My six-year-old daughter is earnestly enthusiastic about every single thing in life, no matter how mundane. If you give her a sticker she will react with so much excitement that it will leave you a little overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of emotion she possesses.
(That picture is from Day Five, y’all. She was peak excited all day, every single day.)
I was asked to speak at the Mom 2.0 conference in Orlando, Florida in early May and since I was driving I decided to tack a few extra days onto the trip to take the kids to Disney World. My mother went along to help me with the baby, which was nice because the last year and a half was kind of tough on my little girl. Having a new baby in the family is a big life adjustment in and of itself, and adding in all of the time I spent on bedrest and then the new baby needing kidney surgery made the transition extra hard for her. So it was really special for me to spend some much needed one-on-one time with her.
Also, as it turns out, Disney World is like some sort of life force for my child.
I spent months meticulously planning the trip, scheduling in time for us to go back to the resort and rest each day but OH THERE WAS NO REST. Scarlette is apparently fueled by pixie dust and Splash Mountain so we closed the park down every single night that we were there. I rode Splash Mountain four times and I am terrified of roller coasters and also water rides.
Scarlette, however, is not. Scarlette loves roller coasters and wanted to ride all of them repeatedly. I will take my mother of the year award anytime.
It was a magical trip, and not just because Disney World is magical but because Scarlette makes her own magic. It’s contagious, the way she exudes joy, and Disney World was like it was made for Scarlette to traipse through it and trail happiness behind her.
Seriously, watch what happens when she sees her favorite character, Goofy, for the first time:
(This trip was her big birthday gift so our sweet travel agent arranged for special celebratory birthday buttons to be waiting for us when we arrived. )
And I don’t know if it was the buttons or sheer luck but y’all, Scarlette was chosen at every single event we attended where you could be picked to interact with the characters. She got to tell jokes with Mike at Monster’s Inc and she got to talk to Crush in Turtle Talk, where she told Crush that he was “hilarious” and then proceeded to tell him a slightly inappropriate joke that had the crowd cracking up and me turning bright red with embarrassment.
Then she got to be in a play with Belle and she was even pulled into the parade to dance with Pluto!
It was the epitome of magic for us.
I felt like Scarlette was the perfect age for this trip. My absolute favorite memory was watching her try to fly after Tinkerbell gave her some pixie dust. And while I was a bit nervous about taking a thirteen-month-old baby on the trip it ended up being great. Maybe I got lucky because I have a pretty chill baby, and because I had an extra pair of hands, but he loved just watching and taking everything in.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how it was visiting Disney World with a baby and a kindergartner, so here are my top tips!
Top Ten Tips For Visiting Disney World With Little Kids
1.) Rent A Double Stroller – We have a sit-and-stand but several people recommended we rent a double stroller and I am so glad that we did because not only was it frequently in use, it was much easier to fold up to take on the transportation. And while my six-year-old made it until park close every night, she crashed in the stroller on the way home. Our travel agent rented a City Mini Double through Kingdom Strollers for us and they were wonderful. They included a cooler bag and rain cover and delivered it to our resort. We just picked it up at the bell stand on arrival and dropped it off when we left!
2.) Pack Glow Sticks – Buy a big pack in advance and take them into the parks with you. I like this kind that lets you hook multiple glow sticks together to make necklaces and bracelets. This serves two purposes: once it gets dark your kids will pester you for the glow sticks that the cart vendors are selling and this mama was not about to spend twelve dollars on glow sticks. But also, attaching several glow sticks to our stroller handle made it a lot easier to find in the stroller parking areas at night.
3.) Find the Baby Care Center – there is one of these at the front of each park and they have private nursing rooms. I typically stopped in and nursed the baby before my mom took him back for his afternoon nap. I don’t mind nursing in public but it was a nice way to get out of the heat and have a comfortable place to sit.
