Travel with toddlers and preschoolers can be daunting. There’s a lot to consider between naptimes, attention spans, age-appropriate activities, diapers and potty-training, and mealtime challenges. However, the reality is sometimes you just need to get away. Walt Disney World may not be the first vacation destination you think of for children in this age range since it usually means traveling quite a distance, staying for more than a couple of days, and more expense than a local amusement park. That being said, you should give it a second look. There are a lot of reasons why Walt Disney World is the perfect vacation destination for young families. Here are the top ten.
#10: No Ick Factor – In my experience, it’s rare to be out in a very public place and not say, “Ick.” As parents of small children, we spend an inordinate amount of time in public restrooms, wiping down restaurant high chairs and tables, and saying, “Dirty. Don’t touch.” Visitors to Walt Disney World will marvel at its cleanliness, even at the end of a busy day when thousands of people passes through its gates. It’s unusual to see stray garbage on the walkways, restaurant tables and high chairs don’t have that disconcerting sticky feel to them, and restrooms are amazingly clean. Walt Disney World’s cleanliness is one of the reasons we return time and time again.
#9: Family Friendly – “Pooh,” “More!” and “Cool!” are about the extent of the four-letter words you’ll hear at the Walt Disney World Resort. This emphasis on a family-friendly atmosphere makes the Walt Disney World Resort stand out among other theme parks. My husband stopped taking our son to the large, local theme park because he couldn’t stand in a line at the entrance or the refreshment stands without hoping our son didn’t pick up any words that would embarrass mom and dad. In all my visits to Disney World, I can’t remember hearing inappropriate language or conversations.
#8: Miles and Miles of Pathways – If you’ve traveled with a baby or toddler, you’ve probably experienced the challenges of naptime while on vacation. My kids, who are consistent sleepers at home, just won’t take afternoon nap in the hotel room – being in a new place is much too exciting for them to settle down. The most effective way to get them the sleep they need is to walk with them in the stroller; they can’t fight the gentle, soothing motion and before we know it, they’ve dozed off. Traditional hotels with their very limited grounds or locations on major roadways make pushing a stroller either very boring or very dangerous. The theme parks have plenty of quiet places to explore with a cool beverage while the kids drift off to dreamland. If we’re at one of the resorts, its sprawling grounds and gorgeous landscaping make a couple of hours pushing the stroller relaxing and enjoyable.
#7: Baby Care Centers – The Baby Care Centers in the Disney World theme park have everything needed to make visiting with little ones easier and more convenient. Need a quiet place to feed infants, complete with rocking chairs and high chairs? There’s a place for that. Did the baby drop his pacifier and you need to replace it? There’s a place for that. Is your little princess potty-training and does she need a smaller toilet to feel comfortable? There’s a place for that. It’s called the Baby Care Center.
#6: No Whining with your Dining – Dine with princesses, eat under the stars at a drive-in theater, or enjoy a vegan and gluten-free treat at Walt Disney World. There is no shortage of unique and immersive dining experiences that are sure to keep your kids entertained. As a parent, I love that there is a focus on delicious but healthy eating at Disney World. Fruit, vegetables, water, and milk are offered as healthy alternatives to fries and soda at dining venues. Disney World also places special emphasis on accommodating family members with food allergies or dietary restrictions. By contacting the special diets department (SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com) at Walt Disney World, guests are able to work with Cast Members to ensure they can safely dine while at Disney property.
#5: Kids Under Three Eat and Ride Free – What’s better than free? Between travel expenses to get to Orlando, lodging, tickets, food, and souvenirs, you can run up your credit card balance pretty quickly while on vacation. Park entry as well as buffets and family-style restaurants are free for children under the age of three. The best part is that many of the character meals such as Chef Mickey, Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends, and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, are buffet or family-style experiences. This means your toddler can meet their favorite Disney friend for free.
#4: Attractions for the Whole Family – Many amusement parks are oriented either to adults or to children. For those that accommodate both, the park usually features thrill rides with a smaller area with kid-sized attractions. Walt Disney World bridges the divide with many attractions that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Like many Disney films, there are layers of humor and attraction detail. Children may focus on one aspect while older guests enjoy the attraction in a different, more adult way. Some of my favorites are Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Jedi Training Academy, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Living with the Land.
#3: Multi-Day Destination – A weeklong beach vacation can be difficult if the kids tire of the sand and surf. Having built-in entertainment is definitely a plus with small children who often have short attention spans. Families can easily spend a week at Disney World without running out of things to see and do. Within the parks themselves, there are rides, theater attractions, and playgrounds where little ones can let off some steam. Outside of the parks, families can do a little shopping at Downtown Disney, play a round of miniature golf, or watch an outdoor movie at Fort Wilderness.
#2: Service with a Smile – Cast Members are Walt Disney World are truly a cut above and take great pride in making guests’ vacations magical; there are no ambivalent cast members here. You’ll always be greeted with a friendly smile and are never made to feel you are “bothering” the cast member with your question or request. Oftentimes, the Disney difference is a small but noticeable gesture that improves your vacation. I still remember the young Cast Member who saw us looking at our park map and approached us asking how he could help us find what we were looking for.
and the number one reason is…
#1: Kids Believe – Small children unconditionally believe in the magic without hesitation or doubt. The looks of pure delight on their faces as their favorite Disney character or princess comes to life makes the Walt Disney World Resort THE perfect vacation destination for young families.
Big thanks to Lisa Battista for writing this special Disney Top 10 article, she is an expert on kids and Disney! Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. You can connect with her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.