This post was sponsored by Walt Disney World® Resort, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Before I even told Mazzy and Harlow that we were going on vacation, I asked them a very important question. “Do you guys know where the princesses live?”
“Of course, Mom. Disney World,” they replied with a shrug, as if I had asked a rhetorical question.
That’s the amazing thing about going to Walt Disney World® Resort— there is such a variety of experiences your kids get excited about. Rides, shows, princesses, restaurants, fireworks, live animals and of course, character meet and greets.
Mazzy is seven and I had no doubt that she would have the time of her life, but I was a little worried about Harlow, who had just turned four. Would she be overwhelmed by the experience? Would she be mad if she wasn’t tall enough for some of the rides? Would she conk out early and miss the fireworks?
The answer is “no” to everything above. If Harlow missed out on anything due to her age, she didn’t know it. There is magic for all, no matter how small. And thankfully, Mike and I found that Walt Disney World® Resort is very prepared for the fickle needs of preschoolers and their parents.
Here are a few of the services that the parks offer to make sure everyone is feeling magical the majority of the time:
Before I went to Walt Disney World® Resort, I thought FastPass+ was an add-on that you purchased, but that’s not the case. Every ticket includes FastPass+ for total fairness amongst park-goers. With this special service, you can plan your vacation before you even arrive, reserving special access to select attractions (which is a separate shorter line for FastPass+ users only) to select three activities a day in one park, including rides, shows and character greetings.
Some people plan their vacation months in advance, but ours happened pretty spontaneously. I was worried we would be locked out of the attractions we wanted but we found that we had no problem planning or reserving spots the night before each day in the park. Character dining being the only exception.
My Disney Experience
If you go to Walt Disney World® Resort, you should download the My Disney Experience app, no exceptions. Not only does it allow you to reserve your FastPass+ attractions, it gives you an interactive map that tells you how long the waits are at each ride at that moment.
It’s much easier to steer your preschooler in a different direction if you know the line is long from the get-go than it would be if you walked across the park only to disappoint them. Also, with the app, you can switch up your FastPass+ reservations and reserve meal times on the spot. For instance, we checked the app repeatedly to see if there had been any lunch cancelations at Cinderella’s Royal Table, one of the most sought after reservations since you get to meet almost every princess during the course of your meal.
We are big proponents of bringing a stroller on vacation while traveling with kids. It’s a nuisance to travel with but it often saves the day when kids get tired and not everybody wants to go back to the hotel. A preschooler being able to take a nap while the rest of the family is on-the-go can totally save the day from disaster.
Thankfully, Walt Disney World® Resort offers single-day and multi-day stroller rentals so you don’t have to bring your own. Rental locations are at the entrance of each of the four Parks. They are wide enough to fit two kids, which definitely helped us deal with Mazzy who can often get jealous when her little sister gets to sit down.
This is a big one for parents who want to give older siblings the full experience without missing out on it themselves. Rider Switch is available on select attractions and allows you to have one parent wait with a kid who doesn’t meet the height requirement while the other parent goes with the big kid.
Then the parents can switch and take the older sibling again without waiting on the line, so both parents get to experience the ride with their kid and BONUS— the kid gets to go twice.
It’s also worth noting that many of the bigger rides have an area nearby with a little playground so the younger kid doesn’t feel like he/she is missing out. I was worried about Harlow being mad when she didn’t meet some of the height requirements but there was plenty of rides that she was allowed to go on, so it never seemed to bother her. Plus, the rides meant for her age were the ones she liked the best.
Baby Care Centers
In addition to baby changing stations in most restrooms, there are also Baby Care Centers in all four Theme Parks. You can go in to give your infants, toddlers or preschoolers a break, a nap or even a snack.
They include a private nursing room with rocking chairs, a changing room, a feeding area with highchairs, a kitchen with a microwave, oven and sink, and a lounge area with a television. An on-site or nearby shop offers baby food, formula, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase. You can find locations on the guide map or ask a Cast Member for help.
Disney’s PhotoPass® Service
This isn’t specifically a service for preschoolers, but I think it could be extremely helpful for parents who don’t want to spend their day trying to document their vacation as opposed to experiencing it. Throughout each park, there are numerous professional photographers set up in key photo op locations, like in front of the castle on Main Street U.S.A.® Area and in front of the Tree of Life® Attraction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.
They also take photos of you on select rides (just scan your magic band so they know it’s you) and at character greetings, including the character dining experiences.
I am normally in the habit of ignoring professional photographers while on vacation because I know they are just going to hit you up with an exorbitant fee if you want to purchase a photo, so we didn’t take full advantage until mid-way through our vacation when we checked our Disney’s PhotoPass® pics through the My Disney Experience app and realized how much better they were than our own. If I had to do it all over again, I would just pay the $150 for unlimited photos from the get-go, keep my camera phone in my pocket, and just make sure we took advantage of each photo opportunity.
Nothing sounds more magical than magic captured by someone other than me.
For quick and easy reference, here’s the video I made for Parents that walks you through a few of these tips and more. Please forgive my squinting— I was in sunny Florida!