The WDW Radio Exchange is back once again! This time, our panel of Disney veterans is addressing a question sent to Lou about bringing a baby to WDW. Our panel is made up of five veteran Disney parents who have “been there” with a baby and have great advice to offer a parent bringing a little one for their first dose of Disney magic. Please enjoy, and if you have been to a park with a baby, please add your ideas in the comments below.
Love the show. My husband and I have been listening since the beginning. We just have one quick question for you… We are getting ready for our next trip to WDW in October for Food and Wine Fest. We both know our way around WDW and all the basics since we make the trip every year and I was a former cast member. The difference with this trip is we now have a child. We are taking our son for his first WDW trip! He will only be 6 months old when we go and now have all sorts of concerns about traveling with an infant. We were wondering if this is a topic you have discussed on a previous show or if you have any suggestions on where we can find advice for visiting WDW with an infant. Thanks and keep up the good work!
While you may need to make some changes to how you go about your day, I certainly wouldn’t worry too much about being able to make the trip enjoyable for both you and the little one. Both of our boys made their first trip to WDW when they were just about 6 months old as well, and both trips were a blast and will always remain special to us.
Firstly, Disney does a great job of offering help where it can; I think you should be sure to make yourself familiar with the Baby Care Centers offered within the parks. They offer a cool respite from the manic pace of the parks. They also offer many of the amenities you may need during the course of the day. They are always clean, comfortable and quiet; the staff is also very helpful and should you forget anything from bottles to diapers, they offer a nice selection of items for purchase.
As for as your actual time in the parks with the little one, I would pace yourself. There are plenty of attractions you can enjoy as a family with a 6 month old, and for those which you cannot, be sure to take advantage of Disney’s Baby Swap policy. Most importantly, I am a HUGE proponent of midday rest. My guys always had us up early (yes, even on vacation) so we would take advantage of that and be in the parks early. There are little to no lines, and it is calmer and cooler at that time, so we could relax and enjoy the attractions or character meets. Then, around noon or so, we would schedule lunch, usually a table service meal, to escape the afternoon heat. When we were done with lunch, we would head back to the room for a nap…which ALL of us took advantage of, not just the baby. I feel this keeps everyone rested and helps avoid cranky outbursts, from both parents and little ones alike.
I have often heard people talking about waiting until children are ‘old enough to remember’ their visit, meaning 5 or 6 years old and up, but I have to say, both of my boys have been to Walt Disney World a number of times before they were even 3 years old. While some of their memories are vivid and other may have faded, I can assure you that my wife and I have all sorts of incredible memories of those visits, many of which would be very, very different from the memories you would share with ‘older’ young children!”
Jim Hoppe, father of 5 boys: “Here are some basic suggestions, in no particular order:
The rule of 3 (part 1) : Unless you are lucky enough to be staying at a place with a washer and dryer, think about how many clothes you’ll need for the baby for the vacation, then multiply that number by 3. Same goes when going out to the park for the day. Multiply the number of clothes you think you need for the day by 3. They will pee and poop through their diaper, they will spit up and throw up on their shirts. Even if they never have before. You never want to be in the position when you are down to the last change of clothes.
Bring your own stroller– Disney strollers, on top of being expensive, are not baby friendly. Assume planning EPCOT a lot since you are coming down for wine and food. If possible stay at a resort that allows you more use of boats and monorails as opposed to buses. There’s no way around it, strollers are a pain in the neck to bring on the bus, but they can be rolled right in the boats and monorails. Magic Kingdom resorts or Epcot resorts are best options. Try to get a stroller that has rain-gear to protect the baby from the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms.
The rule of 3 (part 2) : Calculate how much time you need to get ready to go to the parks and multiply that time by 3. As you are about to leave the room you will hear the sounds of a poopy diaper , or the baby will spit up, or you will be at the entrance to the park and realize you forget the pacifier or the formula. Allow plenty of time.
