Disney World with a toddler…. Now there is an adventure in and of itself! To be totally honest, I never planned to take my toddler to disney because I was certain she wouldn’t be old enough to appreciate it and she’d be cranky the whole time, but then I realized that I’M THE ONE that would appreciate the memories, and I need to not let fear of wrangling an unappreciative toddler at Disney World stop me.
So I booked the ticket. Ready or not…. Here we go!
And you know what? It was perfect. Yep- there were meltdowns and tantrums (and a LOT of them!) but overall it was so magical, especially for my little one. I was amazed at how inclusive Disney World was for all ages, including toddlers! ‘
The thing that surprised me the most was just HOW MUCH there was for toddlers at Disney World.
I always kind of thought of it as being a great place for slightly older kids, and it definitely is still that, but there are so many fun things that toddlers will love, not to mention plenty of resources to help parents of toddlers stay SANE.
And since I love you mama, I want you to have the most AMAZING Disney World trip! So I’ve compiled all of my favorite tips and activities for toddlers at Disney World into this ultimate guide for surviving Disney World with a toddler!
***Thank you to Disney World for providing some of our tickets in collaboration with this post!**
Alrighty, let’s dive right in! Here are the things I’m going to talk about, so you can read them all or just skip to the section you need, and don’t forget to pin this article so you can come back to it later!
- Best rides for toddlers at Disney World
- Favorite activities for toddlers at Disney World
- Tips for managing your toddler at Disney World without going crazy!
- Your packing list for the parks with your toddler
Best rides for toddlers at Disney World
There are actually tons of rides that your little ones can go on, despite what you might think! The Magic Kingdom park has more rides and attractions for toddlers than the other parks, but there is at least a couple of rides at each park. I’ll dive into our very favorites and why we think they’re a must-do for toddlers!
Dumbo (at Magic Kingdom)- The actual ride is of course adorable and my little one loved being able to fly in it, but the true reason it’s the best is because of the AWESOME ride queue! Instead of just standing in line, they have an incredible play center where you go in and get your buzzer. It’s all Dumbo and circus themed inside, and your kids can run around and play to their hearts content until it’s your turn. You can also just go play if you don’t feel like riding the actual ride.
The Teacups (at Magic Kingdom)- I actually cannot believe that I’m even writing that out, I get SO sick on the teacups and actually personally hate the ride haha, but it was a WIN for my toddler. The line moves very fast, it’s very brightly colored and exciting, and she loved the interactive part of being able to spin the cup. (insert mom barfing LOL) -definitely worth it for the little ones!
The Seas with Nemo and Friends (at Epcot) – We love underwater life and Nemo is such a cute ride, perfect for toddlers with lots of stimulating music, fun characters they remember, but not too long or dark! And when you get off, they have the most incredible exhibit with manatees, a massive aquarium, and fun learning stations. I think we stayed there for almost an hour, my toddler was in fish heaven!
Alien Swirling Saucers (At Hollywood Studios)- This is just a fun, quick moving, brightly-colored ride where the line moves fast and kids have fun. Emi loved it and she threw a downright tantrum when it was time to get off, so clearly for her it was a huge success!
Kilimanjaro Safaris (at Animal Kingdom)- The best ride on earth if you’ve got an animal lover, and we do, so it was one of our very favorites! It’s about a 30 minutes safari tour through the animal park and there is no shortage of amazing animals to see and things to learn about them!
Na’vi River Journey (at Animal Kingdom)- Besides my personal love for this ride, my toddler LOVED it. Sometimes dark rides can feel scary for a toddler, especially if there are surprise elements or loud noises, but this ride doesn’t have anything like that. Even though it’s dark, the overall ride is very tranquil and beautiful, with lots of things any toddler would love to look at. It’s one of my favorite rides to go on and my toddler loved it, which makes it just about the perfect family ride!
Favorite non-ride activities that are awesome for toddlers
Sea Base at Epcot- I mentioned this briefly in the rides section because it is located where the Nemo ride is at Epcot. It is a massive aquarium and learning station where you can see sharks, manatees, sea turtles, all walks of marine life, and even dolphins. Obviously the ride is a fun part, but we spent a huge amount of time just wandering around the aquarium. My toddler loves fish and was smitten with everything we saw. This is an absolute MUST DO in my opinion!
Meeting characters- ok so this one is actually hit or miss, depending on your toddler. When our oldest was a toddler, she absolutely hated meeting characters, especially if they were in a full suit. I guess that can be pretty terrifying, ha! But Our younger one that’s a toddler now loved seeing the characters!
