Well hello there, I didn’t see you come in (this works better if you picture me in a high-backed leather chair and smoking jacket).
Some of you may already know me from places such as my escorted tour company, Great Explorations Tours, the Disney beer blog Beers And Ears, and the wonderful Disney blog Disney On Wheels, but some of you have undoubtedly opened the window into my weird world for the first time. If you want to know how I write (and talk), just take a gander at that first sentence again; I love off the wall references and I love what theatrical types call “asides,” which manifest themselves as lots and lots (and lots) of parentheses.
Who am I? All you need to know is that I love to travel, I love to plan travel, I love Disney, and I am an analyst (as in I analyze data relationships, not that I’m really ana…you know what, let’s move on). I’ve been graciously invited to post on this blog (after only a little bit of begging and crying) in a variety of topics, but the one I’m going to start with is one that is close to my heart; touring Walt Disney World with a toddler.
You have probably guessed this, but I have a toddler. My daughter is about 2 ½ years old and yes, I am completely under her spell. Of course, as a Disney nut, the best way I can think of spoiling my little girl is to take her to Walt Disney World (I also have a son that is about 1 week old, but he won’t be at Walt Disney World until he’s almost 2 months old…the horror!). The only problem is that none of the 4.7 million Touring Plans on this site are readily applicable to a toddler. Now I’m not blaming the fine Touring Plans folks because at 1 and 2 years old, all kids are a little bit different (and because they would kick me out of here faster than a Droid user on Betamouse).
Since it is almost impossible to develop a standard plan for touring with a toddler, I’ve decided to go step by step through the Magic Kingdom Two-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children and point out changes that I would make as well as things parents should be aware of. Here’s your one and only warning: I write a lot of words…this will be long.
First, some general tips to get you warmed up:
– Rest, rest, rest. I recommend this to everyone, but with a toddler it is mandatory (yes, mandatory, don’t argue or it’s time out for you). You know all those kids you see freaking out and crying in the parks? 97.4% did not get a proper night’s sleep or a nap, and you can’t fight science.
– I’m assuming you are familiar with the attractions mentioned, but if you are not click the links provided to read about them.
– Crowd leves will change the below plan. On low crowd days you can play very fast and loose with a touring plan (although it’s still a good idea to follow the basics). However, on a busy day, you will need to be a little stricter. Check the crowd calendar to see the business.
– If the adults want to ride things such as Space Mountain they will need to squeeze those in somewhere (most likely utilizing Fastpass). I don’t have them in the plan, but I recommend sending one adult to get all the Fastpasses as early as possible and using them at your convenience later.
– Strollers: I am assuming your child will not nap in a stroller (as mine won’t). If they will, then you may have to take some time out for naps, but I still recommend a real rest at the resort rather than an uncomfortable quick nap. It will help everyone, not just the child.
Okay, so here is my adjusted plan, which you can have for a very minimal charge (…okay, okay, my assistant manager says, just this one time, I can give you this knowledge for free, but don’t get used to it). Along the way there will be tips, advice, and smart-alecky comments…enjoy.
[Please note that I am paraphrasing and shortening many of the steps. Refer to the original plan to bask in its completed awesomeness]
Step 1: Arrive 30 minutes prior to Magic Kingdom opening – If you can, this is the best advice under any circumstances. However, I do not recommend waking a toddler up early to get there unless you are visiting on a particularly busy day. Now, if your little one sleeps until 10am, then you’ll probably have to wake them up, but if they sleep until 8 (like mine) and you’re still getting to the park within 30 minutes of opening time it’s not worth the increased “tantrum probability” of waking them up.
Step 2: Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Can’t argue with this one, this line gets wicked later. There is also a tip on how to allow a child with two adults to ride twice in quick succession that is fantastic (and works), but you’ll have to check out the Dumbo-or-Die-in-a-Day plan for that (legal note: Your child will most likely not die from not riding Dumbo).
Step 3: Peter Pan’s Flight – Again I am in agreement. This is a very nice ride, but there is no way I would wait 50 minutes with a little one for it. Do it early or FastPass later.
Sidebar: Peter Pan is a good test for the kids because it is a dark ride, and a dark one at that. If the toddler is not scared by the darkness of Pan, then you can go ahead and try some of the other dark rides.
Step 4: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This was one of the attractions that my daughter really loved, even though she didn’t really know Winnie the Pooh. It’s fun and interesting and very repeatable for a 2 year old. The problem is that the line may get long in the afternoon.
Disney has instituted two ways to manage the Winnie the Pooh line: Fastpasses (which are currently near Mickey’s PhilharMagic) and the interactive queue. I always love a FastPass, but I’m not crazy about the new queue (for toddlers anyway). The games in it would be difficult for such a little one and the idea behind the queue is that the parent stays in line while the child plays, which is not an ideal setup unless there are multiple adults. My recommendation is to ride early and grab FastPasses when you get close to PhilharMagic for later.
