Today’s post comes from the vagabond crew at Bonafide Traveler, a group of traveling friends who love sharing their passion for traveling! Bonafide’s goal is to spread the travel bug and help make your next trip as memorable as possible. And as I set off on some traveling of my own, this seems like a great time to introduce them to you. Enjoy! xoxo – Sharon
Becoming a parent is a life-changing transformation. You’re learning to care for this precious new life and learning new things every day about yourself, your partner and being parents — all on little to no sleep.
But becoming a parent doesn’t mean your life stops; it just means starting a new adventure. Traveling with an infant or toddler may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. All that’s required is a little planning. Here are the essential tips to help you survive and have fun on your first trip to Orlando as new parents.
Go during the theme park’s off-season.
Nothing is worse than attempting to pacify a cranky child while being closely surrounded by tons of other people with cranky children. The obvious way to avoid major crowds and obscene lines is going to Orlando during the off-season. The typical theme park off-season months and best times to visit are:
- The first two weeks of November
- The first two weeks of December
Avoid the summer because it’s so hot and crowded since kids are out of school. Do your best to avoid holidays and other times kids are on breaks from school. The off-season not only brings fewer people, it also brings nicer weather and generally better deals on flights, hotels and sometimes park tickets.
Buy tickets and plan your day out in advance.
As was mentioned previously, planning beforehand is going to be a major life and headache saver. Planning includes buying your theme park tickets in advance. That’s one less thing you have to do once you get to Orlando, and we all know the least amount of things you have to do on vacation (that aren’t fun) the better. There are hundreds of sites that claim to offer discount tickets, so make sure you’re purchasing from an official source. A great source is Visit Orlando, an official seller of discounted theme park and attraction tickets.
Planning also means deciding how long you’re going to be on vacation and what you’re going to do each day. Depending on how much you want to see and do determines how long you’re going to stay, but for new parents it’s best to only visit one or two theme parks during that first Orlando trip and give yourself a couple of days at each park so you can see and do as much as you want without feeling rushed. Trying to cram everything you want to see and experience at Walt Disney World is going to make for a miserable kid and miserable parents. As you plan each day out in advance, make sure to note what your family’s priorities are and sample selectively. Do enough so that everyone is happy but isn’t cranky or exhausted by the time you’re ready to call it a day.
Remember — kids live in the moment. It’s the simplest things that entertain young children, so if your child wants to play in a fountain for a while, let them! Have a plan but be ok with adjusting it if you need to so you can accommodate a happy kid.
Pack the essentials.
Bring what you can and need with you to the park. Yes, younger kids require a lot, so fit what you can in your diaper bag or backpack and double check that you have everything you need — or might need since accidents happen — before heading out on your fun-filled day of adventure.
Here’s a basic checklist of things to pack:
- Change of clothes
- Rain ponchos
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby food or formula
- Recyclable empty water bottle
- Small toys
Be sure to check each theme park’s website to find out what they do and don’t allow people to bring inside their park. And don’t fret if you do forget something! Most parks have shops for you to buy any needed items you may have left in your hotel room.
Take advantage of the park’s kid perks.
Since Orlando theme parks are family-friendly, they have many kid perks you can and should take advantage of. One perk is baby care centers. These areas allow parents to privately feed and change their kids and are usually complete with various child amenities you might need. Most of Disney’s parks have their own baby care centers, including facilities in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Another perk is a child swap or rider switch program. These programs allow you and your partner to each enjoy all the rides you want to without having to wait in line twice or not get to ride at all because your kid doesn’t reach the height requirement. You just have to let an employee at the ride line know you want to do this program or ask them for the needed pass, and then you can ride the ride and then switch off parenting duties so your partner can ride the ride after you, bypassing waiting in line again.
It’s not just the theme parks that are family-friendly. Hotels in the Orlando area are more than accommodating for parents and kids. Many hotels in the area provide free scheduled transportation to almost every theme park. Some hotels around Orlando even have “Kids Eat Free” programs. All kids under 10 years of age are treated to free meals! Be sure to research your hotel ahead of time so you can take advantage of these money-saving perks.
Besides these tips, below is more know-before-you-go information on Orlando’s theme parks that as new parents you should have on your radar before planning your Orlando vacation.
- Children younger than 3 don’t need a ticket.
- Has Baby Care Centers, complete with amenities for infants and toddlers, a feeding area, private nursing room and changing room with tables.
- Can rent strollers daily or multi-day.
- Has a Rider Switch service.
- Can take snacks and baby food inside the park.
- Can only bring food or drinks in if you have a special diet or if you have baby formula and baby food.
- Can rent strollers.
- Take your younger kids to Shamu’s Happy Harbor, where they can play, burn off energy, ride a few rides and parents can sit in the shade.
- Ideal for families with children ages 2-12.
- Can bring your own stroller in or rent a single or double seat stroller.
- Has plenty of fun attractions for toddlers, most of which don’t have a minimum height requirement.
- Can rent strollers there or bring your own.
- Snacks for young kids are allowed inside.
- Children 3 and under are free admission!
- Have a “child swap” program.
So don’t stay at home stuck on your couch this year just because you have a pint-sized addition to your household. Pack up your little family and set out to Orlando. Follow these tips and you’re guaranteed to survive your first Orlando trip as new parents while having fun and making lifelong memories.