Guide to Enjoying Disney World with Young Children: Tips for First-Time Visitors

Taking young children to Disney World for the first time can transform a family vacation into a magical experience. Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida, is a sprawling entertainment complex known for its theme parks, rides, and characters. It is essential for first-time visitors with young families to plan the trip carefully to make the most of the experience.

Tailor your visit to accommodate the interests and stamina of your young ones. Select attractions that are age-appropriate and take advantage of the myriad of child-focused entertainment options throughout the parks. Ensure to use the FastPass system to skip long lines and keep your day moving smoothly.

Prepare for the Florida weather, which can be unpredictable and often hot. Pack essentials like sunscreen, water bottles, and comfortable shoes to navigate the parks. Remember to schedule breaks to rest and recover, especially for the little ones, to prevent being overwhelmed. With these strategies, a trip to Disney World becomes not just manageable but truly unforgettable for first-time visitors.

Before You Go: Planning and Preparation

Preparing for a trip to Disney World with young children requires careful planning to ensure a magical and stress-free experience. This involves securing your park access in advance, choosing the right accommodation, and knowing what to pack.

Purchasing Tickets and Reservations

Tickets are essential for entry into Disney World parks. Choose between single-day or multi-day options; multi-day tickets may offer better value. Consider adding the Park Hopper option to visit multiple parks in one day. You must also make park reservations for each day you plan to visit, as entry is subject to capacity.

  1. Select your tickets based on the length of your stay.
  2. Reserve your park days well in advance through the Disney reservation system.
  3. Review park hours and availability before finalizing your plans.

Accommodation Options

Accommodations range from value, moderate, to deluxe resorts. Each offers unique themes and amenities suitable for families. Staying at a Disney resort can enhance your experience with extra perks like early access to the parks.

  1. Decide on a resort that fits your family’s needs and budget.
  2. Consider renting DVC points for discounted stays at deluxe accommodations.
  3. Book your resort well in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Packing Essentials

Packing for Disney World involves more than clothes and toiletries. Remember essentials like comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and a stroller for little ones. Also, include items like autograph books or costumes for character interactions.

  • List every item your family will need, from daily outfits to special gear.
  • Pack a day bag with snacks, water, and entertainment for children.
  • Include first-aid items, such as band-aids and pain relievers, for unexpected events.

By following these specific steps, your trip preparation will cater to the excitement and needs of both adults and young children for a memorable Disney World visit.

Getting to Disney World

Navigating your way to and around Disney World is straightforward with several transportation options available. Whether you’re flying into Orlando International Airport or driving to the resort, you’ll find a variety of services at your disposal to ensure a smooth transition from travel to the magic of Disney.

Transportation to and Within the Resort

Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida, and is accessible by various modes of transportation. If you’re arriving by air, Orlando International Airport is the nearest major airport. Upon landing, you have multiple options to reach the resort:

  1. Mears Connect offers shuttle services to and from the airport. Book in advance to secure your spot.
  2. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft provide convenient pick-ups. Use their respective apps to request a ride.
  3. Rental car services are available at the airport if you prefer driving. Remember, parking at the resort includes a fee.

Once at Disney World, complimentary transportation is plentiful:

  • The monorail, bus, and boat systems connect various parks and resorts.
  • Disney Skyliner is an aerial gondola that provides a scenic route to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Understanding the Disney Transportation System

The Disney Transportation System is designed to help guests move efficiently within the resort. It is essential to know the following:

  • Monorail: Travels to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and select Disney Resorts. It’s an iconic and quick way to move around.
  • Skyliner: Connects Epcot and Hollywood Studios with four Disney Resort areas.
  • Bus: Buses are available from all Disney Resorts leading to the parks and Disney Springs.
  • Boat: Watercraft services are offered between select resorts and parks.

For ease of travel, all modes are clearly marked with their destinations and operate from early morning until late at night. The routes, wait times, and other details are accessible via the My Disney Experience app or at the information kiosks within the resort.

Using Disney’s Technology to Enhance Your Visit

Embrace Disney’s innovative technologies to streamline your vacation, ensuring you spend more time enjoying the attractions and less time managing logistics.

Navigating with My Disney Experience App

My Disney Experience is your comprehensive guide to Walt Disney World Resort. The app functions as an interactive map, a planning tool, and a platform for mobile ordering. Start by downloading My Disney Experience from the app store on your mobile device. Once installed, use it to:

  1. View Park Maps: Locate attractions, restrooms, and dining options with real-time GPS navigational features.
  2. Check Wait Times: Monitor attraction wait times to efficiently plan your next move.
  3. Access Your Plans: Review your existing FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, and memory maker photos.

