By Brandy Black
Traveling with preschoolers can be tricky. I know: understatement. Meal times, rest periods, snack breaks, and full-blown atomic meltdowns have to be managed and mom-aged, all while on the “fly.” It’s exhausting. You start to think “what vacation?”
But, if there ever is a perfect time to take children to Walt Disney World, it’s during their preschool years. I know: ironic. But three-years-old is a sweet, curious, imaginative age when everything is magical and exciting. A parent can’t help but smile while the world comes to life before her child’s eyes. And suddenly it’s all worth it, even the tantrums. It comes down to logistics. Here’s how my wife and I did it with ease (keep in mind we have twin preschoolers and a seven-year-old, so … yeah).
I can’t say enough about FastPass+. It allows you to bypass the lines and visit a ride or attraction during a designated window of time. Any time you can avoid combining a preschooler and a long line, you should. Duh. Best of all, it’s free.
My twins loved wearing their special bracelets that, when scanned, serve as a room key (for those staying at a hotels on Walt Disney World Property), charge card, and FastPass+ keeper. Their faces lit up along with Mickey’s each time their bands beeped them in at a Walt Disney World attraction. Secret agent kids.
3. Memory Maker
This package gives you access to all pictures taken of you at the park, on every ride. Shots are captured on your MagicBand and are then available for download immediately after. We have never had so many pictures of our entire family as we did after purchasing Memory Maker. I stopped worrying about catching every moment through the lens myself, allowing the cameras around me to do that instead. It was much more relaxing. Besides, if you’re anything like me, your phone dies halfway through the day anyway.
4. Rent a Stroller at the Park
In general, my kids are past the stroller age. And frankly, we are tired of toting it around. The last thing I want to do is lug a stroller through the airport and onto a plane, only for the kids to use it once over the course of an entire vacation. Instead, we rented a double stroller near the front entrance to the Disney parks. Once our little ones hit the snooze button (bound to happen, with all the crazy fun they’re having), we were able to stroll them around and even enjoyed a leisurely lunch while they stroller-napped. Win-win.
5. Stay in a Disney Hotel on Walt Disney World Property
If you can do it, trust me, it’s worth it. We stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, but all of the properties look incredible. It extends the kids’ Disney park experience and there is always stuff to do. Pool parties, dancing, and planned activities allow your kids to have some extra fun outside of the park. Bonus: the transportation to and from hotel to the parks is fast and super easy.
6. Disney’s Magical Express
You won’t touch your luggage because Disney does it for you, making it appear at the hotel and then onto your flight when you depart. This is magic for parents. Bippity. Bobbidi. Boo.
7. Mickey Check
One Disney secret that should be shared with the world is that their parks have healthy, balanced meals for the kids. I know, right? Look for the Mickey Check on the menus and you will find a meal with carrots and apples or grapes with a nice protein to keep them going. Guys, we got to sample a new recipe of the mac-n-cheese and it has a butternut squash base! Yep. And the kids gobbled it up. It will be available on the main menu soon. Mom is happy? Check.
8. My Disney Experience App
Download it now. It will tell you wait times at attractions and rides, allow you to pre-schedule your FastPass+, and view park pictures immediately. We checked café menus in advance (preschoolers are demanding, in case you didn’t know). This is your own private little time-saving planner. That’s worth repeating: Time-saving. Planner.
9. Disney Springs
If you are itching to explore off-property, Disney Springs is fun for the little ones. We checked out their 1960’s amphicars ( cars that go in the water!) and had dinner in The Boathouse. There is even a boat for the table. So yeah, the preschoolers were beyond excited about that. If it hadn’t been too late, we most certainly would have cruised around in a car on the lake.
10. Lilo’s Playhouse
I’ll tell you a secret: Disney is not just for kids. Drop the littles off at the kid’s club and have an adult date night. Grab a drink at one of the Epcot countries followed by dinner on the boardwalk. Romantic on a family vacation? Yep, it’s actually possible!
11. Baby Centers
For nursing moms, check out the lovely baby centers sprinkled throughout the parks where mom and baby can relax, cool off, and feed. Or nurse while on “It’s a Small World.” I would have, after all.
12. Rider Switch
Hello, life saver, nice to meet you. We have three kids and for some rides, taking all of them at once would be impossible. Instead, tell a Disney cast member at the front of the line that you need to do a rider switch. Then wait till your spouse is done riding and immediately go after them. This works well also if you have an infant but both parents want to ride the same ride. “I’ll hold the baby, you go ahead.” “Ok now my turn.”
13. Charging Station
If your phone dies, visit a Disney charging station. What is it about a fully-charged phone that makes me so excited!? I told you Disney wasn’t just for kids!
14. Plan Ahead and Stay For Awhile
This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. Kids need downtime when traveling. So if you can, try to stay a few extra days to avoid the rushed feeling of trying to see and do everything. Use your FastPass+ and plan the day. Check out the hotel pool. With planning, and staying awhile, we were able to visit a few rides, see a show, relax at the hotel, do some shopping, ride a few more rides, watch the parade.
15. Visit During the Holidays
The magic of Disney magic plus the magic of the holidays is well … magical. It’s just extra special. The whole park is festive, dressed to the nines. A ginormous Christmas tree as only Disney could do, holiday music … what a lovely way to bring in the season. I would think just before or just after Thanksgiving would be perfect.