified. First time we went with a one-year-old, they were screaming in terror at Mickey and Minnie but fell head over heels in love with Winnie the Pooh. Ya just never know til you’re in the situation! So proceed with caution… .
A good piece of advice is to show the kiddo pictures and videos of the characters before you go…and, if possible, let them interact with other characters at a local park or restaurant first to see how they do.
2. Do Your Best to Stick to Your Routine
Disney World and theme parks in general are a completely different environment than daily life, so you’ll be navigating that moment by moment while caring for another tiny human. BUT try your best to stick to the routine your baby is used to as much as possible (we know, we know! It’s HARD!).
Your kid will still be your kid in Disney World, so take their typical needs and quirks into account when planning your day.
Do they need to nap in complete silence or darkness? Do they get scared by loud noises? Do they have to eat every two hours on the dot? Chances are, they won’t forget these patterns — even in a new experience. Different babies can handle it differently. But fighting to maintain some semblance of a routine can do wonders for you and your baby’s sanity.
We can even remember hanging extra blankets over the windows during nap time! It gets serious! Oh, and don’t forget to bring that white noise generator if you use it at home. It will be a lifesaver when your little one is sleeping and the lifeguards at the pool right outside your window are yelling game instructions through a megaphone.
If you are on the fence about whether you want to bring your baby or not, consider their individual personality to try and paint a more realistic picture of how the trip could go. But remember that even if you have a super flexible, easy-going baby, they are in a brand new world with a TON of stimulation and their parents (that’s you!) are navigating their own moods and dispositions. So the simple bottom line is: stay flexible.
Your trip can still be amazing, but it probably won’t be what you expected. You probably won’t be powering through the parks from rope drop til close riding every ride like you did pre-baby, and that’s OK! So prepare yourself to go with the flow. And you can tell your kid years down the road about “that time you took them to Disney World and the funniest thing happened… .” Trust us, these stories will be funny someday!
3. [Don’t] Burn Baby Burn
You may be a bronzed god or goddess, but think of your baby like a vampire. Sun = bad. Florida sun = double BAD. (That’s true for vampires, right?)
Cover those precious leg dimples, ears, toes — just cover EVERYTHING in sunscreen! We know you are a great parent who can care for your baby, but learn from our mistakes…there is no such thing as too much sunscreen.
And don’t forget it WEARS OFF and needs to be reapplied. We especially love sunscreen powder because you can put it all over your baby, including their thin hair, and it doesn’t turn them into a sticky, slimy, uncomfortable mess!
Something ELSE we found out the hard way…put EXTRA sunscreen on their legs. They might stick out past the shade on the stroller and can roast without you realizing. Trust us, you don’t want to have to explain that super cool mid-thigh burn look later to concerned people… .
A Portable Fan
If you’re heading to Disney World during the spring, summer, fall (really any time that’s not the dead of winter, and even then it’s not a bad idea!), we also recommend buying a fan before you head into the parks.
You can clip a little battery-powered (oh yeah, bring EXTRA batteries!) fan on the stroller to help keep your kid from melting. Especially during naptime, airflow is the name of the game. Remember, your baby can’t TELL you they’re hot and miserable, so you need to consider these things for them.
We would have three or four fans on our visits. We’d bring two for the day while the other two were in the hotel recharging.
If you’re bringing blankets along with you to the parks, make sure they aren’t too heavy for the weather. On a hot, sticky day, a thick blanket can just make matters worse.
We like bringing along lighter muslin blankets to cover baby, provide shade during naptime, or function as a breastfeeding coverup — they don’t make mom or baby crazy hot. These, in combination with a portable fan, kept our kids cool but comfortable while napping in a stroller.
A word to the wise: test out your on-body baby carrier BEFORE you go to Disney. We don’t mean put it on to see if it fits. Find a steam room somewhere, strap baby on, and walk around for hours. 😉
We kid, but seriously, take it from us. Those expensive, awesome baby body carriers seem like the PERFECT Disney World solution to keep you hands-free — until you put it on. Imagine peeling it off in 100-degree weather and finding your back and chest soaked in sweat and an equally sweaty miserable baby. Yuck.
Think of the weather when you plan to go and consider what’s best for you. Some mamas swear by these, and others were one and done with the carrier in Disney World.
4. Disney Wants to Help
Disney was designed for kids of ALL ages (including you AND your baby!), so you better believe they’ve thought through how to care for parents navigating bringing their babies in the parks.
