Archive for February, 2019


Disney with toddlers… Yes, Disney is the perfect place for kids but with toddlers it’s a whole different ballgame.  We knew that we would take the kids there eventually, but we imagined it would be when they were a little older, you know past the tantrum throwing, nap taking, carry me everywhere phase.  Well, recently we decided to take a mini road trip through Florida and when we announced it to the kids, our 5 year old immediately starting shrieking with joy, “yay, we’re going to Disney World”.  Well that’s that then, we were adding Disney to the itinerary.  We planned to go one day only, figuring if it was a bad experience, it’d be only one day out of our trip.  But then we added on a second day, mainly for the Frozen ride, because come on, you can’t take a princess loving little girl to Disney and not go on the Frozen ride, right? Well, as it turns out, we didn’t have anything to be nervous about.  IT WAS GREAT!  We loved it! And seeing Disney through the kids eyes, pure Magic.  Disney, we will be back.


We did do a fair amount of research and planning to ensure we had the best experience, and it paid off.  Read on for details of what we did and some of the things that worked for us.

Timing: We went mid-January during the “off peak” season.  While WDW will always be popular any time of the year, there are certain times when it’s less crowded, which would typically be times when school is in session and not around major holidays.  There are sites that talk about the best times, based on historical seasonality and also based on future events.  For instance, in general January is a good time to go, however the first week may still be busy from people taking an extended trip from the holidays.  That said, we had no idea that the Pro Bowl also happens in January sometime in the 3rd-4th week, so some sites, for instance this one, will give you insight into that to plan around it.  Going off peak also means you can get some good deals on airfare and lodging.

Lodging: We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Had we gone any other time, it probably would’ve been out of our budget but being that it was January, we managed to book it at a reasonable price.  If possible, I highly recommend staying at a Disney Resort.  For us the main benefits were the 60+ day Fast Pass reservation (30+ day for everyone else), transportation to all the Disney parks (so nice to not think about driving, parking, taking the tram, etc), extra magic hours (park opens early or stays open late only for Disney resort guests, which means short wait times), and the magic bands, which is not only your room key but also your ticket into the parks and allows you to make purchases.  You will have to set up a pin for the purchases so don’t worry about losing the magic bands.  For a mom, this is so great! No more fumbling around for the hotel key, for everyone’s tickets, and for your wallet.  For the extra magic hours you may want to go onto the Disney mobile app to see when the magic hours are for each park as it varies day by day.  The day we went to Magic Kingdom the magic hours were 8pm-10pm, which was not as ideal if you have little kids.  Other benefits include free airport transfers on the Disney Magic Bus, which I heard even takes care of your luggage when you depart so once you check-out, you don’t have to worry about carrying all your luggage through the airport or checking it in, Disney does it all for you!  Free parking at the parks should you choose to drive, which we did the day we checked out.  At $25 a day, this is a consideration if you’re thinking of staying off property, the differential could be made up by the free parking and the free airport transport.  And finally, it’s a Disney property so there’s extra effort into making the resort a great experience too.  At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, there were nightly movies, so many free activities, including campfire s’mores, a pool and playground on site, and the staff is so amazing.  The customer service is top notch, with the staff always greeting and interacting with the kids and constantly giving them Mickey stickers.  My kids must’ve collected a hundred of them!  Other considerations is that there are no resort fees or parking fees at the Disney resorts, which there may be at the other hotels, so factor that in when doing cost comparisons.


