6. You may come up with some creative hacks
This is probably a subject for a future article, but I do enjoy a good travel hack, and there are plenty you can try when traveling with babies at Walt Disney World.
The biggest hack I employed for baby’s first Disney trip was to utilize baby-wearing as much as possible instead of relying on the stroller. I’m a big fan of woven baby wraps (mine comes from this company in Scotland because they have a Tolkien-themed line), ring slings, and carriers for transporting Baby Bug. While we did use the stroller a good amount during our Disney excursion, I ultimately ended up pulling baby out and wrapping her instead. So long as you follow safe practices for your carrier or wrap, baby-wearing comes with dozens of advantages. I was actually able to travel much more comfortably wearing baby and pushing her bag in the stroller, even through the long walk between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
The goal of hacks is to simplify your parks experience. Use pacifier clips liberally to keep toys and binkies from getting lost. Many nursing covers can service multi-function purposes—I ended up using mine as a mini hood to keep baby warm during our end-of-night walk. Most ring slings and woven wraps can easily double as a blanket to keep baby warm (just keep an eye on them to ensure it doesn’t get pulled over their face). The small plastic bags pet owners use for dealing with pet poop are great for dealing with diapers on the go or tucking away soiled clothes.
A small travel pillow can act as a mini-Boppy to help provide support during feedings or times you need to put baby down for a few moments. Related to this, you can also avoid having to lug around a large nursing pillow by bringing a Boppy-style pillowcase with you. Instead of bringing the pillow, stuff it with anything soft you have on hand like a sweatshirt, baby blanket, or even diapers (just give it a test at home to make sure you have enough stuff to fill it out).
7. Your day may look very different
It didn’t take me long to feel the impact of how different a trip to Walt Disney World is compared to the experience I was used to. Particularly if you are flying solo or will be acting as baby’s primary caretaker, you will likely find yourself making very different decisions when it comes to how you spend your Disney day.
In my case, I actually decided I wasn’t too interested in trying any rides. Spaceship Earth was the only one I momentarily considered, but in the end I skipped it in favor of long, leisurely walks through the park (an option available to Passholders that understandably won’t make much sense for many planning a Disney trip from abroad). As parents, we live in a perpetual state of learning how to lay down our preferences for the betterment of our kids. In the case of a trip to Disney parks, that’s going to mean staying aware of both baby’s care and their emotional state.
If you’re traveling with a partner, you might be able to enjoy some rides that baby can’t join you on by using the Rider Swap system (where one parent rides while the other stays with baby, then you switch—let the ride operators know ahead of time if you want to do this), but ultimately having a baby with you is going to affect your choices while visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth. Trying to keep things exactly the same as previous Disney visits is only going to leave you frustrated. Instead, find ways to enjoy the moment, and be patient and willing to adapt if your little one’s schedule doesn’t match your planned itinerary… or if they just don’t enjoy the parks like you do.
Ultimately, my first excursion to Walt Disney World with baby proved quite enjoyable, but part of why that was the case was I went in with a very low-pressure mindset. I kept my expectations low and just focused on treasuring the time I could spend with friends and my little one. I hit a few of my highlights but stayed adaptable so I could flex my plans if baby needed something. I couldn’t afford to get fixated on things that might result in disappointment (like the fact I still haven’t experienced Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind—one day!).
8. Remember where you parked
This one should go without saying, but it's especially important if you’re traveling with a baby: remember where you parked.
You would think this would be a fairly simple as there are so many tricks to note your parking spot. You can take a picture of the row and section you parked at. You can ask your digital assistant to remember where you parked (though I recommend having a backup as Google has frequently failed me on this front). Even My Disney Experience has an app feature to help you remember your parking space.
I emphasize this point because I, Jett, the Disney travel writer who has literally written articles on this subject, managed to forget where I parked when I visited Walt Disney World with my baby…
I don’t know what it is about a visit to Walt Disney World that makes my brain turn off the moment I hit the parking lot, but in my eagerness to get from the car to the park, I frequently forget to note where I parked. Other times, I remember to do so, but my technology fails me. More often than not, I’ve found doing the Walk of Shame at the end of the day, forlornly pressing the panic button on my key fob in the hope of remembering where my vehicle is. It shouldn’t have surprised me that the effects of mommy brain would all but guarantee I would make this same mistake again.
It’s embarrassing enough to lose track of your car at the end of a Disney day, but I’ll admit it was a rather scary experience doing so with a baby in tow. To her credit, Baby Bug kept a good attitude and enjoyed the swaying of the long hike during my search. I kept husband on the line the entire time (he hadn’t been able to join us that day), but it took far longer than I anticipated locating our vehicle, and I was definitely stressed by the time the ordeal was done.
In truth, I let panic override my better judgment. If you ever find yourself unable to find your car with a baby in tow, don’t do what I did and hoof it through the whole parking lot. Head straight back to the park and speak to a parking cast member—they are very familiar with guests losing their cars and can provide assistance to help you locate your vehicle.
The better option? Set whatever reminders you need to keep track of where you parked.
9. Realize your baby might hate the parks (despite your best efforts)
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is, many babies ultimately don’t enjoy their visits to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
While some babies may enjoy the colors, sounds, and your company during a Walt Disney World visit, the truth is theme parks are often just too stimulating an environment for babies and toddlers. The crowds, overwhelming sights, and non-stop activity can wear down even mellow kids and leave parents forced to handle meltdowns. Rides and character experiences that older kids might find enjoyable can easily scare smaller children who don’t have any concept of attractions being pretend fun.
I appreciate how the authors of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World put it—many babies ultimately enjoy the resort pool far more than the parks. There are certainly exceptions (like the baby in a recent viral video who loved meeting Chewbacca), but many kids struggle more than parents expected.
I lucked out on our first visit—Baby Bug has a delightfully easy temperament for travel after her crazy NICU adventure. She’s used to being around people and even loud sounds thanks to our work with teens and adults in our community. She genuinely seemed to enjoy our visit to Walt Disney World. She slept peacefully as I pushed her stroller through Epcot, she beamed smiles at guests on the friendship boat, and she happily gazed at passing lights during our evening walk.
That being said, I went in with the deck stacked in our favor.
In my experience, the people who are most likely to have success bringing a baby to Walt Disney World are parents who are totally at peace with baby changing your vacation plans. In most cases, this means Florida locals and frequent visitors like Passholders. The reason it's so much easier for these families to bring a baby to Walt Disney World is they can easily change plans if baby isn’t into the parks—indeed, you just get in the car and go home.
If your baby has shown signs of doing well in environments similar to a theme park, and if your family is comfortable staying flexible, you can totally bring a baby to Walt Disney World. The biggest perk is admission for babies is free. I’ve heard plenty of accounts from readers whose babies and toddlers love the parks, and I know a number of families who have kids who do great in the parks environment.
There are, however, a number of situations where I still encourage parents to wait until children are older (about 4 years old, usually) before bringing your littlest ones to the Most Magical Place on Earth. If your baby easily gets overstimulated, you will probably be better off waiting to attempt a Disney excursion. If your family vacations tend to be stressful or require tight planning, I would wait. Most importantly, if you live far away and have been saving up for a once-in-a-decade (or lifetime) Walt Disney World vacation that you want your kids to remember for life, wait until your little one is old enough to be able to enjoy Disney’s best. Your patience will be well rewarded.
What tips do you have for new moms bringing a baby to Walt Disney World for the first time? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook! Thanks for reading!