Tips for Surviving Disney with Kids

Disney is truly the most magical place and you probably want your kids to have this amazing time. That can certainly happen, but I would be lying if I said that kids don’t get tired from walking 10+ miles, standing in the hot sun, and waking up super early while skipping their nap times. Tired kids can sometimes equal cranky kids. BUT you can eliminate those chances by following this tips for surviving Disney with kids:

Get Your Kids Involved in Planning

Many parents love to surprise their kids with a trip to Disney, not telling them they are going until they are on the plane or passing through the gates. I absolutely love this moment, but if your kids have never been there before, you might want to consider otherwise. Disney will be a huge shift in their normal routine and if your kid doesn’t adjust well to that then surprising them a week or two beforehand might be a better way to go.

We surprised my daughter with a cake on her 10th birthday that said “We are going to Disney!”. She was still equally surprised, but it gave her two extra weeks to get excited about the trip and help me plan. By giving your kids a little bit of a heads up, you can help prepare them for the idea of waking up early and that you might be standing in lines for a while. They will still get just as excited when they see the gates for the first time showing them that they have arrived.

Let them pick out a restaurant or a ride that they can look forward to while at the parks. This can help give them something to look forward to when you are standing at rope drop at 6:00am or when they start to get cranky in the afternoon.

Bring a Stroller

Little legs get easily exhausted and tired children can be the perfect recipe for a Disney meltdown. At Disney you will walk 10-12 miles every day at the park. Make things easier for you and your kid by bringing or renting a stroller. Seriously, don’t think twice about it.

My son was three and a half when we took him and he had never used a stroller at home. I was hesitant to bring a stroller for him at first, but I do not regret it one bit! In fact, if your kid is five years old or younger, I STRONGLY recommend bringing a stroller. You can get through crowds easily without fearing them lagging behind and it can be a great spot for them to crash for an afternoon nap.

If bringing your own stroller, I loved our umbrella stroller from Baby Trend. It is extremely lightweight with a sun shade and can recline for easy napping. If your child has the ability to rest their legs and get a decent nap, then you are setting yourself up for success in the parks and more likely to avoid a meltdown.

Hot Tip: Tie a bright ribbon to your stroller to make it easy to find in the crowded stroller parking areas.

Carry Snacks

The other main factor that can cause a kid meltdown is a hungry kid. Sometimes a hangry child can strike when they have been waiting in line for over an hour. To avoid their crankiness affecting you and everyone around you, bring small snacks in your bag to hold them over until your next meal.

Bring Water & Portable Fan

If you are visiting Disney in the summer, it can get extremely hot especially while waiting in lines in the sun. Keep your kids comfortable by carrying a small portable fan and a collapsible water. Keeping them cool will help keep them happy for the long haul. Check out my post for other park essentials that will make your days just a little easier.

Buy Souvenirs in Advance

It is very common for your favorite rides to exit through the gift shop. You and your kids will likely want to look at everything and they will definitely want to buy everything. My aunt always likes to remind me of a full blown tantrum I had at Disney when I was five years old over a pink plastic sword. My mom said I could have it only if I carried it around the rest of the day. To avoid this dilemma, try buying small gifts you can wrap up and give your kids at the end of the day as a mini surprise.

5-year-old me with my pink sword, carrying it around all day.

Another option we have done with our kids is to provide them a gift card with a set amount. They have a certain amount of money that they can spend when we visit the gift stores at the end of the day, but when the money is gone, that’s it.

Hot Tip: Pressed pennies make for a great cheap souvenir. These stations can be found across the parks and only cost 50 cents plus one penny to make. Your kids will love getting to crank the machine and press their own souvenir.

Take Breaks

This is a hotly debated topic amongst dedicated Disney goers. Many will choose to head back to the resort for a midday nap, whereas others will choose to just power through and have their kids nap on the go. I am of the latter personally, but find ways to take breaks in another way.

Disney shows are a great way to get some much needed rest. Little legs get a break, you get out of the sun, and get to enjoy some air conditioning. Additionally, the dimmed lighting makes it easier for little ones to get a quick nap on your lap. You could also be like my husband and daughter and just find a quiet spot in the park.

Disney with kids can be exhausting.

Choosing to go back to the resort can be a good idea, but know that it will likely take you three hours to go back, take a nap, and then return to the park. If you are not concerned about it cutting into your time at the park, then this can be a great route to go. Many people enjoy going for rope drop and then coming back late at night for evening hours.

Character Dining

Character dining is a great way to see some of your kid’s favorite characters without needing to hunt them down within the park. If your child absolutely loves princesses, try eating a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom. If you want to guarantee getting to interact with the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, & Pluto), then try the buffet at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort.

Carry their MagicBands

I am giving you this advice from personal experience: carry your kids’ MagicBands! My son likes to fidget with his and my daughter has lost hers on It’s a Small World. It is easy enough to get another one, but it will take time out of your day. Avoid needing to get a new one by collecting their MagicBands after each use. They still like to scan their bands and see the kiosk light up, but then the bands go right back into my bag.

Plan if Your Kids Get Lost

No one likes to think about losing their kids at Disney, but it definitely can happen. Kids can easily get separated in the crowd so it is important to talk to them about what to do if that happens to them. The first thing is to not panic and to go find a cast member immediately. I have far too often been the mom trying to help a crying child find their parents, but cast members can easily communicate and help locate parents. More often than not, kids are close by so do not panic yourself.

If you have smaller ones, try writing your phone number on their arm and covering it with liquid bandaid to avoid it washing off. You can also make a little bracelet for them to wear with your phone number on it.

Follow these steps to make your days go a little more smoothly and minimize the chances of a kid meltdown. Do you have any tips for surviving Disney with kids? Let me know in the comments below!

Driving to Disney? Check out my post on road trip must-haves when traveling with kids.

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