Disney World with 2, 3, and 4 Year Olds: Rides, Best Park, and Tips

Disney World with 2, 3, and 4 Year Olds: Rides, Best Park, and Tips

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I will always have special memories of our very first Disney World vacation as a family.

My girls were ages 2 and 4, and my son didn’t exist yet. It was my parents idea, and the six of us all went down and stayed together. (Before they invited us, I assumed we would wait a few years before going to Disney. I’m glad now that we didn’t wait.)

Even though we only went to two of the four parks, even though we didn’t have a single character meal … that trip was wonderful because the girls were excited about everything.

So if you’re getting ready for a Disney trip with little ones, you are in for a real treat.

And now I’m going to indulge in some nostalgia while I try to cover everything you need to know about taking toddler and preschool-age kids to Disney World — the questions I had, the things, we did right, and the things I would do differently.

 

Preparing for Your Kids’ First Disney World Trip

I’ve always thought a big part of the fun of going to Disney was the weeks leading up to it.

I remember playing “go to Disney World” with the girls pretty much every day. We pretended the couch was the car and we “drove” there, and immediately upon arrival ran up to hug Winnie the Pooh (ah, if only it were that easy.)

Then they would “ride” various rides, including going down the slide on our backyard swing set, pretending it was Splash Mountain.

We also enjoyed snuggling up in bed together in the evenings and reading a section from this book, which gave us a general idea of what was where and got all of us excited for the trip.

Best Seller
Walt Disney World Guide Book
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Tons of detailed advice — and entertaining too!

 

Other ways of building excitement (for yourself as well as the kids) include making or buying a Disney countdown calendar, watching your favorite Disney movies, or playing Disney games together as a family.

Candy Land Disney Princess Edition Board GameCandy Land Disney Princess Edition Board GameCandy Land Disney Princess Edition Board GameMickey Mouse Matching Game for Boys & Girls Age 3 to 5 - A Fun & FastMickey Mouse Matching Game for Boys & Girls Age 3 to 5 – A Fun & FastMickey Mouse Matching Game for Boys & Girls Age 3 to 5 - A Fun & Fast

 

 

Best Disney Souvenirs for Toddlers

Some people love buying their kids’ souvenirs before they head to Disney, for two main reasons:

  1. It saves money
  2. It saves time

Some [very organized] parents even have a strategy planned, setting up a surprise stuffed animal on their child’s bed each night, or having a pre-wrapped gift for each day of their vacation.

Well … I’ve never done that.

Why?

  1. We don’t buy enough souvenirs for money to be a big issue
  2. For us, shopping at Disney is fun, not something to be avoided
  3. If you don’t buy it during your vacation, it’s not really a souvenir. It’s just “some Disney stuff we bought.”

Whether you want to get your souvenirs before or during your trip (or some combination of both), here are some ideas for what to get your toddler:

1. Mouse Ears

mouse ears souvenir for kids at Disney World
Winnie the Pooh photobombing Rebecca

Mouse ears are so fun, and these days there are sooo many kinds to choose from that it’s ridiculous. You could easily wear a different pair for each day of your vacation, assuming you don’t mind shelling out the money.

One extra nice thing about mouse ears is that you can get the “baseball cap version,” which also serves as a way to keep the sun off your child’s face.

 

2. Stuffed Animals

Stuffed Minnie Mouse souvenir for toddlers and preschoolers
Rebecca’s this pillow pet souvenir

What toddler doesn’t love their soft, stuffed friends? Like mouse ears, there are endless choices or characters and sizes to choose from.

 

3. Play Sets

A trip to Disney World is never complete for Rob and Benjamin without a trip to the Lego Store in Disney Springs — even though Benjamin is now 12.

As a parent, I love play sets because you can do so many things with them. You build with them. You tell stories with them. You can mix and match and join together multiple sets. You can play by yourself, or with a friend or sibling.