4.) Download the My Disney Experience App – My goal was not to be on my phone at all during the trip but I did break that rule to use this free app because it is so handy. You can manage all of your reservations, book fast passes, see park maps, and even see current wait times for rides all in one place. I was a little sad to delete it off my phone when the trip was over.
5.) Get the Memory Maker Package – I wasn’t sure if the photo package that Disney offers would be worth the extra cost but since I wanted to be on my phone as little as possible, I decided to book it and I am so glad that I did. Not only was it really easy to use because the photographers just snap your picture and then scan your magic band but I actually got to be in the pictures! Plus, I was able to enjoy watching Scarlette interact with the characters instead of trying to get a good shot. While the photographers will take pictures with your camera or phone if you ask, these came out nicer than what my phone can do and also there is that thing about how my phone is constantly telling me I don’t have enough storage space ????
Tip: if you get the package, ask the photographers to add magic to your pictures! They can put special surprises in your photos that will show up later and Scarlette was so thrilled by that.
6.) Splurge On Character Meals – If you know that your little one will want to meet the characters, I really recommend doing the character meals. Our travel agent got us a great deal so we used the dining plan and I booked one character meal for each day. This worked really well for us because it meant that we didn’t have to wait in long lines for a ton of meet and greets and could use that time for rides. It was also an air-conditioned sit-down break in the day, which was really helpful, especially with a baby along.
7.) Use snack credits for more than just snacks – This blog has a great breakdown of all the best places to use snack credits for mini-meals. And this one has a list of all the food you can buy with snack credits at each park. I saved these to my phone so that I could just quickly look up snacks when we wanted something versus wandering around aimlessly looking for food because that makes hangry 😉
I ate my way around Epcot one day on just snack credits. I had something like 10 drinks and desserts. I regret nothing. And we used the last of our snack credits to stock up on some handmade goodies to take home at a few places around the park. I like to get the most for my dolla dolla bills is what I’m saying.
8.) Do Kilamanjaro Safaris In The Morning – The last time I was at Disney World was for my honeymoon a decade ago and I remember being bummed that we didn’t see that many animals in the afternoon. Several people suggested we go in the morning when the animals were more active and this time we not only saw all of the animals but the giraffes came right up to our jeep!
9.) Skip The Fireworks – Tons of Disney blogs that I read recommended that we get there early before the parks opened every morning but we learned quickly that that just didn’t work for us. Sleeping in a bit and then staying until the park closed was a better fit for our natural family rythyms. We spent one night watching the fireworks and then the other nights we took advantage of that time to ride a bunch of rides because there were hardly any wait times during the fireworks shows. Plus, it is really cool to watch the fireworks from the top of Splash Mountain. Before the part where you have to actually go down Splash Mountain, that is.
10.) Use a travel agent – Disney pays their travel agents so there isn’t any extra cost to you to use them. In fact, they can often save you money! I priced out our package online and it was the same as what our travel agent, who is a good friend of mine, quoted us. Then she was able to monitor deals and when one popped up she applied it our package, which saved us hundreds of dollars and gave us extra fast passes and event tickets for free!
Plus, she was able to schedule all of our dining and fast pass reservations for us, which had to be done at six o’clock on a Sunday morning so clearly I adore her for doing that. She also gave us a detailed guide and itinerary with suggestions for our trip. It was incredibly helpful. If you’re looking to book a trip, I highly recommend using Michelle. (I don’t get any perks for recommending her, she is just really lovely and I think you’ll love her.)
I loved getting to spend this time with Scarlette and Ridley. It was a dream of a trip and I’m so thankful for the memories we made.
(Over the next few days I’ll share about where we stayed, what we packed, and where we ate because I really love Disney Bounding and also food.)
A Disney vacation is a big investment. I saved up for ours by taking on a side job as a virtual assistant from home. If you’ve been thinking you’d like to work from home but aren’t sure how to get started, check out this link for some great resources!
*Disclosure: some links are affiliates