May, 2014: One man, one woman, and not one, but TWO babies in a Chevrolet Cruze riding down I-95 to the ultimate family destination: Walt Disney World®. Am I crazy? Some people may think so, but I beg to differ! We took our twin boys to Walt Disney World® for the first time when they were only 9 months old. And we had a FABULOUS time. Will they remember their very first trip? No, but we didn't really go for them... we went for ourselves! It had been 3 long years since our last trip and if I didn't get back down there soon I was gonna bust. So I had two babies at the time. So what? No, I am not some sort of sorceress nor do I have a fairy godmother who waved a magic wand and made them perfect angels the whole time. But deep within my two diaper backpacks and the cardboard box full of formula and diapers, I did pack a whole lot of patience, common sense, and items, tips and tricks that I am happy to share with you. Read on!
Things to Take, Pack, and Utilize
- Invest in a good, strong diaper backpack rather than a diaper bag, and zippered pockets are a must! It doesn't have to be expensive! This one by Fisher Price is the exact model I carried in the parks. It's lightweight, stores a ton, has an insulated pouch in it, and comes with a changing pad. And you know what? My kiddos are 3 now and this sucker is still going strong. That's the best testimonial I can give! See the picture above of my husband wearing it.
- If you are a breastfeeding mama, remember to take a cooler or bring a diaper bag with insulated pockets. Try to pump extra bottles of milk for the trip and take them with you in a cooler. All rooms on Disney property feature a mini-fridge so you can rest assured that nothing will spoil. You're also allowed to take a cooler into the parks and if you don't want to tote it around all day you can rent a locker to store it in. Better yet, find a diaper bag or backpack that has an insulated compartment in it for your bottles of breastmilk and put a freezer pack (or frozen bottle of water) in with it.
- Single serve formula bottles are the best! I had finished breastfeeding by the time we went to Disney so I stocked up for several months before on those single-serve formula bottles like these by Similac®. They don't have to be refrigerated and there's no mixing to do. They come with the reusable and disposable nipples that I cleaned each night when we got back to the room, left out overnight to dry and packed back up the next day in clean ziplock bags. Each day before heading to the parks I'd throw the number of bottles I knew my babies would need into my diaper backpack and off we'd go. The best part about these? As they finished them throughout the day, I tossed out the bottle and my backpack got progressively lighter as the day went on!
- Buy the baby food disposable pouches. If your baby is able to eat some solid food and isn't strictly on the milk-or-formula-only diet, the pouches that you can buy that are single-serve are the way to go! Check these out from Happy Baby Organics. Again, I stocked up on a lot before we went and took several baby spoons with me. Baby spoons went in clean ziploc bags at the start of the day and I cleaned them off at our hotel room each night.
- Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, baby hats and sunglasses. You don't want to have to buy these in the park and pay out the wazoo for them! This general rule regarding sunscreen goes for everyone in your party, too - but there's no one more unhappy than a sun-burnt baby in a Disney Park. I would slather them up with SPF 50 (I love this baby sunscreen by Aveeno®) before we even left the room where it was nice and cool. Be sure you reapply in the parks in a cool, indoor space (like a baby care center... more on those later in this article).
- Take an umbrella stroller rather than a giant stroller with all the bells & whistles... especially if you are utilizing the Disney bus transportation. You'll need to fold this up to get on the buses. It's much easier to fold up an umbrella stroller and carry it on the bus with a baby and a diaper bag or backpack than one of the giant stroller systems. We have this double umbrella stroller by Jeep® but especially if you have a single baby any old umbrella stroller would do really well! If you are staying in a deluxe resort where you can utilize boat or monorail transportation, you likely won't have to fold up your stroller unless it's really crowded. (This is yet another reason to stay in a deluxe resort!)