I think an activity souvenir is a much better choice that something like a balloon (which, you’ll notice, is not on this list), because it lasts and can be used long after the trip is over.

Amazon’s Choice
Mickey and Minnie Lego Duplo Playset for Toddlers
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Minnie’s pink skirt is made of cloth and can be taken off and used on other small toys!

 

4. Autograph Books (and Pen)

This doesn’t have to mean a literal book. Some people have characters sign their baseball cap or tote bag.

It also doesn’t have to be something that you buy. If you plan ahead and like to be creative (and have some scrapbooking stuff buried in the back of your closet, like I do), you and your kids can make a great-looking customized book.

Video — DIY Autograph Book for Disney World

I have seen many moms rave about using this book for character meet and greets. Since the book contains drawings and fun facts about the characters, it gives them something to look at together and talk about, instead of the character just signing their name.

Best Seller
Book of Disney characters
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A good way to get character autographs AND get a conversation going!

If you’re going to ask Disney characters to sign their name, make sure that you get a pen like this that is both:

  • Big
  • Retractable

 

 

The Best Disney Parks for Toddlers

This is one of the most common questions people tend to ask, especially if they’re only able to go to the parks for a couple days.

Unfortunately, we totally messed this one up on our first trip.

My NASA-loving husband was dying to ride Mission:Space at Epcot, and since we didn’t spring for the Park Hopper tickets, we were stuck there for the rest of the day.

And in my opinion, Epcot wasn’t the best park for an entire day with a 2 and 4 year old. (I say “wasnt” because I think this was more true back in 2005 than it is in 2020 — meaning that Epcot seems more toddler-friendly now.)


Note: Personally, I still wouldn’t recommend getting the Park Hopper tickets when your kids are that little, especially if you’re concerned about saving money. Just make better decisions than we did about which parks to go to!

 

Best Park for Toddlers: Magic Kingdom

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Brett from Disney Photo Snapper

In my opinion — and most people would probably agree — the Magic Kingdom is by far the best park for a toddler.

They have a ton of rides perfectly suited for little kids, plus the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, which features characters like

  • Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a hot air balloon
  • Merida
  • Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook
  • Rapunzel and Flynn Rider
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

 

I would even argue that if you’re having only 2 days at the parks, it might be best to make an itinerary where you go to the Magic Kingdom twice rather than go to 2 different parks. Just something to think about.

Here are some of the best Magic Kingdom attractions for toddlers:

Fantasyland:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven DwarfsMine Train in the Magic Kingdom
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Photo courtesy of Brett at Disney Photo Snapper

This is a great ride with a somewhat interactive queue. There is a 3 foot, 2 inch height requirement, so some toddlers won’t be tall enough. Others will be, but the ride will be too intense for them. (It is a roller coaster, even though it’s a tame one.)

If you do ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you definitely want to get a Fastpass for this one OR hit it the second the park opens.

Peter Pan’s Flight
This was officially Rachael’s favorite ride after our first trip, when she was 4 years old. To this day, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is one of her favorite books.

The lines for this one are almost ridiculously long (although I think the queue is a really good one), so definitely get a Fastpass for it, or plan to hit it at rope drop.

 

It’s a Small World

Its a Small World ride for toddlers Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Judd at WDWOW

People love to hate on this ride for some reason, but it’s classic Disney and your toddler will almost certainly love it.

It features over 300 audio-animatronic children in traditional costumes from cultures around the world singing the theme song (which, according to
Wiki, is the most publicly performed song of all time.

 

Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid

Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Brett at Pics from the World of Disney

 

This is a slow indoor ride on a clamshell while animatronics and video effects tell the story of Ariel and her friends.

There isn’t usually a long line for this one, but it’s definitely one of the best Disney queues, as you pass under waterfalls and go through rocky coves as you enter Prince Eric’s castle.

 

The Barnstormer

Barnstormer ride for toddlers at Disney World
Photo courtesy of Brett at Disney Photo Snapper

 

The Barnstormer is a 53-second ride introducing toddlers and preschoolers to roller coasters, and it does a good job of it.

