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***Covid-19 Update can be found below the original post from Feb 2020***
I’m not sure if we were brave or we just overestimated the abilities of our baby but we had the bright idea to go to Walt Disney World with a 7-month-old baby.
As someone born and raised in Florida, I’ve been to Disney World at least a dozen times, likely a lot more. The first time I went to Disney World my parents took me to celebrate my first birthday. I obviously don’t remember the trip itself but I remember growing up and looking at this iconic photograph I took with Minnie Mouse where Minnie was dressed like a futuristic space cadet. I suppose I figured if I could handle it, then Rigel who’s much tougher than I was at his age could handle it too.
Before we ever got to the park I reviewed this list of Disney World Rides for Babies and Toddlers that I found on the blog Have Baby Will Travel . While the My Disney Experience app does provide a short description of the rides at each of the parks and give an age and height range, I found the article at Have Baby Will Travel to be better at giving you an idea of what rides might be suitable for taking your little one on. We used that information to pick the two parks we’d visit in the two days we’d spend in Orlando.
So after spending two days in Walt Disney World with a 7-month-old, here are the things I learned and my tips for having a magical experience:
- Download the My Disney Experience app and reserve your FastPasses – If you know your dates for visiting Walt Disney World are set in stone buy your tickets in advance and make your FastPass selections. You get three free Fast Pass selections to start. The sooner you lock in your FastPass times for rides the more likely you’ll get a good time to cut the line. I recommend if you’re hitting the parks with an infant or toddler that you get your FastPasses scheduled in before 2pm. We found that around 2pm Rigel got really tired and similarly we noticed that the other babies in the park also seemed tire out around that time. The FastPasses will save you a lot of strain from having to carry a baby for an hour or more while you wait in line for the rides.
- Use the My Disney Experience app to find the Baby Care Center – Each one of the parks has a Baby Care Center. This is a place that has nursing rooms, changing tables, and a dining area for little ones. They also sell baby necessities like diapers, formula, tylenol, and baby snacks in case you have an emergency. We stopped at one in Epcot when I realized that I had not reloaded the diaper bag with enough diapers to last the whole day at the park. We were able to get a 3-pack of Huggies diapers for around $3. Sure a little pricey but talk about saving the day!
- Pack More Emergency Outfits than Usual – I always carry one emergency outfit for Rigel in case he has a blowout or gets way too messy during a meal. However, one emergency outfit proved not to be enough on our second day at the parks. Rigel managed to poop, spit up, and urinate through two outfits, leaving us with no choice but to wrap him up in his blanket. The days at Disney World are long, pack like you may be trapped there forever.
- Get a lightweight stroller that you don’t mind getting wet – You could take your really expensive travel system-Cadillac of strollers to the park or you could take a stroller that’s light and easy to stow and that you don’t mind too much if it gets messed up. You’re not going to be able to wheel into most of the attractions at the park. You’re going to be forced to leave your stroller in some of the designated stroller parking areas that seem scattered everywhere. Your stroller may be out in the elements for an hour or more depending on the length of the line. We saw most people leave their diaper bags and bags of souvenirs right on their strollers. While I wouldn’t worry about anyone taking anything at the park, I did worry about manuevarability, ease of storing, and weight when it came time to decide on what stroller we’d take with us. I ended up choosing the Jeep North Star Stroller because tons of reviews praised it’s compactness and said it was great for tall people (like my husband) to push. We really liked it! The only thing we wished was that the basket was a little bigger but I actually got an amazing workout carrying the diaper bag on my back for two days so it wasn’t the worst thing ever.
- Use empty corners of stores and lobbies of show waiting areas as places to let your baby stretch – If your baby is already crawling and standing like Rigel then they are going to go stir crazy if you keep them strapped in a stroller all day long. We finally realized in China (at Epcot) that Rigel needed to be let loose. We found a quiet area in one of the shops and put him down on the floor and let him crawl around and explore (with our supervision of course). He was in heaven! Doing this brought down his frustration and whining by about a million percent. Another place we let him loose was in the waiting area for the Hall of Presidents. Pretty much any place with carpet and a little bit of open space will do. Just make sure you let those babies stretch or you’ll never hear the end of the crying.
- Bring items that help your baby nap in a stroller comfortably – Your baby will likely have to take some if not all of their naps in their stroller while at the park so make sure you pack things to make sleeping in a stroller more comfortable, like blankets, stroller covers, and neck pillows. Since the stroller we took on the trip didn’t recline like our usual stroller does we bought Rigel a neck pillow like this one so his head would be supported when he fell asleep. It worked great and he managed to get quite a bit of sleep while cruising through the park.
- Don’t forget about the sun protection even if it’s cloudy – Remember babies need extra sun protection even if it might seem cloudy out. We made sure we packed Rigel’s sunblock, used the canopy on his stroller, and that he wore his baseball cap while at the park.
