Family Travel

Is Going to Disney World With Toddlers Actually Worth It? One Mom Shares

disney world with toddlers"
disney world with toddlers
Source: Steph Alleva Cornell
Source: Steph Alleva Cornell

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Disney adult. In fact, my husband and I are such fans that we had our honeymoon at Disney World. Seven years later, we still remember it as the best week of our lives. So naturally, we’ve been dreaming of taking our kids back to the happiest place on earth since before they were even born. However, once I became a mom and had the inevitable realization that kids are hard AF, that dream trip seemed light years away. There was just no way I could take my rambunctious toddlers to Disney World and have a good time… right?

Well, earlier this year, my family got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be hosted by Walt Disney World, stay at one of their incredible resorts, and visit all four Disney parks. My prior belief that I couldn’t take toddlers to Disney World flew out the window, and we immediately said yes. However, shortly after accepting their offer, reality sunk in. Our kids had never traveled anywhere at all, and I was fully aware of how much work it would be. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was even worth taking a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old to Disney World.

People argue it’s not worth the hassle because kids that age won’t remember the experience. But does that mean parents should skip doing anything fun during the first five years of their kid’s life? Obviously not. Making fun memories as parents are just as important IMO. So I put my big girl pants on, did the research, and armed myself with the right information (and supplies) to make this the best trip possible. And now that we’re back, I can answer the million-dollar question: Yes, taking toddlers to Disney World was stressful at times, but it was still 100 percent worth it. If you want to know how to make the most out of your vacation, then buckle up—here’s everything I learned during our trip to Disney World with two toddlers:

Our Disney World Itinerary With Toddlers

First and foremost, our itinerary. We stayed four days and three nights at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and visited one park each day. We flew in early on the first day and flew out in the afternoon of our fourth day, so two of our park days were shorter than the others. But it worked out because the parks we went to during our longer days had more rides and activities for younger kids (I’ll touch more on that later).

  • Day One: Took the complimentary shuttle from the airport to the resort, checked into Art of Animation Resort, and spent the afternoon at Epcot
  • Day Two: Full day at Magic Kingdom
  • Day Three: Full day at Hollywood Studios
  • Day Four: Spent the morning at Animal Kingdom then shuttled back to the airport from the resort

Perks for Toddlers at Disney World

I did hours of research to ensure that we utilized every accommodation available when we arrived at Disney World. Yes, traveling with toddlers has its rough moments, but they offer so many perks for small kids.

  • Most importantly, kids under 3 get free admission to every Disney park. If you visit all four parks, that’s about $700 in savings right there.
  • Kids under 3 can dine for free at family-style and buffet restaurants and some fine/signature restaurants if they eat off your plate. But they do charge for kid’s meals to be clear.
  • If your family chooses to pay for Lightning Lane Passes (replacing Genie+ after July 24, 2024), you don’t need to pay for the pass for kids under 3. They’ll be able to access the Lightning Lanes with you.

  • Every Disney park has a baby care center that is fully staffed and offers tons of amenities for infants and toddlers. They’re complimentary to use and include private nursing rooms, changing rooms with tables, restrooms, feeding areas with highchairs, full kitchens, and a shop with formula, baby food, diapers, and way more.

  • You can rent single and double strollers at the Disney parks or through their featured provider, ScooterBug. If you rent through ScooterBug, they’ll deliver the stroller straight to a Disney Resort before you check in.

  • Disney parks offer Rider Switch, which allows one parent to ride while the other stays with the littles who aren’t big enough. Once the first parent is done, they can swap places and the other parent can ride without waiting in line all over again.

  • You don’t need to travel with a car seat if you’re using Disney’s resort transportation services or the shuttle from the airport.

  • Disney resorts have family suite options with separate rooms and several beds throughout each suite. They also have mini cribs available for infants and young toddlers.

  • Disney allows you to bring snacks and personal water bottles within the parks so you don’t have to worry about them getting hangry and needing to constantly buy snacks/drinks.

