Disney With A Toddler

Rob and I have been to Disney quite a few times but this time it was going to be different with Parker. I wasn’t worried since Sarah and Tim were coming as well, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I was able to find loads of information online from other mom bloggers and blogs dedicated entirely to Disney vacations. Some of my favorites are All EarsDisney Drawing Board and Military Disney Trips.

This post has taken me a few months to put together so I apologize for it’s length. I wanted to make sure to cover what I thought would be helpful for other parents planning their magical vacation.


We originally booked two rooms at Pop Century but had an unfortunate experience there with our reservation and even worse customer service, which is very unlike Disney. Long story short after getting the run around for hours, repeatedly being told the issue was solved (when it wasn’t) and speaking with the hospitality manager, we moved to another resort. I had to pack our room, load the car and wake Parker at midnight to move, but it was necessary.

We ended up at Caribbean Beach on the ground floor which was a much nicer resort and easier accessibility. While the process to get there was pretty horrible and wasted an entire day of our vacation, Disney ended up making it right and we had a wonderful time once we were all moved in.

Sadly, we didn’t find this hidden playground or experience the zero entry pool until the last day. Parker had so much fun and it was a nice way to spend our last day. He is obsessed with slides and the water one wasn’t any different. There was no one on the playground so he was able to run around freely. I would definitely recommend scoping out the pools and playgrounds at your resort. It’s a great way to spend down time.
The Old Port Royal Food Court was great for a few of the meals that were not spent in the parks. There are five different counters offering a variety of choices to fit your mood. These include pizza, burgers, deli and the a dinner only option of a more home cooked style. There is also a Grab & Go Market to pick up quick meals, snacks and beverages.
I was a little nervous about riding the bus w/o P properly secured. The first few trips I wore him but he wasn’t a huge fan. After awhile I got a little more comfortable and he started sitting with us on a seat. I definitely recommend packing all of your park gear in bags and packing a fold up one for the end of the day when you may have some extra items. It makes things a little easier when you can stuff everything into a bag and throw it over your should while you wrestle with your toddler(s) and stroller.

We brought our Joovy Zoom 360 and while it was a little chunky on the bus but still manageable and well worth the comfort and storage space in the parks. You can see a more in depth review of the stroller here and more specifically on our Disney trip here.

Check out some great tips on staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort from The Mouse For Less.
Being the foodie that Rob is, planning our meals ahead of time was essential. We also wanted to eat at a few places that book up quickly. Disney strongly recommends advanced reservations and most can be made up to 180 days prior. For some reservations, like the new Be Our Guest, you need to make reservations that early.

The Disney Dining page is a great way to search for options based on experience, price range, cuisine, and what dinning plans are accepted. Making and changing reservations is very easy so you can always switch them around as needed. You can also link reservations right into your My Disney Experience account so you are always up to date on the days schedule.

IMG_5349Overall, I was very pleased with our dining selections. Since we were dining with a toddler this time I knew it was going to be a little bit of a challenge at times. The staff at each location were extremely welcoming and patient. By the end of the trip Rob and I had the routine down pretty well and were able to really enjoy our meals.We did purchase the meal plan that gave us a quick service, sit down and snack each day. It ended up being way to much food and we were purchasing left over snacks on the last day for our trip home. The quick service and sit down come with a meal, drink and dessert. As a kid I would have jumped for joy at getting dessert two times a day. This time, it was way too much and I ended up declining most of the time. There were also times where I would have much preferred an appetizer. While the meal plan is convenient I don’t think we will go that route again unless it is part of a package deal.I definitely think that kids are never too young for the Disney character meals. Parker didn’t know any of the character except for Mickey. He was still amazed when they would come up and interact with him. We got some priceless photos of Parker with different characters who he will know eventually.

Boma & Sanaa – Animal Kingdom

Boma                                                          Sanaa
Price: $36 – $60                                           Price: $15 – $30
Style: Buffet                                                Style: Sit down
Dining Plans Accepted                                Dining Plans Accepted

We were able to enjoy two restaurants at the Animal Kingdom resort. Boma which features vibrant flavors from over 50 African countries and a buffet style was a great way to try a variety of foods. Parker even enjoyed some of the options. Sanaa, a mix of African and Indian cuisine was delish and very unique. Both were on the slight fancy side for Parker’s taste but he ate off our plates and seemed to enjoy himself. It was nice to enjoy a good meal that was still appropriate for Parker.

