Smack in the middle of the first 100 days of darkness with our daughter, as bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived parents, my husband and I decided to keep our previously booked trip to Walt Disney World. Before MGM was born, we envisioned how simple it would be to tote around an 8 week old. We scoured the Internet for proof that others had traversed the waters before us in the parks, searched for airplane ride tips and tricks- we felt prepared.
Fast forward to week 3 at home as new parents, with a bad case of colic, constant screaming and no sleep…
Can we get our money back? Crap. We already bought flights. It’ll be okay. No, this is going to be terrible! Ultimately, we came to terms with the fact that we were going to make the trip. My baby illiterate sister (she’s so much better now!) decided to accompany us and our motto became, “A bad day in Disney is better than a bad day at home.” We live in MA, so it was cold and dark and dreary and the sunshine of Florida is what we needed.
- Extra hands are always helpful. Whether it’s baby-capable hands or just an extra set of adult hands, they are always put to good use. Especially as a first time parent, we had no idea what we were doing and to have someone to hold the stroller on a bus or stay with a sleeping baby in a stroller so Mom and Dad can go on a ride or run to the bathroom…the help is always appreciated.
- Utilize the Baby Care Centers. Each of the parks has a Baby Care Center. We used each of them, some multiple times. They are stocked with any baby supplies you may have forgotten and need to purchase and there are also changing tables and nursing rooms. Each center also has a main area with a TV and seating to feed babies and children or keep siblings occupied while parents tend to the baby. Not all Baby Care Centers are created equal. DHS definitely had the smallest and least accessible center. AK was enormous and surprisingly empty when we were there. Epcot was sizeable and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle whereas MK (understandably) consistently had the most commotion. I was surprised to find the center at MK to be only slightly larger than DHS given the foot traffic the park sees. I’ll be interested to see if this gets an expansion or moves to a different location in the future.
- Throw plans out the window. If you are accustomed to jam-packed Disney vacations filled with Fast Passes and Park Hoppers, you’re going to need to slow your role. It’s just not going to happen. Tiny humans run the show. We got caught offguard a couple times when we tried to do too much and ended up with a meltdown. I’d suggest making a very loose timeline of how you’d like your day to go and maybe just pick a few must-do attractions rather than trying to see everything. Once you slow down, it’s actually very enjoyable and I found myself noticing things I would have breezed by in the past and we even rode a few rides that we had never been on because they were tucked away.
- Take advantage of Rider Switch. Even though we were planning on a more low-key vacation compared to our previous trips, we still wanted to make sure we hit our favorites like Expedition Everest and Mine Train. This is where Rider Switch and that extra set of hands came in handy. Ideally, Rider Switch works for a family of 4 where one child is not tall enough or does not want to ride and then each parent gets the opportunity to ride with the child who can ride. For our party of 3 adults and 1 infant, 2 of us would go scan our Fast Pass and explain to the Cast Member that one person in our party was waiting with the baby and request the Rider Switch. We were then presented with a ticket which allowed two of us to go back to the ride later that day and give the 3rd person a chance to ride. Not all rides have this option so make sure to check the Disney website to plan!
- Carve out time to return to the hotel midday. Naps are essential!! For a baby, for exhausted parents…everyone loves naps. In order to do our best to avoid evening meltdowns, a solid afternoon nap back in the A/C was just what we needed. I also needed to return to the room to pump so our retreat served a dual purpose. We always felt refreshed and ready to tackle more adventures after our midday respite.
- Have baby supplies mailed to the hotel with Amazon Prime. Clutch. I had diapers and wipes sent to the hotel front desk under our name a few days before our trip. We called the front desk and gave them a heads up and they assured us they would put the boxes aside for us. When we arrived, our packages were waiting for us in our room and we didn’t need to waste space in our suitcase with lots of diapers. Fast forward to planning for our next trip this fall, I’ll be ordering snacks and veggie packs for our daughter in addition to diapers.
- Bring your own stroller (and baby carrier) and use something to identify it quickly. This is purely personal preference. I found it much easier to push a stroller through the airport, and the gate check process was very simple. We found the entire airport process to go relatively smoothly and the airport and security employees were very accommodating and kind. We never felt rushed or flustered which was a huge worry of mine prior to the trip. It was awesome to be able to walk off the plane and plunk MGM down in the stroller and not worry about figuring out the best rental and how to get it. We had enough to worry about at that point that it was helpful to use equipment we were already familiar with. It was also very helpful that I tied a bright pink ribbon on the handle of our City Mini GT. There were approximately a zillion other City Minis parked in stroller parking and it made it very easy to find our stroller by looking for the ribbon. Also, bring a baby carrier! It makes going on rides a breeze. MGM napped through her first safari and had the poop (literally) scared out of her on Haunted Mansion! Memories, folks, memories.
- Request a 1st floor room to avoid elevators. Credit to my husband for this one. He made a point to request a 1st floor room in our initial reservation at Wilderness Lodge. When we arrived, there was slight dismay as we had been given a room on the 4th floor. However, Wilderness Lodge was very understanding and accommodating and changed our room fairly quickly to one on the 1st floor. We just found it to be much easier to not have to deal with elevators.
- Request a Pack N Play for the room. I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but obviously Disney is all about families and optimizing their guest’s stay so the availability of Pack N Plays is a no brainer. Just remember to request one. If not, one can be brought down to your room. However, I would think that during high traffic times that the availability of a Pack N Play is a little tighter, so do yourself a favor and add it to your reservation from the get go.
- Have fun, make memories and start new traditions. Probably the most important tip on the list. This is a vacation to Disney World…ENJOY IT! Babies can accompany you on so many rides so don’t feel like someone always has to be left out while everyone else rides. Use that baby carrier and take them with you! You’ll look back and be glad you were all together. I look forward to recreating the same family picture with the castle in the same spot every time we go back so we can watch our family grow and can’t wait to experience the magic of Disney through our daughter’s eyes!
I’ll have to write an updated list for Disney World with a One Year Old after our next trip! See ya real soon!