A Day at Disney World With Toddlers


For our son’s 3rd birthday we planned a family trip to Magic Kingdom for one day as a family of 7. This post is how I planned for our trip for 5 adults and 2 toddlers under the age of 3 and how our day actually went. 

Also see: 15 Things to Know Before Going to Disney -as I have recently split this post into two.

Both my husband and I have been living in South Florida since we were kids, so Disney has always been fairly close to where we live. I have always been in love with theme parks and I love the thrill of riding roller coasters.

At one point in my later childhood, my mom and I had seasonal passes. We would go regularly on weekends and would have a blast enjoying every park. 

It’s been 10 years since I’ve been. A lot has changed in the parks and a lot has changed in my life, particularly having a family of my own. 

When my mom and I used to go, we would take advantage of every opportunity. We would ride every ride and see every show.

But with my family, particularly with kids used to routine (like napping after lunchtime), I knew things would be a little different. I did my best to research and plan as best I could in planning our full day at the park.

* This post includes Affiliate Links.

Planning Ahead

My husband and I decided a few weeks before our son’s third birthday to take the kids to Disney with our family. We brought my husband’s family (parents and sister). So we were 5 adults and two toddlers (our daughter is 1.5). 

We decided on a quick weekend trip where we would only be at the Magic Kingdom Park for one day because anything more than that would be exhausting and expensive. 

Within those weeks we purchased the tickets for 5 adults (children under 3 are free) and found a place to stay on Airbnb near the parks that accepted dogs, we didn’t want them staying in cages all weekend and paying for that so we brought them. 

I did some research on Youtube and the Disney website (which has a great Moms Panel) and the Disney App (with maps, character info, attraction and entertainment info, etc.) to try to be as informed and prepared as possible. 

I did not want to arrive without some sort of guideline and end up missing out on something or regretting not having known about certain things (although that’s always going to happen).

We also had to be prepared for the heat, because Florida summer is very intense. I’ve been here most of my life so I already know to stay indoors as much as possible if the sun is out. 

With the heat we’ve been having lately, just going to the zoo or a playground, I decided to buy some small fans to keep us cool, especially the kids. 

I had recently purchased a great rechargeable fan that can be clipped onto just about anything (such as a stroller). It stands on its own if necessary, it has amazing adjustable power, and it’s position is also easily adjustable. I’ve been advertising it to my friends for weeks because I’m so fascinated by it. 

And just before the trip I purchased three additional fans. Two identical necklace fans that blow up towards your face and one handheld misting fan, which mists like a humidifier and was also amazing. 

If it hadn’t been for these fans, I don’t think any of us would have made it through the first twenty minutes of entering the park. 

It was hot and humid so we were sweating like pigs! I honestly think those cooling fans saved our entire trip.

Sunscreen was another must when it came to the sun, we all coated our skin with sunscreen (100 and 50) before arriving and tried to reapply when possible. 

For the kids, we also brought hats to prevent any heat rashes. My father-in-law, who has a history with skin cance,r did the same. 

My daughter has sensitive skin and develops rashes and burns more easily so I got her a long sleeve one-piece bathing suit/rash guard from Target. I even made sure to get it one size bigger to cover as much of her skin as possible, also then I could hopefully use it next summer. 

She did great with it! It was a little long, as planned, but I just needed to roll up the sleeves or unravel to protect more skin and she was also kept dry. 

Our plan was to have a full day (Saturday) to experience the park to take advantage of all the shows and attractions. However we had to be considerate of our kids’ energy and nap schedules as well as our dogs staying locked up at our rental all day so we needed to calculate how much time we would intend on being at the park.

A Day at Disney World With Toddlers -- Thanks Mommy Blog

How Our Day Went

arriving

Magic Kingdom opens at 8am, but per my research the park opens a little earlier, around 7:40 am. 

According to the Disney App, the Let the Magic Begin Show at the Castle was set for 7:55 am that morning. I was hopeful we would be able to make it to opening time and take advantage of short lines and get on the Peter Pan ride, but I had a backup plan of getting on a 9am with a Fastpass. 

We woke up at 5:30 am, despite having gone to bed super late. Our rental was 20 minutes away from the park (the majority of that drive being within Disney World itself). We managed to arrive at the parking lot by 8:30. 