We loved going outside and watching all of the animals walk around. It was a great way to spend some time before and after dinner.

Price: $36 – $60
Style: Buffet
Dining Plans Accepted

The Cape May Cafe was a decent buffet style restaurant. They take your stroller before entering, which I wasn’t a fan of. The food was typical but had a decent selection that made everyone happy. It was so hard for me not to eat more than the recommended amount of crab legs :/

Price: $15 – $30
Style: Sit down with entertainment
Dining Plans Accepted

Teppan Edo is a favorite of ours and restaurant we visit every time we are in Disney. The food is great, service is amazing, and the entertainment is always a good time. We were celebrating Rob’s birthday so he got a special hat. Definitely appropriate for kids although we brought Parker his own dinner and had bites of ours.

La Hacienda de San Angel – Epcot

Price: $15 – $30
Style: Sit down
Dining Plans Accepted

For our adult night out we decided to try La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot. The food was amazing and Rob, Sarah and Tim all agreed that the adult beverages were very tasty. Similar to Teppan EdoLa Hacienda de San Angel is located within the World Showcase so you can walk around before and after your meal.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – Hollywood Studios

Price: $15 – $30
Style: Sit down with entertainment
Dining Plans Accepted

We had an early dinner at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Hollywood Studios per my request. I remember it being so much fun when Sarah and I came to Disney when we were little. The set up is like a drive in theater with all tables facing a large movie screen that plays cartoons while you dine. The food was good and the milkshakes were amazing. I will say it’s not the best place to bring a toddler. The room is very dark which Parker was a little freaked out by it. There were also parts of the cartoon that was playing that weren’t really appropriate for toddlers. I do think that this is a great place for older children and will definitely be taking Parker back there in a few years.

Crystal Palace – Magic Kingdom

Price: $15 – $30
Style: Character Buffet
Dining Plans Accepted

I had never been to Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom so we definitely wanted to try it out with Parker. The restaurant was very spacious and open with a high ceiling certainly earning it’s name, Crystal Palace. The food selection was good and had specific items for younger kids. I think we all enjoyed the pigs-in-a-blanket the best. The characters took their turn walking around and we were able to see each of them during our meal. With the bright and open space, Parker was really able to see the characters and responded well to them when they came to the table.

Whispering Canyon Cafe – Wilderness Lodge

Price: $15 – $30
Style: All You Can Eat
Dining Plans Accepted

Rob and I had eaten at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in Wilderness Lodge before and was also a must on our list this time around. The food is amazing and you can eat to your hearts content. The milkshakes are also fantastic. I do recommend getting one at the end of your meal so you don’t fill up before dinner arrives. The wait staff is very involved with their guests and provide periodic entertainment for the kids throughout the meal. 


Price: $15 – $30
Style: All You Can Eat
Dining Plans Accepted

We had breakfast at ‘Ohana for one of their character meals. We were welcomed with fresh fruit, eggs, breakfast meats, and mini Mickey Mouse waffles. Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto walked around welcoming guests, signing autographs and taking photos. It was a great way to start the day and we all left extremely satisfied! I was also very impressed with their customer service. They offered a pitcher of a mixed fruit juice. Since we are still unsure of Parker’s allergy to pears we asked if they knew what was in it. The waitress was unsure and we said it was not a big deal, we would just give him apple juice. Next thing I know, the chef was at our table addressing our concern.

I talk about this a little more in depth in my Disney Packing List post but, we decided to bring items for Parker to eat at meal time. Kids meals can get a little pricey and he is still a little to young to eat everything or like what is offered. For the most part he ate off our plates and what we brought for him. We picked up Uncrustables (PB&J), goldfish, grapes and cheese sticks during our trip to Walmart. Most of these items are also available in the resort convenient stores. This was his typical lunch and then dinner he would usually get a Plum pouch, fruit and then a protein and veggie from out plates. We also brought along our Brita water bottle and small bottles of apple juice to drink throughout the day. We bought milk at Walmart which he got for breakfast in the room and at night before bed.


I knew going into our trip that having the right gear was going to be essential. I read tons of mom blogs and compiled a pretty extensive list. One of the benefits of taking the Amtrak Auto Train was that we weren’t limited on what we brought. I quickly realized when I started this section that it really needed to be a separate post. Here are a few snapshots of some of the gear we used. Click here for more photos, a complete packing list, and tons of links.

