Tobins' Tastes: Tobins At Disney: 10 Tips For Taking A Baby To Disney World

Friday, June 10, 2016

Tobins At Disney: 10 Tips For Taking A Baby To Disney World

Justin and I consider ourselves Disney World veterans. We have annual passes and thanks to a combination of the passes, having friends in the area with passes and attending a 4 day blog conference at Disney, we spent over 20 days in the parks in 2015. And I was pregnant for 9 months of it. So we have learned quite a few tips and tricks to navigating the parks and as we prepared to take Easton for the first time I tried to use what we already knew to make our first trip with him as smooth as possible.

Some people might think we are crazy (and I include my mother in some people) but Justin and I took Easton on his first Disney World visit before he was 8 weeks old. It was just a quick trip to Epcot but since then he has been 6+ times and every time we learn something new about taking an infant to Disney. There are a lot of great articles out there on bringing a baby to Disney but most of them focus on bringing a baby on a week long trip and what to pack, how to travel and so on. While many of those tips also apply to a day in parks, I wanted to focus on the actual logistics of spending a day in the parks with a baby. Here's what we've learned so far.

1. Be prepared, but don't pack to much.

Before Easton was born Justin and I could spend 12 hours in a park with nothing but a small backpack. The first time we took Easton I packed like we were going out of the country for a week- 20 diapers, 5 outfits, my pump. We looked like crazy people walking around Epcot.

While it's definitely good to throw in a few extra outfits,bottles and pacifiers, don't forget that not only does Disney sell baby products in it's Baby Centers but all the resort gift shops sell things as well. You may end up having to pay Disney prices but in a pinch you'll probably be able to find what you need.

2. Take advantage of the Baby Centers.

The best thing about bringing a baby to Disney is that unlike a lot of public places, all four Disney parks have designated Baby Centers. These are air conditioned places completely set up for taking care of infants and younger kids. They have changing tables, nursing rooms, places to pump, clean bathrooms for little ones, places to feed babies with a sink and microwave and even an area where older kids can cool off and watch a movie. They are fully staffed and sell things like diapers, wipes, food, formula and even extra clothes. The prices are what you would expect for being inside a theme park but its a great back up.

Animal Kingdom's is the newest and our favorite. Magic Kingdom's seems to be the busiest. Epcot's is huge and seldom used and Hollywood Studio's is super tiny but does have private nursing areas. While you are allowed to nurse anywhere in Disney and all bathrooms have changing tables, we like to take advantage of these if feasible especially when Easton was really young. Another tip- if you are bringing your pump with you, you can check it at first aid which is right next to the Baby Center. They won't store milk for you so you will need to bring a cooler pack to carry it around it but it's very nice not to have to cart your pump around too.

Comprehensive review of the Baby Centers coming soon in a separate post.

3. Don't make advanced dining reservations (ADR's).

This one goes against everything you hear about planning for Disney but with a baby ADR's just aren't always feasible. Before Easton, Justin and I would plan out our Disney dining way in advance. We were known to book hard to get reservations and then make a trip around them months later.

However, as many people may know, Disney charges $10 a person for reservations that are missed or cancelled day of and with the unpredictability of doing anything with a baby, we stay away from them when Easton is with us. While this has meant that we may not get to take him to Be Our Guest or California Grill (not like we would take him there anyway) we still get to eat at a lot of great places.

Places like Sanaa, The Wave, Skippers Canteen and many Disney Springs restaurants will take walk ups or you can try out new counter service restaurants. We also love making a meal out of snacks or sitting in the lounge of a restaurant as most serve the same menu as the sit down portion and are usually quieter. Sometimes we will even make a reservation morning of once we are already on our way to the parks but even then we build in a lot of extra time in case Easton has a melt down or diaper blow out on the way.