So yea we got delayed and I wasn’t pleased about it but there was nothing I could do. We parked the cars, walked over to the tram line and got on the next one. 

My husband got on the tram with the folded double stroller and I got on with all the bags next to him while our family got on behind us with the kids. My daughter immediately freaked out. I think she was nervous about the tram but she calmed down as soon as we started moving. 

If you’re carrying a stroller, be prepared to struggle getting on the tram or just walk through the very large parking lot instead. 

We got off the tram and made it through bag check. I had a lot of needed stuff for the family. There was a bit of a line and they made me remove EVERYTHING but it didn’t take that long.

Then we quickly picked up some first visit celebration pins and a birthday pin for the kids on our way to the Monorail line. 

We were in line forever! We crammed into the monorail with the stroller folded again (to save space in the Monorail) and kids with the family. The same thing happened, our little girl cried nervously and we were uncomfortably crammed on the way to ‘the most wonderful place on earth.’ 

By 10 am we arrived at the park. So it took us an hour and a half from the moment we parked the car to actually arriving into the park! 

We officially missed our FastPass to Peter Pan.

actually entering the park

Next on my schedule was the Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire Show at 10:30 am. They have multiple showtimes but we decided to just wait a little bit and enjoy it right away. 

So we settled in and slowly headed to the Castle and surprisingly there was no crowd. We waited in a shaded area off to the side and as soon as it started my son and I started heading closer on foot and he took off! 

My son isn’t the type to run away but he was so excited that he started running faster than me, my heart melted. We got up to the front and lost our family behind us but it was great, there was so much space and it wasn’t crowded at all for summertime. 

But it was hot! We were dripping in sweat. His neck was sweaty and my face was literally burning from, what I think, was a reaction of the sunscreen and my intense sweat that morning. 

The show was great and he loved it til the end. He even yelled out goodbye to Donald Duck as he exited the stage at the first song and everyone around us was in awe and laughing. 

Just after the show was one of the showtimes for the Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party Parade at 11am. 

We hung around for a few minutes at the same shaded spot while refreshing with cold water, ice cubes, and our amazing new fans (links above). 

The parade started soon after and the floats passed by then parked themselves in front of us as the characters got off and invited everyone on the street to dance with them. My kids were a little shy to fully participate but they were excitedly waving and high five’ing the characters so they managed to enjoy it, I took pictures as my mother in law held their hands.

lunch break

After our first hour of massive exhaustion we headed a few feet over to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for an early lunch and to cool down in AC. 

Our son enjoyed watching the animated Ray playing the piano on stage. I remember it from my childhood too but I think it could use a little updating. 

This restaurant is a quick service type of place where you order, wait for your food, and then bring it to your table. We settled at two small tables because they didn’t have any large ones and two of us headed over for the lines only to realize that it would be faster to order on their mobile app (and it really was). 

We were surprised, well it’s Disney so not that surprised, by the prices. They were high and the food wasn’t that great in taste or size. 

Ironically there was a woman there with a large family wearing a shirt written in Disney font that said “Most Expensive Day Ever,” I need one of those! 

Afternoon of Attractions

We then headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean for our second Fastpass that I had scheduled. 

By the time we got there my daughter had fallen asleep in the stroller. My in laws, who didn’t care for the attractions anyway, stayed with her in the shade while my husband, my sister-in-law, and I took my son on the ride. 

I haven’t been to Disney in 10 years so this was my first time experiencing the new Fastpass system and I have to say it’s pretty great, it actually cuts down the wait time! 

The ride was great, this was our son’s first ride and he was quiet the whole time but he enjoyed it. 

Just after we got off there was a Pirate Tutorial Show at 1pm just outside the ride on a small stage out in the sun, we decided to check it out and see if our son would have any interest. 

Little did we know he would be selected to be in the show by Jack Sparrow himself! And he did so well! I was amazed by him that I could barely move but I did manage to film the whole thing. 

He was up there following instructions almost perfectly with kids much older than him for over 12 minutes! Proud mamma moment!!!! 

And later I got to see all the professional photos that were taken of this, making their PhotoPass a great resource.

On our way to our next Fastpass to the Haunted Mansion he asked us if we could go back to the Pirates, but he had no idea what was in store for the remainder of the day. 

