How to plan a trip to Disneyworld with Toddlers

Hi friends!  I’m finally getting around to posting about our recent trip to Disneyworld with toddlers (girl, 4; boy, 16 months). We hit the happiest place on earth at the best time of the year, just two weeks before Christmas.  Simply put, it was M A G I C A L!  I’m going to do my best to summarize all. the. things. in hopes that it will help you or someone else who is considering a trip to Disneyworld with toddlers. I’m bolding some of the important points in this post so you can scan the post for key details.   Before you go any further though, my number 1 piece of advice:  get yo’self a certified Disney Planner!  Most of these ladies and gents are FREE, and I have a great one if you would like her info, shoot me an email!  If they are a certified planner, they will have access to other tools/systems that allow them to set up alerts and reminders for getting things like character dining reservations etc.

Who will go with you and when?

Decide who you want to go with you and when you want to go.  We opted to go without any other family members and we survived!  This is definitely a personal decision, and for us it was much easier to go with the four of us.  We knew the trip would be fast-paced and might not be suitable for some of the grandparents.

We also knew we wanted to go late in the year (i.e. December), so we began our planning in March. . . 9 months in advance.  I also knew that I didn’t have the time to deal with the crazy advanced planning that I wanted for our trip, therefore we got a Disney planner.

What are magic bands and fast passes?

Magic bands are basically the coolest technology going.  They literally control EVERYTHING you do while visiting Disney.  If you wanted to, you could go into a park with just your magic band and nothing else.  You use it to unlock your room (if staying at a Disney Resort), buy souvenirs, pay for meals, and utilize fast passes.

Fast passes are reservations that give you a designated time slot for a ride or to meet a character that allow you to bypass the line.  When you go to a ride or a character greeting location you will see two lines; one that says Fast Pass and one that says Stand By.  If you have a FP, you will get in that line.  The standby line will also tell you how long of a wait it is . . . we had a few instances where we decided not to use a FP and just go in the standby line because it was short.  Then we were able to cancel that FP and use it on a different ride (you are only allotted three FP’s a day).

Be sure to download the My Disney app prior to your trip and link all of your dining reservations and fast passes. It will be your guide to literally everything…maps, wait times, where certain characters are located for the day etc. The app is great, but sometimes just asking a nearby park employee your question is still your best bet.

Memory Maker photo pass is a great option if you don’t want to worry about capturing all of the character shots.  There will be Disney photographers EVERYWHERE and they can scan your magic band and the pic will automatically load to your account.  You don’t have to purchase the Memory Maker ahead of time if you are unsure (it is cheaper if you do so), you can always purchase it after the trip.  Pro tip – the Disney photographers will take pics with your camera if you ask.  They can’t say no!

Where will you stay?

You can stay on site or off site.  We chose to stay on site at a Moderately priced Resort.  Disney ranks their resorts as Value, Moderate and Deluxe.  I had no idea there was such a ranking, but it is helpful in deciding what works best for your family and your budget.  We ended up at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.  This resort was not on the monorail, so getting to and from the park required us to catch one of the Disney shuttles.  Our resort had bus stops throughout the property with TV’s (shown below) that stated the time the next shuttle would arrive for each of the Disney Parks.  When it was time to leave the parks, there are designated bus pick up areas that are numbered and tell you what resort picks up where.

disney shuttle schedule

The shuttles weren’t awful, but they also weren’t the best either.  We had our City Double Stroller with us which had to be broken down prior to boarding (I don’t believe you have to break down strollers when boarding the monorail).  Keep in mind our resort had other stops as well, so many times when we boarded there were already other passengers onboard so it was a bit crowded.  BUT, everyone is happy because they are going to the most magical place on the planet so most people are more than willing to help you or move over and let you sit etc.  If dealing with large crowded modes of transportation isn’t your thing, then you should consider staying at a Deluxe Resort (or off property and driving yourselves).  I can’t speak to the monorail system as I didn’t use it while there, but I have to imagine it’s a little easier to board with a stroller.

Where will you dine?

When you stay at one of the Disney resorts, you have the option to select a meal plan.  We went the 2nd full week of December and were lucky enough to hear about a great promotion on a dining package.  It included the following (which are measured in credits, and I honestly am already blanking on how many we had of each).  The main thing to remember with these plans is that certain character dining requires two credits (i.e. Cinderella’s Royal Table).

  • Quick Service Meals (i.e. order at a counter)
  • Full Service Meals (i.e. character meals, sit down meals)
  • 18 snacks (i.e. Mickey shaped pretzels, Mickey ear ice cream, popcorn, large lollipops, cookies, soda, bottled water, etc).  The snacks were a bit excessive in our opinion.  18 snacks for our family was just too much. We felt like we ended up just using snacks because we needed to get rid of them.

disneyworld with toddlers

One of the QSR meals that we had was inside our resort at the Coronado (Cafe Rix).   Breakfast was buffet style and it was the right amount of food for our fam.  We used three of our QSR credits on this meal (probably could’ve used just two).  How cute are the Mickey-shaped waffles?!

mickey shaped waffles

We had two character meals (Garden Grill at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom).  We were pleased with both of our experiences. Garden Grill is located inside of Epcot (Future World) featuring a family-style meal.  We were greeted by Chip N’ Dale, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse while we enjoyed lunch.   The family style meal was HUGE and unfortunately we felt as though a lot of this food went to waste with our little family.  The food itself was delicious though!  I definitely recommend this as a great option for little ones under the age of five.

Garden Grill Mickey Mouse

Cinderella’s Royal Table was simply incredible.  Our daughter had just turned four and this was a great age.  We didn’t get this reservation until three days before!  It’s a difficult reservation to get (you book dining reservations 6 months in advance another reason the planner is great b/c they stay on top of all of this for you).  It’s definitely a pricier meal, but we had breakfast there and it was super organized.  Cinderella greets you on the way in, and then we met Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine, and Rapunzel.  If meeting princesses is a big to do on your list, this is a great way to meet all of them in one place (avoiding the lines)!

