How to Do Disney World with a 3 Year Old – Part 1
We are HUGE Disney fans in our house! I grew up 20 minutes away from Disneyland, so needless to say, Disney was a big part of my childhood. So many of my memories as a little girl involve Disney, and some of my absolute favorite photos of myself were taken at Disneyland. Now that I have children of my own, I want them to experience Disney for themselves, and I hope they will grow to love it just as much as their mama!
We took our oldest, Noah, to Disney World for the first time last summer right before he turned 3. We visited in late August, which made it a great time to visit with relatively low crowds. Most people would say to avoid traveling to Disney World in August due to the heat; however, if you can swing a trip towards the end of the month, you will enjoy much less crowded parks, since many families are in back-to-school mode during this time. This was such a special trip for us since Noah was getting ready to turn 3 in just a few days and had recently become a big brother a few months prior. Our little guy was struggling with some jealousy after the arrival of his baby sis, so we decided to take this opportunity to spend some much needed one-on-one time with him. We were lucky to have my mom who offered to watch London for us while we ventured down to Disney for a long 3-day weekend!
I remember the exact moment that Noah first laid eyes on the real Mickey Mouse. It was during the Welcome Show at Magic Kingdom, and Mickey and his friends came riding in on the Walt Disney World Steam Train. It was a moment I will never, ever forget as a parent. Both my husband and I agree that that moment was worth the price of admission alone. I admit, I cried lots of happy tears during our trip!
We have since been to Disney World with our 3 year old two times. Our most recent trip was this past April. We enjoyed fantastic weather and relatively low crowds during the week. Plus, we got the added bonus of visiting during the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot (which I highly recommend!). Today I wanted to share some planning tips for booking your Disney World vacation. Keep in mind this is a beginner’s guide to Disney World. I am by no means a Disney expert, but I have learned a thing or two from planning our previous trips, and am already in planning mode for our next Disney vacation!
Okay, so now for a few planning tips…
Book your trip early and make your Fast Pass+ selections as soon as possible. Book your trip at least 60 days out (or more). This is a biggie. Especially, if you plan to stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel. Disney World Resort Hotel guests get the luxury of making FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to their trip, which pretty much ensures you get the ride selections you want, at the times you want. If you are not staying at a Disney World Resort hotel, you will have to wait until 30 days prior to make your FastPass+ selections. Not the end of the world; however, IF you are planning to stay on-site, you will definitely want to take advantage of this perk! We are slightly fanatical about our FastPass+ selections (especially when it comes to avoiding long lines with a 3 year old), so the minute that we are allowed to make our FastPass+ selections, we hop online to make sure we get our first preferences. For those who want to book their FastPasses at exactly the 60 day mark, Disney has recently changed the FastPass+ booking time to 7:00am EST (previously, it was midnight). Disney allows you to make up to 3 FastPass+ selections in advance, and once those passes are used inside the parks, you are then able to select additional FastPasses one at a time. For more info on FastPass+, click here.
Plan ahead and create a (flexible) itinerary. Prior to our FastPass+ selection day, the hubby and I sit down together and make a schedule for each day we will be visiting. Oh, who am I kidding?! I’m the planner in this house, so I spend hours meticulously planning every detail of our trip, which drives the hubby just a little insane. I do know that once we arrive our plans may change, so I try to be realistic, and understand that we may not get to everything on our list. Surprisingly, I am okay with this, but it makes the planner inside of me very happy to see a detailed schedule written out. We decide which days to visit specific parks, and then come up with a (flexible) itinerary for that day, including which rides and shows are most important to us. We also pencil in character greetings and approximate times for meals (and naps).
Download the My Disney Experience Mobile App. Not only can you plan your entire trip from the app, you can also view all of the rides and attractions for each park (including character meeting locations), check wait times for rides, modify FastPass+ selections, and you can even preview your Disney PhotoPass photos! The awesome thing about Disney World is that there is free WiFi available throughout the property – including resorts and parks, so you can access the app from anywhere! We basically live in this app while we are there! It’s an absolute must-have! More info on the My Disney Experience Mobile app.
In summary, a little planning goes a LONG way when it comes to doing Disney World with little ones. Check back here for Part 2, where I share some tips on what to do when you arrive – including a sample itinerary of a day at Magic Kingdom + our 3 year old’s favorite rides and attractions!