- Stick to your baby’s eating schedule as much as possible – It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re having fun at the happiest place on earth but if you’re there with a baby try to stick as closely as possible to their eating schedule. Remember for babies under 1 their breastmilk or formula not only provides nutrition but also hydration, which is even more important when you’re spending all day outside at an amusement park. I made sure that I always kept Rigel’s diaper bag on me even if we were waiting in line for a ride so that I had access to his formula and water. We fed him while waiting in line for a ride at least once during our trip. Most importantly, if your baby is fed in a timely manner they will be much less likely to get cranky.
- Use the companion restrooms for diaper changes – These restrooms are designed not only for individuals with disabilities but also for families. Pretty much all of them should have a changing table. The companion restroom will be your best friend if your baby has a blowout because it means both Mom and Dad can work on getting baby cleaned up together and you don’t have to deal with any disapproving looks from other people walking by like you would in the regular bathroom. Needless to say we used these bathrooms a lot, hence tip #3.
- Use Rider Switch Service if you want to go on a ride that your baby can’t ride – This is a great option if you want to ride a more adult ride that your baby can’t go on but your group wants to stay together. It allows one parent to go on the ride and then switch with the other parent at the end so they can care for the non-riding members of the group. We ended up not needing to use this service since my mother-in-law went to Disney World with us but we’ll certainly use it next time we go to the parks and don’t have anyone willing to stay behind with the kiddos.
- Park in the parking lot of the Disney park you plan to end the day in – At the last minute we added a Park Hopper option to our ticket and headed to Disney Hollywood Studios from Magic Kingdom. Instead of moving the car, we took Disney transit to Hollywood Studios. Getting there was fine but getting back to the Magic Kingdom parking lot where we had actually parked was not so easy. So if you already have a Park Hopper option on your ticket I recommend you park your car at the park you’ll be visiting last and take Disney transit to the park you want to visit in the morning instead of being faced with waiting for a bus at 9pm with an infant like we had to. You’ll only need to take Disney transit in the afternoon when you switch parks and can just go straight to your car at closing (or whenever you get too tired to continue).
- Be flexible with your plans – There’s so much you can do with a baby at Walt Disney World! They really have done an amazing job at making sure there’s fun available for the whole family so you definitely won’t run out of things to do. But your baby doesn’t necessarily have the same kind of stamina that you do so be prepared to take things slower than you normally would and even to call it a day earlier than you normally would.
Rigel had an amazing time. I’ve never seen him smile so much and be so fascinated. He enjoyed riding It’s a Small World, Under the Sea, and the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros. He loved seeing people from all the over the world and seeing other kids having fun. I don’t regret at all taking him so young because I got tons of video of him grinning from ear to ear that he can watch forever. Plus he made a trip I’ve done so many times so much more special. He’s truly my favorite travel companion and I’m so excited to take him on more trips.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about our experience with a baby at Disney or if you have any questions about anything I didn’t cover. In the meantime…
Last year when we were at Walt Disney World in Orlando news was starting to get serious about Covid-19 but no precautions were being implemented yet and we weren’t even considering lockdowns at that point. Following last year’s lockdown and many CDC recommendations, Walt Disney World reopened last summer with new protocols designed to keep guests safe. And I have to tell you they’ve been doing an amazing job of making the park feel even cleaner than it already was. But don’t expect the same kind of magic as pre-Covid because well things are different. Here are some of the things you can expect and some things we found helpful.
1. If you can, Stay at the Park – If you can work it out I highly recommend you stay at the resort. Disney has hotels at all price points and with the pandemic, they’re currently offering great package deals. We loved that we had the option of going back to the hotel if Rigel got too upset or if we needed a break. Plus staying on campus meant that we were reducing our exposure to individuals and places that might not be taking proper precautions. Since I’m high-risk as an asthmatic we did everything on campus during the 5 days were in Orlando. We stayed at Coronado Springs and while that hotel has wonderful amenities we found that due to its distance from Magic Kingdom and Epcot our bus pick-ups in the mornings often ran late. Next year (even without the Corona Virus floating around) we’ll likely book a hotel that has Monorail or Skyliner access.
2. Make Sure You Book Your Park Reservations Early – Due to the pandemic Disney World is operating at reduced capacity. I heard it was about 30%. Because of this, they are requiring guests to book Reservations for the park. And you can only Park Hop after 1pm. Make sure you book your park reservations early. This means you’ll have to come up with an itinerary for dates you want to go to the parks in advance. We made our park reservations about two months in advance as soon as our travel booking was confirmed.
3. There’s No Fast Pass so Conduct Yourself Accordingly – Fast Passes are currently suspended at the parks due to the extra precautions at the queue. Thankfully with the reduced capacity most of the rides are a manageable wait but still budget about a 60 minute wait per ride (and then be pleasantly surprised when the wait is only 40 mins). The hardest part of going to Disney for us was the wait. Rigel is not a very patient little guy and likes to wander but I’ll give you my tips for toddlers waiting in line further down.