Our daughter was still asleep so the four of us headed onto the ride. He enjoyed this one as well. And I’m glad I got to see it again because I hear they’re going to be renovating it for the Coco movie soon.

It was about 2:30 pm when we got off this ride and we were all desperate for something cold, including our now awake daughter. So we stopped for some ice cream right next to the ride. While we enjoyed our cold desserts, we contemplated whether we really wanted to wait for the 3pm Festival of Fantasy Paradeas planned. 

Uninimously, we decided that the combination of the kids’ impatience and the heat it might be best to skip the parade. We had already seen some characters in the morning and skipping it would give us the time to take advantage to enjoy some more attractions. 

We headed over to Mickey’s PhilharMagic 3D Show and waited in their standard line, which was  listed for a “15 minute” wait. 

The kids were very impatient and had some tantrums while in line. Our son has been a little off lately on the grumpiness meter and I think he was in need of a nap. 

When we got inside, my husband sat on one end with our son and I sat on the opposite end with our daughter, which worked to our favor in keeping them quiet. 

The show was nice but my daughter didn’t keep still so I didn’t get to enjoy it much. I know how loud she can be when she’s angry so I had to let her wiggle around, walk around my seat, and play with the empty one next to me. I think our son enjoyed it but I was several seats away so I couldn’t see.

Nap break

We then headed over to the Splash N Soak Station near the Dumbo ride and Circus buildings. It was just okay in my opinion. Some kids were having a blast but my son just wet his hand a little but didn’t have much interest. 

We weren’t sure what to do at this point. With the tantrums given earlier, I figured my son was overdue for a nap so I put them both in the stroller and walked over to the Souvenir shop right next to the Splash Station which was a giant circus tent with AC, perfect for doing laps in to put the kids to sleep. And he fell asleep! 

I parked the stroller off to the side, where there was a large open space and an electrical outlet. I even got to charge my phone and one of our fans. My husband and I took turns watching my son sleep in the stroller.

During my husband’s turn, I took my daughter to meet Daisy and Minnie Mouse right next door. The line was short and she was very excited to see Minnie Mouse.

Then it was my turn again. The rest of the family went to explore outside and ended up finding an awesome lounging space with charging stations, but without any AC. 

We let him nap for a while, just enough to recharge. We didn’t want to spend the rest of our expensive day waiting for him to nap, so we headed over to our next attraction where we woke him up. 

Late Afternoon Attractions

Under the Sea was a beautiful new ride with all the characters from the Little Mermaid. We all got to go and the kids really enjoyed it, this was our daughter’s first ride. 

Just after that we went on It’s A Small World, using a FastPass from having cancelled our missed PeterPan ride (which was no longer available and had a long line), and the kids enjoyed that too! 

I somehow managed to book us another FastPass last minute (must’ve been a lucky glitch) for Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. Our daughter fell asleep on the way there, so it was the 4 of us again, and boy was it funny! 

We came out hungry around 7 pm and used the Disney App to find a quick serve restaurant that served Italian and ordered on our phones. By the time we arrived (it was back on the other side of the park where we had just been) our food was ready to pick up so we didn’t have to wait on any lines and our food didn’t get cold. Again the food portion was small, tasted OK, and was priced high.

Fireworks Show

After dinner we headed over to our last stop of the day, back to the Castle for the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show scheduled for 9:15 pm. We settled on a spot in front of the Castle and sat down. 

Just before the show started they had us all stand and pack close together more to the front which sucked because we had the double stroller and two grumpy kids who were exhausted and didn’t understand why were waiting. 

As the show started, both kids decided to have another tantrum. I managed to distract my daughter with Cheerios I packed. My son continued to give us trouble, he was being picky about wanting them too but only in a specific container which I could not reach nor did I want to with that attitude he was giving us. Typical toddler problems, and at the worst time!

The show was was beautiful! The castle was projected with images from all of the Disney Movies and Characters, with music and fireworks going along with it. If it hadn’t been for breaking our shoulders carrying those kids while feeding cheerios and dealing with a tantrum in a crowd of which we could not move (or find an exit strategy) we all would have enjoyed it more.

And just as it ended we had to figure out how the F* to get out of there. 

Exiting the Park

Seven of us, two tantrummy (not a word) toddlers that we could barely manage to strap to the stroller, turning the double stroller around to head back through a crowded street of people, while trying not to run over their feet and not get the wheels stuck on the tracks of the trolley. 

