7 Tips for Traveling With Small Children to Disneyland & Walt Disney World

Disneyland and Disney World are both ideal picks for vacations with small children.

The Disney magic extends to even the youngest of visitors. We’ve been to Disneyland three times and Disney World once with little ones under age two and it was delightful each time.

Our family at Disneyland - 2009

Although both places have their own charm, I prefer Disneyland and California Adventure for little ones. It’s MUCH smaller than WDW and wonderfully walkable (plus, the tickets are a little less). Oh, and did I mention the breezy, beachy California weather?

Either way though, you’re bound to have a magnificent time.

These seven tips will help ensure that your babies and toddlers stay happy at the Happiest Place on Earth:

1. Bring your own food (and water). We always think we’ll just swing by a grocery store when we arrive, but it usually ends up being more complicated than that. Try to shop ahead of time. Bring lots of snacks (fruit leathers, been jerky, granola bars, etc), plenty of water bottles, and at least 1 easy meal.

2. If you have a small child, bring a stroller. At the parks, single strollers cost $15/day or up to $31/day for a double stroller. Save by bringing your own $15 umbrella stroller. If you have two little ones and two parents, it might be worthwhile to bring 2 umbrella strollers as opposed to a massive double stroller. By the way, it’s wise to bring a stroller for kids in their early school years too. Big parks make for tired feet.

3. Pack toiletries, baby gear, & medical supplies. Here’s a basic list: feminine products, a razor, diapers, wipes, tylenol, sunscreen, hairbrush, etc. If you forget these necessities, you’ll end up in an overpriced gift shop or driving to the nearest [overpriced] Walgreens.

4. Pick up a complimentary “1st Visit” Button from Guest services. Disney cast members sometimes give perks and friendly advice to first-timers and your little ones will love wearing a button with all their favorite characters.

5. Make use of the Baby Care Centers. All Disney Parks offer baby care centers which feature a quiet (and private) curtained area for nursing your baby, changing tables, and miniature potties. Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and other baby toiletries are available for purchase.

6. Book a hotel room with a suite or rent a house/condo. If you opt for a traditional style hotel room, you’ll likely find yourself whispering in the dark post baby’s bedtime. With an extra room, you’ll be able to shut the door and have some privacy…plus, it allows for greater flexibility if certain members of the family need/want to wake up early, sleep in, stay up late, etc. If you can find a place with a full kitchen or kitchenette, that’s even better. Check Vacation Rentals for options. You’ll be surprised at how affordable renting a home can be…especially if you split the cost with friends (see the next tip!).

7. Bring along grandparents or friends. For extra fun, bring along other adults so that YOU have an opportunity to go on rides (It’s not as thrilling to ride Space Mountain by yourself, after all). This “tactic” also allows you to extend your park visit because you’ll be able to go out to enjoy the park while baby naps at the hotel or post-bedtime.

Have you been to Disneyland and/or Disney World with little ones under age two? Share your top tips!

Stephanie Sheaffer is an entrepreneur, writer, runner, and the mother of three little girls. In 2011, she traveled 20,000 miles around the USA with her family in a 300sqft RV. At the end of the trip, her 5-year-old said Disney World was her favorite stop! She now resides in Arizona and blogs at Metropolitan Mama. Follow her on Twitter @stephsday.

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  1. Sarah R says:

    Our family is in love with all things Disney. Our 3 year old has been to Disney World 10 times (12 if you count when I was pregnant!) It’s a lot considering we live in Wisconsin. All of your tips are great. We found having a huge bag with all our stuff in it gets kind of messy, so we use a mini-bag method. We pack a smaller bag with all the diaper essentials, another smaller bag with snacks, and another smaller bag for camera/wallet/fast pass, etc. All of the smaller bags get packed into one big bag.

    We also pack a spray bottle with a fan attached to help cool us down. We purchased ours at Target for $6 (they are $15-$20 at the park).

    Use the baby care centers even if your little ones aren’t exactly babies. They have a room that plays old-school Disney cartoons, which is a great way to unwind if your little one is getting over-stimulated (easy to do in such a wonderful place).

    If you are staying reasonably close, consider heading to the park first thing in the morning, going back to the hotel for a rest in the early afternoon, then heading back to the park for the evening.

    We love Disney so much that we bought a condo about 10 minutes away. Hands down, this has been the best purchase we’ve ever made. If you don’t own, please definitely consider renting a condo…you will save money by having a kitchen for breakfast and having a washer/dryer. You can pack fewer clothes if you do laundry, and that could save on baggage check fees.

    Make use of the Baby Swap (aka Rider Switch) feature. This is available at any ride with a FastPass option that also has a height requirement. For example, if you and your husband want to go on Space Mountain, you can request a Rider Switch ticket when you get in line. Your husband (or whomever) stays wtih the kiddos while you go on the ride. When you are off, hand the Rider Switch ticket to your husband, and he can go through the Fast Pass line to ride the ride. The Rider Switch allows up to 3 people to go through the Fast Pass line so your husband could ride with older siblings who meet the height requirements, grandparents, etc.

    If you buy souvenirs, you can have them forwarded to a package pick up counter at the park entrance and pick up the packages as you leave for the day. This avoids having to carry large purchases around the park in addition to your little ones. If you stay on Disney property, they can also ship it to your hotel’s gift shop for free.

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