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13 Reasons to hit Disney with small children (the smaller, the better)

If you’re the proud parent of a baby or toddler, mentioning you’re considering a trip to Disney could lead to some negative reactions from well-meaning friends and family.

Don’t let those Ursulas make you second-guess your vacation plans. There’s never a wrong age to take children to Disney, but the first three years are a particularly awesome time to visit. Here’s why you should pack a diaper bag and zip-a-dee-doo-dah your way to a Disney vacation with your little one.

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1. Who cares if they nap through It’s a Small World?

Children under age 3 are granted free entry to all Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.

2. Want to meet Mickey Mouse without waiting in line?

Bring your baby to a character buffet meal. Not only can children under 3 enjoy the buffet offerings for free, they’ll be so enthralled getting one-on-one time with the main mouse that you may actually get to eat a plate of hot food!

3. Dedicated baby care centers

Each of the theme parks has a special area just for the diaper sect. Stop here to nurse in a private room, use the microwave, purchase any baby essentials you forgot to pack or just take a quiet break for a few minutes. But if you do need to freshen a diaper on the go, all bathrooms have changing pads and, note to dads, lines to use them are typically shorter in the men’s rooms.

4. Perfect for playing dress-up

Young children are allowed to wear costumes into the Disney parks year-round, not just on Halloween. So if yours refuses to take off his Jake and the Neverland Pirates getup or you really want an excuse to dress your baby girl like Minnie Mouse, here’s your chance to do it without anyone doing a double-take.

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5. Tons of rides for the whole family

Many Walt Disney World attractions have no height requirement and will allow infants and small children to ride on an adult’s lap.This way everyone can ride together at the same time. And who knows, maybe the soft music of the Haunted Mansion will even lull your little one into a cat nap.

6. Baby swap the roller coasters

For those thrill rides that Junior is just too wee for, parents don’t have to play rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets to ride and who gets to babysit. With the rider swap program, one parent can get in line for the attraction, and when they’re done, the other parent can go ahead and ride themselves with little-to-no wait time. Older siblings who are tall enough luck out, because they can ride with both parents!

7. No need to drive

You know how stressful it is trying to wrestle the baby into her car seat and then trying to concentrate on the road while you’re reaching into the back seat with one arm to locate a lost pacifier. If you stay at a Walt Disney Resort hotel, you don’t have to worry about car seats or driving at all. The resorts provide free bus transportation to and from the parks. Some resorts even have monorail or boat access, which offer the added bonus of letting your child stay in their stroller while you travel.

8. Is your baby an early riser?

Instead of trying to wish him back to sleep, take advantage of his early bird tendencies and enjoy extra magic hours. On certain mornings, the parks open an hour early for resort guests, meaning you can get on rides with little-to-no wait time. By the time the crowds arrive, you’ll be ready to head back to the hotel for a nap.

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9. Going to Disney World before your child is in school lets you avoid peak crowds and peak heat

Disney is busiest when school’s out, but the beauty of going with a baby is that you can visit any time of year. While there are always people visiting, fall and January usually see lower crowd levels.

10. Endless caffeinated beverages.

If you’re like most parents with young children, then you know that caffeine has magical healing powers. With the purchase of a refillable mug, you can get unlimited hot and cold beverages at the resorts to give you the energy to keep up with your tots all day long. When they finally slow down, you can ponder the eternal question of parents everywhere: How can something so small be so fast?

11. Gourmet food in a baby-friendly environment

If you can’t recall the last time you ate at a restaurant that didn’t have paper napkins, but don’t have a babysitter to make it happen, then you need a Disney vacation. With the exception of Victoria and Albert’s, all of the restaurants are extremely child-friendly, while still offering delicious food options for the adult palate. You don’t have to worry about every squeak the baby makes — it’s Disney World, there are kids everywhere, so they’ll fit right in — and wait staff is skilled in servicing parties with small children.

12. Vacation on your terms

It may seem contradictory, because Disney is so family friendly, but visiting with a baby is truly the only time you’ll get to enjoy the experience exactly as you wish. When you visit Disney while your child or children are young, you get to plan the itinerary and do what you find most fun. In just a few short years, they’ll have opinions of their own, so you may as well enjoy calling the shots while you can.

13. For the memories

One of the first things people love to say to parents who take babies to Disney World is, “They won’t remember it.” And while that may be true, there are many things we do with young kids they won’t remember: dressing them up for Halloween, filling their stocking on Christmas or celebrating their first birthday. Just like other experiences we share with our small children, you as the parent will remember the trip, and that’s all that matters.

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