Step 5: Mad Tea Party – My daughter loves this attraction…my stomach does not. Do it if you can and more power to you.
Step 6: Obtain Splash Mountain Fastpass – This one is most likely getting skipped because very few children under 3 will meet the 40” height requirement. If they are tall enough, they will probably love everything up to the drop. It will be much more difficult to get them to ride this the second time than the first…ignorance is bliss.
If you are skipping the Splash Mountain FastPasses, you can go ahead and grab the Pooh passes for later (hmmm, Pooh passes sounds like something I needed to get to the lavatory in grade school…I know, bathroom humor…booooo).
Step 7: Tom Sawyer Island – This is a parent’s call because it is a wonderfully relaxing place to let the kids run, but if they are too young to do so by themselves it may not be worth the trip. If you are planning on more than two Magic Kingdom days, I say go. If you are doing two or less make the decision based on your energy level and your kids.
Step 8: Country Bear Jamboree – A lot of people love this attraction, and I am not one of them. Toddlers won’t get the humor and will probably find the old-timey country music boring. So if the fascination of talking bears won’t get them through, don’t bother. Also…blood on the saddle? Try explaining what that means to a 2 year old.
Step 9: Walt Disney World Railroad Frontierland Station – The train is a must do with a small child if for no other reason than the time off of your feet. Plus, kids like trains.
Step 10: Splash Mountain – If you didn’t get the fastpass, ignore this step and go right to one of my favorite steps…
Step 11: Lunch – I love lunch…I’m also a bit chubby; those two things may or may not be related.
Step 12: Break – As I said above, this is important. Even if your kid is doing great; don’t push it. You may be one “no honey, we can’t buy that Duffy bear” from the Three Mile Island of emotional breakdowns.
Step 13: Return to Magic Kingdom – I strongly recommend this step, I have always found it really hard to see the rest of the attractions if you don’t re-enter the park.
Step 14: Obtain Mickey’s Philharmagic Fastpass – I don’t agree with this step (sorry Len, don’t hit me…again). I can’t remember the last time I had to wait more than the duration of one show for this, so a Fastpass is probably not necessary. Instead, get more Pooh passes if your toddler liked that or grab some adult passes for a ride you want to go on.
Step 15: The Hall of Presidents – This is another attraction that you should skip with a toddler unless someone in your party needs a nap or the kid needs to eat. They won’t get it, won’t care to get it, and you’ll probably leave early.
Step 16: Liberty Square Riverboat – Riding on a big boat, nothing wrong with that.
Step 17: Dinner – Mmmm…food
Step 18: it’s a small world – Unfortunately for you, your small children will probably love this. That means that you may be on this multiple times, so start prepping yourself now. Here’s a tip: if you bring some snacks into the park for your child, this is a great attraction to snack on due to its length and calmness. Adult tip: I can get a cell signal in there, so it’s a great time to check on email or look up lyrics to songs that don’t fill you with rage.
Step 19: Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – Oh yes. If you actually managed to walk by this one before without getting dragged onto it, do it now.
Step 20: Mickey’s Philharmagic – I love this attraction and was pleasantly surprised that my daughter did too. The 3D glasses will be hard to wear for some small ones, but if they can manage it the show is relatively short, entertaining, and fun. SPOILER ALERT: During the Fantasia mops scene water splashes out of the vent in front of you. If your toddler won’t like it, cover the vent with your hand when you see a mop dancing.
Step 21: Evening Parade / Fireworks – The Main Street Electrical Parade is currently running as the evening parade and all little ones will love it. With lights, music, dancing, and character it is a winner. The fireworks on the other hand are very child dependant. My daughter loves the idea of fireworks, but her response is usually that she wants to stop, which is exactly how I feel about running (did I mention I was a bit chubby).
Step 22: Depart – Go back to the resort, get a good night’s sleep and get ready for day two of the plan.
Okay, so instead of jumping into day two right away, I’m going to cut myself off here and make you wait until another time (in show business that’s called ‘talking too darn much’). In part two, I’ll run down day 2 of the touring plan, give you a list of attractions that are easy to ride multiple times, give you some ways to deal with kids not sticking to your plan, and break the news that Darth Vader is indeed…my father. Thanks for reading.
Part 2 will be available on Monday, July 11.
Brian McNichols is a tour operator, Disney-focused travel agent, and all around awesome person (or so he says). If you have any questions, comments, sarcastic jibes, or colorful limericks please feel free to add them below. Brian can also be found at Great Explorations Tours, on Facebook as a Travel Agent, or on Twitter @brian_mcnichols.