Of the 53 seconds the ride is in motion, 32 seconds are consumed in leaving the loading area, being ratcheted up the first hill, and braking into the off-loading area. The actual time you spend careering around the track: 21 seconds.

The only time I’ve ever ridden it was on our first trip when my girls were 2 and 4. One girl loved it and the other didn’t because it “made her butt jiggle.”

One thing worth noting, if you have two little kids like I did: Each ride cars holds only two people, and every child under 7 must be accompanied by an adult. So you either have to have an adult for each kid, or one adult has to ride it twice.

 

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle at Disney World
Photo courtesy of Laurie at Pics from the World of Disney

 

Unfortunately, this attraction didn’t exist until after my kids had outgrown it — which is too bad, because my girls probably would have loved it.

It’s a 20-minute, live interactive show where Belle re-tells the story of Beauty and the Beast and encourages children to play the different parts. At the end, children who had a role in the show get a chance to have their picture taken with Belle.

 

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Magic Kingdom Carousel
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Laurie at Pics from the the World of Disney

This is another underrated ride, I think. Sure, a carrousel may not be unique in itself, but this is one of the most beautiful and intricate ones you’ll ever ride. It’s particular gorgeous at night when the lights are turned on.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
I love anything involving Winnie the Pooh, and this ride is no exception. Just a heads up: when Rebecca was 2 years old, the heffalump section frightened her a little.

Walt Disney World Railroad
This ride is great if:

  1. You have a kid who loves trains
  2. The idea of traveling through the park without walking appeals to you

We usually get on the train at the Main Street station right at the entrance of the park and then get off at either Frontierland or Fantasyland.

You can also choose to take a 20-minute scenic tour around the entire park, although we have never done that.

 

Mad Tea Party

Mad Tea Party at Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Judd at WDWOW

 

As you can see from the cool photo above, this is a spinning ride, so some people (like my two daughters) will have a high tolerance for it, and other people (like my husband) will definitely not.

There is a FastPass option, but it’s probably the worst use of FastPass in all of Disney World. There is hardly any wait at all; in fact, we usually just walk right up to it.

If you’re an Alice in Wonderland fan, like me, there are scheduled times when you can meet Alice and the Mad Hatter near this ride.

 

Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Boy, did we get gypped. Back when my girls were little, this ride only had one carousel, and the line had no shade and nothing to do, so you had to endure the heat while desperately trying to keep your kids entertained during the long wait.

Now, instead of having to wait in line, you get a pager and your kids can play in the Storybook Circus indoor play area until it’s your turn. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of kids like the play area better than the ride itself.

 

Little Kids with Dumbo at Walt Disney World

 

Adventureland

Jungle Cruise
This is a simulation of a riverboat cruise traveling down the major rivers of Asia, Africa and South America and passing audio-animatronic jungle animals. The tour is led by a Cast Member who gives a semi-improv narrative full of corny jokes. There’s a decent chance they’ll led your kid come up the front and steer for a couple minutes.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Brett at Disney Photo Snapper

 

According to Wiki, Pirates of the Caribbean was originally envisioned as a walk-through wax museum attraction, but it was changed to a boat ride concept after the success of It’s a Small World at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

It sounds like it could be a scary ride, but it’s rarely a problem for little ones. There is a very very very small drop in the dark at the beginning (you won’t get wet), so you might want to consider warning your kids if you think they’ll panic.

 

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
My daughter Rebecca commented on our last trip that this was one of the most underrated rides in the park. I like it because I always get a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle when I’m finished.

 

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
I still think of this as the “WEDWay People Mover,” because

  1. I’m old enough to remember it by that name
  2. It’s a lot easier to say

Tomorrowland transit authority people mover in Magic Kingdom

 

This is a slow-moving, air-conditioned tour of Tomorrowland, including the inside of Space Mountain.

