Alicia D. Dervin
Disney World with a Toddler - #DervinsDoDisney Part 1
Did you know that children under three can experience Disney for FREE! That's right, Free.99. I didn't know that, but when my family and I started planning our 2022 Disney trip in 2020, I knew it would be a special perk for my pockets. It's so easy to feel like your coins have been drained before and certainly after a Disney trip.
I like being prepared, sometimes over-prepared, so I did what any sane person would do, and I scoured the internet and apps like Pinterest for tips and tricks on how to prepare for Disney with a child under the age of two. This post will outline my top six tips for #DoingDisney with a little one (specifically a 23-month-old).
I know it sounds crazy, especially if you work in a field like I do when it seems like research is all you do. Well, academia aside, looking into what you should and should not do when preparing for a Disney trip is a particularly solid piece of advice. By reading various articles, following a variety of accounts on social media (mainly Instagram - I'll drop a few names below), and by using Pinterest posts, I was able to gather SO much vital information, like what to pack and what NOT to pack, which I'll outline in a separate post soon!
I even found our travel agency, Tink's Magical Vacations, through those posts, and that was probably one of the best decisions we made. We'll definitely be using Beth at Tink's for our next vacation.
Suggested social media accounts to follow on IG: @disneyfoodblog, @themouselets, & @wdwvacationtips.
5. Know Your Kid and Practice
While studying the kinds of resources I listed above, it might also be a good idea to study your kid. Do you know how they'll do with character meet-and-greets? Are they (and you!) OK with deviating from their day-to-day routine? Do you know how long they're willing to sit in a car (or on a plane)? Asking yourself these questions is a great way to prep for your Disney trip with a little one. We drove from South Carolina to Florida with only one stop in Georgia for a quick breakfast. This was the longest Eddie had ever been in a car, but he handled the trip to Florida really, and surprisingly well. The trip back was a bit of a different story, but everyone was over it by then!
We had our first theme park trip to Carowinds seven months prior, and in retrospect, I think another trip there, or somewhere similar, closer to our Disney trip would have been beneficial for the both of us.
4. Be Flexible
I can't imagine anything that might lead to more disappointment than planning a rigorous itinerary, only to find that you won't achieve half of it for any number of reasons (oversleeping or planning to sleep in, cancelled dining plans, temper tantrums, meltdowns...the list literally goes on...and on). While I'm a planner by nature, I really had to let go of that for this trip and 100% place Eddie's desires above my own. Sure, there were a few quintessential and iconic Disney must-dos that I absolutely wanted us to do (like The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and meeting Mickey), but I was OK with the possibility of him not wanting to do those things. Here are a few pictures from how those three things went. Lol. He was SO over the teacups.
3. Get Disney with It
One of the best things I think I did before heading to Disney was to really take advantage of deals on Disney items before going. From small Mickey trinkets in places like Target and the Dollar Tree to a bubble wand I found on Amazon (see below), I was able to get things that I knew Eddie might want in the parks for prices much lower than what we would have paid there. Now, I'd feel dishonest if I didn't tell you that he still ended up getting one of the bubble wands in the parks (Thanks, Grandma), two balloons at $15 a pop (pun intended), a plush Minnie Mouse who he lovingly calls Daisy, sunglasses, Mickey bath toys, and a Mickey ears hat (that I have since lost). HOWEVER, I still don't regret having a few Disney items that I could present as a brand new toy or "surprise" when something in the parks caught his eye. Purchasing Disney gift cards for about a year before our trip was also a MAJOR win. I ended up using my debit card maybe once or twice due to the gift card funds we had on hand. They even work in most restaurants and grab-and-go dining sites!
2. Pack Your Patience
Once you've neatly placed all of those adorable Disney outfits, swim suits, and sandals in your kid's bag, take a step back and remind yourself to pack the most important item: patience. It sounds simple, but it is likely inevitable that between the heat and humidity and the guaranteed overstimulation, your little one is bound to have a tough time at any given moment. Eddie had several. He's been a particularly fussy kid from birth, so I was fully prepared for a few rough patches here and there, but I wasn't prepared for him to revolt against his stroller, refuse to be held by anyone else, or for him to come down with a terribly high temperature and ear infection. In those moments, mama, you just have to take a deep breath and give them all the love they need. It also helps to let Grandma take over for a moment so that you can go grab yourself a cocktail. I recommend the Yub Nub at Oga's Cantina in Hollywood Studios if you can score a reservation!
1. Expect the Unexpected
It might sound cliché, but as I mentioned above, Eddie went on a stroller strike during our trip, and he even got sick. I didn't expect either of those things to happen, but they did. I didn't expect to get caught in a thunderstorm with only a toddler poncho in my backpack, but I did. And I didn't expect my son to absolutely love Daisy Duck and fireworks, but those things happened, too. I think literally rolling with the punches in those moments was one of the things that made this trip so meaningful and memorable. For every tough moment, there was look of total contentment on my son's face that I hope I never forget. So, embrace the unexpected, and if you're questioning whether or not you should wait until your little is a little older, don't wait. Book the trip, make the memories, and remember the magic.