These are all the best tips that parents can do to prepare kids for a Disney trip! There are suggestions for babies to older kids of the fun ways to prep kids for vacation, including getting familiar with Disney characters, creating a countdown calendar, and shopping for the best travel wardrobe.
I have received compensation for inclusion and mention of PatPat’s Disney Collection in this article. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
How to Prepare Kids for a Disney Trip
Disney vacations require plenty of behind-the-scenes travel planning. Naturally, there are the first steps: buying Disney park tickets, making theme park reservations, and deciding whether to get a Park Hopper.
Next you’re adjusting the budget to work in Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane. Of course, then there are the decisions to be made about the best Disney property to stay at.
Most of the time, adults are making these decisions together, solo, or with the help of a trusted travel agent. With those most important steps out of the way, it’s finally time to get the rest of the family involved in the Disney trip planning process!
There’s nothing like the build of excitement that comes before a Disney vacation. And plenty of fun ways to prepare the kids and involve them in the process. It’s going to be fun in the sun with these tips to get the family ready for your magical summer vacation!
Involve Kids in Disney Trip Planning
With some of the big decisions already made by the grown-ups, now’s the time to allow the kids some input on what they’d like to see and do during their Disney vacation. Older children in particular will have specific trip requests, so be sure to respect their opinion and listen to their ideas.
Make a Must-Do List
Create a simple travel to-do list before your Disney vacation. Encourage each family member to write down their top three activities on the list. Whether it’s night swimming in the hotel pool, watching the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom, or meeting Buzz Lightyear, each person should make a contribution to the must-do list.
Do some research ahead of time to figure out the logistics of each request. Make sure you’ll actually be able to complete the task (for instance, Buzz Lightyear meets in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Add the to-do requests to the itinerary and aim to complete at least one item from each person’s list.
More Disney Travel Decisions
These are a few more suggestions of decisions that kids can be involved in when planning a Disney vacation:
- Popular attractions they want to ride
- Favorite character kids want to meet
- Top snacks to eat
- Shows they’d like to watch (ie: fireworks, nighttime spectaculars, parades)
- Special events they’d like to participate in
- Which character dining experience to book
READ MORE: Booking character meals at the Disneyland Resort? Check out this article all about Character Dining at Disneyland.
Check Height Restrictions Before a Disney Vacation
While a good number of attractions are appropriate for the entire family, there are a select number of rides with a height restriction. Before your trip, measure kids at home to make note of their height.
Use the free printable in this article about attractions with a Disneyland ride height requirement to determine which rides your young children will be able to ride.
Create a Disney Travel Itinerary
With height restrictions in hand, now it’s time to create a Disney parks itinerary. Make notes of which attractions are located within each of the theme parks when creating your list.
Ask Kids What They Want to Ride
As mentioned in an earlier section about creating a must-do list, ensure that children have input on the theme park itinerary. Read more about choosing age-appropriate rides that might be scary at Disneyland.
Determine Timing for a Disney Vacation Itinerary
If it’s your first visit, you may be unsure about estimating timing of certain rides and activities. I highly recommend using the Disney Parks apps ahead of your trip to view approximate wait times of the attractions.
Use the My Disney Experience (for Disney World) and the Disneyland mobile app (for Disneyland) to view the estimated wait times in real time. This will give you an idea how long to plan, when waiting in the standby queue.
Use a Line Skipping Service
Maximize the time you wait in line with the “line skipping services” that Disney parks offer to their guests. Yes, there is an additional cost, but the charge may be worth it when you’re tight on time. Purchasing Disney Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane can really help with the wait time in long lines.
Work in Extra Time
A schedule that includes too much will burn kids out early on in the trip. Plan in plenty of down time, in particular when the weather is hot.
Work in enough time for walking between attractions, stopping for photos, play structures, and snacks or dining. Don’t forget to include the amount of time it takes via transportation to get from the hotel room to the front gate.
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Shop for a Disney Vacation Wardrobe
Planning a travel wardrobe is one of my favorite things to do ahead of my Disney trips. My daughter in particular enjoys choosing her own clothing and PatPat is a new favorite.
PatPat’s newly released exclusive Disney Collection celebrates this big year of Disney! I’ve purchased licensed products from shopDisney in the past, but the pieces we found from PatPat are really special for vacations.
*NEW* PatPat’s Disney Collection
PatPat just launched their Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse collection in unique styles you won’t find anywhere else. These are original designs that are both stylish and kid-friendly. My daughter was delighted with the outfits she chose! From t-shirts to comfy shorts sets and dresses, there are even matching outfits for siblings to coordinate.
Comfy Clothes for Travel
Choosing comfortable clothing is extremely important. PatPat’s Disney Collection is made with Naia, a sustainable fabric with eco-friendly fibers. The clothing is extremely soft, comfortable and breathable against the skin.
No complaints from my daughter about discomfort either. Stretchy waistbands and super-soft fabric mean the PatPat clothes are perfect for all day wear. Easy care pieces are machine washable and can be tumble dried.
Check the site for adorable coordinating accessories too. My daughter loved these tiny PatPat clip-on hair bows that match her new outfits!
Choose Fun Styles and Designs Kids Love
I was impressed with the quality of PatPat’s Disney summer collection. The colors are vibrant and come in a variety of themes. Aren’t the styles and designs so much fun?!
