In a recent post, I wrote about how often I get asked “how young is too young for a Disney vacation?” While I weighed in on that question here, the follow-up questions are usually along the lines of “what tips do you have for families with young children?”
Walt Disney World (and all Disney Resorts for that matter) appeal to people of all ages and there are tons of things to do for guests in every age category. But when it comes to preschoolers, there are a few unique things to keep in mind and some tips you should know to ensure that you make the most of your vacation and don’t learn things the hard way.
To get some perspective on this, I went to an expert who works on a daily basis with young families travelling to Walt Disney World. Carolyn Williams is the owner of Pure Magic Vacations, a Georgetown, Ontario-based travel agency that specializes in Disney destinations. A big portion of the agency’s clientele are families with little ones, so I wanted to get some perspective on what are the top-of-mind issues for young families.
According to Carolyn, the stroller issue is a big one. For very young children who aren’t swift walkers, it’s a no brainer and people don’t think twice about it. But once little ones reach three or four years of age, some parents don’t think they will need a stroller. Not so, according to Carolyn, who notes that having a stroller for the duration of your stay should be a key consideration and can directly affect the happiness of your little ones (and in turn, your happiness).
Carolyn’s advice? “Consider an off-site stroller rental company so that you have a stroller for the entire duration and for all locations, not just in the parks.” While Disney does rent strollers in the parks, you will have to line up to get them and there are limited quantities as well. Plus, you won’t have the stroller outside of the park environment and there can be just as much walking there as anywhere else.
Carolyn’s point is well taken. Our own daughter is now five-and-a-half and we still stroll her around the parks. Over the years I have tracked exactly how much walking we do on an average Disney day and the distance may surprise you. Averages range from 10 miles (16 km) to 12 miles (20 km) per day (the 20 km range tends to be an Epcot day). The highest number I tracked was 37 km. That is a lot of walking for anyone, but especially for those with little legs and feet. Asking your little ones to do that much walking (70 miles or 112 km) in a week without a stroller–in the Florida heat–is asking for trouble. Do everyone a favor and get a stroller. If you bring one with you make sure it folds. You must have a folding stroller to board Disney bus and boat transportation.
Carolyn’s next most common recommendation has to do with accommodations. Carolyn urges parents with little ones to “pay for a preferred room category — you will appreciate that convenience when running for juice or milk or to use the microwave.” Furthermore, all resorts are not created equal and when it comes to which ones to choose, the advice is simple. “Monorail resorts are the best choice for obvious reasons,” said Carolyn. “The convenience of being close to the parks is always great, but it is extra important when you have little ones who may need a quick trip back to the room for a nap or other needs.”
Finally, it’s important to know that several Disney Resorts offer child care options. “Sometimes mom and dad may want a Disney ‘date night’,” noted Carolyn. “Disney offers in-room babysitting services and has several daycare-type offerings at select resorts. Something worth remembering.”
Bringing your little ones to Walt Disney World Resort is a magical experience for them and for you. With a little prep work, you can be sure that there will be few (if any) negative surprises along the way.
For many more tips and valuable information, visit our “little ones” section at 1923MainStreet.com dedicated entirely to visiting Walt Disney World with preschoolers: Families with Little Ones at Walt Disney World. You will find links to resources (such as stroller companies), plus many more details and additional tips and recommendations to make your Disney experience the most magical that it can be.
~ Mike Belobradic