Several weeks ago we returned to Walt Disney World for the first time since May 2015, and this time, we had a toddler! Just a quick update: on our last trip in May 2015 our son, Walt, was only 7 months old and not even crawling. In February of 2015, our son was 16 months and walking, talking, and much more vocal about what he does and does not like! I wanted to share a little bit of our experiences and some tips to help make your next trip with a toddler is a little bit easier. Plus, I want to share some stories so that you can be reassured that we all have some rough experiences with our little ones!
Preparation and Reality:
We began preparing for our trip like we would any other we had taken in the past, but soon it came time to make our Fastpass+ reservations. This is where we really began to think about planning. Originally, our plan was to hit the parks at rope drop, go until just after lunch, and then return to the park after a nice long nap back at our resort. Our reservations for attractions were usually one-two in the morning and then one in the evening, but as soon as we arrived at the park on the first day, we discovered that Walt seemed to do better when we took longer in between each attraction and had time to walk around a bit instead of sitting again and again. Plus, his nap times were extremely long (2-4 hours daily) while on vacation, and he usually wouldn’t wake until almost [6:00] or [7:00], leaving us with only 1-2 hours back at the park (besides the time to get back to the park and through security). In February, the park times are pretty short into the evening and even Magic Kingdom often closed at [9:00] or 10:00 pm!
After the first day, we altered our Fastpass+ reservations to remove the evening ones and made sure there was at least an hour in between each attraction. If we could get our first three completed in the morning, then we went over and made our fourth selection for later. This removed the pressure of feeling forced to return to the park in the evening, but still be allowed us to comfortably tour the park.
I went into the trip thinking that we would ride anything that Walt could ride, and I didn’t expect to have any issues with him being scared or not enjoying himself. Our very first attraction was Peter Pan’s Flight and from the time we sat down in our ship, Walt was already shaking his head! I waited for him to stop crying, and we ended up riding through the entire ride without any tears. We quickly found that he would shake his head on each and every attraction that we rode, and it was often quite funny (yes, we even got the head shaking on “it’s a small world”).
Even the darker rides such as Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean were attempted and ridden without a sobbing toddler! I will tell you that he didn’t enjoy the drop in Pirates or the stretching room in Mansion, but he just held on even tighter and shook his head! I was quite impressed that we were able to ride these and relieved that the other guests riding with us were able to enjoy their time!
Walter’s favorite ride: Walt Disney World Railroad and Monorail by a landslide! We came away from our vacation with a new word – “choo-choo”! Yes, my child does refer to the Monorail as a train for now, but don’t worry as he will learn the correct name soon!
This was the most stressful part of the entire trip as my son is EXTREMELY picky about what he eats, so I knew we would have issues! For example, he will eat chicken, but only if it has breading! Most often he ate chicken tenders and french fries, but occasionally he would branch out. It was at O’hana that we discovered he likes noodles, which we had tried and tried previously without success. As a side note, you can ask to have another kids meal, such as chicken tenders delivered to your table at O’hana, and they will happily do this without an extra charge!
We did try the new Jungle Skipper Canteen Restaurant and that is where we had the worst problem with finding something he would eat. Their menu is so specialized that besides the bread they bring to your table, he didn’t eat anything at all. My advice is that if you have a picky eater, just try to order what they will eat and don’t try to force them to try new stuff while on vacation. Also, if you know that your child will just eat shredded cheese and pick extra food from your plate, ask if they could bring you a side of something! We have asked for just a plain hamburger bun at some of the Disney Quick-Service places, and they are usually able to accommodate that.
Walter’s Favorite Meal: Snack time eating an ice cream sandwich from the Plaza Ice Cream Shop! He also really loved the pancakes at Kona Cafe!
Being a toddler means wanting to explore everything and experience it from your point of view, so I knew that meant that Walt did not want to always ride in the stroller, but walk a little as well. We worked on holding hands while we were still at home so that he knew that when we were walking over something (train tracks, over a curb, or even in a busy intersection) he needed to hold a hand or he was going to be picked up and carried!
All of that being said, there were times and places where we just let him walk and captured some really neat videos. For instance, in the early morning when there isn’t a huge crowd around Cinderella Castle and the ramps are open, just let them walk on their own! We have this amazing picture of Walt just walking up the ramp by himself, and it’s now one of my favorite pictures. I also took a video of him walking from Club Cool in Epcot around one of the sidewalks, and I took it in a time lapse option. Its quite a funny video to see such a long walk sped up quickly.
I need to add a side note to say that there were times that Walt wasn’t looking where he was heading and bumped into some people. As a worried mom, I apologized quickly and several times, but I didn’t have anyone who was upset about it. Just know that most of the people at the parks are parents, or grandparents, and understand that kids don’t pay attention.
By allowing your toddler to walk around a bit and explore gives them the chance to burn off some energy and also not feel forced and trapped in a line. The interactive queues are amazing and do give them something to look at or play with, but you still will have large spans of time spent looking at the scenery and people around you.
My next blog in this Momma at Walt Disney World series is going to focus on the different play areas in the parks, as well as taking a look at visiting with the characters! Each one offered a fun and unique memory for us. As always, if you have any questions or want to voice an opinion or offer some tips of your own, please comment below or send me a tweet!
(All photographs are from the author’s personal collection.)
Alyssa Wiseman (also known as ajwiseman09 in the box), her husband Brandon, and toddler son, Walt, reside in central Indiana (too far from Disney). Alyssa and Brandon enjoy traveling to Disney several times a year to see what is new and enjoy classic Disney. While traveling, and at home, Alyssa is frequently shopping for Disney products and making a list of items to buy while in the parks. Please follow Alyssa on twitter @ajwiseman09.