I have been daydreaming about my daughter's first Disney trip since the day I found out I was pregnant. Disney World is my happy place and I cannot wait to show it off to her. We talked about going "one day" off and on for a long time, but finally started to plan a trip around the time she turned 1 last November. September 9th of this year, almost an entire year later, we will finally be making that first trip for her and I couldn't be more excited!!
I totally believe that you can have a magical and wonderful trip to Disney at any age and without crazy amounts of prep work in advance, but that's just not my Disney style. I'm a mega planner, after all planning and daydreaming about our trip is half the fun! I wanted her first trip to be as smooth and fun for her as possible, so at the beginning of the summer we started to do things to prepare her for the trip as best as we can. Here's a list of some things we've done that you can do with your young one to help make their first (or second or third) trip to the world a little more magical:
- We had a couple overnight trips out of town
- We really felt that testing out sleeping in a hotel room, figuring out how we could all be happy with an Audrey bedtime, traveling in a car, etc. would help us get the best idea of what a trip to the world would be like. We just drove to a town a couple hours away and then made a weekend of visiting their zoo and museums and special events. We learned a lot (Audrey loves hotel beds, we better have good reading material if we have to have lights out and quiet at 8:30, planning travel with nap times helps, etc) and it was a lot of fun for us to get out for a weekend getaway!
- We watched lots of Disney movies, especially those featured in the parks
- I played lots of movies from Finding Nemo to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Mary Poppins. She loved them all! It's great because she now recognizes those characters and gets excited when she sees them.
- We made an effort to name and point out characters
- Whenever someone wears a mickey shirt or we pass a stuffed pooh bear we point it out to her and try to get her to say the name ("who is that Audrey?"). We also drew lots of characters for her with chalk outside while she played and talked about them. I'm hoping that when we go to Disney she will be able to watch a parade and get excited as she points out "Mermaid!" or "Mickey!". Toddlers love getting things right, so I think this will make it more fun for her.
- We watched fireworks
- We watched them at a festival on a weekend trip and on the Fourth of July. Disney and fireworks go hand in hand and we wanted to see how she would like them. The first time she saw them she said "pretty" and seemed to like watching, but was afraid of the loud noises. The second time she just loved it all around. It helped her acclimate to them and it also taught me that we might want to choose a fireworks viewing location near a building in case the noises become too much for her.
- We went to a small amusement park
- I'll talk about this more later on, but we tried to give her as many experiences like Disney that we could in our area. We have a small amusement park in our area, so we thought we would take her. They have mostly rides for taller people, but we tried to do as many diverse things as we could to see how she liked each. Going in we thought she would love the big swinging boat ride because at home she has no fear and loves to be swung around. There she actually hated it! haha. We learned that she will want time to run around after lots of time in line so we need to plan ahead to take time for playground such as those at the Dumbo waiting area or on Tom Sawyer's island. She wasn't the least bit afraid of the "scary" ride so we can also probably tackle Haunted Mansion. Overall she did awesome and learned sometimes we have to wait in lines.
- We went to a crowded fair
- This was really more preparing us than her because we had to learn how we would navigate the crowds with a stroller and keep an eye on her when she was out of the stroller. Audrey seemed to handle the crowds just fine!
- We ate out a lot
- This gave Audrey the opportunity to try lots of different foods, which will come in handy when we are at different restaurants and my not have her favorite food options, as well as get her comfortable with eating with lots of distractions.
- We played the freeze game
- In her gymboree class they play a game where the kids bang their hands on a big tube on the ground until the teacher yells "Freeze!". Then the kids are supposed to put their hands on their head and stop what they are doing. Audrey isn't quite two, so she's definitely not perfect at it, but making it a game helps. We used this a few times when she would start to stray from us too far and she would stop where she was.
- We worked on behaviors like "don't touch"
- This will help a lot in gift shops and icky places around the world.
- We met with characters
- Audrey isn't the biggest fan of characters, they tend to frighten her, so we tried getting her more comfortable around them. She's still not always up for it, so at least we are now prepared for the possibility she won't like it.
- We exercised
- Exercise is too harsh of a word, but we spent time walking a lot. In the parks we plan to use a stroller but there are so many places you can't. We wanted her to be used to lots of walking so we generally let her walk if she wants to rather than force her in the stroller for the majority of our outings.
- We read Disney books
- Audrey loves to read. Like watching Disney movies, this was all about getting her familiar with the Disney world.
- We stockpiled toys
- I've slowly been growing a collection of small toys for her as they go on sale for the plane rides and bus rides to help keep her entertained. New toys always fascinate her longer than old favorites.
- We tried out stroller napping
- She's a pro now, but it will be helpful when we get stuck behind afternoon parade traffic in the middle of a meltdown for nap time.
- We observed
- We have a VERY stubborn and strong-willed little girl that never gets tired. I have tried really watching her and trying to determine what keeps her the happiest and willing to help out. I noticed that Audrey really likes having "jobs". If you tell her little tasks like "help mommy give the puppies water" or "hold onto your backpack and don't drop it!" she gets very proud of herself and will be much more cooperative. She likes to feel like a big girl, so letting her do things on her own may take a little longer, but in the end it will make for a day with a lot more smiles. That's just my daughter, but really taking the time to observe your child and what things you can do to keep them happier, especially in high stress environments as Disney can often be, will save you lots of heartache when you go.
- We tried lots of stimulating (and often day-long) activities
- Audrey loves to play and explore new things so this was the easiest (and most fun) thing on the list. We have been to the science museum, salsa night at our local botanical gardens, the zoo, gymboree, free comic book day, star wars day at the book store, the neighborhood easter egg hunt, a baseball game, splash pads, festivals, food truck events, story time at the bookstore, and live performance shows. All of these things of helped get her ready for several days of non-stop fun :)
|Audrey fell in love with big hotel beds!|
|Watching Mary Poppins for the first time|
|Some Disney chalk art for Audrey|
|first time watching fireworks|
|Playing on the playground at our local amusement park|
|This picture doesn't do the crowds justice - but trust me it was packed|
|Eating out at Hibachi!|
|Meeting characters around town|
|Napping in the BOB|
|A few of our adventures|
Those are just a handful of ideas that can help get your tot ready and excited for a Disney trip! If you have any great ideas, please post them in the comments!