For convenience, link your tickets and reservations to My Disney Experience. Additionally, the app allows you to sync with your MagicBand for a seamless park experience.

Maximizing Fun with Disney Genie and Genie+

Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ services elevate your park experience by optimizing your day. Disney Genie is a complimentary feature within the My Disney Experience app—your personal itinerary creator that suggests a daily plan based on your interests.

Upgrade to Disney Genie+ and take advantage of:

  • Lightning Lane Entries: Select attractions provide faster access via Lightning Lane entrances and are available for booking on the same day of your visit.
  • PhotoPass Downloads: Enjoy unlimited digital downloads of attraction photos and Magic Shots for a day.
  • Audio Tales: Discover fun facts and behind-the-scenes insights about the Disney parks as you explore.

Book your Lightning Lane selections starting at 7:00 AM on the day of your visit. Be sure to use the My Disney Experience app for mobile ordering at various dining locations to save time. Utilize the app’s itinerary features to schedule and modify your plans on the go.

Exploring the Theme Parks

Visiting Disney World with young children offers a blend of enchantment and adventure across four major theme parks. Each park has unique attractions and experiences tailored to create memorable moments for families with little ones.

Magic Kingdom Must-Dos

Magic Kingdom stands as the quintessential experience for first time visitors, combining classic attractions with beloved characters. Chart your visit with these top picks:

  1. Cinderella’s Castle serves as a perfect starting point, with photo opportunities and a beacon to the many attractions.
  2. Peter Pan’s Flight offers a gentle ride, ideal for young children, whisking you away to Neverland.
  3. Parades in Magic Kingdom are a must-see, with the afternoon parade being a highlight—check the park hours for timing.
  4. Visit Fantasyland for an array of kid-friendly rides and experiences.

Keep an eye on the crowd calendar to choose a less populated day for a more pleasant experience.

Adventures in Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom combines the thrill of a zoo with the excitement of a theme park. Focus on these adventures:

  1. Kilimanjaro Safaris brings you face-to-face with exotic animals on an authentic safari journey.
  2. The Festival of the Lion King showcases a vibrant, musical show that captivates children of all ages.
  3. For dinosaur aficionados, the DinoLand U.S.A. area includes several attractions and games designed for younger guests.
  4. Pandora – The World of Avatar immerses visitors in an alien landscape, though the main attractions may be suited for older kids.

Remember, Animal Kingdom often closes earlier than the other parks, so plan accordingly.

Discovering Epcot

Exploration and discovery define the Epcot experience, offering both cultural and futuristic attractions.

  1. The Spaceship Earth ride provides an engaging journey through the history of human communication.
  2. In the World Showcase, engage with a diverse range of cultures through kid-friendly activities in each pavilion.
  3. Take time to enjoy the various seasonal festivals Epcot hosts, which often feature special attractions for young visitors.

Epcot’s size makes it less crowded, so it’s perfect for days when other parks are particularly busy.

Action at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios puts you right in the middle of movie magic.

  1. Toy Story Land features rides and attractions that shrink you to the size of a toy, a dream for many youngsters.
  2. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge invites fans into an immersive galaxy far, far away; younger children might enjoy meeting characters over the rides.
  3. Don’t miss the chance to see beloved Disney characters during the Hollywood Studios’ shows and parades.

Plan your visit with the park hours in mind, as nighttime spectaculars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are a splendid way to end your day.

Entertainment and Character Experiences

When visiting Disney World with young children, the entertainment and character experiences are magical highlights. You’ll witness amazing parades and shows, and have memorable interactions with beloved Disney characters.

Watching Parades and Shows

Parades and shows are a staple of the Disney World experience. Secure a good viewing spot for parades early, as they can get crowded. The Festival of Fantasy Parade features floats and performers from various Disney movies. To enhance your experience, check daily event schedules for showtimes.

Meeting Disney Characters

Interacting with Disney characters is unforgettable for children. In designated areas, you and your children can meet characters for autographs and photos. For fans of Disney Junior, look for characters like Vampirina in Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Use the My Disney Experience app to locate character greetings throughout the parks.

Dining at Disney World

Disney World is a paradise for dining, offering a multitude of options from quick service snacks to immersive sit-down experiences.

Quick Bites and Snacks

At Disney World, you can savor a variety of quick bites and snacks. Mobile ordering makes grab-and-go easier than ever at quick service locations. Start by choosing from classics like the iconic Dole Whip, found at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom. For a satisfying snack, consider the Mickey Pretzel, available at various carts throughout the parks.

