Visiting Disney parks with a baby is a unique experience. One minute, your little one is cooing in wonder at colorful flags waving in the breeze… the next, she’s melting down due to a poopy diaper on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Managing a baby adds a stunning degree of complexity to a Disney vacation. Between keeping track of feedings and diapers, baby’s temperature and temperament, things can go from magic to less-than-magical quickly.
I recently graduated from decades as a Disney adult to life as a Disney parent—something I was able to detail in our recent piece on Surprising Things No One Tells You About Bringing a Baby to Walt Disney World. As a Passholder, I’ve been able to introduce our baby to Walt Disney World a few times now (with the flexibility that as a local, I can always take her home if things go to pot), and during that time, I’ve started to identify some of the common pitfalls that can creep up on parents bringing an infant with them to Disney the first time
I also love a good travel hack, and during our short journey, I’ve discovered a few tips from seasoned Disney parents that can help make life bringing a baby to Disney parks a little easier.
1. The many uses of an insulated bottle
It’s easy to assume keeping a baby fed should be a simple task: you either nurse them wherever they are or add some powdered formula to food and POOF! Instant satisfaction.
The truth is, for a very large portion of parents, that simply isn’t the case. Different babies have different needs and quirks. One baby won’t nurse without being rocked a certain way. Another tosses off any cover mom attempts to use. Many moms have to pump to maintain supply or exclusively pump to feed their babies. In my case, a very complicated start to my little one’s life has meant navigating the strange world of combo-feeding—using a mix of nursing, pumped milk, and supplementing with formula as we continue to grow together.
Pretty much anywhere I go, I carry some sort of cooler with me to keep breastmilk cold. Normally, an insulated cooler attached to my diaper bag does the trick (I use this one from Tactical Baby Gear). Against the formidable heat of either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, however, I quickly learned a normal insulated cooler couldn’t cut it. Relentless heat paired with being limited to using bags of ice (as our hotel room didn’t have a freezer) left my normal cooler soggy and quickly warming to unsafe levels
Enter the insulated bottle.
A clean insulated water bottle (like a Yeti or Hydro flask) makes an excellent cooler for keeping a moderate amount of breastmilk cold. Fill your insulated water bottle about halfway full with ice, then put your breastmilk in a sealed container inside, such as a milk storage bottle or breastmilk bags (if you’re confident they won’t leak). I was amazed how cold the milk stayed all day using this system.
A side benefit? When the heat of the day set in, I had ultra cold milk ready to go as a nice treat to keep baby cool. If your insulated bottle is a little cool to the touch, some parents even opt to tuck it in the stroller with baby to help provide a little more relief. If your ice starts to melt, just pick up some more from any counter service location or first aid.
For me, this proved a game changer for keeping my ever rotating supply of milk cold. On colder days, an insulated bottle filled with hot water can also be used to heat bottles if that’s what your baby prefers (though I prefer to use this travel sized heater with a bottle adapter for our own bag). If you’re an exclusive pumper and need to keep a lot of milk cold throughout the day, an upgraded option worth considering is the Ceres Chill, an insulated cooler designed specifically for breastmilk transport.
2. Speaking of keeping baby cool…
You’re going to need some gear, and you won’t find it easily in the parks.
I’m pretty new to mom-life, so on my last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I quickly realized I didn’t have any of the necessary gear to keep a baby cool in the parks besides a good quality stroller cover (I use this one from Quilbie) and a sunscreen stick.
The basics you need for a hot day at Disney with baby are a sun hat, sunscreen, and a in many cases, a clip-on fan. As a bonus, a cooling pack isn’t a bad idea either (though you could use the insulated bottle trick we mentioned earlier).
Don’t expect to find the best options for any of these in the parks.
Baby sunscreen is available, but you will pay top dollar for it. Baby hats were nowhere to be found, not even in the Baby Care Center. As for the fans… oh my.
Disney’s stroller fans are HUGE. As someone who already carries too much stuff and is ever trying to reduce my diaper bag size, Disney’s fans felt like a choice made in desperation rather than an ideal pick. In hindsight, I wish I would have gotten one online, such as this bladeless model from Amazon or this flexi-clip style from Wi-Hoo. You’ll save yourself some headaches as I’ve found good quality fans really challenging to find in stores.
Short version: you’re better off pretty much all cooling gear before your trip than trusting Disney to have what you need.
3. Babywearing is a game changer
I have become a huge fan of babywearing, and some sort of carrier has become an essential part of my Disney kit.
Strollers are both a blessing and a curse at Disney parks. On one hand, a stroller can be very convenient for keeping baby cool, giving them a place to rest, and moving your gear from point A to point B on long walks. At the same time, the bigger the stroller, the more the hassle throughout your day, and on many attractions, you have to ditch the stroller well before you get into line.
Babywearing provides a great option to carry baby without exhausting your arms. I personally use a woven wrap (I like the ones from Oscha Slings because of their Middle Earth Collection, but there are less expensive versions available from other companies like Moby who even has a Disney collection), but a traditional carrier, ring sling, or Meh Dai/Cairis will work as well.
Babywearing is great for getting baby out of the stroller to get a better view of the sights, especially at places like Epcot or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’ve had some great relaxing walks while babywearing throughout Walt Disney World, such as along the path between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. It’s also a great option for queues and on baby-friendly rides.
With any carrier or wrap, do your research to make sure you’re familiar with how to get baby in and out safely, as well as how to position their torso and hips (which should always be in an M shape to prevent hip dysplasia). It’s also generally a good idea to face baby inward whenever possible as the high stimuli of somewhere like a theme park can become overwhelming—if baby is facing in, they can find some refuge leaning close to your chest.
Oh, and if you’re like me and carry too much stuff, switch things up and put your day pack in the stroller while you wear baby. Sweet relief!
Continue reading for ways to avoid a pooptastrophe, how best to deal with your nursing pillow and bottle washing...