It may not be the most exciting ride in the world (although it definitely has a cult following). However, it’s perfect for a toddler (or the parents of one) who is hot, tired, or over-stimulated.

If you want to make this ride a little exciting, consider riding it at night.

 

Tomorrowland Speedway

Tomorrowland Speedway in Disneys Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Laurie at Pics from the World of Disney

 

My son Benjamin, who was all about cars when he was little, loved this one on his first trip to Disney when he was 3 years old.

If your child is too short to drive, he can still steer the car while you sit next to him and work the foot pedal. The cars travel at 7 mph and travel on a guard rail, so no skill is required.

 

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
This is a combination of a dark ride and a shooting gallery. Sure, it isn’t as impressive as Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, but your 2 or 3 year old isn going to love it.

 

 

Second Best Park for Toddlers — Animal Kingdom

Characters at Disneys Animal Kingdom park
Animal Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Laurie at Pics from the World of Disney

 

Our family is pretty biased toward Animal Kingdom in general.

  1. The Tusker House character breakfast is amazing
  2. We love having lunch at Flame Tree BBQ
  3. It’s shady
  4. It’s more peaceful and more “real” than the other parks

Another nice thing about Animal Kingdom is that you can get to meet some of the slightly more obscure Disney characters, like:

  • Pocahontas and Meeko
  • Scrooge McDuck
  • Koda from Brother Bear
  • Russell, Dug, and Kevin (from Up)
  • Timon and Rafiki
Meeting Timon at Walt Disney World
Me happy to meet Timon at Animal Kingdom

 

Here are some attractions in Animal Kingdom that are good for toddlers:

Kilimanjaro Safaris
This ride simulates an open-sided safari ride through the savanna of East Africa. Unlike the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom, the animals are real, not audio-animatronic.

You’ll see zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, rhinos, and lions just roaming about, which is pretty fascinating, and never exactly the same “ride” twice. If your kid loves animals, this one is a no-brainer.

Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom

 

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
(Formerly called Pangani Forest Exploration Trail)

This is an easy attraction to dismiss, assuming you’re even aware of it in the first place. But I would definitely recommend you take the 20 minutes or so to go through it when you exit Kilimanjaro Safari. It’s a nice change of pace from standing in line and being on rides. You’ll see animals like zebras, meerkats, and African birds. At the end of the trail is a gorilla exhibit.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Gorilla with her baby

 

Wilderness Explorers
This is a scavenger hunt where players earn “badges” (stickers) from Cast Members for completing certain activities throughout the park. (This Disney tie-in is that it’s based on Russell’s troop from the movie Up.)

It’s intended more for ages 8-13, but Cast Members are apparently trained to modify the activities for different ages.

To play, you register near the bridge from The Oasis to Discovery Island, where you’ll be given an instruction book and a map showing where the different badge activities are.

 

Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Touring Plans says, “Rafiki’s Planet Watch isn’t really a “land” and not really an attraction either. Our best guess is that Disney is using the name as an umbrella for Conservation Station, the petting zoo, and the environmental exhibits accessible from Harambe via the Wildlife Express Train from Africa.

We only visited Rafiki’s Planet Watch once, when Benjamin was 3. He loved the train ride, and all of enjoyed being somewhere that was a little educational and (at the time) not crowded.

Train Ride in Disneys Animal Kingdom
It’s obvious which kid is most excited about the train ride

 

Dinoland USA
I really can’t stand Dinoland USA (except for the ride Dinosaur, which I love).

It’s garish, hot, and looks like a state fair as opposed to a Disney park. Plus the rides aren’t much to get excited about. Triceratops Spin is bland and unoriginal, and Primeval Whirl has a height requirement of 4 feet (plus an unofficial requirement that you have a good chiropractor waiting for you when you get back home).

Still, your kids will probably like Triceratops Spin and playing in The Boneyard, so I need to mention it here.

