I have a couple of friends heading down to Disney World later this year, so I thought I would offer a bit of advice since I have made it thru Disney visits with my small person since she was four years old. I love all things Disney, we have been at least twice a year since we moved to Florida. My daughter loves to visit Disney as much as I do. This first trip with her did not turn out perfect and I figured out why, it was because I tried to do too much with her. Four year olds need to take their own time exploring, trying to “help” them see everything just leads to a nuclear meltdown type tantrum. My sweet, adorable, good-natured child had her one and only tantrum of this type at Disney. Once that happened I realized I needed to take a step back and just (to quote Elsa) “let it go” LOL
So my tips are these:
Before going to the park, stay at one of the Disney resorts. I adore the value priced resorts because to me they seem so much more Disney. Everywhere we go there are oversized statues and displays of Disney characters. My princess loves these. We tend to stay at one of the All Star resorts. Music has the giant instruments, and sports has Donald Duck and his nephews playing baseball LOL ok there are more characters that that, but those are our favorites.
At the resort front desk you can get maps to all the parks, I highly recommend getting 2 copies, one for you and one for your child. Then together look through the map and decide which rides or activities you just have to do, and in which order you want to do them. When it is time to go make sure you have your Disney bag all ready. In the bag I keep as little as possible because it gets heavy after a few hours. Sunglasses for both you and your child, a small brush to freshen up windblown hair before pictures, a small bottle of water that can be refilled throughout the day (any counter service restaurant in the parks will give you a free cup of ice water), some individual fruit snack packages for a quick and mess free pick me up, a pen and paper (cause never fails I always need to jot down something), and a change of clothes for accidents that might happen. Oh and a plastic bag to put the soiled clothes in. Thankfully Disney now has magic bands so no longer need to tote around money, passes, or room keys. I adore magic bands, best invention ever.
Riding the shuttle to Disney is so fun, you get to see all the kids dressed up in their favorite Disney outfit, and it is so interesting hearing all the different accents from your fellow passengers. Try and work it so you are one of the first people on the shuttle, that way you get a seat, it can be challenging balancing you and your child on the ride to the park. Once at the park resign yourself to walking slow. Remember your one step is about equal to two steps for your child. I put pedometers on me and my daughter and by the end of the day she always had at least double the steps I did. If my feet hurt, I am sure hers did as well. So go slow and just notice all the awesome Disney details. The flowers are amazing, and there seems to be wildlife everywhere. Squirrels always get called Chip or Dale, and rabbits are named Thumper
Don’t waste your money on a stroller for the park, it seems like really can’t take them close to the rides, you have to park them, (they always get moved in my case so I had to play find the stroller) now is just easier to do without one and walk slower. Any big purchases I just have sent back to my resort. This is awesome feature of staying at a Disney resort. Once past security head towards the rides you have picked out already. Oh magic bands allow three fast pass rides so you don’t have to worry about missing the important rides. On the way to your rides if you see a line with minimal to no wait go on in, the key is to be flexible with your fun. Play in the park for a few hours then take a break and go back to your resort to rest, refresh, and eat. It is not a marathon. There is no rule that says you have to do everything in one day. That just makes for a miserable and tired you and your child. Early evening head back to the park and enjoy it some more. Seeing the park at night is a different experience, the lights come on and everything is magical all over again. Don’t worry about bedtime, its vacation, you can sleep in. The important thing is to have a great trip, not smash in so much that it becomes a chore to “experience everything”. Children will have a better time if they aren’t worn out. Mommy will too because no tears to deal with, just smiles.
OK so those are my suggestions for doing Disney with a small child. They worked for me and my daughter. Each trip is magical and we leave making plans to come back as soon as possible