Many families find themselves in the position of bringing an infant to Disneyland or Walt Disney World; however, it can be challenging to manage this new family landscape. Why do some families have more fun? Preparation is the answer. Here are a 5 tips to get you off on the right foot for visiting the parks with your smallest travel companions.
1. Minimize the Diaper Bag: Just as travelers over-pack, parents seem to carry everything but the kitchen sink in a diaper bag. I promise – you will not need half a pack of diapers for a morning in the parks. Resist the urge to overstuff or bring a huge diaper bag, if you get selected for security screening, the more stuff you have the longer it will take. Only carry the average number of diapers and a small pack of wipes that you will need for the amount of time you will spend in the parks – you can always restock when you come back to the resort for a break. If bottle feeding, pack only the bottles you need and formula in travel containers or utilize bottle shaped ice packs to keep breastmilk cold. Pick one change of clothes and bring it in a gallon Ziploc bag, perfect for putting the dirty ones in after a change. The other key items we brought and found useful were a muslin blanket, changing liner, a stroller fan and a hat to keep the sun out of the little one's eyes. There wasn't any need for toys or books as the sights and sound of Disney kept them busy!
2. Invest in a Baby Carrier: Investing in a baby carrier is probably my favorite tip. It made traveling with an infant so much more convenient. There are many areas in Walt Disney World where strollers are not allowed. You will need to park your stroller, and if the stroller is parked, how is this little one getting around? You guessed it – you are carrying the little one! There are several brands and styles of carriers, pick the one that works for you. You will save your arms, free up your hands, and keep the infant steady while getting on and off rides. This also holds true on the buses (which is very important if you end up having to stand). I also felt much more secure taking my babe on rides while he was in a carrier, even those "kid" rides can be a bit bumpy at rimes!
3. Bring a sleek stroller: You are definitely going to need a stroller to navigate the parks, but a sleek stroller will make it so much more enjoyable. Most parents think they need the deluxe (interpret as large) stroller to give the most comfort to the infant and convenience to the parent. Honestly, you do not want a large stroller in Walt Disney World. Sure, you will be able to store tons of stuff; however, when you need to fold-up that stroller to get on a Disney bus, you are going to have a huge problem. Not only will you need to hold your infant and steady your stroller, you will also need to do something with all the stuff that will not fold-up into the stroller. Depending upon the age/abilities of your infant, you will only need a sturdy umbrella stroller (not the cheap version) or a sleek stroller that can accommodate a car seat if necessary. Less is more! Practice folding up your stroller of choice before you get to the parks (either at home, or at the resort if you are renting one through a third party.)
4. Visit Baby Care Centers: The Baby Care Centers in the parks are fabulous! If you need to change a diaper, need to nurse, or just need a break, you need to visit a Baby Care Center. The Baby Care Centers at Epcot and Animal Kingdom are the largest and most comfortable. A Walt Disney World Baby Care Center is an air-conditioned haven just waiting for weary travelers! Seriously, there are private nursing areas, extremely clean diaper changing stations, a television, toys, seating area, sink/microwave area, highchairs and some select items for purchase (at a premium). Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the “aaaahhhh” moment.
5. Take Breaks: This might be the most important one! The parks are a LOT for an adult traveler, but it can be very overwhelming and overstimulating for little ones too. Everything is new to them, and the sun and heat can take a toll even if you are spending every minute in the shade. Don't be afraid to go at a slower pace and enjoy some of the little details around the parks in quiet spots or spend some more time getting to know your resort.
6. Understand Rider Swap: This system allows one adult to stay back with the baby while the rest of the travel party rides and then they "swap" and get to go on the ride with another member of their party without waiting in the standby line. If you are interested in using this service, see a Cast Member before getting into line. They are usually by the Lightning Lane Entrance, or there are signs if they are somewhere else. Have your Magicbands or tickets ready to tap to set up the swap.
This is certainly not an all-inclusive list, and only scratches the surface. What are some of your favorite tips for touring the parks with an infant? We would love to hear!