Mornings with Kristen Herrmann

Mornings with Kristen Herrmann

Mornings with Kristen Herrmann

Trudy was a HUGE fan of Donald and Daisy Duck this trip. We ended up bringing home a little bit of Donald Duck merch too. We made a point of stopping any time we saw either Donald or Daisy in the park. Where she completely froze up meeting Anna and Elsa from frozen, as you can see, she was completely at ease meeting Daisy Duck. We found that Dinoland in Animal Kingdom had the most opportunities to meet both, with the added bonus of Chip and Dale too.

Disney World is for toddlers too. Everyone, really. This year I traveled with my (almost) 2-year-old Trudy, and I can attest. Walt Disney World is the most Magical Place on Earth at any age. Trudy is still talking about our trip. I was actually there for work. Disney was kind enough to send my family and me on a complimentary trip to Disney World for a live broadcast. Aside from work, we didn’t have a lot of set plans or reservations, and sort of just made our way through each of the parks. This really worked for us. When I scroll through the photos, it’s hard to find the major ‘favorites’. We loved it all. We were truly happy for 5 days straight in the Most Magical Place on Earth, and I can’t wait to go back. If you are planning a trip to Disney World, especially with a toddler, below are my basic tips.

If you read nothing further, the best tip I have is if you were waiting until your kids are older to take them to Disney World, don’t wait. Disney World is for toddlers too. I’m so glad that Trudy was able to experience the magic of Disney World while it was all still truly magical to her. Her interactions with Donald Duck alone make me want to book our next trip as soon as possible.

Sure, she may not remember this when she’s older, but I certainly will, and we have LOTS of photos that captured her sheer joy throughout the entire trip.

  • The Travel

    If you want to allow your kid the opportunity to nap, bring a stroller. We opted to rent one, rather than fly one from Philadelphia to Orlando. That’s up to you, but we definitely needed it. I originally planned to use a carrier that you wear, and that lasted less than 5 minutes. Lesson learned. My daughter just wanted to walk and run and chase bubbles all over the parks, and when she didn’t want to do that, she was tuckered out and enjoyed the stroller ride. My back also enjoyed the break from carrying her, with the help of a carrier or not. A stroller is a must, and the park rents them pretty inexpensively for about $15 a day. We opted to rent ours for the length of our stay, which then is $13 a day. Double strollers are $31 daily, and $27 a day for multiple days. For the flight, I hate to say it, but don’t forget the iPad. Snacks and an iPad. Trudy had unlimited snacks and Barney and was perfectly content on both flights there and back. If you have to pack diapers and want to save space in your luggage, you can always order grocery store delivery when you get there with some diapers, wipes and go-to toddler snacks like bars and pouches and milk.

    toddler rides through the airport on top of a rolling suitcase

    Tired of carrying your kid through the airport? Don’t be afraid to improvise. Trudy loved the ‘ride’, and my back loved the break. I really wouldn’t mind an adult version of this. Not a bad way to get around.

    We took planes, trains and automobiles to get to Disney and every one of them were worth it. Then, once you got there, there lots of different rides, even just getting to the parks. We especially liked the Disney Skyliner, and the boats that take us to and from Epcot to our resort. Walking was an option too, but sometimes it was nice to just take the boat.

    toddler asleep in a stroller

    Trudy falls asleep in the stroller with lots of stickers and lots of sunscreen on. The first day in the park and we had about 20,000 steps in from just Epcot alone. I’d intended to wear a baby carrier, but we ended up renting a stroller each day. This was a much more comfortable option for both of us, and really allowed for a better nap (as you can see). Pretty inexpensive too if you go with the rental option.

    toddler watches barney on a screen

    Trudy is pretty good on flights. We did a 9 hour trip to Italy earlier this year and she was fine for that, so we weren’t too worried about the 2 hour flight to Orlando from Philly. That is, as long as we have an iPad. This kid will watch TV if we let her, and on a plane we’re totally fine with it. Barney and Miss Rachel and lots and lots of snacks are the key. We bought a fancy headband with headphones in it for her but she refused to wear it. She was ok to just watch the screen in silence. I’m sure she’ll grow out of that soon.

  • Character Dining

    If your kids love the characters, opt for the character dining. We did a few of these, and while they were pricier, it’s absolutely worth it. The characters come over to interact multiple times throughout your meal, and they pause for dance parties on occasion too. Our favorite was at Cape May Cafe which is located at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s right next to Epcot and around the corner (lake) from the Boardwalk Resort where we were staying. We walked over for breakfast and the food was really really great. The buffet had something for everyone, including unlimited real whipped cream with berries and pancakes and crepes. They also offered built-to-order omelets and some really tasty breakfast burritos too. We were super happy with it, and full to head off to the park for the day. We loved the character breakfast at Hollywood & Vine too in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here we arrived toward the end of breakfast and it was just us and another family. Trudy had unlimited hugs from and dances with the characters and it was a really personalized experience. The server told us that booking the character breakfasts for the earliest or latest time slots is the best chance of this happening. The character dining experiences that we chose were specifically for the mascot type characters. Each is different, so If your kid is into princesses, you should look into the Royal Banquet Hall or an experience where the Princesses come out to interact.

    toddler waves to Minnie Mouse

    This was at one of our Character Dining experiences. Minnie and Goofy and Donald and Daisy Duck came by the table multiple times while we were eating. Most of the time Trudy was delighted to see them and hug and take a photo. Occasionally she was so into her pancakes that she simply brushed them off saying, “I’m eating food.” We get it too. The food was really great.

    toddler in front of a kids meal of apple sauce, corn and mac and cheese

    The kid’s meals at Disney World are legit. This kid’s meal with LOTS of mac and cheese, apple sauce, corn and milk cost somewhere around ten bucks. Super affordable and delicious too. We loved this restaurant in Animal Kingdom. It’s near the Expedition Everest ride and is called Anandapur Yak & Yeti Restaurant. A really great stop if you’re hungry. We loved the Thai Basil Chicken especially.

    toddler eats a Mickey Bar ice cream bar

    These Mickey Bars are the best. Seriously. A perfect ice cream-to-chocolate ratio. The one problem? Toddlers eat them in the messiest way possible. This Elsa dress was COVERED in chocolate by the time she was finished. It came out in the wash, but still. Parenting fail on this one, but probably worth it.

