Not too long ago, we visited our first theme park with little Rylee, Epcot at Walt Disney World. I was a little nervous about how it would go, being that it was the first time ever that we were taking Rylee on a venture to a big park like this. I really wanted everyone to have a good time and for it to go smoothly, but I had no idea what to expect and with so much to do there, I didn’t want to be controlled by strict schedules. I wanted us to have fun!
I learned a lot from that trip and when we ventured out on another trip to the most magical place on earth for Rylee’s 2nd birthday, Magic Kingdom, I was prepared and ready to go for another long day at the park. We had such a blast at Epcot and Magic Kingdom and Rylee was so well behaved. I learned a few things through these experiences that made our time so wonderful and I wanted to share it with all of you for when it’s time to take your toddler to the parks.
Here is a list of some great tips to consider if you are planning a trip to the parks with your 2 year old.
1) Be prepared not to do everything that your adult self wants to do. Channel your inner child and be completely amused by the little things.
When we went to Epcot, we only got to a quarter of the park. Rylee is a curious little thing and we took our time experiencing everything she wanted to without rushing through to the next. At the aquarium in The Living Seas, she stopped at every window in the aquarium for at least a minute (even though it was the exact same tank) and we enjoyed every minute of it.
We didn’t rush from one thing to the next and strew about making it to everything. In fact, here is the section of the park that we experienced:
But we were completely fine with it! Plus, going into the day with this attitude from the start, helped us to set our expectations and just enjoy the experiences that we could.
2) Schedule your Fast passes before you get to the park. That’s right, plan ahead!
Did you know that you can schedule up to 3 fast passes online before you even get to the park? Well you can. And it is an absolute must to take advantage of. And when you schedule them, be sure to choose attractions and times that are in the order you plan to navigate the park. This will make your park experience with a little one so much more enjoyable. There’s no way you want to be running from one side of the park to the other, weaving through park pedestrians with a toddler to make your fast pass time.
The fast passes are registered on your park ticket and you use that to get onto the rides. (Or you can splurge on those cool wrist bands. We gotta get some of those!)
And bonus tip! You can sign up for a fast pass to meet Disney characters! And extra extra bonus tip: The Character Spot at Epcot features the famous Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Minnie Mouse. If your kid is as obsessed with these guys as ours is, then look into this, cause the location is kind of hidden, not even called out on the map above, and we almost missed it!
Ry was so excited to get to meet them! And you can bet on it that we were just as excited not to have to wait in a crazy long line!
3) Do not forget your stroller. I repeat…. do NOT forget your stroller!
And not the flimsy, umbrella stroller. I am talking extra storage space, cup holding, seat adjusting stroller. This is a must. It is not a burden to bring this at all. In fact, we never had to collapse this thing once, not even to get on the Monorail. We just rolled right on!
Yes, your toddler will want to walk at times. But you can be sure that at some point, she is going to get tired and I am sure you don’t want to be carrying your little one around the entire park.
Plus, you can pack all kinds of stuff in the storage space of the stroller (see #4 below). Although you can’t bring the stroller with you on any lines, stroller parking is literally everywhere in the parks so you really don’t have to go far out of your way to get there before getting on any ride. And it makes such a difference to have a space for your little one to be comfortable, especially at nap time. And a napping baby in a stroller means a happy mommy and daddy.
4) Bring food. For you and for your little one.
You’re allowed to bring coolers into the park, so don’t let that stop you. At our first visit to the park, we did not plan this ahead of time and when lunch time came and everyone was starving, we rushed through the crowds to the first restaurant we could find, fighting for a table that would fit everyone comfortably enough to eat. And after half the group went up to order food, winding their way through the waiting lines of the cafeteria, we realized there was such limited choices for food there that no one really preferred. But at that point, we had already found two separate tables outside, stole some extra chairs from other tables, parked the stroller comfortably in the shade and couldn’t think about going somewhere else. Where was the next restaurant anyways?
Our second trip we knew better. We packed a cooler with sandwiches, chips, apples, pouches and soft drinks, plopped ourselves on a quiet bench in the shade and ate in peace. And guess where the perfect spot to hold a cooler is? The stroller.
And you never know when an abrupt burst of hunger is going to kick in for the little one AND for you after walking all day in the parks and you definitely don’t want to stop what you are doing to find a vendor selling overpriced ice cream and popcorn. Try bringing pretzels, fruit and veggie pouches, apples, bananas, wheat thins and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. All are perfect healthy park snacks that will stay good during the day. And don’t forget water!
5) Choose your arrival day and time wisely to build your day for success.
Summer equals hot. Summer quals crowded. Do not be like Olaf. Avoid summer.
If you can, choose an off-season or week day to plan your tip to the parks to get the most out of your day and avoid terribly long wait times and crowds of sweaty tourists.
Also, get to the parks early. The earlier the better and yet another way to avoid a crowded park. That also means better parking and lesser wait times for rides — so get on the good ones first that you know will be too long later in the day.
When we went for Rylee’s birthday in May, we were lucky that the Spring weather was still blessing us with its presence. And even still, in the middle of the afternoon, when there’s no shade to hide under, the sun was still brutal.
And if your local or staying on property, leave for nap time and come back to avoid the busy middle of the day park crowds. And if you are staying on property, you can take transportation to any of the hotels and take advantage of their great amenities or restaurants to get out of the heat for a little while.
6) Download the Disney Experience app.
Do you always get excited to grab one of those paper park maps on your way into the park? I used to, too. But with a baby and a family on a schedule, I completely forgot to muscle my way through the crowd and grab a bunch for us to follow along. Instead, I used my Disney Experience App. It’s pretty sweet. Your personal schedule and fast pass selections, wait times, dining and virtual maps all at your finger tips!
I used that thing at every one of our trips to the parks and it was awesome! At one point, we weren’t going to make it to one of our fast passes in time, due to a nap by Rylee, so I made an impromptu change to our selections so we could go back at a later time, all from the app.
And I found plenty of meet and greets with characters in some hard to find places, like the Clubhouse gang in crazy costumes at the carnival in Pete’s Sideshow tent in Magic Kingdom. All I had to do was go to the charters tab and choose the characters I wanted to see, which I most likely would have missed on one of those printed map thingies.
We really got the hang of the park thing and Rylee loved every minute of it. I loved seeing her so happy and excited to experience new things and I can’t to go back.
And I hope you enjoy your next trip to the park as well!