- Get creative (or utilize a grandma or crafty friend) and create a custom storage bag for your umbrella stroller! I am NO SEAMSTRESS but I made these two little bags with velcro and handles that attached to the back of our double umbrella stroller for storage of lighter items like the disposable bottle nipples, an extra change of clothes, baby spoons, burb cloths, etc. When we folded the umbrella stroller up to get on the bus, we simply removed these bags and slid them on our arms or over the stroller handles to carry, but while we were in the parks we didn't have to carry them around. If you do opt for the umbrella stroller, it's easy to make a simple bag like this for extra storage! Email me if you need help coming up with an idea!
- Freeze bottles of water (that you bought at a store OUTSIDE WDW if possible!) the night before you head to the parks to keep cold things cold. As they melt, you have drinking water that's a lot cheaper than what you'll buy in the parks. This is also great if you want to give your baby a little bit of water to drink,too (after her or she is 6 months old) in addition to formula or milk on super hot days (or if you have toddlers). On my most recent trip to WDW (where the babies referred to in this post were toddlers... tackling WDW with toddlers will be another blog post!), I took insulated sippy cups, filled them with ice and poured a little apple juice over that. As the day progressed the water melted and their drink was still nice and cold with a little bit of flavor.
- Bring ziploc bags - both gallon & quart sizes. Quart sizes are great for things I've mentioned above like baby spoons & the disposable nipples for the formula bottles. They're also great for pacifiers, half-eaten suckers (if you have older kids too), cheerios, just about anything you can name! Gallon-size ones are also important for my next subject...
- Pack extra changes of clothes for your baby in a gallon-size ziploc bag (along with extra gallon-size bags inside, too). Diaper leakage accident? Spit-up all over the outfit before you put on a bib? Never fear mom or dad, you came prepared with an extra outfit in a ziploc bag. The reason the ziploc bag is so important is that if the reason why you're having to change your baby is because of a diaper leakage accident, especially if it was of the #2 variety, you will want to be able to put that outfit in a single bag after washing it out and zip that smell away from you! If your baby does tend to spit-up quite a bit you may want to take an extra shirt for you, too. (And don't forget those burp cloths!)
- Onesies are a must! They are typically cooler for the kiddo and you don't have to keep up with a shirt and separate shorts or pants if you have to change their clothes. Not to mention that they are oh-so-easy to unbutton to change that diaper!
- Take antibacterial wipes in a to-go pouch. I personally like these Wet Ones. Not for your baby but for you! I can't tell you how many diapers I changed in a shady part of the park on-the-go instead of in a bathroom. Some people may disagree with me, but especially with wet-only diapers I didn't think it was such a big deal. And by that time I was the fastest diaper-changer this side of the Mississippi. Wet Ones are great to have also if you are sitting down to a eat (especially at a quick-service restaurant) and the table hasn't been cleaned off yet by a cast member. Just wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe, and then I'd take a regular baby-wipe over it too.
- Take a grandparent (or set of grandparents. Or both sets of grandparents!). What grandparent would NOT want to see their grandbaby's first trip to Disney? And they are AWESOME to watch your kiddos while you get in line to ride Space Mountain. And Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. And Splash Mountain. It's a great trade-off... Grandma and Grandpa can ride first while you watch the baby or ride a baby-friendly ride, then you can go ride while Grandma & Grandpa watch the baby. When you do this you can utilize the Rider Switch Pass, which is also great to use if grandma and/or grandpa can't go with you...
- Rider Switch Pass. USE IT. Oh Rider Switch Pass, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.... The way this works is, you choose a ride & tell the cast member at the front of the line that you want a rider switch pass because you have someone too young or too short (or they can even be too scared) to ride the ride. The cast member does have to see everyone in your party including said young/short/scared kiddo. They will give you a piece of paper that says "Rider Switch Pass" on it for that particular ride. You stand in line, ride the ride, then when you get off the ride you give the pass to your significant other or grandparent, whoever was watching the kiddo. They get to go through the fastpass line without waiting in the longer line again. It's a great and beautiful thing.