  • Sunscreen

    You’re going to need it. The weather was pretty cool for Florida while we were there, but there was still quite a bit of sunshine. Especially with kids, be sure to bring some sunscreen with you or purchase it at the park or resort when you arrive. Hats are a great idea too. When you plan a trip perfectly, you don’t want to let something as simple as sunscreen ruin your experience.

    sunscreen bottle

    Sunscreen is a must in Orlando, any time of year. When we were there in February the weather was really nice. Cool even. Still needed sunscreen. It happens too often that you spend all this time and money planning the perfect vacation, only to ruin it looking like a lobster and feeling super uncomfortable. Or is it just me? As a redhead, I always have sunscreen on me. Especially in Disney World. Worth it every time.

  • Bubbles Everywhere

    They’re going to see quite a lot of bubbles in every park. They sell these great handheld bubble machines all over the parks, in different designs. After 3 days of seeing these everywhere we went, we opted for the Buzz Light Year spaceship bubble machine. We’ve played with it a bunch of times at home too since the trip. It was pricey (I think $30?), but they work really well and provided LOTS of toddler entertainment. That’s the beauty of them actually. Whether your kid gets one or not, there are so many spread throughout the parks and in lines, that your kid gets to play with bubbles no matter what.

    toddler holds a bubble gun and a donald duck doll

    When you see the price for these (around $30), you think, nah. Then you see them all over the parks every day and you eventually cave. We did, and I’m glad. It was a fun distraction while we waited in ride lines, and for other kids too. This Buzz Lightyear Bubble Machine has been ours for about a week but has already provided hours of toddler entertainment. We’re sure to get many more hours worth of entertainment this spring and summer too.

  • Books and Movies Come to Life

    Disney World offers the chance for your child’s favorite characters and stories to play out in front of them. Trudy doesn’t know a lot about Disney movies (yet), but she was familiar with the music and in awe of everything she saw at the parks and even at our hotel. The experience gave her her first glimpse of real animals too. We’ve done petting zoos, but haven’t visited a full zoo yet. The Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom allowed us to show her real live hippos and flamingoes and elephants and giraffes all within a few feet of our ‘ride’. It was so neat to be able to watch her see these animals for the first time.

    an elephant takes a drink of water from a stream in Kilimanjaro safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom

    Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom is just one ride, but it’s different every time. You learn so much from the driver of your vehicle. For instance, did you know that a group of hippos is called a bloat? Yep. And we saw one! Being able to show Trudy all of the animals from her books was very cool. Hippos and flamingos and lions and elephants and giraffes and so much more.

  • Think They're Too Young? Don’t Wait.

    Despite her age, Trudy was able to go on lots of rides. She especially loved the Prince Charming Regal Carousel and It’s A Small World of course, but a lot of our favorite experiences with her were related to the shows. At home, there aren’t many opportunities to take your toddler to see live theater. At Disney, there are so many options. Our favorite of all was the Finding Nemo musical in Animal Kingdom. The Big Blue… and Beyond. It’s incredible. The music, the performances, the puppets, all of it. We also really loved Festival of the Lion King and the Beauty and Beast Live on Stage show, and the Frozen Sing-Along was fun too. The shows are all relatively short and kept her attention the entire time. If you have small children who like to dance, be sure to catch the Disney Jr. Play and Dance show in Hollywood Studios, and of course the parades. Even the street bands were super fun. In Animal Kingdom we caught the Viva Gaia Street Band and had too much fun watching them play and dance and interact with the crowd.

    a scene from The Big Blue... and Beyond Finding Nemo Musical stage show in Animal Kingdom

    My favorite show in all of Disney World. The Big Blue… and Beyond – the Finding Nemo Musical. It’s SO good. The first time I saw this I was so blown away that I stayed and watched it two more times. The puppets are so beautiful and the music is really catchy too. Trudy loved the show, especially the bubbles at the end. Spoiler alert.

    Fire breathing dragon float during Disney World parade

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t visit Disney World if you didn’t catch a parade. It’s a Disney rite of passage (or something). This one had it all. Princesses, dancers, Mickey and Minnie, and even a fire-breathing dragon. Pro tip: get a Mickey Bar or snack before the parade starts. Eat it while you wait.

    toddler smiles on a carousel ride at Disney World

    Trudy’s favorite ride was a ride we could also enjoy just about anywhere else. The carousel. More magical in Disney, sure – but a carousel nonetheless. She asked to go on the carousel multiple times, and who were we to say no? It was fun, and in a central location, near lots of other great rides at Magic Kingdom.

    photo of the end of the It's a Small World Ride at Disney World

    I love this ride. A Disney classic for sure, and Trudy loved it too. I watched her smile the entire time, and she didn’t even know where to look. The song is catchy and upbeat, the puppets are beautiful, and I’m always amazed when the ride tells you goodbye – by name – at the end. How DO they do that?

    a scene from the Beauty and the Beast live show stage

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