My daughter plans to wear each of these outfits on our next Disney adventure, as well as on a summer trip to the beach! Adorable PatPat clothes are a wonderful way to get your Disney fix, even if you’re just hanging out at home.
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How to Get Familiar with Disney Characters Before Vacation
Character meet ‘n greets are a popular and fun pastime at the Disney parks. And of course, many of the shows and rides are based on the Disney characters. It can help to prepare kids for a Disney trip by getting more familiar with characters and themes they might encounter on vacation.
Watch Movies – Favorite Disney movies are probably one of the best ways to get the entire family familiar with characters. Disney+ streaming service offers the most feature films and cartoons, including Mickey Mouse.
Reading Books – A great number of picture books feature Disney characters for a wide range of readers. This is a great activity for older siblings to do with younger children.
On-Ride Videos – Watching online videos to prepare children for the attractions and shows, especially for kids that might be nervous. Find out more in this article about calming scared and anxious kids at Disney.
Create a Disney Vacation Countdown Calendar
A countdown calendar is an amusing way for children to build anticipation for an upcoming vacation. Marking off the days leading up to travel off a calendar creates a visual that’s appealing to kids of all ages.
Start counting down days no sooner than 30 days out. Consider printing off a special calendar page, then use a marker or stickers to check off the days. Another fun idea is a linked paper chain. Kids remove one link for each day leading up to the trip.
READ MORE: Ultimate Disney World planning guide for Disney with a preschooler.
Plan Disney Vacation Boredom Busters
When it comes to Disney vacation planning, it’s essential to have a plan when it comes to waiting with kids. The wait times can be very long, especially during peak time, when the best rides, restaurants and even the bathrooms often have lengthy waits.
In-Park Entertainment While Waiting
Kids enjoy searching for Hidden Mickey or playing trivia on the Play Disney Parks through the theme park app. Read more ideas for things to do while waiting in line at Disney.
Disney Resort Hotel Activities
Check out the activities included for guests staying at a Disney hotel. From pool parties, live music, playground and crafts, there are fun things to do on-site.
Some activities are open to all visitors, not just hotel guests. For instance, the Electrical Water Pageant is fun to view from the beaches of the Grand Floridian Resort, available for anyone to watch.
How to Plan for Bad Weather at Disney
Weather can put a damper on theme park travel, especially during a Disney World trip in Florida.
Schedule a character dining experience during the usual summer afternoon rain shower. Book Disney World Advance Dining Reservations, then dine at Crystal Palace for lunch with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger to take a break from the weather.
Have some additional activities to do in the hotel room on the chance that a storm keeps the family indoors. Disney themed coloring books and simple games are ideal for breaking the boredom with kids.
Discuss Travel Safety with Kids
Disney World and Disneyland are large, busy places. And it can be easy to get separated in a crowd. These are some tips of how to prevent kids from getting lost and what to do if it happens:
- A backpack with an attached tether can keep toddlers nearby, while still allowing them to walk independently. Have them practice using the backpack with leash at home before the trip.
- Use glow stick bracelets to track kids after dark.
- Show kids online what a Disney Cast Member name tag looks like. Let children know to seek out a Cast Member if they find themselves lost.
- Teach family members to memorize your phone number. If they are too young to remember the number, there are temporary tattoos that can be applied to your child’s skin.
Check out these additional tips for keeping kids safe on vacation.
Get Into Good Walking Shape
Prepare kids for a Disney trip by getting them into shape ahead of time. Disney parks are big and require lots of walking and standing. I’ve personally walked upwards of 15 miles in a single day while touring the theme parks!
Get into shape – Start walking for exercise to build your child’s stamina for vacation travel. Endurance for long walks can start as soon as you book your trip.
Bring a stroller, just in case – Very small children will need to ride in a stroller or front carrier. But don’t assume your preschooler will be able to walk throughout the day, even if they usually never ride in a stroller. Even older kids will tire easily, especially in warmer weather. Bring a travel stroller for times when children are exhausted and need to rest or nap.
Adjust Kids to Vacation Hours
Disney days can be long and tiresome. For families that are traveling across time zones, the time change may dramatically affect your child’s routine. The loss or addition of hours in the day can disturb your carefully planned vacation itinerary, not to mention kids’ sleep patterns, usual eating times, and naptime.
If you plan to rope drop at Disneyland, adjusting to the earlier time zone will be easier. But you don’t want kids waking up at 4 am either!
Start adjusting your child’s morning waking hours and bedtime about 10 days ahead of your travels. This will allow more flexibility in your travel schedule and keep kids moods more even keel.
How To Prep Young Children for Disney
Traveling with babies and toddlers can be a challenge. Planning ahead and packing the right essentials is important for happiness in the theme parks. These are a few ways to make travel easier with young kids:
Read books – Familiarize small children with theme parks by choosing picture books that show popular Disney characters.
What can babies do? Find out the best things to do when traveling to Disneyland with a baby, then download the free packing list printable.
Plan downtime – When working up a vacation itinerary with younger kids, make sure to leave enough down time for snacks, play time out of the stroller, and diaper changes at the Baby Care Center.
For families vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort, read this article about things to do with toddlers at Magic Kingdom.
Baby and toddler theme park wardrobe – Choose weather-appropriate clothing that’s best for little ones. The soft, breathable fabric in PatPat’s Disney Collection feels amazing against baby’s skin.
This line was designed with active kids in mind, so the outfits won’t restrict movement or cause any discomfort. Features like button fronts and snaps make it easy to change diapers.
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