Staying at a Kid-Friendly Disney World Resort Hotel

I’ll never have one bad thing to say about Disney World Resort Hotels. From our honeymoon experience at their Contemporary Resort (amazing for an adult-only vacay) to our recent stay at Art of Animation, they were both incredible. Art of Animation was the perfect resort for our Lightning McQueen-loving kids since we stayed in the Cars-themed area. They also have themed courtyards and suites for The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King—plus the largest pool and water park at any of their resorts. Seriously, the pools were so big that you could spend a whole day just in their water area. And if parents need a little drink to cool down, they can visit the poolside bar.

The lobby, gift shop, and huge food court are also decked out in all things Pixar and Disney animation, so kids are bound to see their favorite characters the moment they walk in. The food court served breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, featured five food shops with fresh food, and had a massive selection of snacks and toiletries to buy. Even though we brought a whole bag of snacks in our suitcase, we all know you can never have enough with toddlers, so I loved that we could restock whenever needed. They also accept dining plan cards, which is a big perk if you choose to purchase a Disney Dining Plan.

Every family has different priorities while on vacation, and for us, it was important to maintain a familiar routine during our stay. That meant not skipping our 2-year-old’s midday naps and not pushing our usual bedtime more than an hour. Trekking through four theme parks is exhausting for anyone, no matter their age, so the more rest the kids got, the less likely they’d be cranky.

Staying at a Disney World Resort made keeping our toddler’s routine incredibly easy because all the parks open half an hour early for resort guests (perfect for early-rising toddlers), and the on-site complimentary resort transportation got us back and forth from our suite for naps and bedtime very quickly. Art of Animation had buses and the Skyliner (our kids loved the Skyliner) within a five-minute walk from our room, and it took no more than 25 minutes to travel to each park. The Bob Revolution Flex 3.0 Double Stroller we rented from ScooterBug for about $95 total (so worth it) also fits on all the transportation with minimal issues.

Staying in a Family Suite

Our sleeping arrangements gave me the most anxiety since my kids had never traveled and slept anywhere but our home. But Art of Animation has family suites with super spacious accommodations for parties of up to six, and our suite was perfect for our sleeping situation. Our family suite had:

  • A living space with a pull-out couch bed and TV
  • A small kitchenette with a microwave and fridge within the living area
  • A dining area with a dining table that transformed into an additional bed
  • A full bathroom in the main living space
  • One primary bedroom with another full bathroom

Our 2-year-old slept in the primary bedroom in a mini crib provided by the resort, our 3-year-old (who’s nearly 4) slept in the bed in the dining area, and my husband and I slept in the pull-out bed in the living area where we could directly see our oldest. We tried to keep the sleeping arrangements as similar to our home as possible, so we brought two sound machines for both of them. The resort’s curtains were also super thick and kept the entire suite dark, which helped them both fall asleep faster (and stay asleep all night).

Exploring the Disney Parks with Small Kids

OK, now for the good stuff. I’m sure you want to know above all else, what Disney parks are actually worth taking a 2-year-old and 3-year-old to? All four Disney parks had plenty of rides, attractions, shows, and character experiences for toddlers, so our favorite parks had more to do with my kids’ specific interests than their ages. Like I said, I’m a Disney adult raising two kids on the same movies I grew up with. So no matter what park we went to, they immediately recognized their favorites from Encanto, Frozen, Toy Story, Moana, and so much more.

My Toddlers’ Favorite Disney World Attractions at Each Park

We spent the most time at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios so they got to make more memories there, but they still had a blast at Animal Kingdom and Epcot as well. These were the rides, attractions, and dining experiences that they still talk about months later:

  • Epcot (half-day)
    • Anna, Elsa, and Olaf character experience at Royal Sommerhus
    • Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana

  • Magic Kingdom
    • Mickey and Minnie character experience
    • Princess Tiana character experience
    • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    • Mad Tea Party
    • Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
    • Lunch at Beauty and the Beast’s Castle
    • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
    • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

There are so many more toddler-friendly rides and attractions in Magic Kingdom we didn’t get to, but will be on our list for next time: Under the Sea—Journey of The Little Mermaid, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Enchanted Tales With Belle, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

  • Hollywood Studios
    • Walking through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (they loved everything here!)
    • Mandalorian and Grogu character experience
    • Darth Vader character experience
    • Toy Story Land
    • Slinky Dog Dash (only our oldest could ride this, but he rode twice!)
    • Alien Swirling Saucers
    • Everything at Toy Story Mania
    • Lunch at Hollywood and Vine with Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto
    • Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
    • Fantasmic! (this show is a bit intense for little kids, but they both still really enjoyed it)
    • Disney Junior Play and Dance!