I can’t say enough about this stroller. Parker was so comfortable in it, we didn’t even need to head back to the hotel for naps! After lunch we just reclined the seat and gave him his pacifier and blanket. He was usually out in about 5 minutes and took a 2-3 hour nap each day. I had every intention of heading back to the room each day but this made things SO much easier. There was also a ton of space below to hold all of our gear so we were prepared for just about any situation. The bright red color also stood out and we were always able to find it in the stroller parking.
Park Adventures
One of the things I was most worried about in Disney was safety. Up until 18 months (December), Parker wasn’t walking so he was always in the stroller or the carrier close to us. I knew that he would not want to spend the long days in the park strapped into a stroller now that he was walking.

To help alleviate my worries, we decided to purchase the Skip Hop Zoo Safety Harness. I know many people are against “leashes” for their kids. I am not one of them. This was a great way to keep Parker from wandering off if we got distracted by something because lets face it, parents aren’t perfect. You never know when your childhood idol, Goofy, may come walking by and for a split second you are in la-la land.

We also made it routine to take a photo of Parker each morning while we waited for the bus. On the way to the park I would text the photo to everyone in our party along with his stats and allergies. In an emergency, this is a quick way to get authorities the information they need when you may still be in shock or unable to think straight. You never want to NEED something like this, but I felt a little more comfortable knowing everyone had the information on hand.

I partnered up with Lovable Labels to review their KID Bands!. Parker wore one each day in the parks which helped put my mind at ease. KID Bands! are waster resistant and tear proof one time use bands that can be customized for your specific needs. For $19.95 you get a pack of 34 wristbands available in 10 different patterns. Check out my full Lovable Labels: KID Bands! here.

One of the strangest things about Disney this time was having the stroller. I knew it would be great to hold all of our stuff but it always meant leaving it for meals and to go on rides. Disney certainly plans for this and has tons of designated stroller parking areas. It is really important to park your stroller in the appropriate place so they don’t overflow in high traffic areas causing jams. You’d be surprised how often it happened because folks were “too special” to follow the rules.

We saw an attendant at almost every stroller parking section who was specifically stationed there. Their job was to move strollers around to fill in the gaps as people came to pick theirs up. The first few times I had to search for ours I was a little annoyed. Then I saw areas where they didn’t have an attendant and it was a disaster. The area just kept expanding out into traffic because people would drop theirs off at the closest spot instead of in the gaps.

This little guy was able to eat a full meal by munching off food left uncovered underneath the different strollers. Definitely make sure to bring baggies and coolers with zippers so you don’t have your meal stolen by a real life character!

Our Favorite Attractions

I think this has to be one of my favorite photos from the entire trip. Parker enjoyed The Seas with Nemo & Friends® in Epcot. Once you leave the ride, there is a huge aquarium and a few fun places to take some adorable photos!
I remember the Honey I Shrunk The Kids play area at Hollywood Studios from when I was little. It wasn’t as magical for me this time being older and a little bit taller but watching Parker explore certainly was. He hadn’t really played on slides much before that day but once he discovered them, we couldn’t pry him away. He kept going up and sliding down, more times than I can even count. He has been obsessed with slides ever since.

This is a great place to take toddlers who are in the stroller for awhile during the day. They can run around, stretch their legs and get a little stimulation.

Since there were not many rides Parker (and even I) could go on, we made sure to visit the ones he could and we thought he would like. He wasn’t really use to amusement park rides so we wanted them to be slow and a seating option where he could sit on our laps if needed. This is a shot Rob took from It’s A Small World in Magic Kingdom. While it was a little overwhelming and he went from sitting between Rob and I to on my lap holding my hand, I think he really liked all the singing and lights. This is definitely a great ride to go on with little ones.

Dumbo The Flying Elephant was also a fun one to go on and one I recommend for toddlers. I had never been on it so it was a first for both Parker and I. They let all three of us together so Parker sat in the middle on the ride. He liked going up and down although he was holding our hands the whole time. This photo was taken with one of the seats that is set aside for photo opportunities.
Disney Secret Gems
There were some features of Disney that I read from bloggers that didn’t seem to be widely publicized.

Between the two Dumbo rides is an indoor circus themed play area. It is air conditioned and a perfect place to hide out in the hot weather. Even better, you can “check-in” for the Dumbo ride and get a beeper that will go off when it’s your turn. How cool is that?!?! The wait wasn’t very long so we didn’t need that feature but it was nice to get out of the sun and let Parker run around for a little while.

