Heading to a Disney park with a preschooler in tow? Get ready for a ton of magic and adventure because this is my absolute favorite age to explore Disney parks with. I’ve been to Disneyland dozens of times with my preschool-aged kiddos (one of whom pictured above will hit the teen years this year — gasp!!!!), and I have learned a wealth of information that can help you plan the best Disney day with preschoolers. Explore these tips below and then please comment about your Disney with preschoolers trips & vacations; we would love to hear about your experiences.
1. Disney with Preschoolers: Plan Ahead
Benjamin Franklin no doubt had a future-Disney trip with a kiddo in mind when he penned the quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Okay, maybe not. But it is still really good advice for taking a preschooler to Disney. Here are some great tips you need to think about before your trip begins.
Decide on when to go. The awesome perk of having a preschooler at a Disney park is that you can visit year-round, when the 5-18 crowd is stuck behind a desk at school. Generally speaking, crowds tend to be heavy during summer and winter vacations, on weekends, and around major holidays, when the school-aged kids are on breaks. Take advantage of this and go off-season, mid-week for the best crowd-free environment.
Book a hotel room in advance, either onsite or at a hotel with complimentary shuttle. After your long day, you’ll want to be as close as possible to your bed.
Book reserved dining and FASTPASS+ (latter only at Walt Disney World) as far in advance as allowed. Although it can be daunting to predict your time schedule, these reservations fill up quickly.
Pack your preschoolers favorite snacks. Even though there is a ton of food available (see tip #4 on food below), bring your favorite snacks from home.
Bring a stroller. Yes, your kiddo is a big kid now and doesn’t need a stroller for short trips, but an all day walk-a-thon through multiple Disney parks is enough to make even big legs tired. Rentals are, of course, available, but it can be tricky to find yours in a sea of other rentals. Plus, the daily fee adds up to the cost of an inexpensive umbrella stroller in just a couple days. Many rental companies will deliver a stroller to your hotel room (hurray!) or you can buy an inexpensive one at a local superstore before entering the park. Bringing a stroller with a storage area is always recommended so you can stash your gear throughout the day. (Photo by: Flickr/JoeShlabotnik)
Expect a variety of temperatures. Mornings and evenings can prove extremely chilly on the west coast, and rain can come and go quickly during a Florida summer. Check the weather in advance and be sure to bring weatherproof (and comfy) walking shoes, sunscreen, and sweaters.
Measure your kiddo’s height, and let them know what they can or cannot ride. I have seen so many crying kiddos sadly walking away from a sought after ride because they didn’t meet the height minimum. For your child’s safety, there is absolutely no budging on this, so preparing your child in advance is extremely helpful. The Disney Parks websites maintain current height requirements for all rides. (Photo by Flickr/Reyes-Chow)
Forget something while in a Disney Park? Even the best planners realize that small kiddos don’t always operate by the book. This momma has had to purchase pretty much everything preschool related in a Disney park, including sunscreen, dry shoes (when the ones I brought proved terrible on a rainy day!) and clean undies & pants (accidents happen!). Parents should know that Baby Care Centers are located in every Disney park offering a quiet respite with clean and comfy changing tables, sinks, toilets for potty training, and supplies for purchase (including diapers, ointment, pull ups, wipes, and Children’s Tylenol).
Research everything you need to know. Explore our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacations on Trekaroo to learn the ins and outs of Disney Parks before you visit.
2. Disney with Preschoolers: Arrive Early
One of the absolute best perks of having an early-rising wee one in the family is that you can get to the parks before the “bigger kids” and their parents even hit snooze on their alarm clocks. Although the majority of thrill rides within Disney Parks feature FASTPASS and FASTPASS+ systems to get you on rides faster, most of the preschool-friendly rides do not. The absolute best way to tackle these long-line rides is to visit in the early morning, taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours if available (by staying onsite or with other special partners).
- Allow at least 30 minutes to get through transportation & security and get to the gate.
- You can enter the parks before open time, exploring shops, using restrooms, and looking at souvenirs.
- At Disneyland Park and The Magic Kingdom, tackle Fantasyland at opening. Lines get long and stay long until late at night when kids are too tired to ride (they also often close early for fireworks).