  1. Locate a snack.
  2. Use the mobile app for ordering.
  3. Pick up and enjoy.

Sit-Down Dining Experiences

Enjoy table service restaurants for a relaxed meal amidst your park adventures. From character meals to international cuisine, dinner and lunch options are plentiful. Try Cinderella’s Royal Table for a fairytale lunch or The Hollywood Brown Derby for classic Hollywood glamor at dinner.

  1. Select a restaurant aligning with your tastes.
  2. Plan a mealtime.
  3. Experience Disney’s renowned service.

Making Dining Reservations

To secure your desired dining experiences, make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance. Create an account on the Disney World website or use the mobile app. Remember, popular restaurants like Be Our Guest book quickly, so plan ahead.

  1. Set a reminder for the 60-day mark.
  2. Reserve online or via the app.
  3. Confirm your reservation details.

Enjoy your culinary journey in the most magical place on Earth!

Accommodating Young Children

When visiting Disney World with young kids, navigating with strollers, knowing the locations of Baby Care Centers, and understanding the Rider Switch and height requirements can make your visit smoother and more enjoyable.

Stroller Navigation

Strollers are essential for young children while exploring Disney World. Choose a stroller that is easy to maneuver through crowded areas. Disney World’s pathways can accommodate most stroller sizes, but avoid overly large models that can be difficult to navigate. When parking your stroller, use designated stroller parking areas to avoid blocking pathways and entrances.

Baby Care Centers

Each park in Disney World includes a Baby Care Center. These centers offer a quiet and equipped space for diaper changing, feeding, and resting, which is ideal for the needs of young kids and infants. Baby Care Centers typically include:

  • Private nursing rooms with rocking chairs
  • Changing rooms with tables
  • Feeding area with highchairs
  • Kitchen with a microwave, oven, and sink
  • Main room with television, table, and chairs
  • On-site shop for purchasing baby care essentials like diapers and wipes

Rider Switch and Height Requirements

Rider Switch is a system that allows parents to enjoy rides with height requirements without leaving their children unattended. To use the system:

  1. Ensure your group is together when you approach a ride with a Rider Switch program.
  2. Speak to a Cast Member at the ride’s entrance about your desire to use Rider Switch.
  3. One adult can wait with the non-riding child(ren) while the rest of the group enjoys the ride.
  4. Then, the waiting adult can switch with another adult to ride without standing in line again.

For rides with height requirements, measure your child’s height before getting in line to avoid disappointment. Here’s a quick reference:

Ride Height Requirement
Space Mountain 44 inches
Splash Mountain 40 inches
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 40 inches

Keep in mind that Disney offers many shows and attractions without height requirements which are perfect for young visitors.

Water Parks and Other Attractions

While visiting Disney World with young children, experiencing the refreshing water parks and exploring the vibrant Disney Springs can provide a respite from the thrill rides and offer a variety of family-friendly entertainment options.

Cooling Off at Disney’s Water Parks

Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, offer water-based fun with a touch of Disney magic. Start your visit to Blizzard Beach by relaxing on the lazy river or plunging down one of the water slides. With areas designed for all ages, including Tike’s Peak for the little ones, your family can enjoy a day filled with water activities.

  1. Reserve a Cabana: For a more comfortable experience, book a private cabana to have a shaded area to rest and store your belongings.
  2. Life Jackets: Complimentary life jackets are available in multiple sizes to ensure the safety of your children throughout the park.
  3. Take a Break: Plan to rest midday when the sun is the strongest, and enjoy a meal or a frozen treat at one of the many eateries.

Moving on to Typhoon Lagoon, you can ride the surf at the wave pool or drift along Castaway Creek. Adventurous families might explore the water coaster or snorkel with tropical fish.

  1. Wave Pool: Test your swimming skills at the Surf Pool, which boasts the largest waves of any Disney water park.
  2. Child Play Area: Ketchakiddee Creek provides a water playground designed for children under 48 inches tall, ensuring fun for the little ones.
  3. Snorkeling Experience: Don’t miss the chance to snorkel at Shark Reef, where you and your kids can observe marine life up close.

Visiting Disney Springs and Beyond

Disney Springs is a bustling hub that combines shopping, dining, and entertainment for an afternoon or evening of enjoyment. Plan your visit by noting these key attractions:

  1. Diverse Dinning: Choices range from quick bites to gourmet meals, ensuring a dining experience to match the tastes of your family.
  2. Live Performances: Enjoy free live performances at various outdoor stages, featuring a variety of music suitable for all ages.
  3. Interactive Play: Engage your children with hands-on activities available at select venues throughout Disney Springs.

Beyond Disney Springs, you can discover additional attractions like the BoardWalk, which transports you back in time with its Coney Island-style charm.