The Baby Care Centers are perfect for parents and off the beaten path so they are nice and quiet. I didn’t even know they existed until my good friend over at, All For Love, mentioned it.
  • Private nursing room with rocking chairs 
  • Changing room with tables and a unisex bathroom 
  • Feeding area with highchairs 
  • Kitchen with microwave, oven, and sink 
  • Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa 
  • On-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase
  • Location where where lost children are brought and looked after until their parents can come and pick them up. 
I was unsure if I was going to utilize this last secret gem, Kids Nite Out, until I was there. I was extremely hesitant to leave Parker with a complete stranger. My sister and Rob really pushed it so I decided to give them a call. The customer service rep was extremely friendly and had no trouble answer all of my questions.

If you are not familiar, Kids Nite Out is a Disney approved service that allows adults to enjoy their Disney experience through in-room and in-park services. Staff are 18 years or older, have previous childcare experience, are basic first aid certified and child/infant CPR certified. They are thoroughly interviewed and screened. References are checked and criminal backgrounds are performed.

Our sitter arrived promptly with a bag full of activities and games. She asked a lot of questions about Parker’s evening routine and took detailed notes. She also could tell I was nervous and offered to text me every half hour with updates. Parker started playing with her right away and didn’t even notice we left although I said goodbye to him and gave him a kiss like I always do. Yes, that picture above is my spying before we left.

Even though I was nervous up until I arrived back to the room I will say it was really nice to get out one night and I still had a lot of fun. I would definitely recommend this to anyone going. 

I knew I wanted to take Parker to the Harmony Barber Shop in Magic Kingdom. Although it wasn’t his “first” haircut I thought it would be fun. Our stylist was amazing and really kept Parker entertained. It was clear she knew what she was doing and was comfortable working with children.

Reservations are strongly recommend and I say they are a must. It was very busy inside and the stylists were moving from one appointment right to the next. They do children and adults cuts and styles and even beard/mustache trims. The prices are very reasonable and Parker’s ended up being $15 before the tip.

Using My Disney Experience is a great way to organize and plan for your trip. Prior to the trip we were able to connect all of our accounts together so that we all knew what the game plan was. Starting with the dates of our trip, hotel reservation and dinning plan. Then we started adding in dinning reservations which helped us decided what days we would visit which parks. We purchased the Disney Memory Maker Photo Pass which I talk about more below. We also order our personalized Magic Bands.

Before we left for the trip, we all downloaded the free mobile app so that we we could see all of our dinning and fast pass reservations. The mobile app also lets your see the wait times for attractions, showtimes, locate character greeting locations, and view maps.

Upon arrival, our Magic Bands were activated so we could get into our rooms and visit the dinning facility. We purchased military passes so we activated them in minutes at the first park we went to by scanning the bar code on the pass into the mobile app. Since our Magic Bands were already linked to the mobile app, we were able to use our Magic Bands right away to enter the park and make Fast Pass+ reservations. After that, we made Fast Pass+ reservations the night before so we had more choices.

For the remainder of the trip all we had to do was swipe to get into our rooms, enter the parks, enter the Fast Pass+ line, order food, have our picture taken and even purchase merchandise. No need for cash, credit cards, and park tickets. Parker saw us swipe so many times he started doing it and even now asks for his Magic Band to be put on and swipes at cabinets and doors to open!

Memory Maker
I was very pleased when I learned that Disney was now offering a Memory Maker package for their photo passes. I was always disappointed that the cost of individual photos were so high. They always turned out so well but I wanted them in digital form and couldn’t justify paying $20+ for more than one photo.The Disney Memory Maker Photo Pass is $199 but if you purchase it at least 3 days before your trip you can instantly save $50. All photos taken in the parks which include character photos, rides and any photo stations are included. If you attend any meals where photos are taken those are also included. You can see your photos each night and once your trip is over, download right to your computer and share them with friends and family.

I absolutely loved this service and am so glad we have so many amazing photos to remember our trip by. Although we took a ton of our own photos, sometimes it’s nice to have everyone in the shot.

You can see more photos from our trip in my Disney In Photos post.

Are you still with me? I told you it was gonna be long! I am sure there are many things I missed but hopefully this will give you some ideas of where to start while you plan your magical Disney experience. I think planning ahead makes things go a lot smoother even though it means you won’t be prepared for every little thing. Disney is all about creating a welcoming and fun environment for you and your family. On many occasions I witnessed staff doing everything they could to make that experience magical!

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