Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation with your toddler, What to do Before you Go

You decided to book a trip to Disney World with your toddler; congratulations! Now the planning begins.  I went with my daughter to Disney World when she had just turned 1. Now my daughter is 2 going on 3, and being an avid Mickey Mouse Clubhouse fan she has been asking me every day to go again.  I decided to book another trip and go before she turns 3 as children under 3 are free to get into Disney Parks.  Planning a Disney trip can be fun but also overwhelming, which so much to do where do you start?  I am a planner, and I love to plan events and trips.  I decided to put together a list of my planning recommendations and tips for Disney. 

Familiarize your child with Disney Characters:

If you have a toddler, this is one of the first steps you should take once you have decided to plan a Disney vacation.  Familiarizing your child with Disney characters before you go can be extremely helpful.  

If you have a young child, chances are they only know a couple of Disney characters.  A 2-year-old may not know who Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs or Jasmine and Aladdin are. 

Character encounters can be scarey for some children. Familiarizing them with characters can help calm fears. As parents, we want to remember these special memories forever and want to take lots of pictures. It’s important to never force your child to meet a character, doing so may make your most magical day into a nightmare.

Show them some classic Disney movies, watch cartoons, and read Disney books.  Explain that the characters live in Disney World.  

Take them to the Disney store, and talk to them about the characters.  This way, when they see them in person they will recognize who there are.   You can do all this without telling them you are going on the trip.

Hotel planning

I was lucky enough to go to Disney World several times as a child, however, we never stayed at a Walt Disney World Resort.  Two Christmases ago, my mother surprised our family with a trip to Walt Disney World. It was my first time returning in over 15 years, and for the first time, we stayed at Disney Resort.  We stayed at the budget resort Pop Century.  What a world of difference.  It is so much more convenient staying at a Walt Disney Hotel. I highly recommend staying at a Disney Resort; I would never stay outside of Disney again.

Advantages of staying at a Disney Resort

There are so many advantages of Staying at a Disney Resort.

Staying in the Magic

When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, you are staying right in the middle of the magic. Many resorts feature Disney -themed roomed or decor and have wonderful amenities including pools and activities for families onsite.

Extra Magic Hours:

On certain days you can get extra hours at the parks, just for being a guest at one of the resort hotels.


If you stay at a Disney Resort you always have transportation to and from the parks. 

Transportation varies from resort to resort. Depending on the resort you stay at, this could be by boat, bus, skyliner, or monorail. This will save you the expense of renting a car and paying parking fees. 

Some local hotels do provide transportation to the parks, but it may be only to certain parks, and it may only be at certain times.  If you do plan on staying outside of Disney, make sure you check our hotel’s policy before your book.

These are all reasons why I recommend staying at a Disney resort.  Check with airline companies, as many offer great Disney packages.  I booked my last trip through Southwest. Our package from New York was $750 for two, including airfare and five nights at a Disney budget hotel.  Jet Blue also offers great packages.

Magic bands:

Magic bands are Disney bracelets that can be used to unlock your hotel room, and enter theme parks, once a credit card is linked, you can use it to pay for everything on Disney property, and connect your photo pass images.

The new Magic Band + adds interactive features around the park and during fireworks.

Lightening Lane: Staying at a Disney Property allows you to make your Lightening Lane passes at 7 AM each morning. Guests staying off-property cannot make your Lightening Lane pass until the park opens.

Dining Reservations

Character dining is one of my favorite things that Disney has to offer.  You can book reservations 60 days before your trip.  I highly recommend doing this.  Reservations fill up so quickly, and it is a great experience. 

I learned a tip from my last Disney trip if reservations are full, check daily as they open up.  After reading reviews, I wanted to eat at Chef Mickey’s, and each day I checked, it was full, until the week before my trip, and I was able to get in.  My daughter was one then.  

Character dining is a wonderful experience for so many children and adults, however, with babies and toddlers, it can be tricky.  If your child is fearful of characters, you probably should skip character dining.  If you are unsure how your child may react, you may want to save the money and only book one character dining.


When visiting Disney World, you may want to consider dressing like you’re at Disney World! Many families wear matching shirts, Little girls are wearing princess dresses, and little boys in Disney or Marvel attire.

It adds a little magic by dressing your child as their favorite character.  It makes for a great photo.  I purchased princess outfits and Minnie clothes for our last and upcoming trip. This time I am going the last week in September, so I was able to find some low-price Disney princess Halloween costumes. 

She is so excited about wearing them.  If you know that in the next year, you will be traveling to Disney, I recommend finding some after-Halloween sales to purchase costumes.  Also, It’s warm in Florida, even during the day in the winter.  Last time, I went in February, and we wore short sleeves and light clothing with a sweatshirt (it’s chilly early and late in the day).  So you may want to shop those end-of-summer sales racks for some Disney attire.

Download the My Disney Experience App

It’s great to have.  It lets you keep track of your reservations and plans, see where the characters are located in the parks, see your fast pass reservations, lets you know what entertainment is and even where the restrooms are in the park.

Research the parks before you go on your trip.

Disney World is an extremely large place, with that, it can be overwhelming.    Do some research on each park to find out what they have to offer.  I guarantee that you will come across something that you didn’t know.   Make a general plan before you come, this way you can make the most of your trip.  Don’t forget to add breaks in your plan.  You know your child best.  Plan things around their schedule to keep happy and in a good mood.  If your child takes a nap every day at 1PM make sure you schedule around that nap time.  Forcing your child to do to much may cause a meltdown later on.  The Disney web-site has a lot of detailed information on what they offer.  Still not sure.  Contact Disney and speak to a customer service agent who will be more than happy to help you with your planning.

Memory Maker

The Disney memory maker allows you to download every Disney picture and video you take at the park for one price.  If you buy the memory maker three days in advance the cost is $149, if you by it while at Disney it cost $169.  It is a little pricy so you have to consider all your options.  I purchased the memory maker for my upcoming trip.  On my last trip I found out that Disney does let you take your own photos at character meetings and if you ask, they will take a picture for you with your own camera.  This is a nice feature.  However, it is nice to have your pictures taken for you and chances are you will purchase some pictures on your trip.  On my last trip I purchased a couple of pictures even though I took a bunch with my own camera.  Some pictures were just too cute to pass up.  I spent nearly $100 purchasing pictures, so I figure I try the memory maker.  The nice thing about it is that once you download the pictures, they all yours to do what you please.  This year I was thinking about sending my pictures to Shutterfly to make photo gifts for family.

Things you must bring to Disney World if you have a toddler or small children

Autograph book – You can purchase one when you first get to the park or before your trip at the Disney store or Amazon.  Bring it to the parks everyday so your child can get autographs of all the characters and princesses.

Sunscreen (even in winter)

Stroller – Stroller rental is expensive; bring your own

Backpack or Bag- Bring a bag to the park so you have somewhere to keep your toddlers things.  Store it in your strollers under compartment.  Bring diapers, Sippy cups, extra wipes, something to keep your toddler busy while waiting in line, sunscreen, extra clothes, towel from your room (wiping down seats after it rains, save your place at the parade).


Anti-Bacterial Gel


Jacket or sweatshirt

Extra battery pack for your cell phone

Disney Mickey & Minnie Parts Rain Poncho (Youth, Minnie)

Marrywindix Umbrella Stroller Clear Waterproof Rain Cover Wind Shield Fit Most Umbrella Strollers Pushchairs

Hope you have a Magical time in Disney World! Check back soon to find out our Disney vacation went with a our 2 year-old.