  • Evening Walks: The BoardWalk is perfect for an evening stroll, where street performers and carnival games provide family-friendly fun.
  • Bike Rentals: Rent a surrey bike to explore the area as a family, making memories along the scenic waterfront.
  • Specialty Shops: Find unique souvenirs and gifts at the quaint storefronts that line the BoardWalk.

Embark on a day of aquatic enjoyment at Disney’s water parks and then transition to the immersive shopping and dining experience at Disney Springs, ensuring a delightful time for the entire family.

Tips for a Smooth Experience

Navigating Disney World with young children is a joyful journey when armed with the right strategies for minimizing stress. A successful visit involves managing crowds effectively and ensuring your family gets the rest needed to fully enjoy the magic.

Dealing with Crowds and Wait Times

Check the crowd calendar before your visit to pick less busy days. Use the Disney app to monitor ride wait times and plan your itinerary around them.

  1. Prioritize FastPasses: Secure FastPass+ selections for popular attractions to reduce waiting time.
  2. Arrive Early: Being at the park before it opens helps you experience key rides when lines are shortest.
  3. Explore Off-Peak: Visit attractions during parade times or evening fireworks when most guests are occupied.

Taking Breaks and Enjoying Downtime

Plan for regular breaks to combat fatigue from walking. Find quiet spots away from the commotion for a more relaxing respite.

  1. Strategically Time Breaks: Afternoon hours when the sun is hottest and parks are busiest are perfect for a rest.
  2. Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes: Good walking shoes are crucial to keep your feet happy throughout the day.
  3. Utilize Baby Care Centers: These centers provide a convenient space for diaper changes, feedings, or even just a moment away from the park’s stimuli.

Staying on Disney Property

Choosing to stay on Disney property provides you with unique benefits and enhances your Disney vacation experience. The proximity to the parks and exclusive amenities are compelling advantages.

Benefits for Hotel Guests

Early Theme Park Entry is a perk exclusive to you as a hotel guest at a Disney Resort hotel. This benefit grants you 30-minute early access to any Disney theme park, every day, allowing you to enjoy select attractions before the general public. Pair this with the Park Hopper Option, and you can maximize your time by visiting multiple parks in a single day. Additionally, as a hotel guest, you enjoy extended evening hours at select parks on select nights, giving you even more time to experience the magic.

Complimentary Transportation is another advantage of staying on Disney property. You have access to a variety of free transportation options, including buses, monorails, and boats, to navigate the resorts and parks with ease.

Exploring Disney Resort Hotels

The Disney Resort hotels are divided into categories: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas. Each category offers different themes, amenities, and pricing to suit a range of preferences and budgets.

  • Value Resorts offer the most affordable accommodations with playful themes that captivate the young and young-at-heart.
  • Moderate Resorts provide a middle ground with uniquely themed environments, additional dining options, and recreational activities.
  • Deluxe Resorts boast the highest level of comfort, convenience, and service. Rooms at Deluxe Resorts come with enhanced amenities and are often located closer to the parks.
  • Deluxe Villas offer home-like amenities such as kitchenettes or full kitchens, and spacious living areas, perfect for larger families or extended stays.

Every Disney Resort hotel is uniquely themed, immersing you in a storied atmosphere with Disney’s attention to detail. From the African savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to the laid-back charm of Disney’s Beach Club Resort, you discover a new adventure at each hotel.

Leaving Disney World

When your magical vacation comes to an end, a smooth exit from Disney World with young children involves planning and knowledge of the available services and procedures.

Checkout and Departure Tips

Prepare your luggage the night before you plan to leave. This ensures that the morning of departure is stress-free and efficient. Start packing items that you won’t need for the remainder of your stay.

Check your room thoroughly for any personal items. Look under the beds, in the drawers, and all the nooks where toys or socks could be hiding. It’s easy to overlook small items, so a methodical check is worthwhile.

Contact Disney’s Magical Express if applicable to confirm your departure transportation back to the airport. The service typically picks you up 3 hours before your flight for domestic trips and 4 hours prior for international.

Visit Disney Springs for last-minute shopping or dining. If your flight is later in the day, enjoy a final few hours of Disney magic, but be mindful of your departure time.

Finalize transportation arrangements from your resort to Disney Springs or the airport. If you have a late flight, store your bags with the resort’s bell services to enjoy your last day hands-free.

Utilize the Resort Airline Check-In Service if available at your Disney hotel. This complimentary service allows you to check your baggage and receive your boarding pass before leaving the hotel.

Plan for an earlier shuttle beyond your scheduled departure to accommodate any unexpected delays. This minimizes stress, especially when traveling with young children who may be slower to move.

Remember, each step in your departure process contributes to a more pleasant end to your Disney World experience. By following these pointers, you can ensure that your final day is as enchanting as the rest of your visit.