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10 Must Read Tricks for Tackling Disney With Young Kids

by Brittany DiCologero

10. Know that your first trip with kids will be different

If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World since you had children, your next trip might not be quite like the ones you remember. If you’re used to going nonstop while you’re in the parks, and rising early and staying out late, a trip with kids will be entirely different. When going to Disney with kids, especially for the first time, it’s important that you alter the way you tackle the parks. If you still want some time with just the adults in the parks, so you can tour the parks just like you used to, or just have a little break, look into Disney’s childcare options at your resort.

9. Look for Mickey check meals

Mickey check meals are the kids menu options at Disney restaurants that encompass healthy, balanced meals. If you’re worried that your kids will be eating junk all week (a logical concern, when bringing them to a theme park) these meals provide great opportunities to make sure they’re still getting all the nutrients they need even though they’re on vacation.

8. Decide whether or not you need a stroller

This decision is completely up to you and your child. There is no “right” age where you’re expected to ditch the stroller. In my opinion, strollers are great if you need them, but they’re not worth bringing everywhere you go if you don’t need them. If your children are very young, bringing a stroller may be the obvious choice. Once you’ve decided to use a stroller, you need to decide whether or not you’ll be renting one from Disney. While Disney’s strollers do cost extra, they might be more convenient in that they stay in the parks so you don’t need to fold them or unfold them and get them between the parks and your hotel. On the contrary, you and your child might be very accustomed to your stroller at home, and the idea of not having to reload it each day with everything you need might be more appealing.

7. Bring your own snacks

While I am generally a fan of eating Disney snacks rather than bringing your own, bringing some snacks from home might be a useful idea while traveling with children. Remember, Disney is often hot and tiring, making it an easy environment for meltdowns to take place. Having snacks with you allows you to have the flexibility of snacking on the go instead of having to take the time to go and buy snacks. In addition, having snacks on you is also allowing you to save some extra money.

6. Have at least one character dining meal

When you’re visiting the parks with kids, one thing you’ll find yourself doing a lot is going to be character meet and greets. To cut down the amount of time you’ll spend waiting in line for characters, plan to make reservations for some character dining locations. By doing this, you’ll be able to see the characters during the time you’d be spending eating anyway.

5. Take advantage of rider swaps

Just because you’re touring the parks with kids, this does not mean that you won’t be able to ride some of your favorite attractions that come with height requirements. The rider swap service allows one member of your party to ride an attraction while someone else waits with the kids. After the first person is done riding, you’re able to switch and let the second person ride.

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4. Take advantage of kid-friendly attractions

While it’s pretty obvious that Walt Disney World is an excellent place for kids, there are a surprising number of kid-friendly attractions that are completely overlooked. One attraction that I think is severely overlooked is the Wilderness Explorer program at Animal Kingdom. Other overlooked activities for kids are the play areas like the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom. While these areas might not be the most exciting for adults, they’re actually great places for the adults to take a break while the kids let off some steam.

3. Keep a budget in mind

Sometimes traveling with children can make sticking to a budget a little tricky. In addition to the fact that the trip will be more expensive simply because you’re paying for more people, you’ll need to consider the extra things you’ll be buying the kids. One idea to tackle this is to put a set amount of money on a Disney gift card, and make clear to the kids that they have x amount and they can choose to spend it on what they want. I think this is a great idea, because it still lets them buy some things, while also teaching them that they can’t just have everything they want.

2. Take breaks

It is so important to make sure you take breaks while you’re touring the parks with kids. Kids can’t help but get worn out much easier than adults, so even if you think you’re good to keep going for another couple of hours they might not be. I recommend getting up early, and enjoying the early mornings in the parks before they get too crowded, and taking midday breaks. During these breaks you can go back to your resort and use the pool, or maybe even take a nap. After your afternoon break, head back out for the evening with everyone feeling well rested.

1. Know their limits

The most important tip for anyone traveling to the parks with kids is to know their limits. Any parent knows when their children are tired and have had enough, though this point may be a little bit more blurred during a vacation where every member of the family is getting tired and worn out. Know how to tell when a meltdown is about to happen. Kids generally have meltdowns simply because they’re frustrated with being brought all over the parks, doing more walking than they’ve ever done before, with all kinds of heat and humidity they might not be used to. If you see that the kids are really starting to get tired or cranky, take this as the opportune moment to take a little break. Even if you do not go back to your resort, take the time to sit down in some air conditioning with some cold drinks.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.