Before I had kids, I enjoyed the carefree trips to WDW as an adult – drinking my way around Epcot’s World Showcase, getting there at opening, and staying until closing with no breaks, among other things. But then I had my daughter and instead of thinking I was going to miss those childless trips, I started counting down the days I could bring my princess to my favorite place in the world.
I had a plan – wait until she was at least one and was walking. I thought this would be the perfect age. I started her early on Disney Junior and she knew Mickey and Minnie were her pals, and I hoped it would help at the parks. I planned a trip for the slow season (end of January), my favorite time to go, so we wouldn’t get stuck on long lines with a baby. My daughter turned 15 months on her first trip to WDW and it was, perhaps, my most memorable vacation to Disney.
First things first – packing. I’m pretty sure I brought more stuff for my daughter than I did for myself. She definitely had more clothes and LOTS of diapers. We also had to consider feeding. She was still drinking formula when we went and had to pack that and several sets of bottles and sippy cups. All of this stuff takes up space, so pack accordingly. As an alternative, you can order from an online grocer (I prefer Garden Grocer) to have some of these items delivered to your room. I did have diapers, wipes, a case of water and baby food there for when we arrived. It made things much easier.
Next up – transportation. We had a two and a half hour flight into Orlando. I was fully prepared with a car seat, bottles, pacifiers, baby ear plugs (useless), extra clothes, portable DVD player – anything to make it more comfortable for her as this was her first flight ever. The trip to Orlando was no problem – she slept the entire flight, starting before takeoff. On our return trip home, not so lucky. The air pressure got to her and she got sick all over herself (and me) on takeoff. Fortunately, I had a change of clothes for both of us and was able to clean us up, and calm her down.
We took Disney’s Magical Express to our hotel and she had to sit on my lap, no car seats allowed. Same thing for the buses to and from the parks. Something to keep in mind. The buses ended up being a horrible experience each time. She did not want to be held and screamed most trips. In hindsight, we should have rented a car. We would have gotten to the parks faster and had a much happier baby.
Another form of transportation that is important is strollers. Will you need a stroller (definitely!) and will you bring your own or rent one? I chose to bring my own, which was helpful waiting in the airport and walking around the resort. If you chose to rent from Disney, keep in mind you will have to carry that tired, cranky baby with you at the end of the night while you wait for the bus as their strollers are only for the parks. Another option is to rent one from a company outside of Disney. Those companies will deliver the stroller to your room. The downside to bringing your own or renting from an outside vendor is carrying them on Disney buses. It can be cumbersome when it’s crowded. It’s also easy to lose your Disney rented stroller when it’s parked outside an attraction. Cast members will often rearrange strollers to accommodate everyone. We are always able to find ours right away since most people seemed to rent a Disney one and we had our own.
Lastly, for part one, the other important aspect of a Disney trip – the hotel. We were new DVC (Disney Vacation Club) owners for this trip and chose to stay in a studio at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village. We were two adults, a tween and the 15 month old. This worked well for us because DVC rooms have pack n’ plays and pull out sofas. Next trip, we will be staying in a one bedroom that has a full kitchen to save money on meals by cooking some of our own. We had the dining plan and some groceries delivered, but in a studio there is only a sink, mini fridge and microwave. It would have been nice to been able to make breakfast or lunch in the room and not have to pay for the dining plan. Depending on your family size, you’ll have to make the best choice with room size. All Disney resorts also have convenience stores in them so if I had needed anything, it was there, whether juice, snacks or medicine. A bit expensive, but the convenience of knowing it was there if I needed it was reassuring. Kidani Village had it’s pros and cons but the best part for a baby/toddler was the pool area. It was separate from the main pool area and just for kids. My daughter loved the baby pool and the fountains. Kidani Village had a really great water play area. The best thing about Kidani Village was the animals, naturally. She was pretty fascinated seeing the animals up close. Every resort has something for everyone.
In Part Two I’ll cover park experiences, meals and the baby care centers (and anything else I missed!) on taking a trip with a 1-year old.