It happens more often than you might think: A family plans a Disney vacation a year or more in advance. Deposits are paid. Itineraries are poured over. The kids are excited. And then, right in the middle of planning, they find out they’re expecting another child. Do they cancel their vacation or do they keep on planning? While your first thought might be to cancel and reschedule a year or two later, the fact is that taking an infant to Disney World is actually quite easy. Sure, you’ll have to do a little extra planning, but taking a member of the under-one crowd is actually easier than taking a rambunctious toddler who wants to run everywhere.
Probably the biggest decision you’ll make when travelling with an infant will be your sleeping arrangements. My thoughts? Get all the space you can afford. Even babies who normally sleep through the night may change their sleep patterns in an unfamiliar place. If it’s just you and your partner, it’s not that big of an issue; you’re probably not getting much sleep anyway. But if there are other children in the room or if you are travelling with extended family, you’re going to want some space so that those who aren’t getting up at night with the baby can actually sleep. I usually prefer to stay on site, but you pay a premium for extra space on Disney property. This is when an off site rental home or condo with a full kitchen and several bedrooms can be a great idea.
By the time your baby was just a few weeks old, you probably discovered that babies don’t travel light: You need diapers, wipes, food, and an extra change of clothes just to drive to the grocery store. Babies simply don’t vacation without a lot of “stuff.” The great thing about Orlando is that it’s super kid friendly, so you’ll find everything you need fairly easily, if not cheaply. Most hotels provide cribs free of charge. Disney provides Pack N Plays at all resorts. They also have a limited number of cribs at some resorts. Both Pack N Plays and cribs at Disney resorts are sturdy and in good condition. Most rental homes will have a crib and a highchair for you to use, although it’s a good idea to check in advance, particularly if you’re renting from an individual owner rather than a rental agency. If you need to rent a crib or other baby gear, I’ve had good luck with Orlando Crib Rentals. I’ve also heard good things about Orlando Stroller Rentals (strollers only) and A Baby’s Best Friend. All three are locally-owned companies with excellent reputations in the area. Most stroller/crib rental companies have a three-day/$50 minimum and a 10-day cancellation policy. All deliver to your resort, free of charge. Try to make your reservation at least two weeks in advance.
Fortunately, you don’t have to drag all of your baby’s supplies with you on the plane. If you have a rental car, the nearest Super Target from Disney property is at 3200 Rolling Oaks Boulevard, just off I-192/Irlo Bronson Highway. If you don’t have a car or prefer not to drive, you can have diapers and other supplies delivered right to your resort from companies like Babies Travel Lite and Jet Set Babies. Both offer convenient travel packages or you can customize based on your needs, but you’ll pay a premium for this service. You an also order baby supplies from Garden Grocer, a company I’ve mentioned previously on this site. I’ve used with them several times and think very highly of them.
As for getting around on property, I always take my own stroller, even if I’m flying. It makes getting through the airport and from the parks to the parking lot easier. It’s also cheaper. By the time you pay for a week’s rental, either through Disney or an off site company, you’ve likely exceeded the cost of an inexpensive stroller. You can rent strollers in all four parks for around $15 a day for a single stroller, but I don’t recommend them for infants. They are too large for babies and are made of uncomfortable hard plastic. You might want to consider bringing a lightweight sling or baby carrier that you can store in the stroller basket. Not only will your baby appreciate having a different view and being close to you, but you can carry her more easily while waiting in line. I even kept my Bjorn on during rides like It’s a Small World. Since it’s often hot in Orlando, consider choosing a carrier made for use during hot weather. Maya Wrap makes a sling for hotter climates or if you want your hands free, Baby Bjorn makes a mesh carrier.
