Now that Meryl is THREE (read- catastrothree/threenager), I guess I can write a little bit about bringing her to Disney World when she was one (and 1.5!). This is what happens when you’re a mom- your life is paved with good intentions and blog posts, yet many are started and never finished. OH, and then you miraculously get pregnant and have another child and being a mom of 2 completely takes over your life and liquefies your brain. We’ve taken so many Disney trips since I started this post and have brought the new bundle of joy back twice already, but we just booked our next big Disney trip, so now is a perfect time to reminisce (on the easy days with one child) and get excited!
*hit the rewind button*
At this point, plenty of time had past since MGM was a horrible, colicky nightmare. She was 11 months old now….and walking!! Thoughts going through my mind…
1. This is so great. She’s going to be able to walk until she’s tired and then she will go in the stroller.
2. Do I even need to bring the baby carrier? No, probably not. But, who cares. It doesn’t take up much room.
And thoughts after…
Kids run the world. Let’s not forget that. So here are my top takeaways!
1. Keep your expectations low.
Plan to not plan. Keeping the bar low will make everyone happy. Traveling with a one year-old is akin to walking around with a grenade that has a loose pin- They could be set off at any moment. Disney is the definition of overstimulation and that can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t prepare for it. Don’t try to ride every attraction. Make your three Fast Passes, use My Disney Experience to make more if things are going well and check wait times to keep waiting in line to a minimum. I’ve yet to meet a small child who doesn’t become instantly bored waiting in line. In a world of instant gratification, don’t try to be a hero.
2. Try to keep some semblance of a nap schedule.
From my experience, the heat, overstimulation and excitement of each day in Florida is enough to all but ensure that my kid is going to fall asleep. When she was one, we made a point to go back to the hotel midday to give her a nap in the Pack N Play. It was a good excuse for us to get out of the heat and recharge as well. It’s worth mentioning that Disney will provide a Pack N Play for you if you call Mousekeeping. If you’re staying in a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) room then there is usually a Pack N Play already in the room for your use, which, for us, is a nice perk. We’ve since become DVC members, so look for a post on that in the near future as well!
3. Take advantage of the Baby Care Centers.
Disney has done a decent job here. I have my gripes, which I’ll explain, but these centers can be a valuable resource to you. There are Baby Care Centers in each of the 4 parks. Disney Springs does not have one, just a heads up. They are stocked with baby supplies and baby/toddler medicine, diapers, hats, pacifiers- basically anything you forgot to pack and it’s all available for purchase. Not the best deal, but in a pinch, it’s a lifesaver. We forgot a pacifier once….never again!
Magic Kingdom’s is located around the corner from Casey’s and is pretty small considering the traffic that Magic Kingdom sees. If you’re headed in for a quick diaper change, you should be fine, but be cognizant if you’re going to head there around meal times. Many…I repeat, many people will be joining you and there probably won’t be a seat available. People bring their toddlers to feed them meals, babies to give bottles or nurse, extra family members usually join and it can be chaotic. I find it to be super stressful and anxiety-provoking, particularly with a smaller baby (under 12 months) because there are many eyes on you during those peak feeding times and with the noise level, babies get distracted easily. Not to mention, people love to look, no not look, stare at small babies and make comments and give unsolicited (usually poor) advice, amiright?
Hollywood Studios also has as supremely small Baby Care Center located inside of Guest Services. Not my number one choice, but it’s so tucked away that sometimes it’s forgotten and you might get lucky and be the only person inside, which is nice. You’ll never get that chance at MK. Side note: I think Disney really needs to expand/redo/add more Baby Care Centers throughout the park. During busy seasons, it can be impossible to find a mildly quiet bench to sit down on and feed a child and it would be nice to be able to rely on finding that at the Baby Care Center.
Epcot has the second largest Baby Care Center and it’s located in the Odyssey Center in between Future World and World Showcase. Nothing fancy, but it just has more room to breathe. Amen.
By far, my favorite Baby Care Center is located in Animal Kingdom. It’s located around the corner from Creature Comforts (Starbucks) and it has an awesome room with a movie playing for the kids as well as a bunch of small tables and chairs for them to sit at. The room is also lined with benches for the adults to just sit and collect their thoughts. I’ve never seen it overly crowded and the bright, vibrant colors make it feel more “Disney” than the others.
Anywho, don’t be afraid to pop in and cool down in one of the Baby Care Centers. They are a great resource and I do hope that Disney decides to invest more of my dollars into them in the future (even if we won’t be using them in a few years!)