Na’Vi River Journey
Toddlers can certainly ride this attraction in World of Pandora, but I wouldn’t recommend knocking yourself out to do it. My family found it pretty, but underwhelming. We were there in late September, one of the lowest-crowd times, and the wait time without a Fastpass (which we had) was 120 minutes. Definitely not worth it.

Festival of the Lion King

Disney World Festival of the Lion King
Photo courtesy of Judd at WDWOW

 

A stage show that involves singing, dancing, acrobatics, and fire twirling. I’ve never seen it (my kids were always more interested in rides than shows), but I’ve heard great things about it.

 

Finding Nemo: The Musical

An elaborate 40-minute live show involving original songs, dancing, special effects, puppetry, and digital backdrops of the undersea world. It’s often I’ve heard it described as a mini Broadway show.

 

How to Prevent Toddlers from Getting Lost at Disney

Disney cast members recommend that you take a photo of each child before arriving at the park that morning so that it will be much easier to look for them if they do happen to get lost.

Something like these waterproof travel ID bracelets can give you peace of mind.

Amazon reviewer Payne725 describes them as “perfect for airport travel and Disney”:

Used these on our 3 kids at Disney Land for a week.

We put them on when we left for the airport and took them off mid trip to replace with a fresh set– lots of bubble bath, sunscreen, and pool time left them looking dingy (but still totally functional!) we changed them out so they looked a little more presentable for dinner out with family!)

Overall, amazing product if you use a fine tip sharpie (no smudging at all if you let it dry). We will be buying more for future travel!

 

Amazon’s Choice
travel ID bands for kids
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The outside of the band says “If I’m lost, please look inside” in both English and Spanish

 

When you arrive at the park in the morning, point out to your kids that the cast members all wear white name tags, and tell them more than once that if anyone in the family gets lost or separated, they should immediately find the nearest cast member and ask for help.

It’s also a good idea to tell your kids that they might have to go to the nearest ride, restaurant, or store to find a cast member so they aren’t aimlessly wandering through the crowds and getting more scared.

If you’re into this, especially if you have a big family, you can get some really cute matching family vacation shirts to help keep everybody together and make them easier to find.

 

best stroller for 4 year old at Disney World
4 year old Rachael enjoying a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar in her stroller

Toddlers and Strollers at Disney

Some people have strong differing opinions (and sometimes heated discussions) about whether kids should be using a stroller at Disney World and at what age they should stop.

Interestingly, I heard that there are WAY less strollers at Tokyo Disney that at Disney World in Florida, suggesting that we Americans expect our kids to be less capable of walking than they actually are.

Personally, I would recommend a stroller for each child five years old and under.

Why?

Magic Kingdom is 105 acres, and Epcot is 300 acres. I do not want to discover what will happen when I tell an exhausted four year old who is on the brink of tears that we have to trek through the blazing Florida heat for another fifteen minutes just to get back to the park’s entrance.

Other than their obvious purpose, strollers are also a convenient way to store the things you need to bring into the parks, like snacks, water bottles, diaper bags, etc.

We’ve never used the Disney strollers, because they’re:
personally don’t recommend the Disney rental strollers, because they

  • Fairly expensive
  • Bulky
  • Made of hard plastic, which looks uncomfortable.

We just brought cheap umbrella strollers with no frills, which worked pretty well. I would recommend making sure it at least has a canopy and a basket, especially if you have one or more kids still in diapers.

The Summer 3Dlite Convenience Stroller pictured below isn’t cheap, but it’s a sturdy, lightweight umbrella stroller with lots of extras, if you think the investment is worth it.

Some of its features include:

  • 4-position recline, making it super-easy for your child to be comfortable, at any age
  • Extra-large storage basket, rear storage pocket, and cup holder
  • Easy compact fold with carry strap and auto lock
  • Adjustable and removable canopy with flip out sun visor

 

Amazon’s Choice
umbrella stroller canopy and basket
Check Price on Amazon
The canopy is both adjustable and removable — plus this stroller has a cup holder!