  • Animal Kingdom (half-day)
    • Carnival games at DinoLand U.S.A.
    • TriceraTop Spin
    • The Boneyard (super fun dino-themed playground!)
    • Walking through Pandora—The World of Avatar
    • Lunch at Satu’li Canteen

Our Park Day Itinerary

On the first day, our flight arrived at 2:00 p.m., so we didn’t get a ton of time to explore Epcot. But after checking in and freshening up, we arrived at the park around 4:00 p.m. and stayed until 7:00 p.m. The kids were definitely more cranky that day, so we opted for a good night’s sleep to better prepare for the next day. My littles don’t sleep in (ever lol), so we were up and ready every day by 7:30 a.m. and made it just in time for rope drop at each park the next three days.

Since we were up so early, we had enough time to explore and ride before my youngest started getting tired close to naptime. Thanks to the resort transportation, we were back in our suite by 12:30 P.M. on days two and three. While our 2-year-old napped, our oldest had fun at the resort with dad. We made it back to the parks by 3:00 p.m. and stayed until 7:30-8:30 p.m. (we stayed later on our third day at Hollywood Studios to watch Fantasmic!). On our last day, we left Animal Kingdom to catch our airport shuttle by 11:30 a.m.

Maximizing Our Experience With the My Disney Experiences App

And lastly, the real MVP of our Disney parks experience was the My Disney Experiences app. We used the app during our honeymoon seven years ago, loved it then, and left this trip loving the app even more now. It has absolutely everything you need from your park tickets, room key access, directions to everything in the parks and resorts, wait times for rides and attractions, and even mobile food ordering at certain dining areas.

The app made navigating the parks an absolute breeze, especially with two small kids. Toddlers are notoriously impatient, and with the app, we were able to avoid rides with longer lines and prioritize which attractions to use our Lightning Lane passes for. According to Disney’s website, after July 24, guests staying at a Disney hotel will be able to purchase Lightning Lane Passes seven days before their Disney trip, which allows guests to select up to three Lightening Lane entrances per day. Our 2-year-old technically didn’t need one to join the Lightning Lane (another plus!)—that helped us make the most out of each day.

What I’d Do Differently With Toddlers at Disney

Looking back, I would’ve loved to have more time at Animal Kingdom. We only got to explore two areas in Animal Kingdom before we left and missed out on a few shows I really wanted my kids to experience (like Festival of the Lion King and Kilimanjaro Safari). It’s worth staying an extra night in order to get a full day there. And one thing I will definitely do when we return is bring their grandparents. Not only would they have loved to experience it all with us, but it also would’ve been lovely to have another (couple) set of hands to help out. Disney World with toddlers is absolutely doable without extra adults, but it’s also such a huge milestone vacation that’s even better when shared with a group of loved ones.

What I Loved Most About Taking My Toddlers to Disney World

The best thing about toddlers is that even the littlest things are so very magical to them. When Disney World brings all that movie magic to life, toddlers soak it in wholeheartedly. Every ride was euphoric, every character they met was real, and every show they watched brought their imaginations to life. Yes, they had their fair share of tantrums due to overstimulation and tiredness (it’s unavoidable at their age, unfortunately), but their absolute awe and pure joy made up for those moments tenfold. Regardless of whether they remember it or not, visiting Disney World with my toddlers was an experience I’ll always cherish.

steph alleva cornell

Steph Alleva Cornell, Branded Content Editor

Since becoming a young mama in 2020, Steph has found joy in creating beautiful yet relatable content surrounding the raw realities of motherhood. She believes showcasing both the wonders and struggles of being a parent helps other mothers understand that they are not alone in their journey.