The family took a week long vacation to Disney World when S was small. Planning for the Disney Vacation was problematic, but we ended up having such a great time. When my husband had to spend a few days away from home, I decided I would put our annual passes to good use and take the kiddo back for an overnight trip to get out of the house. I learned a few things taking her by myself and wanted to share our experience. So, here are some things to think about if you’re venturing to Disney World with a toddler or preschooler by yourself.
Should I stay on-site or off?
Firstly, I decided to check out hotel options. Staying onsite last time left a few things to be desired. Even staying in a value resort wasn’t much “value” other than constant access to buses that drop you off right in front of the park. For this trip, I wanted to be able to hop into my car and head straight home when our trip was over. The bus was a step I didn’t want to factor into my time. So, staying offsite made the most sense for us. I found a spectacular hotel at an amazing price through my husband’s workplace discount site. You may find good deals on hotels through most of the normal travel sites, or even snag great deals through hotel sites. Most hotels offer complementary transportation to and from the theme parks, but they may have specific departure times that you would need to factor in.
Parking and Transportation at Disney World Parks
Because we had annual passes at the time, parking was free. If you do not have an annual pass, standard car parking is $20/day (at the time of writing this post).
On this particular trip, we arrived just before lunch so we had to park pretty far away. What this means is that we needed to rely on 2 forms of transportation to enter the Magic Kingdom. Once you have parked, you take a courtesy tram. This was stressful for me for the first time. I had a load of food because of dietary restrictions, a large stroller, backpack, and the toddler. The larger seating rows are not clearly marked and the doors DO NOT stay open. This makes it very hard to get getting everything, including your child, onto the tram with full hands.
Bonus Tips for Parking at Magic Kingdom
- Upon parking, take a photo or keep a note in your phone noting your parking lot and aisle to ensure you don’t forget where you parked.
- Take in only necessities. You will need to stuff everything into the seating row rather quickly.
- If using a stroller, don’t bring in a large jogging stroller unless you have help.
I can’t explain how embarrassed I was to have needed so much help (which didn’t come easy) because the stroller was too heavy, I had too many necessities (thanks to food allergies), and the door doesn’t stay open making it nearly impossible to handle the tram on my own.
After your short tram ride, you then board either the Ferry or Monorail to the Magic Kingdom park entrance. Go ahead and unfold your stroller and get comfortable …. You can roll the stroller onto both the Ferry or Monorail and from this point on, you shouldn’t have to fold up the stroller again until you are ready to leave and board the tram again at the end of the day.
The following day, we arrived at the Animal Kingdom an hour before they opened. We were able to park in some of the closest spots available which meant I could easily take the short walk instead of bothering with the same problems I had with the tram the day before.
Items to Take Into Disney World with a Toddler or Preschooler
Be sure only to carry items into the park that you will need. I brought that big atrocious jogging stroller because I felt like I needed a ton of extra snacks for my food allergies.
What I learned from my previous trip as a family was that I needed a backpack. That was my souvenir from our vacation and it came in handy for this trip! I tucked a large bottle of water in the side pocket. Then, I stuffed my wallet, pull-ups, change of clothes for kiddo, wipes, Boogie Wipes, hand sanitizer, individually wrapped snacks, small first aid kit, jackets, and small purse into the backpack. I also carried a cold lunch tote for my allergy friendly foods. If you have storage space on your stroller, unload un-valuable items into it and carry only necessities in your backpack.
If you’re not as concerned about saving money, or don’t have food allergies/sensitivities, opting out of packing lunch, snacks, or waters may be an option for you. For any of you with food allergies, you can rest assured there are plenty of allergy friendly dining options at the Disney World Parks.
Save Shopping for the End of Day
As much as possible, stay away from the shops. By now, your toddler/preschooler wants everything they see, so keep moving and don’t let them see. A few times we stopped to check the map, check on fast pass times, etc, I made the mistake of being within close visual range of toys only to hear “I want that.” And once her mind was set, it was impossible to get her mind off it until we were moving on. I was quick to move on and say “Let’s find out what else we can do” or “Let’s go find another ride”. If you make the mistake of stopping near a shop, I hope my phrases work as well for you as they did for me.
What I found helpful was a) discuss with your child that you’re there to have fun, NOT to buy a bunch of stuff and b) consider making an end of the day purchase to reward good behavior.
For my Disney regulars, do you have anything to add to my tips for tackling Disney World with a toddler or preschooler?