 

Amazon reviewer Pri calls this stroller “sturdy and convenient” and describes why it’s better than cheaper umbrella strollers:

I recommend this one over the cheap umbrella strollers for the following reasons:

1. Sturdiness: my Cosco stroller was flimsy and lasted me less than a month of ocassional use. The fabric began tearing from the sides and one of the legs of the strollers actually became bent upon hitting something. This stroller seems far sturdier in both its frame as well as seat fabric.

2. While the cheap umbrella strollers only offer a certain degree of comfort to your baby, the seat on this one reclines to a sleeping position and seems comfier for longer trips.

3. This one has a small storage bin under it, a cup holder, and a little flap behind the canopy where you can store things like your phone or keys which the small cheap ones don’t. The sun visor is also considerably bigger than what you’d get in the smaller ones.

4. The cheap strollers don’t roll very well since the wheels on them are pretty tiny, and the handles are rather low making them hard for taller parents to maneuver. I am 5’3″ and had trouble with the height of the Cosco. The handlebars on this one are well-suited for taller parents.

5. This one has a very handy mechanism for collapsing and unfolding. It’s very doable with one hand and auto locks. The cheap ones don’t usually auto lock and my Cosco actually required a bit more physical effort to collapse.

One caveat and the reason I took off one star is that the stroller is still quite low to the ground and my 30″ tall 15 month old’s feet are already touching the footrest, so I can see a child who is much taller (maybe 2 years old) having some issues with their knees being bent. Because of this I don’t know how long it will last for us.

 

Click here to see a photo of what this stroller looks like when folded up.

 

When choosing a stroller, make sure that it folds easily. And as funny as this may sound, practice folding it a few times before your trip. You don’t want to be struggling with your stroller, along with a cranky toddler and/or spouse, while you’re trying to board the monorail or Disney buses at the end of the day and there’s an impatient line of people behind you.

 

If you’re going to Disney World during the rainy season (from June through September), you might want to invest in a rain cover for your stroller.

Best Seller
Stroller Rain Cover
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This rain cover has air holes and a waterproof zipper

Amazon reviewer B says the above this cover for more than just rain:

LOVED this! We ordered it for our trip to Disney World because there was rain in the forecast. A few days of our trip were extremely cold and windy and we used this to trap the baby’s heat and block the wind and it worked perfectly! We ended up not needing it for rain, but I’ve used it many times now for cold and wind protection! Worth every penny.

Also, it came with a mosquito net, which I didn’t realize when I ordered it, so it was a nice bonus!

Click here to see a photo of a happy family staying dry at the Disney parks with this cover.

 

 

Disney World Baby Care Centers

I am eternally grateful to my daughter Rebecca, as she was fully toilet training before our first trip to Disney World when she was two and a half.

Other parents, however, may not be so lucky, or maybe be traveling with children even younger. Fortunately for them, there is a Baby Care Center located inside each of Disney’s four parks.

 

Baby Care Center Locations

Magic Kingdom — At the end of Main Street between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace.

Epcot — The long brown Odyssey building heading to the Mexico Pavilion.

Animal Kingdom — Next to Pizzafari in Discovery Island.

Hollywood Studios — Immediately inside the front entrance, in the same building as Guest Relations

The Baby Care Centers have not only padded changing tables, but also a private nursing rooms complete with rocking chairs.

The kitchenette has a microwave, bottle warmer, sterilizer, and purified water, as well as a feeding area with high chairs.

There is also a kids’ play area so that your older kids have something fun to do while you change a diaper or nurse the baby. It has a TV, books and toys. One really cool thing is that the bathrooms are equipped with snap-on toddler potty seats,

There is also a small convenience-type store set up that sells diapers and wipes, baby food and formula, toddler snacks and juice, and even things like sunscreen, feminine products, cough drops, and hand sanitizer.