Images above are of what a Rider Switch Pass looks like as well as some pictures the hubby snapped of me when I was riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain, utilizing the Rider Switch Pass.
- Find out right away where the Baby Care Centers are and use them! Baby Care Centers are magical little places in each and every park that have things like rocking chairs, high chairs, changing tables, microwaves, ovens, sinks, and you can even stock up on diapers, formula, extra changes of clothes, etc. in these places (but you won't need to since you're using all my tips above, right?!?). There are private nursing rooms and a main room with a TV, sofa, table and chairs for the family while mom nurses, or mom or dad takes care of the baby. These are great little jewels that are totally free to use when you are at the parks. Check out the images of two rooms in the Baby Care Center at Disney's Hollywood Studios (courtesy of my friend Rebekah Craig) as well as the current locations of all the Baby Care Centers in the 4 Theme Parks.
- Take advantage of package delivery to your resort and/or package pickup. If you're staying on property at a Walt Disney World® Resort, when you buy merchandise in the parks you can have it delivered directly to your resort so you don't have to lug your packages around all day. It's a complimentary service when staying on-property. If it's your last day or two in the parks, you won't want the packages delivered to your resort though as it can take a day or two. In that case, just have the cast member send your package to the front of the park for you to pick up on the way out.
WHY TAKE A BABY TO DISNEY AND HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER
- Their admission is free! Yes, your child is free if they are under 3 years old.
- You've got older kiddos and they are at the prime age to experience the magic. Don't wait until your youngest is a little older and you've missed the golden age of an older child (typically preschool-elementary age) where they are absolutely 110% into the magic that is Disney... they believe in princesses and want to be one, they want to be like Jack Sparrow on the high seas, they believe that elephants can fly and that they know in their tiny little heart of hearts that magic is real. Don't miss out on capturing those memories just because you have a baby, too.
- There is a ton that babies can see and enjoy at Walt Disney World®! it's a small world, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Walt Disney World Railroad, heck, even the Mad Tea Party and the Haunted Mansion you can all take your baby on (and I did. Every one. And they LOVED it.). Check out the picture below of my babies on some of the attractions and around the world. They were enthralled. Really the list of what they CAN'T see is much shorter than the list of what they CAN experience.
- Sleeping babies make fun and hilarious photo opportunities. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. See my two favorites below.
- If you can swing it, stay in a deluxe resort on the monorail. Remember what I said above about usually being able to roll your baby on and off the monorail or a boat? If you stay at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Polynesian Village Resort, or the Contemporary Resort, you are on the monorail and can utilize that mode of transportation to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It's also super-convenient for one person in your party to go back to the resort mid-day if they want to take a break with the baby, but everyone else wants to stay in the park. Deluxe rooms are bigger than moderate or value rooms also so you aren't tripping over the crib or Pack 'n' Play® in the middle of the night (BOTH of which can be provided to you at no charge when staying at a Disney Resort).
- Even better, if you can stay in a Deluxe Villa Resort on the monorail, you are GOLDEN. Two words, parents: WASHER & DRYER. All one and two-bedroom villas in Deluxe Villa resorts have a washer and dryer in them. Perfect if you don't want to pack baby's entire wardrobe on the trip and you have an accident or two during the day. While there are laundry facilities in the other resorts, nothing beats having one in your room so you can do laundry while baby sleeps or you relax in the room. They also have full kitchens with a microwave, full-size refrigerator, stove, oven and a living area. These villas are great if you are taking extended family or grandma and grandpa are going too (and even better if they'll help you pay for it - nudge nudge, wink wink!). All resorts previously mentioned above have deluxe villas available (at the Contemporary Resort, though, the villas resort is called Bay Lake Tower).