Rafiki’s Planet Watch- You have to take a little train to get over there, but they have a really cool little petting zoo type of area that animal lovers will obsess over. There were also a few fun interactive things along the way.
Figment’s Imagination Center- After you get off the Journeyinto Imagination with Figment ride, there is a really cool learning and imagination center that helps little ones discover all of their senses! The ride is technically toddler friendly too, but we found that the darkness, loud noises, and random spurts of wind weren’t very friendly for Emi- she was definitely afraid. The imagination center afterward though was a huge hit, we stayed for probably thirty minutes! We sat down and let the girls run around and play to their heart’s content. There is also an opportunity to meet Vanellope Von Schweetz while you’re there!
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique- This activity was the highlight of the trip for my older daughter, who was 6 this trip. Your little one gets to go and get the royal princess treatment and they feel so special! This would be a great activity for older toddlers (3 or 4 in age, you have to be at least 3 to attend) that love to dress up and aren’t too shy or afraid of other people.
Mickey’s Philharmagic Show- There are several cute 3D shows around the Disney parks that are fun for toddlers, but the Philharmagic show was our favorite! It had less “scary” surprise elements (like suddenly getting dark or surprise loud noises), and showcased some of our favorite characters. It’s really cute and a great way to get your little one out of the sun and into some air conditioning for a bit. The line for this one moves very quickly, which is a big winning factor in my book!
Dumbo Splashpad- Right outside of Dumbo there is a little water zone area that has a mini splash pad and so many kids were running around in absolute heaven! Definitely fun for a quick little stop!
Tips for Managing your toddler at Disney World without going crazy
Managing tantrums or emotions when they’re stressed-First things first, expect tantrums. They’re more likely than not going to happen. Here are the things that I found most helpful!
- Bribery– snacks or a sippy cup with a favorite beverage is usually a good way to get me to stop crying too.
- Distraction– If something is stressing them out, try to point out some of the fun things to look at that are around you. Disney World is full of them! For slightly older toddlers, have them search for hidden Mickeys, they’re pretty much everywhere!
- A quiet place- Disney is very overstimulating, and my toddler gets easily stressed when she’s over stimulated. You can a quiet corner of a shop or outside to sit with them for a minute and let them get out their emotions and calm down. Disney also has baby care centers that make great refuge when you need to escape.
Speaking of those baby care centers, let’s talk about them!- At every park Disney has a baby care center, which is a great refuge for mamas and children that need to take a break for a minute. It’s stocked up with things like snacks, diapers, medicine, etc. and there are plenty of places for you to sit with your child for a bit. It’s the perfect little refuge when you need to escape with baby or toddler and calm down.
Stick to your “normal” – and by that, I mean your routine. Don’t expect that your toddler can go from rope drop to park close, because they can’t. Try to sleep and eat around the same times as normal. If they need a nap, take a quick break to go back or let them nap in the stroller or maybe take a break at the baby care center or a sit-down location. Disney World can be overstimulating and exhausting, they’ll be much happier and less stressed if their little body can stick to it’s normal routine as much as possible.
What to pack to bring into the parks
- extra clothes
- wipes (even if they’re potty trained, those wipes come in useful!)
- diapers/pull ups/extra undies as needed
- sippy cup (loooots of water, keep them hydrated!)
I’m a big fan of packing as light as possible. The first day we were in the parks, I packed for the apocalypse to happen and regretted it immediately. Having to lug around so much stuff “just in case” I needed it was a total nightmare. Our backs hurt, the stroller was heavier, and I didn’t use any of it. The next several days we just packed the bare, bare minimum. The great thing is that if there is ever anything you truly need that you didn’t bring (like medicine, diapers, etc.) you can usually find it in the park and purchase it if you have to.
Something else I want to mention is the importance of a STROLLER! Even though your little one is probably walking and may even be comfortable walking for a long time, you’ll want a stroller at some point in the day. Those Disney days are a LOT of walking in various types of weather and toddlers need some extra support from a stroller to get through all the walking. If you don’t want to carry one on your travels, you can always rent one from a rental service while you’re there or rent one in the parks.
I hope some of these tips are helpful for you in planning a trip to Disney World with your toddler! If you’ve been with your toddler, I’d love to hear if you have more tips that I can add to the list- just drop them in the comments!
If you’re ready to book your trip, you can book tickets and check out the amazing deals and all of the magic at the Disney World website!