 

Video — Walt Disney World Baby Care Centers

 

Disney World Baby Swap

Baby Swap is also known as “Rider Switch” or “Child Swap,” but I think “Baby Swap” is more fun to say.

This is a free service for rides that you and your spouse want to ride, but that your child can’t ride — either because they don’t meet the height requirements and/or because they’re too scared.

The best way to explain it is with an example.

Example: You, your spouse, and your 9 nine year old all want to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, but your 3 year old is with you and obviously can’t ride it.

What do you do?

Go to Avatar Flight of Passage and ask the cast member at the entrance of the line for a Rider Switch Pass. (Note that you do NOT need a FastPass to do this.)

Your spouse and your 9 year old ride Flight of Passage while you and your 3 year old grab a Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse at Satu’li Canteen.

Then, when your spouse and 9 year old get back from the ride, you get to enter the FastPass line and ride Flight of Passage along with your 9 year old.

Do you notice who really wins out here?

The 9 year old!

Just another example of how life is good to the first-born.

It’s a smart idea to do “practice runs” of the Rider Swap/Baby Swap process when you’re at home so that your toddler understands how it works and doesn’t get confused or scared, thinking they’ll be left behind. Little kids love acting out stuff like that anyway. If your kids are like my girls, they’ll want to practice it many more times than you actually care to.

Along those lines, before you go on your trip, measure your kids’ height, and let them know what they can or cannot ride so there’s no disappointment at the last minute when they discover they’re not allowed on something they were looking forward to.

 

What to Pack for Disney World with Toddlers

For a more comprehensive list of what to bring into the parks with you, check out my post on The Best Disney Park Bags and What to Put in Them.

Right now I’m just going to focus on some items that are unique to having toddlers with you.

1. Toddler Leash
Years ago, before I even had children, a co-worker of mine who was a grandmother said, “I used to think people who used toddler leashes were horrible parents … until I had my third child.”

Hey, if you think your child is gonna be safer with a “leash” (or perhaps we should just call it a “safety wrist link,” then you go for it. If you haven’t already gotten used to people making horribel judgements of your parenting style, now is as good a time as any to get started.

I like how the leash below attaches at the wrist, instead of having a cumbersome harness. It got very good reviews on Amazon.

Amazon’s Choice
toddler leash
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Areally good alternative to standard reins and backpack reins.

 

2. Bibs
Kids get messy pretty much any time they eat, and the last thing you want to do is have to worry about changing clothes every time they eat a Mickey ice cream bar.

This particular bib is very clever for several reasons. One, it has a built-in pocket to catch food. Two, you can clean it just by rinsing it off, as opposed to having to throw it in with the laundry. Three, the beaded neckline makes it difficult for a kid to yank the bib off and throw it across the table.

Baby Bjorn Soft Bib
Baby Bjorn Soft Bib

3. Rash Guards (aka swim shirts)

These are so much more effective that trying to get sunscreen on every spot on the neck, shoulders, and back, invariably missing a spot, and then having it wash off in the pool anyway.

Rash Guard Set Little MermaidRash Guard Set Little MermaidRash Guard Set Little MermaidStar Wars: The Force Awakens Rash Guard for BoysStar Wars: The Force Awakens Rash Guard for BoysStar Wars: The Force Awakens Rash Guard for BoysGirls' Minnie Mouse Rash Guard Swim SuitGirls’ Minnie Mouse Rash Guard Swim SuitGirls' Minnie Mouse Rash Guard Swim SuitLightning McQueen Rash GuardLightning McQueen Rash GuardLightning McQueen Rash Guard

 

4. Swimmies

There are life jackets at the pools, but you might want to bring a pair of something like this as well:

Finding Dory Swimmies
Finding Dory Swimmies

5. Sunhats

This is really important, and just the kind of thing I tended to forget when my kids were little. Our first Disney trip was with my parents, who promptly bought both girls Mickey Mouse hats almost the second we entered the park because I was too dense to realize they needed something to keep the sun off their faces.