Embrace the fact that you no longer come first and it is all about the baby. If you have to get your “big kid rides” in ask cast members about parent swap. Will have one parent ride while other parent watches the baby then will let second parent on while first parent watches baby without having to get back in line. Unless that ride is scheduled for permanent closure however I encourage you to relive Disney through your kids…those rides will still be there in 8-10 years and then your kids will be able to ride, and they will feel like new all over again. Those years will fly by I promise you. Do the kiddie rides–there are lots that a six month old can do. They are taking in a lot of sensory input at this age. Be a kid again- that’s the whole point!
Magic Kingdom and EPCOT best parks for six month old. Hollywood Studios iffy, skip Animal Kingdom.”
Tonya Wolcott, Mother of 2: “What a wonderful age for your son’s first trip to Walt Disney World. It’s really amazing how different things look when you start to see it through your child’s eyes. While it may seem daunting, here are a few pointers to make your adventure stress-free.
Although it may seem easier to travel light, bring your own stroller. In fact, before you leave home, personalize it so that it stands out in the sea of strollers when you leave a ride. On our trips with infants, we purchased new, inexpensive strollers and used ribbon on the handles to make it easily recognizable. On our last night, we would pass it on to another family who was turning in their rented stroller. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable those rented, plastic strollers must be after you’ve been in them a while! When the baby needs a stroller break, put him in a halter or backpack. It will keep your hands free and allow him to look around instead of up. He will surely be fascinated with all the new sights and sounds.
Become familiar with the location of the Infant Care Centers located inside of each park. (Magic Kingdom – next to the Crystal Palace; Epcot – inside the Odyssey Center in Future World; Hollywood Studios – in the Guest Services building inside the park entrance; Animal Kingdom – behind Creature Comforts in the Discovery Island area.) They are a great place to sit and take a break if your son becomes overstimulated or just needs a rest. If you are breastfeeding and looking for solitude, this is one of the few private places you will find within the parks.
If you are unable to ride an attraction because of the baby’s age, ask to participate in the Rider Switch Program. You will find this option available at most rides which use the fast pass system. Mention to the cast member at the ride entrance that you would like to get a rider switch ticket and you can get on the ride when your husband gets off. This is a great alternative to waiting in the same line twice!
Make sure that you bring all the diapers and baby supplies that you think you will need… and then some! Of course Disney stocks baby essentials but they will cost you a fortune.
If you are anything like me when my first child was born, you pride yourself in your child’s schedule. Feeding, naps, and bedtime – you could set your watch to it. Do yourself a favor and say no to schedules! Your son will sleep when he is tired and eat when he is hungry. It will amaze you that he will sleep through parades, fireworks and every other distraction that you thought would keep him up. He will sleep in the stroller and while you hold him. If you are lucky, he may even sleep through your dinner! It really only takes a few days back at home to get him back on schedule. (When you have your second child, they will never have the advantage of a set schedule and somehow they all seem to turn out fine!)
Make sure you get the all-important photo with the Mouse! Even if he starts to cry when you hold him next to Mickey (think about it … a 6 foot tall rodent!), it is a snapshot that you will never be able to duplicate. Sometimes I think the ones with the screaming infants are cuter than the smiles.
My last piece of advice to you comes with a word of warning. The Food and Wine Festival is a great time to explore foods and spices from different cultures. If, however, you are breastfeeding, all those spices may not be enjoyed as much by your son. There is nothing worse than having a great taste of a different country then having a screaming baby who won’t sleep a few hours later because he has a stomach ache and gas. Please, if you are breastfeeding, limit your new, exotic seasonings and stay away from they really spicy food. Your son will thank you!
Based on my experience, this year’s voyage to Walt Disney World with your adorable, completely portable 6 month old son will be the most relaxing journey you will take for years to come. Next year when you return with an 18 month old who doesn’t want to sit in the stroller because there is so much to touch everywhere, you will reflect on just how easy traveling to Disney with a 6 month old really is!”
