Walt Disney World with a 1 year old

Seeing Walt Disney World through your children’s eyes is in many ways the very best way to experience Walt Disney World. I always loved coming to “the world” but now that I’ve traveled there with my daughter and seen her enjoy the parks and interactions, I can honestly say, I have a new and much deeper love of Walt Disney World than I did before.

Now, don’t get me wrong, traveling with a 1 year old is not easy and in a place where even your bathroom breaks need to scheduled and reserved four decades in advance (ok I exaggerate) it can seem a daunting task. Below are the tricks and tips I’ve learned and would like to pass on to you so that you too can experience the joy of meeting Mickey for the first time through your little one’s eyes.

Stay on Property
I would go as far as to say that if you can swing a resort on the Monorail, do it. Children fall asleep in strollers, strollers need to be folded to get in the bus or the car, that wakes the child up and results in bad, bad things. Being on property has a ton of great perks, which I will go over in another article, but the one for me which makes it so worth it with little ones is that regardless of how you get to the park (car, bus, monorail) it’s free. Parking at the park can be a pain and it can be pricey to boot, staying on property gives you a free and quick bus/monorail/boat ride to the park or a free parking space. Something else to note, the buses are air conditioned, which for 9-10 months out of the year is like a tiny miracle.

Pack Extra Clothes and Double Diapers
With a change in diet comes an increase in blow outs and we all know what that means. Diapers on property come in very limited sizes and average about a $1 a diaper. You read that right and no it’s not a typo. Unless your child is a size 3 or 4 in diapers AND you have more cash than luggage space, bring lot of diapers.

Pack Snacks… But Don’t Over do it
There are a ton of great healthy options in the park now for kids. My daughter loves fruit and there were fruit stands everywhere. I could get her just about any fruit she’d want there and save myself from have to lug it around the park all day. That said, she also loves these little organic peanut butter crackers, these were impossible to find and I was glad I packed them. There is a balance you need to find between packing snacks in and carrying your whole kitchen in with you. I find the best is to have a few core snacks you know they will like and then plan on eating the rest there. The meals may be pricey, but lugging around coolers and trying to find a place to eat will quickly ruin a trip.

Take Advantage of FastPass+
Kids are horrible at lines, actually everyone is, kids are just not as skilled at shutting up and sucking it up. So, they let you know they hate it, loudly, and sometimes painfully. The shorter the wait the less painful the experience. So, get online 60 days prior (30 if you are staying off property) and make those fastpass+ reservations. Do make sure you remember to make at least one fastpass+ reservation to meet Mickey and Minnie (or whoever your little one likes). I was amazed at how much my daughter loved meeting the characters, even ones she’s not usually fond of in the movies. Other fast passes which are great for little ones are Peter Pan, It’s a Small World, Dumbo, Little Mermaid and Winnie The Pooh.

Pack Your Patience
Kids, as you know, are emotionally exhausting. They fall asleep right before a fastpass+ reservation, they scream through the haunted mansion ride you were so looking forward to and they accidentally run over your mother in law with their stroller. It’s part of the “charm” of that age and something about Walt Disney World makes them just that bit more naughty/difficult.

Take a Mid-day Break
I find the best way to stay patient with the little ones is to take a break in the middle of the day. Go back to the resort, go to the pool, take a nap with them, enjoy the air-con or just go sit in the lobby and watch the kid movies/shows. This is NOT the trip to go park commando from Rope Drop to Wishes. It’s the trip to make fastpass+ reservations, go to the park for those, see anything else that’s on your list and with a short wait then get out. You and your kids will appreciate the break, especially if you go during the hotter times of year. Remember, you can come back later that day if you still want more park time. However, you’ll be refreshed and ready to take on that 150 minute wait for Peter Pan with a lot less whining.

Bring or Rent a Comfortable Stroller… 
At this age they will almost certainly be taking two naps a day on the regular. Sadly, WDW strollers are not very nap friendly for the little ones. They are very hard and very low to the ground, so not only do the little ones not have padding to lay on, they feel every bump in the “road”. A lot of people make a huge fuss over strollers being stolen and while I don’t doubt it happens, I see a LOT of very and I mean VERY high end strollers in the parks and their owners are walking into the monorail with them that night. Can I guarantee that if you bring your embossed rhino leather Gucci stroller into the park it won’t get stollen? No. (You shouldn’t own rhino leather anyway…) but I will say that your Chico or UppaBaby will most likely and I mean VERY most likely make it out of there unscathed. If you are flying or still think, I don’t care what this woman says I’m not risking my stroller, there are many places that will rent you a great citymini stroller and all have a great insurance so if it’s stollen, you get a new one.

…and a Carrier
Just like I mentioned above, kids having a comfortable place to nap in the parks is key to having an enjoyable trip. My little one loves sleeping on mommy (I mean who wouldn’t, I’m like a huge pillow) and so I have always worn her. However, when we came to Walt Disney World is that I really realized the power of the baby carrier/wrap It’s amazing for so many reasons, the main ones being:

  • I can transfer her from and to the stroller/carrier while sleeping and she continues napping.
  • She is safe in lines and happy to be with mommy.
  • She is safe in rides. Peter pan/Dumbo is a whole lot less precarious with the baby in the carrier.
  • My arms are free to touch magic bands for fastpass+, drinking water, arm wrestling Gaston…

Overall I’d say, if you haven’t worn the baby before,Walt Disney World is a great place to start. You don’t need a $150 Ergo 360 (although I do love mine). Walmart/Amazon sell some really affordable Infantino carriers which I have used in the park (I forget things a lot) and they were great. There are also services which will rent you a carrier but the Infantino came out cheaper than the service and it can be reused on your next trip/at home.

Get a Memory Maker
You are going to be making a ton of unforgettable memories. Sadly, your little one will forget them, it’s how the human mind works sadly. Taking pictures will help her/him remember the fun they had even when they can’t actively remember it. Memory Maker, for those that aren’t aware, is what allows you to download all the pictures that the professional photo pass photographers take of you and your family. Let’s face it, that iPhone has a great camera, but having the professionals take pictures of your little ones during the all important meet and greets and family portraits is a phenomenal way to capture those memories which, not to be too cheesy about it, you will cherish for a long, LONG time.

Most importantly though, go, go and enjoy the time together. You’re trip won’t be perfect and you will learn from it how better to travel and live with your little one. In the end, there is no more forgiving place for family travel and even if you don’t take any of the advice above, you are likely to have an amazing time!

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