There was trash on the floor, people cutting us off, people parked in front causing “traffic.” 

And when we finally made it to the main entrance we had to decide on Monorail or Boat to get to the Parking Lot Area. We decided on Boat because we really didn’t want to deal with getting everything and everyone off the stroller and lug all of it and the kids through a massive sardine crowd like that. 

Even the line to the Boat was horrible and stressful. People have absolutely zero respect. 

Luckily our son fell asleep on the stroller at this point, but our daughter decided she wanted her grandma, and only her, to hold her rather than being safer on the stroller. 

Getting out of the park after the fireworks show was one of the worst experiences of our lives, it ruined the trip. 

And then we had to make it to the parking lot, still sweating from the nighttime heat mixed with old sweat from the whole day. 

Fanning ourselves at 11 pm, we decided to walk our way to the car, except the “walking path” took us so far away from where we should have been going that we got lost, more frustrated and more exhausted. But we finally made it and the kids slept in the car. 

Once we made it back to the house, a bath was out of question because of the time. So we put on their pjs, stinky and sweaty, and tried to put them to bed. But they ended up playing with each other instead for a while, it was actually kind of sweet, until we turned off all the lights.

We drove back home the next afternoon and the kids napped during that time, leaving us in peace for the drive but ready to play by the time we got home. 

The next day was our son’s birthday and we had a full day of plans but I was falling asleep all day, I even took a nap during their nap time! 

We’re reaching the end of the week now, only a few days later, and we’re still recovering. Not sure how people do this when they actually arrive on time and stay even later for the other nighttime shows, or even when they do multiple days of Park! 

I’m Disney’d out for a while!

Final Take Back

On our drive back my husband and I were joking about how we’d never go back, except we were kind of serious. 

Honestly, I think our son is going through a phase with a little extra defiance and grumpiness so it wasn’t one of his best days- it was one of his worst! Add on the Florida summer heat and the exhaustion of a theme park didn’t help one bit. 

It’s not easy traveling with a toddler and it’s not easy forcing them to do things on a schedule they’re not used to. In our case, we have two toddlers! 

We chose to travel in a larger group because we are a close family and my in-laws wanted to join us as well as help with the kids so that my husband and I could enjoy too. 

We are extremely grateful because we wouldn’t have been able to do anything without them. But it’s not easy traveling in a big group either. But again, nothing would’ve been possible had it just been the four of us, we probably would have given into the frustrations of the tantrums and ended up leaving just after arriving. 

In all seriousness though, maybe we will go back…. someday. When the kids no longer need naps and can handle their whirlwind emotions a bit better. Things will be a bit easier and then maybe I carry a lot lighter as well.

Looking back to what we were able to achieve that day, with sacrificing the 3 pm parade, we were able to squeeze in a bunch of attractions and a couple of naps before the end of the day so I see that as a win. 

I got to see our little boy run towards the castle when the characters came on stage, yelling out at Donald Duck by name so that everyone could hear him, watching him wave at characters and jump for joy. And the highlight: watching him participate in a live show as a Junior Pirate melted my heart! 

I wouldn’t sacrifice those moments, I would love to recreate them… someday, just not that soon! 

We were exhausted for days! We need a vacation after this “vacation!”

Readers:

Have you been to Disney or any Theme Parks with toddlers? Was it magical or a disaster? Share your story in the comments.

Don’t forget to check out 15 Things to Know Before Going to Disney.


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Jessie

I can’t wait to take my girl to Disney Land and when that day comes, I’m definitely going to use this as a reference. This is super detailed and I love it!!!

thebirdandthebeard

I’d love to be able to take my kids to Disney World but sadly we live so far away. It sounds awesome though!

newmumfun6

Great advice, I would love to visit someday, it sounds like a crazy day out but worth it for the kids.

lizchapmanonline
lizchapmanonline

Disney is an amazing vacation but can be stressful with the crowds and lines. Great tips and I agree, we always stay at a resort for convenience! It’s worth the extra money.

riannagalvez

Thank you for the tips. I am not planning to go to Disney with my son yet and probably won’t do it until he is 7 or a little older. The pictures are making me want to plan it now though lol 5 years early!

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