Each park in Disney World has a Baby Care Center that is (1) run by angels (in our experiences) and (2) stocked with just about everything you could need to care for your baby.
We’re talkin’ private nursing rooms with rocking chairs, changing rooms, highchairs, a kitchen with a MICROWAVE and sink, TV, and on-site shop with all the formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, meds, clothing (yep. Been there.), and sunscreen you could need.
If you’re looking to make a diaper pit-stop during the day, know that most full restrooms are equipped with changing tables, but not all companion-assisted restrooms have changing tables.
And, if you are looking for an extra sprinkle of pixie dust to entertain your kiddo on the go, Most Cast Members including those in custodial, character meet and greets, gift shops, and food stands have FREE Mickey stickers they’re usually more than happy to give to eager (or fussy!) kiddos.
We’ve entertained many-a-kiddo with these puppies! We swear it’s like if our kid would start crying a Cast Member hand would come from out of nowhere with a string of stickers! LIFESAVERS!
5. Strollers Can Be Your Greatest Asset and Your Worst Enemy
Unless you have an on-body carrier (which we already discussed) or super-human strength, there’s a good chance you might want a stroller for your time in Disney World. And we have seen some pimped out strollers in our time at Disney.
These cribz-on-wheels can be just as frustrating as they are helpful — but not for you! We made the mistakes so you don’t have to.
Make Your Stroller Work for YOU
There are all sorts of clever stroller add-ons to make life easier. There are big ole caddies you can add to the back to keep drinks, snacks, or whatever you need to carry around with you. These usually velcro on, so even if you’re renting a stroller, you can pack your own. Trust us, especially with kids, you can never have enough cupholders.
In case you missed the sunscreen section, let us reiterate how important a sunshade is in Disney World. Even in the winter, those rays can be brutal on baby skin.
So you can invest in an inexpensive umbrella stroller or rent one. And don’t forget to bring a rain cover, because it can be blazing hot one minute, then pour the next. (And, by the way, it ALWAYS starts to pour when you’re on a ride or in a restaurant…so don’t forget to put the rain cover on the stroller when you park it at stroller parking to head into said ride or restaurant.)
When it would start pouring, we’d toss our cover on and even though the adults might get soaked, baby was blissfully dry and unaware!
Make Your Stroller Stand Out
Before you park your ride in the sea of strollers, find a way to differentiate yours from the rest.
Not surprisingly, we see a LOT of the exact same strollers when we go to retrieve ours, so making yours stand out to you is crucial. Do you really want to drag the wrong stroller across the park only to find your kid has been drinking out of someone else’s sippy cup the whole time?!
So you can tie a homemade sign, a ribbon, a Mickey balloon, a bright fan or keychain to the back — something to have it stand out against the rest.
Your Stroller CAN’T Go Everywhere You Do
You CAN’T bring your stroller everywhere, so be prepared to follow Cast Members’ instructions about where to park. For instance, if you’re heading into The Land Pavilion in Epcot, don’t make the mistake of trying to go inside — you WILL be stopped! You’ll instead have to trudge it all the way down to The Seas With Nemo and Friends before you can go in. You can always ask a nearby Cast Member for direction or assistance if you don’t know where to drop your stroller off!
But that’s not all. Cast Members often corral and organize strollers in parking areas while you’re on a ride, so don’t be surprised to come back to where you left your stroller and have a mini panic attack that it’s GONE. Just look around and it’s likely just been moved. (This is where identifiers like a Mickey balloon come in handy!)
The Dreaded…err…Beloved Mickey Balloons
Speaking of those Mickey balloons — we have a love-hate relationship with them. They are iconic, beautiful, entertaining for kids, and can help you spot your stroller. But there is a special level of frustration saved for being tangled up in a balloon string or Mickey bopping you in the face all day when he’s tied onto your stroller.
They’re so much fun, and the look on your kid’s face lighting up when they get one is priceless (and yes, we STILL keep buying them!), but they always seem to be tied RIGHT at “slap you in the head 2000 times” height. Oh, and if they’re NOT slapping YOU in the head, they’re slapping unsuspecting OTHER GUESTS in the head, FYI.
Also, don’t forget — you’ll have to take that balloon OFF before you venture to Animal Kingdom. Balloons aren’t sold or allowed inside. It’s a safety hazard for the animals, so have a backup plan!
