Walt Disney World: Exploring the Magic Kingdom with a Toddler
Last year when we cruised to the Bahamas, we enjoyed a (very) brief stop in Magic Kingdom. We had one day when our ship was docked off Port Canaveral and we rented a car, drove to WDW and spent maybe 4 hours in the park – which ended with a race against traffic to return our car before the ship set sail. We think of that day as our “Disney Drive-By.”
This trip was much, much different.
During this trip we had time on our side. We had hours upon hours at multiple parks and were able to just take it all in and enjoy. This time we also got to visit the parks with a completely-obsessed-with-princesses-Toy-Story-and-many-other-things-Disney 2 and a half year old. And I have to say, that added to the fun 110%!
Our trip was originally going to kick off on Friday, 3/18 (early in the morning) with a late day arrival in the Orlando area on Saturday, 3/19. A couple of weeks before our trip, we changed our departure to late Thursday, 3/17. This allowed as to drive into the night on Thursday where we stopped a couple hours past Richmond, VA. We were able to make it to our rental home in Kissimmee (right next to Orlando) by Friday evening.
With an extra day on Saturday, the city was ours to explore. We decided that we really wanted to spend the day in Magic Kingdom. Our trip itinerary only had one other day scheduled for Magic Kingdom and we decided that a total of two days in that park might be really fun for us. It would also give us plenty of time to try to see and do as much as possible.
Don’t forget about some ways to save money in Disney that I already wrote about – SO many ways to cut your Disney price tag.
Toddler/Small Kid Money Saver idea:
:: Grab cheap costumes during Halloween Clearance. Let’s face it – kids LOVE to dress up in Disney. Whether a little girl wants to dress the part of a princess or a boy wants to play the pirate while riding Pirates of the Caribbean, taking costumes can add to park excitement. Be sure to stock up on deeply discounted costumes after Halloween. Bonus: you bring home the costumes and end up with some cool additions to the family dress-up box!
Best time savers in Magic Kingdom:
:: Arrive Early. We were already out of our car and hopping on the tram as the park opened Saturday morning. Crowds were still pretty low and we were able to walk right onto a BUNCH of rides that normally experience longer wait times when the parks are full – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel and Pirates of the Caribbean to name a few.
:: Fast Pass. To be very honest – we did not need to use Fast Pass in the Magic Kingdom once. All of the rides we wanted to go on that had Fast Pass had wait times of 15 minutes or less, which we were willing to wait. A couple of rides (Haunted Mansion comes to mind) did not offer Fast Pass and we waited about 30 minutes to get in – still NOT bad! For the rides in the Disney Parks that offer Fast Pass, you simply grab a pass (one per person per ride at a time – you cannot get a Fast Pass for a new ride until your previous pass for the previous ride has expired). Enjoy time elsewhere in the park and return during your valid Fast Pass time to get on that ride with little to no wait.
:: Child Swap. Oh. I am writing an entire post on this FREAKING AWESOME feature – as we used it ad nauseum at Universal. We didn’t need to use it at Disney because we took Lily Bean on every ride that we went on – with the exception of Space Mountain – which I sat out. Child swap is this brilliant idea that you can wait in line with your spouse (friend, grandparent, you get the idea) and your too-small-or-scared-for-ride-child. When you get to the front of the line you tell the attendant that you are doing a child swap. First person goes on the ride while the 2nd stays back with your child. After the first person returns, you swap, and the 2nd person hops right onto the ride – no need to wait in line a 2nd time. Awesome.
:: Rides During Parades. Simple – the majority of the park visitors will want to pack into Main Street and along other spots on the parade route to see the parade (each day offers several parades – check the schedule when you arrive). If you have already seen the parade (or don’t care to see it) use this time to enjoy lesser wait times at many attractions.
:: Take the RESORT Monorail to Parks. I need to tell you the VERY VERY VERY best little tidbit that we learned. The 2nd day that we arrived, we were about to get in the longish line for the park express monorail when an employee approached us. She asked if we had a couple of minutes to take a quick survey. We said yes, and answered maybe 3 questions about our satisfaction with parking at the park. When we were finished, she said, “Here’s a tip. I know that the line for the express monorail (goes straight to the park) looks long. It moves quick but it will take you a few minutes to get on board. Instead, head to the left and take the resort monorail. It stops briefly at 2 (MC note: maybe 3, can’t remember) resorts and then the Magic Kingdom. It is much less crowded and there are rarely lines. Well – we walked RIGHT onto that (very uncrowded) monorail and got to the park in no time. We took that monorail every time after that and TOTALLY beat some major lines!
Tips for easier travel with small kids:
:: Baby Center. While we did not explore this area, there is a building dedicated just to babies and mamas-to-be located off Main Street back behind Casey’s Corner. Find changing facilities, supplies, rocking chairs for nursing/feeding and more!
:: Return home for naptime. If you are staying nearby (we were a 10 minute drive from the park – but not IN a Disney resort) consider heading home for naps/quiet time/swimming pool cool-off/rest time during the afternoon. I know that if we spent all day at the park, our chance of lasting into the night would dwindle. We would be cranky, tired and wilted. During our days at Disney, we stayed until mid-afternoon each day. We then returned to our rental house and Lily Bean had the chance to nap and recharge. We were then refreshed and ready to hit the parks for a late night – all the way to fireworks.
:: Bring your own stroller if possible (or rent one outside the park). Disney rents strollers, but from what we saw, they didn’t look to be the most comfortable. We DID, however, see a bunch of people with rented strollers from companies elsewhere in Orlando. These actually looked pretty nice and similar to one you might actually own. We opted for my sister’s Joovy Kooper that she was kind enough to let us borrow. It was pretty lightweight, easy to maneuver and reclined back enough to her to fall asleep multiple times throughout our trip. (The funny part about this stroller is that Lily Bean knows that it’s her cousin Ava’s stroller. Therefore, the stroller = COOL and she actually wanted to sit in it. That was a nice consequence.) Having a comfy, reliable stroller made everyone a little happier during our trip.
Conclusion: To sum it all up, we had an absolute blast during our two days at Magic Kingdom. The staff and cast members went out of their way to offer us the best possible experience – they were helpful, cheery and added to the overall visit. We loved the parades, block party and food. The castle show/fireworks at the end of the night were the COOLEST THING EVER!
We lucked out with the weather too – sunny and low 80s all week – not a lick of rain. The only downer? Yep – I was sick. The entire week. A very snotty, sinus-y, sore throat disaster. That really stunk. I consumed more Robitussin than I’d like to admit. But even that couldn’t dampen my spirits too much. I stopped multiple times to just take it all in, watch my princess watch her favorite princesses and make memories that will truly last a lifetime.