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6. Wet Wipes
Bring about a zillion of these, especially if your kids like ice cream.

7. Hand Sanitizer
I won’t even let my mind start thinking about how many germs must be on the handlebars of each ride. Definitely have hand sanitizer and use it often.

Amazon’s Choice
travel size hand sanitizer
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Includes a carrier to attach the bottle to purses, backpacks, key chains, or diaper bags

 

8. Sippy Cups
I probably don’t need to tell you this, since you’re used to taking them everywhere all the time and are used to seeing them spilling out of kitchen cabinet or finding them under the couch or on the floor of your car constantly. Just thought I’d mention it anyway. This Minnie Mouse cup is cute and got pretty good customer reviews.

Minnie Mouse NUK Active Cup
Minnie Mouse NUK Active Cup

 

General Tips for Going to Disney with Toddlers

Arrive at the parks before they open.

Ideally you should allow yourself at least 30 minutes to get through transportation & security and still get there before rope drop, although we’ve rarely managed to arrive quite that early ourselves. When you’re in the Magic Kingdom (which is, of course, by far the best Disney park for toddlers and preschoolers,) make a beeline toward Fantasyland.

 

Consider getting noise protection earmuffs

If your kids who are sensitive to loud noises (like mine were), but you still want to enjoy one of the Disney firework shows, consider getting these noise protection earmuffs created just for babies and toddlers.

Baby Banz Infant and Toddler Hearing Protection HeadphonesBaby Banz Infant and Toddler Hearing Protection HeadphonesBaby Banz Infant and Toddler Hearing Protection Headphones

 

 

You Your Toddler Will Need a Nap

In my opinion, this is absolutely critical and works nicely with #2 above. One of the perks of getting to the parks early is that you can leave around lunchtime, or just after, go back to your hotel room, and take a nap and possible a dip in the pool before heading back out to the parks for a few hours in the late afternoon and evening. This may seem like a time-waster, but it isn’t. Trust me, your kids will need a nap and so will you. If you take only piece of advice from this article, take the afternoon nap.

 

Kids with Chip and Dale at Disney World

 

Come up with a “Must Do” List

No matter how hard you try, you perfectly planned schedule that looks great on paper (or screen) is going to get de-railed somehow. Trust me, I know. Things will take longer than you thought, or someone (not necessarily a child) will suddenly become very hungry and have to eat right now, no matter what your meticulously designed itinerary says.

That’s why it’s smart to have a “Must Do” list before you go.

No matter how badly things go out of whack, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did the things people really, really wanted to do.

Whether it’s getting your picture taken with Ariel, riding Dumbo, or eating a Mickey ice cream bar, find out what everybody is looking forward to the most and then stay focused on those things even if all else fails.

 

What’s your best advice for Disney with a toddler?

What about you?

  • What’s your must-have item to pack for a trip with a 2 year old?
  • What were your toddler’s favorite Disney rides?
  • Do you agree that Magical Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are the two best parks for little kids?

Let us know below in the comments!

 



 

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4 thoughts on “Disney World with 2, 3, and 4 Year Olds: Rides, Best Park, and Tips”

  • We just got back, and I’m super glad that we packed the kids’ outfits in gallon size bags for the suitcase, including socks and underpants. No outfit hostage negotiations in the mornings, and it was easy to assess when packing that I had everything. I’d also recommend grocery delivery to your hotel. You can save on things like water/juice/milk and have healthy breakfasts and snacks first thing in the morning. Finally, I’d recommend making a list of favorite meals and experiences that you want to put into your NEXT WDW trip. If you have toddlers, I can almost guarantee you’ll want to return! It helps with scheduling and budgeting!

    • Thanks for sharing Betty. You sound very organized! Yes, I loved having the groceries delivered to our room. I don’t want to spend any more time grocery shopping than I have to, especially when I’m on vacation!

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