Snow White Cinderella's Royal Table

Getting Snow White’s Autograph

Ariel at Cinderella's Royal Table

Hugs from Ariel

Cinderella's Royal Table

Being greeted by Cinderella herself on the way to breakfast

What will you do while there?

There are a total of six theme parks.  We managed to go to three parks while there (as part of our package, we had park hopper meaning we could go between parks on any given day).  Depending on what time of year you go, there are also often special events which require a separate ticket for entering the park such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which we attended at the Magic Kingdom for our first day (actually night because you enter at 4PM and they begin kicking out non-ticketed guests by 6PM).  This was such a cool event given the time of year!  So many lights, the castle looks simply amazing, the best hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted, and a holiday parade like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  We were able to get two fast passes from the 4-6PM time slots and we utilized those for meeting some of the princesses (Elena, Tiana, Rapunzel and Cinderella).

mickeys very merry christmas party

We spent our 2nd day at Epcot (it’s the only way to experience the Frozen ride and meet Elsa and Anna in Norway).  We have a very Frozen obsessed daughter so Epcot was a must for us.  The Frozen ride is worth it if you have a big Elsa/Anna fan.  You will definitely need a fast pass for that ride – super popular.  Soarin’ is another new ride (for the older kids / adults).  The lines are long and you cannot have a FP for both the Frozen Ride and Soarin in the same day so plan accordingly.

disneyworld with toddlers

Anna is her favorite

We spent our 3rd and final day at Magic Kingdom (until 5 and then hopped on a shuttle over to Animal Kingdom). The highlight of our day was definitely breakfast at the Royal Table

disneyworld with toddlers

Some of our favorite rides were:

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Mad Tea Party

Frozen Ever After

Enchanted Tales with Belle (interactive story time with Belle at the Magic Kingdom)

Peter Pan’s Flight

If you’re looking for a fun and memorable souvenir, let me suggest getting silhouettes done of your littles.  There are two of these stands within Magic Kingdom and we hit the one right on Main Street (across from The Emporium).  These take less than 20 min from start to finish.  These artists are truly amazing!  And you leave with a special souvenir that will last forever.  Oh and I should mention these are an amazing price for what you get – $10/each!

silhouette at disneyworld

What will you pack? 

The temperatures when we went were pretty chilly (highs of 65 during the day, lows in the high 40’s at night).  We packed in LOTS of layers (i.e. comfy shoes, jeans, short sleeves, long sleeves, lightweight jackets, hats, gloves for all).  Here are a few pics of some of our attire while there…I’m not a huge fan of wearing character clothing, but I managed to work in a few tasteful pieces! 🙂

puma whirlwind

Perfect shoe for your little princess..

Puma Whirlwind Toddler Sneaker

And these are perfect for your little prince…

Adidas Neo Jogger

stylish clothes for disneyworld

Comfy and cute is what I went for while there.  No fuss!

Adidas Neo Courtset

Mickey Mouse Dad Cap

Madewell Whisper Pocket t-shirt

Target jacket

I love matching outfits for my kids so I made sure to purchase personalized t-shirts with their names on them before heading to DW too.  I wanted them to have a memorable souvenir and cute pics of them in the shirts too.  For your little ladies, don’t forget the princess costumes (you do NOT want to buy those there $$$)!  We were in the parks a total of three times, so I brought three different princess dresses for my daughter.  In some cases she wore it into the park and in other cases we brought it with us and she just threw it on over her clothes.

If you made it all the way to the end, bless you!  And thank you!  I hope this provided a little helpful insight into planning a Disney trip with toddlers. I’m no expert, but these are my opinions and experience.  No trip is the same, and you do you.  Take it in stride, and try to soak it in as much as you can.  If I can answer any questions, feel free to comment below!

Have a Magical Day! 😉

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Missouri Wine Country (Hermann, MO)

Happy Monday friends!  I am coming off of a super fun weekend so I’m having one of those “fun” hangovers if you will.  We spent a glorious kid free Saturday in Hermann, MO at the wineries with our nearest and dearest friends.  If you live in the midwest and have never been to Hermann, MO let me suggest that you make this a priority in the near future.  It’s only an hour and 15 min from STL, and 2.5 hours from Kansas City, MO.

Our group of 10 met at 9 a.m. and boarded our “party” bus (aka, school bus turned party transit mobile).  Amtrak runs routes from STL to Hermann and KC to Hermann, unfortunately we were too late on booking train tickets this year (better luck next year).  We started the day with some wine tasting at the beautiful Stone Hill Winery (there are some really spectacular views from here, I failed to get those pics though)…just trust me on it.  The wine here is delish, our fave was the Hermannsberger.  It’s a dry red – perfecto!  It’s only $5 to enjoy a tasting in one of their beautiful and ornate rooms.  You won’t be disappointed!

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Next, we somehow managed to find the only Uber driver in all of Hermann and he was wonderful!  He picked up half of our group and drove us the mile and a half back to downtown Hermann AND then turned back around to pick up the other half of our group.  We stopped in at the Star Lane Tasting Room  for another lovely tasting.  Try the Vin-Gris (another dry red … I’m sensing a pattern here).

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(Photo credit to one of my biggest cheerleaders & dear friend, Jackie)

We enjoyed a sweet little German band and dancing with the cutest couple (married for 59 years – relationship goals) adorned in full lederhosen at the Hermannhof Festhalle.

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Before boarding our bus to take us home, we enjoyed dinner at the Tin Mill Brewery on their cute patio.  It was a fun, fall Saturday in the midwest!

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