Food: If you want to experience one of the popular Disney restaurants (i.e. Cinderella’s Royal Table), reservations start 120 days in advance so even if you don’t have the other things planned, you can still make reservations, which you can cancel up to 48 hours prior I believe.  We started booking things 60+ days in advance because that was when we finalized everything and found all the popular dining places already booked up.  We managed to get a breakfast slot for the Be Our Guest restaurant and it was a great experience!  It’s not character dining but it’s a replica of the Beast’s castle, so the kids got a kick out of eating in the ballroom.  We took many others advice and packed lunch and snacks.  Even if you still want to try the food at Disney, it was so great to have peanut butter sandwiches on hand because when the girls got hungry, we were able to whip it out.  No hangry kids here.  The BEST ADVICE I can give for food at Disney, download the Disney mobile app and use the online ordering.  It is awesome.  Basically you click on the restaurant you want, order the items, and pay (your cc should already be set up so again, no fumbling for wallets here).  Then you tell the app when you’re ready to pick up the food, which we always click right away.  You walk up to the pick up counter and voila your food is ready.  This saves you 30 min of waiting in line!  We did this for the Dole Whip soft serve and literally bypassed a huge line of people.

Parks and Rides: We went to Magic Kingdom and Epcot and both had plenty of rides and attractions for both our 2 yo and 5 yo.

Let’s talk about Magic Kingdom first.  When using your fast pass, you get 3 fast pass rides for Magic Kingdom, after you use all 3, you’re allowed 1 fast pass, then another when you finish that one.  So this means you should book all your fast passes early in the day so you have a greater chance of getting another fast pass on a ride you want after you go through the first 3.  Once it’s late in the day, there won’t be any fast passes left.  So, book your fast passes as early as you can for your top rides/attractions (character meet and greets are part of fast pass).  Then, make sure you have the Disney mobile app.  This gives you the waiting times of all the attractions.  How we used this to our advantage was if there was a ride with a short wait time that we had fast passes for later in the day, we would go wait in the regular line, canceled our fast pass, which we then immediately booked for another ride!  Since we started our day early, there were plenty of rides with relatively short wait times so we got to knock out a bunch, then got fast passes for other popular rides later in the day.  In the end, we were able to go on 70% of the rides and waited no more than 20 minutes, which is so key when you have little kids.  Which rides should you get fast passes for? The number 1 ride I’ve seen in my searches for little kids was Peter Pan’s Flight, which was closed for refurbishment when we went.  Bummer.  But now you know to include that.  If you have older kids, absolutely the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, it’s the newest ride and so fun! You can check out the height requirement but my 5 yo was able to go.  Other rides for older kids, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, basically the thrill rides.  For toddlers, Under the Sea and Barnstormer, which is a little mini roller coaster, my 2 yo loved it!  If your kids love the character meet and greet, then you can do Belle’s Enchanted Story, it’s a play that the kids get to be part of and then you meet Belle at the end, so it’s a little more than just taking a picture.  We didn’t do many character meet and greets, but from what I can see with the wait times, the popular ones seem to be Cinderella meet and greet and the Mickey and Pals so you might want to add that as your fast pass.  The 2nd BEST ADVICE I can give is to utilize Rider Switch!  Basically if you have little kids that a parent has to stay with, the first parent goes on the ride, when they are done, the second parent goes on the ride WITHOUT WAITING IN LINE.  We did this for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train since the 2 yo couldn’t go on.  We got fast passes for this, my husband and 5 yo went first, they came out, then I went with my 5 yo again! So my lucky 5 yo got to go twice and with no waiting.  Without fast pass, this ride averaged 120 min wait time.  Finally, you have to watch the nightly shows.  When we went they had the Once Upon a Time projection show at 7:30pm, then the Happily Ever After fireworks show at 8pm.  Watch both, it’s so worth it.  We saw people starting to congregate in front of the castle at 6pm, which was too early for us, I mean trying to keep the kids occupied for that long is torture.  We ended up waiting at 6:50pm, when there was still space in front of the castle.  Hubs then went to get food, after ordering online, brought it back and we were able to have a little picnic, albeit squished, right before the show started.  Starting about 7:15pm people start squishing in, so you’ll probably want to leave yourself some time to leisurely enjoy your food because then you’ll have to stand as everyone crowds in.  We had magic hours from 8-10pm so immediately after the night show, everyone else had to leave the park.  If you can, I would take advantage of the magic hours because right after we saw Space Mountain had a 5 min wait when normal wait times can be 120 min.