- There are plenty of shady and cool spaces to take a break in the parks. Off the top of my head, I can think of the phone charging station area near Rapunzel's tower in the Magic Kingdom, the Chevrolet car showroom at Test Track in Epcot (yes, I found a corner in there and sat on the floor and fed the boys while my mom and dad rode!), the area around DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom is super shady with benches, and an area right outside The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ exit has some (seemingly) old columns and architecture with vines growing all around it making for some nice shade. These are typically strategically located at entrances/exits to rides so that you can take a break while others ride. And if you're in World Showcase at Epcot, there are lots of areas to stop and take a shady rest near a shop, in or around a restaurant, or while listening to some great music from around the world.
- If possible, stay longer than just a few days so you don't feel rushed. And never ever feel like you have to "do it all." I can't count how many times I've been to Walt Disney World® and I've still not seen it all. Just go in knowing that especially with an infant, you will be a little slower than if it were just you and your significant other, you by yourself, or even you with toddlers, preschoolers or older kids. Take breaks and go back to the room for a nap, or take your time at lunch or dinner while the kiddos sleep. Set that expectation up in your mind before you even go and that way it will make the stay much more enjoyable!
- Try to make earlier dinner reservations at the table service restaurants. You'll be surrounded by other parents with kids who certainly will be more likely to understand if your baby has a meltdown or throws their spoon across the table. They also won't look at you funny when you pick up your child and smell his bottom (all you parents out there know EXACTLY what THIS is about!).
- Take advantage of baby "firsts". Get them a (free!) "my first visit" button and pin it to your backpack, then put it in their baby book when you get home. Take pictures of their little faces experiencing the colors and lights in a nighttime parade, or on it's a small world. Even get their first haircut at Harmony Barbershop on Main Street USA. They may not remember it but you sure will and you'll have awesome pictures for the scrapbook.
- If you think you may want to experience a buffet meal with characters but aren't sure how your baby will react to a giant Mickey Mouse, stick to the Princess buffet meals. The princesses look more like "normal" people so it is less scary for your baby. For little girls this is a no-brainer, but even for little boys, pictures of them with lipstick kisses on their faces are priceless (case in point below).
- (Shameless plug!) Utilize my park plans and tips by booking your trip with me to see more and do more with "downtime" included! I'll include all this and more in my packet to you, and you'll go in armed with a plan on how to make the most of your vacation, stand in less lines, see more attractions and have time to spend relaxing while making memories with your family. For a free, no-obligation quote, just click here.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL
- Make like Elsa and "Let it Go." Remember: you are a parent and they are an infant. Yes, there will be crying. There will be meltdowns. You will be tired in the evening. You will have a diaper blowout (at least one). Remember: IT'S OKAY! It happens to the best of us. And you know what? You won't remember much if any of that. You know what I remember? My Josh's face when we rode the carousel and he felt the horses go up and down. My mom holding Robey on the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge and him grinning as we went under the shadow of the Contemporary Resort (see picture above). The kisses they got from the princesses (also see pictures above). Feeling their tiny little fists pat-pat-pat on the top of my head as they sat on my shoulders and watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
I'm going to end this post with an experience about how the Cast Members at Disney support and understand you bringing your baby to the parks. We'd just finished an excellent meal at Chefs de France and were waiting on our check when the boys became a little fussy. It was about 6:15 p.m. and at the table next to us were some older ladies who had been there about 30 minutes. They made a snide comment to us about how we were "ruining their dinner." I did tell them we had been there a while; we were simply waiting on our check and that then we would be leaving. About that same time the manager came over and asked us how our meal was. My mother told him, "I certainly do hope that we have not bothered anyone too much with our grandsons," and gestured to my babies who were at this point starting to full-out cry. He looked at my mom, and at me, and smiled and said, "We are at Disney World, and we were all babies once." He made me want to cry from relief. Such a nice man telling this stressed-out mama exactly what she needed to hear. Mr. Manager Cast Member at Chefs de France, I will never ever forget you and the gift you gave me that night to remember to live in the moment and savor all the time I get with my children, be it when they are fussy or happy as can be, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. God bless you, and THANK YOU.