Darby Okamoto, Father of 2: “Taking a trip to a Disney theme park can be memorable but it’s definitely not easy, especially when you want to take your under 1 year old child with you. Kids are already a huge responsibility just at home during that time but taking them out to a Disney theme park, though memorable, can still take a lot of effort and more importantly, it takes a lot of pre-planning. (Just FYI, I am very overprotective of my kids so I tend to go overboard but at least this advice would cover everything).
For one thing, a good travel crib that folds up is needed. Unless a parent sleeps with the child at night, most children have started to learn to sleep on their own around 3 months old. I have always been a stickler for routine and both my kids started sleeping on their own by 3 months. Thus, for any overnight trip, we had a to bring a travel crib with us. A favorite blanket and sleeping toy would also help as well.
I would also make sure there is a small fridge in the hotel room to store food and breast milk (or formula milk). Also important are sunblock (we use Aveena with 75% UV protection), a hat (extra protection from heat), a stroller with a shade (you won’t believe the number of strollers I have seen at Disney parks with no shade cover!), a small cooler to have with the stroller to bring extra formula (or breast milk) and food (if they are eating food yet), a change of clothes (you never know! wet rides, throw up, food or milk spills, etc), obviously plenty of diapers (I usually carry about 10 to 15 diapers just in case. They usually last the whole day), diaper rash cream (I usually put it on in the morning before we go to the parks. That way it can also PREVENT rash from appearing), at least 2 to 3 packages of baby wipes (they aren’t just for wiping butts you know. You have to clean any surface like dining tables. You never know who touched it before them!) and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS allow time in the early afternoon to go back to your hotel to take a nap!!! I don’t care how many days you have in the parks, you NEED to give your child (and probably your spouse) a nap in the early afternoon. I would say between 1 and 2. That should last till about 4. Because I am a local, that was not quite as easy since we had no hotel room so I found a good quiet shady spot for them to sleep. My wife at the time slept on a bench while the baby slept in his stroller. After that, you should be able to go the rest of the day.
That pretty much covers it. Soft soled shoes in case you want to let your child walk around somewhere. Always keep your camera handy. One last pointer…I don’t think it would be wise to let your kids see fireworks. Loud booms tend to either scare them or make them cry. My kids are now 5 and 2 and they STILL hate fireworks…I hope they don’t get firework-phobia or something. Anyways, enjoy your trip to the Disney theme parks and keep listening to the WDW Radio Show!!!
My fellow contributors have given terrific advice about the logistics of enjoying the trip with a baby, so I am going to add some of my reflections from the point of a view of a sappy mom; they aren’t practical suggestions per se, but thoughts from the heart.
My first recommendation is to think about the photo opportunities you really want to get with the baby and plan out how to get those. Years from now, when you are telling your son about his first trip, it will be through pictures that you make the memories come alive for him. Remember if you want him to have his first set of ears and to wear them in pictures to get them first thing!
This trip will also be the start of the traditions you establish as a family. Will you want him to say ‘I have had a Mickey Pop on every trip since I was six months old?’ Will you want to say you ALWAYS ride the train around the Magic Kingdom? Think about the things you have enjoyed as a couple and try to find ways to make them a family activity which will become a cherished family ritual for vacations in the future.
Also, if you are traveling with extended family, have a frank conversation with them about how this trip will be different from those in the past. It might seem like that should be obvious, but avoid potential frustrations by spelling out the expectations. Explain your priorities, tell them you will be going slower, and let them ‘off the hook’ (‘You don’t have to walk around with us the whole time. It’s your vacation, too. Let’s meet at Chef Mickey’s so you can see him meet Mickey for the first time.’)
I’m so excited for you to have the experience of sharing Disney with your little boy for the first time. Please let us know how the trip was when you return!”
Have you been to Walt Disney World with a baby? Do you have any other advice you would add?