Disney’s Strollers Aren’t Our Favorite
If you’ve rented a Disney World stroller, you know what we mean. These are less strollers and more giant plastic shopping cart looking things. They’re big and clunky. And even though Disney briefly tested out new stroller options — we’ve always preferred renting from an outside company or bringing ours from home.
These strollers have tended to be more comfortable and you can take them outside of the parks if you’re traveling around Disney Springs or headed back to your resort (Disney-rental strollers can’t leave the parks). But whether you buy or rent, don’t forget Disney has stroller size restrictions!
As of last year, no more “mega strollers” or “stroller wagons” are allowed. Most standard single or double strollers are compliant, but when in doubt, measure at home first!
6. Use Rides to Your Advantage
Don’t count yourself out of rides just because you have a baby! There are many (slow-moving) rides on which your baby can come with you! “it’s a small world” has been like catnip to some of our kids and we have hilarious pictures of babies riding on Frozen Ever After.
If you’re breastfeeding, you can also take advantage of slow, dark rides (like Haunted Mansion) because baby probably doesn’t need to see that anyway! 😉
And if you’re looking for thrills yourself, take advantage of Disney’s Rider Switch program. Several rides such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom (really any ride with a height restriction), let an adult stay with the child (who does not meet the height requirement or doesn’t want to ride) while the other adult rides.
Once one adult has ridden, he or she can switch off and the other adult can ride by hopping in the FastPass line and skip waiting in the standby line!
Check your My Disney Experience app, a park map, or ask a Cast Member which rides offer the rider switch feature. Remember to notify the Cast Member at the entrance to the ride (sorry, no waiting til you board!) that you’re planning to use Rider Switch they will be happy to set it up for you!
7. You Think You’re Prepared…Until You Aren’t
Whether you’re a parent already or are prepping to be, you probably know the name of the baby game is to BE PREPARED. Your baby is fascinating — always dreaming up brand new ways to keep you on your toes. So don’t forget the essentials (you’ll likely need them!).
If you haven’t learned this already…bring EXTRA clothes! No matter what. A diaper blowout, your baby sits down in ice cream, YOU drip ice cream on your baby (hypothetically…). And on that note, however many baby wipes you think you’ll need, double it. We found ourselves using them for everything — wiping tables, wiping kids, wiping spills kids inevitably made — you name it, we wiped it. Stock up on hand sanitizer, wet ones, oh — did we mention extra extra wipes? 😉
After a great day with your babe in Disney World, don’t be like “new parent us” and head back to the hotel and proceed to try and clean out bottles with Disney shampoo in your sink. Bring your own dish soap and a portable bottle brush (like this one!) to clean out bottles and sippy cups in the sink.
Oh, and speaking of sinks…I also love a portable sink since sinks can be…yuck. If you’re washing out breast pump components and baby bottles, you want sterilization, my friends, and hotel sinks are usually NOT that.
8. Meltdowns Aren’t An Exception to the Restaurant Cancellation Fee
Remember when making plans that if you made an Advance Dining Reservation at a Disney sit down restaurant, cancellations to have to be made prior to 24 hours of your meal. Otherwise, you will be charged a cancellation fee of $10 per person (3 and up).
We’ve had many meltdowns that meant we were NOT going to a restaurant, and we had to pay the fee. We get it, you can’t predict your child’s behavior, but it’s nice to know ahead of time and it’s something to take into account when you’re deciding to book reservations or not.
Keep in mind if your baby happens to fall asleep in their stroller when it’s time to sit down for a meal, you can still stick to the old adage of “never wake a sleeping baby.” Strollers are NOT allowed in Disney World restaurants, BUT if your child falls asleep (usually the host at the restaurant can peek at your stroller and see), they may allow you to wheel your stroller to your table in lieu of a high chair. Most of our quiet, sanity-restoring meals with baby in tow in Disney World were achieved this way!
Phew! You feel ready to bring your baby to Disney World now? Just focus your energy on being prepared ahead of time, then ride the wave and be flexible once you get to Disney! You’ve got this! You’re a rockstar!
We have some super sweet memories of bringing our little ones to the Most Magical Place on Earth, so trust us that not only is it doable, but it can be GREAT. But your expectations have to be in the right place.
Need tips for a little older child? Check out our tips for bringing little kids to Disney World here!
Have you taken a baby to Disney World? Let us know of any lessons you learned the hard way in the comments!