4. You Have to Wear Your Mask at All Times While Not Stopped and Eating – They are taking mask-wearing very seriously. You must be wearing a mask at all times except when eating. If you are eating you are required to stop moving to eat, you cannot at this time sip and stroll. We saw people get chastised about walking and eating so don’t do it. Take a break instead.
5. Your Two-Year-Old is Going to Have to Mask Up – We were actually stopped and asked Rigel’s age before we entered the park when we went to Hollywood Studios. As some of you know Rigel’s pretty tall for his age so I don’t blame the castmember for assuming he might be 2 but just know they’re taking the mask mandate very seriously even for the littlest ones.
6. Lines Now Cover Half the Park for some rides – To help maintain social distancing requirements ride queues have been altered and extended sometimes covering half the park. Be prepared to see parts of Disney World that you haven’t seen before, including cast-member parking lots.
7. No scheduled parades and no character photos – Currently Disney is not doing any scheduled parades, instead, they are doing single floats at random times during the day. There are also no meet and greets with characters right now so leave those autograph books at home because you won’t need them.
8. Limited Walk-Up Order Stands – Many of the larger food courts and fast food locations are now mobile order only. But the good news is you can pre-schedule your order in the My Disney Experience app which can save you time while you’re off doing other things in the park.
9. Your Favorite Park Shows Might be Closed – Many of the shows at the park are canceled right now with few exceptions like Frozen and the Muppets Experience. They’re closed because it’s too difficult to maintain social distancing in the theater they take place or because they use live actors in close proximity to the audience. Check the My Disney Experience app for current shows running at the time of your visit.
10. Kids Play Zones are Currently Closed – The Kids Play Zones that could be found in the parks are currently closed (they’re still opened at the individual hotels). So your little one does not have much opportunity to be unrestrained like they would have had in years to stretch and use up some energy.
So here are my tips for traveling with a toddler with all these new circumstances:
1. Use a carrier while waiting in line with your baby/toddler – As I said previously the Fast Pass service is currently suspended so you’re going to have to stand in queue for a considerable amount of time with your littles. While Disney is allowing you to keep your stroller with you for longer than usual during many line queues at a certain point you will be required to exit the line and park your stroller in stroller parking. If you have a toddler that’s a wanderer or gets tired standing for a while consider using a carrier of some kind. We did not bring ours because Rigel doesn’t love carriers but by day two realized we needed something to ease carrying him while we waited in line, so my husband made a quick run to Target and got us the Tushbaby Baby Carrier which is just a seat that you wear and your little one sits on.
2. Take “Snack Breaks” – I personally had a tough time walking long distances while wearing the mask as an asthmatic. Since you can only remove your mask while eating I recommend you schedule snack breaks throughout your day so you and your little ones can get some mask-free time. You don’t have to eat anything big but a small snack or maybe a nice drink while sitting is more than enough to keep you in good standing with the mask inspectors.
3. Bring a Toy or a Tablet for While You Wait in Line – Bring a toy that your little one can use while waiting in line. Or if a toy won’t really hold their attention consider bringing a tablet with you and download their favorite educational videos or Disney movies for the attractions that they will be visiting. We took Rigel’s Amazon Fire Tablet 7 which we keep in a case that comes with a carrying strap. It honestly saved the day once we starting bringing it to the park with us. Rigel hated the lines.
4. Use the Mask-Free Zones for Naps and Baby Stretching – There are a couple of mask-free zones at each park. They’re designed to be places you can sit and take your mask off while not eating. While technically your little ones are not supposed to leave your table or pod we found that other guests were not offended if children under two explored and got a good stretch in.
5. Bring a Pack’n’Play or Bed Bumpers if Staying at the Disney Resort – We requested a crib but due to additional sanitation measures we didn’t get one. Thankfully we had packed with us our inflatable bed bumpers and used that on the second bed in our hotel room. So don’t count that a crib will be available if you’ve put in a request.
6. Have a comfortable compact stroller – We changed our stroller for this year’s trip and it proved to be a great decision since Rigel had to spend a lot more time in it. We got the Kolcraft Cloud Plus stroller which reclines and has a bigger basket than our Jeep umbrellas stroller had (big enough to hold a diaper bag and a few souvenirs).
7. Explain to Your Littles That Things Are a Little Different – Find a way to explain to your littles why things are a little different without scaring them. We told Rigel that Lightning McQueen couldn’t meet him up close because he had to prepare for a race against Jackson Storm. If your little is a little older and understands you can tell them something a little closer to the truth but I would be gentle with it to avoid making littles anxious about being out at the parks. Trust me Disney is doing an astounding job of keeping everyone safe at the park.
So go visit Disney with confidence and make some memories. Let’s stop putting off experiences. The little ones grow up so fast and it’s been a hard year for them. They deserve a little Magic. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about our Covid-19 experience at Disney.