In Part One, we covered the essentials of planning – packing, travel and hotel. For Part Two, I’m covering our park experiences, dining and the awesome Baby Care Centers offered at the parks.
One of the most important things, whether you are bringing a baby or toddler (or anyone to WDW), is planning your days. I know some people rather just wing it, but you really can’t at WDW, especially with a 1-year old. You need a game plan. With the potential for crowds, long lines (no matter the time of year), restaurants booking up, and calendar of events, it is imperative to plan out your trip. One of my favorite resources is TouringPlans.com, from the publishers of “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.” For $11.95 a year, you get access to their website, app and crowd calendar, my essential tool for years. You can check out the crowd levels for each park for every day of your trip , as well as see EMH (extra magic hours – where Disney’s hotel guests are allowed into a park early each day or later each night) and, parade and show times. Before I head down to Disney, I have an Excel spread sheet that shows what park I’m going to each day and where my dining reservations are. Trust me, planning out your days is essential. This is great advice whether you are bringing kids or not!
One of the great things about bringing a one-year-old was that she was FREE in the parks! Your child will not need a paid park ticket until they are three, so take advantage of that! Knowing I had each day planned made it easy to have a game plan. There were attractions and shows I knew were a “must-do” with my wee one, so I knew walking into each park where we were heading. We started as early as we could each day to beat the crowds. However, by lunchtime, we always headed back to the resort for a much needed break, and hopefully naps for all, especially baby. We were then ready and refreshed to head back to the parks at night for a few hours. Sometimes this didn’t always work out and she took her naps at the park and missed out on some things (like Wishes, how sad!)
I found the majority of attractions and shows were suitable for a 1-year old. Some things she really liked were: It’s a Small World, Country Bear Jamboree, Finding Nemo, and the Lion King show. Anything bright and colorful with peppy music she enjoyed. She did not care for Voyage of the Little Mermaid – a little too frightening for her. She also had trouble with Dumbo and TriceraTop Spin, surprisingly. WDW really does cater to all ages and I was very pleased with how many shows and attractions she could go on and/or enjoy. She LOVED the fur characters as well, even when she didn’t know them. Poor Pluto got ignored as she made a beeline for Minnie! The face characters, like Belle, she was unimpressed with. Now, not every kid will be so open and willing to the characters. I suggest taking it slowly. Also, do not underestimate the power of the live musical acts in the parks. My daughter absolutely loved dancing to the JAMMitors (Epcot Future World), Mo’Rockin (Morocco pavilion) and the mariachi band at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot.
Dining proved to be somewhat of a challenge but still very manageable. I (still) have a very picky eater. She still was drinking about four bottles of formula a day so I had to be prepared with bottles in the park. In addition, I brought in her baby snacks (Puffs, etc.) and baby food in PLASTIC containers. WDW does not allow glass jars. I had most of my food delivered by Garden Grocer. I also had to bring baby spoons, bibs and disposable tablemats (ones that stuck to the table, they were great!) All of this will take up space in your diaper bag but it’s necessary. I often tried to give her some “real” food off of our plates and sometimes she ate it, sometimes she didn’t. I did make the mistake of ordering a kids meal for several dollars one day, which was a complete waste. There are so many different types of food offered in the parks that it was interesting to see her try them out. Every place we ate had (from what we could tell) clean highchairs, although I also carried a very lightweight high chair cover. All in all, dining wasn’t impossible, but being prepared helped. She LOVED the character meals. The characters really go out of their way to interact with your children. I have some unforgettable pictures.
Finally, a trip with a baby or toddler wouldn’t be successful at WDW without the help of the Baby Care Centers found throughout the parks (one in each park). These facilities offer a place for parents to change, feed, relax or buy necessities. The best part – they are complimentary to park guests! They offer: private nursing rooms with chairs; changing rooms with multiple changing tables; feeding areas with highchairs; kitchens with microwaves, ovens and sinks; TV room; and mini-stores to buy baby food, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, OTC meds and anything else you may need. I visited these Centers multiple times to change my baby, take a quick break, wash out a bottle or sippy cup, or buy a necessity. You can find the locations on the park maps.
No one said taking a 1-year old on vacation is easy, but with a little planning you can still have a great trip! We had a great time and made some really magical memories. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about how happy she was and how big she smiled when she saw the real Mickey Mouse for the first time. You too, can create magical memories with your baby and have a great vacation! And don’t worry about all those Negative Nellies who say your baby won’t remember. You will and you will have great pictures and memories. Not to mention, how much fun your child will have, even if they won’t remember!