Probably one of the most difficult problems you’ll encounter is getting on and off buses and trams. You’ll need to remove your child from her stroller and fold the stroller to use the trams, buses and the resort launches. Disney drivers will wait for you to do this, but it’s a good idea to have a system down so you don’t hold up your fellow passengers too much. You can keep baby in the stroller on the ferry, the monorail, and Friend Ships between Epcot and Hollywood studios. Having your own car can alleviate some of the stress you might encounter trying to drag a stroller on buses, but it’s not necessary by any means. If you’re really worried about getting around, consider staying at a monorail resort which gives you easy access to the Magic Kingdom or at one of the Epcot resorts, which will allow you to use the Friend Ships or walk to Epcot. Be forewarned: These resorts are pricey.
Practicalities aside, how do you tour a Disney park with an infant? Well, it’s different. Forget the complete commando Disney experience: You’ll only frustrate yourself trying to keep the pace you normally would. Slowing down a bit can have it’s advantages as you’ll see and experience things you might normally miss. This may be trip where you find a quiet spot and perfect the art of people watching, a thoroughly enjoyable activity in the World.
Obviously, infants are limited as to what they can enjoy in the parks. Even attractions that don’t have a height restriction can be inappropriate for infants, such as the Haunted Mansion. Nonethesless, all parks have several attractions most babies will find enjoyable. In the Magic Kingdom, Winnie the Pooh and It’s a Small World are huge hits. In Epcot, there are several slow rides that infants tend to enjoy, including the ever popular Living Seas with Nemo. Hollywood Studios has great shows and I’ve seen many infants strapped into a baby carrier or sling on on Toy Story Midway Mania. Keep in mind that strollers are not allowed in line without at Guest Assistance Card (for children and adults with disabilities) so you’ll need to park it in one of the many stroller parking areas you see around the parks.
You may want to avoid especially loud shows like Mickey’s Philharmagic. While there’s nothing scary in this attraction, it’s loud and can alarm even older children. On the other hand, some rides that normally frighten toddlers are just amusing to babies who haven’t yet figured out that the scary old witch glaring at them is supposed to frighten them. Let your baby’s personality be your guide in iffy situations like this. Some seemingly innocuous rides are actually quite frightening for young children (i.e., Stitch’s Greatest Escape) so if you’re in doubt, ask a Cast Member. Don’t forget that you can trade off baby watching duties with members of your party and still ride the attractions you’re interested in by using the “baby swap,” which essentially allows members of switch off parenting duties while the other rides without having to wait in line twice Mouse Planet has a great article that describes, by attraction, how it works.
What to pack for a day at the parks? Well, first of all, if you forget everything (which you won’t), you can buy supplies at the Babycare Centers located in each park. You’ll pay slightly more than you’d pay outside the park and the selection is more limited (diaper sizes in particular), but should you forget some indespensible item, you can usually find it there. If you’re not nursing, bring formula, a few bottles and some bottled water (although the water from the drinking fountains is just fine) and, if your baby is at that stage, food. Sunblock for older babies is a must, as is several changes of clothing, diapers and lots and lots of wipes. Even if you normally don’t use a stroller, consider using one in the parks. I prefer not to carry a diaper bag in the parks. It just gets in the way. Instead, I store the bulk of what I bring in the basket under the stroller. Remember not to leave valuables in your stroller and if you’re worried about stroller theft (exceedingly rare, but it happens), invest in a stroller lock.
It can be difficult to find quiet places for baby to nap and nurse in the parks. In the Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Carousel of Progress are practically famous among nursing mothers as quiet, discreet places for baby to nurse. The walkway that goes from Toon Town around the back of Tomorrowland has benches and is often deserted. Animal Kingdom has some lovely, quiet areas. And Epcot, which is so large that it rarely seems crowded, has lots of benches around the World Showcase Lagoon where you can sit and relax. On our last trip, my twins slept on the Friend Ship from Epcot to Hollywood Studios and there’s no denying that the monorail between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom is a great place for a quick nap.
One final thing. You’re going to love the babycare centers. They’re clean, comfortable and quiet and the Cast Members are great. You can change your baby, allow them to safely crawl around and stretch their legs, nurse, and eat.