4. Bring your own stroller.

I know this one may be difficult if you are traveling but when Easton was an infant it was so nice to have his stroller with his infant seat attached. That way he was safe and comfortable and he could sleep whenever he wanted. We use the City Mini and love how he could be completely covered up so that he could sleep or just be kept away from strangers trying to touch him.  Also, if you have a commonly owned stroller, you may want to attach something to it to distinguish it so you can find it easily in the rows of parked strollers outside rides.

Once he is a little older we will transition to a more compact umbrella style stroller but for now, his big stroller works perfectly. Just keep in mind that if you are using bus or tram transportation you will have to fold up your stroller completely (and remove the carrier part if you use one). The monorail and the Magic Kingdom ferry let you take the full stroller on though.

5. Bring a baby carrier. 

Even though we bring Easton's stroller, we also bring our Tula baby carrier as well. Most rides won't let you bring the stroller in line so the carrier is great to have on hand. We also like to keep him in the carrier during fireworks and parades as it is very crowded/loud and we just feel safer having him in the carrier instead of the stroller.

6. Use Fastpass+. 

Waiting in line with a baby is something no one wants to do. Make sure to schedule your Fastpasses for rides baby can go on so that you can essentially walk right on. Be sure to space them far enough apart to give yourself time in case you need to stop and feed/change the baby and account for walking with a stroller.

Although they seem to be phasing them out in some parks, we love using Fastpasses for parades and fireworks with Easton because we like knowing we have a safe, reserved area to watch from without all the jostling and crowds of regular viewing areas.

7. Enjoy things you didn't take the time to when you came without kids.

Some of our favorite memories so far in the parks with Easton are doing things we didn't normally take the time to do before we had him. We would usually be hopping from thrill ride to thrill ride or spending time in our favorite restaurants and bars. Checking out the World Showcase Pavilions, shows like the Hall of Presidents, listening to musicians or strolling the animal paths at Animal Kingdom are all baby friendly and things we didn't always slow down and enjoy before hand. Also the visiting the resorts, the Boardwalk and Disney Springs are all low key activities that are perfect for any age.

8. Go early (or stay late).

If your  baby is an early riser, head to the parks when they open. The weather will be cooler, the crowds will be lower and you might be able to get a lot done before nap time. Easton has always been happy to nap in his stroller at Disney but if your baby prefers a crib/pack and play you can always head back to the hotel during the busiest/hottest part of the day for a nap. Since Easton didn't mind sleeping in his stroller we would sometimes go to a late lunch or early dinner at the Wave and then walk to Magic Kingdom from there. Peak hours in the parks are always the busiest and trying to navigate a stroller through crazy crowds made both Justin and I anxious so we avoid it if at all possible.

9. Have a plan, but be flexible.

This one goes for Disney with or without a baby but it is essential to have a plan for the park when you have an infant joining you. Check out a map of the park before you. Have an idea of where/when you want to eat. Download the My Disney Experience app so you can check wait times in real time. You'll only waste time and/or want to kill your spouse if you walk into a park with no idea of what to do or where to go.

That said, plan on needing to be flexible too since babies don't care if you have a noon fastpass+ for Jungle Cruise or that you wanted an afternoon Dole Whip. The great thing about the MDE app is you can adjust your fastpasses as you go depending on availability. Also remember that you can usually show up 15 minutes late to a dining reservation without penalty as well.

10. Adjust your expectations.

Recently Justin and I had a baby free day at Disney thanks to our amazing mothers. We managed to visit all four parks, have lunch at Be Our Guest, dinner and drinks around the World Showcase and ride almost every roller coaster/thrill ride on property. These types of days were typical before we had an infant tagging along.

We have had to do some major adjusting of our expectations now that we have a baby. You may not get to ride every roller coaster. Getting from one park to another will probably take ten times longer than they did before. You may not make it until fireworks. I'm guessing you may not be enjoying a romantic dinner at Le Cellier. And that's ok. You can still have an amazing time at Disney even with an 8 week old. Just be ready for people to tell you that you're crazy- your mom included. 

Have you been to Disney with an infant or little ones? What are your suggestions to first timers?

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