Okay, now onto Epcot.  Epcot does their fast pass different, probably because they don’t have as many rides.  You still get 3 fast passes but you get 1 for the popular rides and 2 for the others.  Our absolute favorite for the popular rides is Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World.  If you have a little one that loves Frozen, then it’s a no-brainer, use your fast pass on this one.  I have heard that if you go first thing in the morning, it’s a short wait, and especially if you have early magic hours, then you can actually knock this out, cancel your fast pass and re-book for Soarin’!  The other popular ride for is Test Track, which we did not do but I have heard that it’s fun if you have older kids.  For the other 2 fast pass, we did the Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush, which I recommend, especially if they’ve seen Finding Nemo.  The rest of the rides are okay if you don’t have to wait, otherwise I would spend my time walking around the world showcase.  The world showcase is great for walking around because they do such a great job of replicating famous sights and within each country there’s food specialties to try (i.e. crepes and pastries in France, ramen in Japan, bubble tea in China), however it can be boring for kids.  What we didn’t know until it was too late was at the beginning of the world showcase in Canada, kids can pick up a passport.  Then at each country there will be a kid stop where they can get a stamp in their passport, get a sticker and an activity (mostly coloring).  Most of these stops are in the souvenir shops so while they are coloring, you can browse around.  Be sure to go into the Mayan temple in Mexico.  You can’t tell from the outside but inside is an indoor street market that makes you feel like you’re in Coco, and there’s also the 3 Caballeros ride which nobody knows about so there’s never a wait, which is a little boat ride the kids enjoyed.  As you’re walking through the countries there are character meet and greets in the respective countries, so that made it exciting for the kids too.  We saw Mulan in China, Belle and Aurora in France, Alice and Mary Poppins in England, and Snow White in Germany.  You can also find Elsa and Anna in Norway but they are inside a pavilion whereas the others are outside so even if you don’t want to wait in line for a picture, you can still see them as you’re walking by.  I mean to the kids, these characters are celebrities! “There’s Belle! I see Mulan!”  The last thing that was a surprise was the Pixar short film attraction.  It’s a 4-D experience and you watch 3 short films, they were each so cute and makes for a nice little break.  I wouldn’t book a fast pass on them since I don’t think it’s too popular.  We did not stay for the night show, however I have heard the Epcot fireworks is the best so it’s probably worth staying.

So as I said earlier, we will be back.  Is there anything else we would do differently? For sure we will try to stay in a Disney Resort again.  Next time we’ll visit Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios which has more adult rides and lots of shows if your kids are into that.  I’d also like to visit Disney Springs, which is their open air shopping/dining area.  This time we stayed for 2 nights and went to 2 parks.  Next time, I would plan to stay longer and with a break in between parks because 1. as I said, the resorts have plenty to do too so if you’re paying to stay there, you want to take advantage of enjoying the resort (also for Animal Kingdom Lodge, the animals came out in the middle of the day so if you’re leaving early for the parks and getting back late at night, you probably won’t get a chance to see the animals, making it almost pointless to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge…) and 2. with little kids it would be nice to have a day for them to recuperate before going to the parks again.  We came back from Magic Kingdom around 10pm, past their usual bedtime, and then Epcot had early magic hours at 8am, which we did not take advantage of because we were all so tired and wanted to sleep in.  I also would really try to make the effort to get to the parks BEFORE they open.  They usually have an opening ceremony and they let guests into the parks 15 min early and I really think you can knock out so many rides that first hour, leaving the rest of the day to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere.

Last piece of advice is to go to a Target or Wal-mart where you can stock up on food and also Disney merchandise for a lot cheaper.  They have Disney t-shirts, notebooks for autographs, dolls, and various souvenirs etc.  And finally bring an extra phone charger.  In between taking photos and videos and using the Disney mobile app constantly for wait times, my battery was dead before the night show began.

Hope this was helpful!  Feel free to leave any comments or questions!


Read Full Post »