4. Find a baby carrier you like, and BRING IT!
I laugh thinking about that fact that I wasn’t going to bring a baby carrier with me because Meryl was walking. She was an early walker at 9 months so I was convinced in my slowly atrophying Mom-brain that she’d be able to walk around until she was tired enough to sit in the stroller.
What I didn’t think about was just how long Main Street is and just how long it would take an almost one year-old to walk that distance. Did she want to? Of course she did. Did she want to sit in the stroller? Of course she didn’t. The carrier is the go-between.
Here’s my side-note about the carrier:
During our first trip with Meryl, when she was 8 weeks old, I saw a relatively tiny baby (what a relief- we weren’t the only crazy ones) in a carrier, outward facing. We had brought the bulky Ergo with the infant insert and frankly, I just wasn’t a fan and it wasn’t comfortable. So I asked her about the one she was using. It was an Infantino 4-in-1 and total score- it’s only $30 and I was sold. . I could have ordered it that night. It’s lightweight and small and you can use it (as the name implies) four different ways. Highly recommend it if you’re not loving your carrier or you’re trying to figure out which of the 8,000 available you should start with.
Back to the story- When Meryl was getting too tired to walk or we had to get somewhere quickly and she didn’t want to sit in the stroller, I’d put her in the carrier and off we’d go. I switched between outward facing and inward facing and I even got her to take a few naps that way as well. I would also make sure she was in the carrier for rides like Kilimanjaro Safari and even Pirates of the Caribbean.
Here are some other tips that are just things we do normally now for our trips:
1- Gate check our stroller on the plane.
Getting through the airport with our stroller is so much easier than carrying a small child or getting them to walk. Even now with 2 (and I’ll write another post about traveling with 2 of them), we still check our stroller even though we rent a double stroller to use in the parks.
2- Ship an Amazon Prime order to the resort with necessities.
Diapers, snacks, pouches, bottle brush, soap….anything you don’t want to waste space packing, ship it. Only once have we had to pay a delivery fee to the resort for handling our package. The other times, it’s made its way to our room, or we’ve picked it up at the front desk without an issue. It’s so helpful to have snacks to pack if you have a picky eater. I assume most babies and toddlers are picky eaters like mine. If not, you are so lucky and I am très envious. That’s fancy for very. (Can you tell we’re now in a Fancy Nancy phase?)
3- Be cost-effective with your food orders and use mobile ordering.
If you’re going to buy food in the parks for your one-ish year-old, our favorite thing to do, even now, is to order one kids meal and one adult meal (quick service is our jam these days) and split it amongst the 3 of you. If you know me, I love to snack at Disney. There are always so many limited time snacks and new things to try so for meals, Jon and I like to split something and then we’ll just pick at whatever mac and cheese, Uncrustable or turkey sandwich is left from Meryl’s meal. We’re satisfied and we saved a few bucks. Win-win!
And it needs to be said that one of the biggest timesavers is using the My Disney Experience app to use the Mobile Order feature at various Quick Service restaurants around the parks. You place your order and pay ahead of time and simply hit the button that lets them know to prepare your order. Then head right to the Mobile Order station to pick it up! So simple and no waiting in line. A must-do if you have hungry little ones!
4- Bring cups from home and Ziploc bags or snack containers.
You’ll probably be bringing bottles from home, while you’re at it, pack the water cup too. It’s so frustrating to get the park and realize that when your kid is thirsty that they’re most likely going to drink from something that will inevitably spill all over them and also get back wash in it. It’s super easy to just fill their cup with water and away you go!
It’s also great to have Ziploc bags or snack containers to fill up with those snacks you ordered. Disney allows you to bring in snacks and drinks, so take advantage. We also use the Ziploc bags to bring home snacks from the parks that we couldn’t eat during the trip! I almost ALWAYS bring home a Carrot Cake Cookie from Trolley Car Cafe at Hollywood Studios!
Just remember, you can do it. And you will have fun as long as you don’t try to do too much. Disney World is so magical and wonderful, but you can burn out and be stressed if you’re striving for perfection every minute of the day. I try to take solace in the fact that at any given moment, there are probably at least 100 other parents in the parks dealing with a baby/toddler meltdown at the same time as me. We’re all in this together!
I’m sure there are more tips and tricks that my cobwebbed brain is just not remembering, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below and I’d be happy to help!
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