Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Disney Parks with a Baby

I've been trying to think of new posts for this blog, and I think I've come up with something.  Since I now have a little one of my own, I can share with you my experience going to Disney parks as a new mom.  I know there are lots of mom blogs out there with all sorts of advice on taking babies to the parks, so rather than repeat the same information that you can find all over the place if you search for it, I will just tell you about my own personal experience.  In fact, as crazy as it sounds, our little Ella has already experienced Disney parks on both coasts in her short life so far- more than many adults do in their lifetime!  That's what happens when you've spent time living in both states and have people to visit coast to coast.

Our first trip to Disneyland with little Ella was this past September when she was 9 months old.  At this point, she was a new crawler, ate solids mostly in the form of food pouches, and still nursed periodically throughout the day.  One thing that any advice blog on taking a baby to Disney will tell you is to seek out the baby care centers in the front of each park.  When we happened to be near one, they were fabulous- huge changing tables, a private nursing room, high chairs, microwaves, and baby products for purchase.  I only wish there were more of them! Depending on how far into the park you are, schlepping all the way back to the front isn't always convenient. We didn't take advantage of them as much as I thought we would, and a few times, I just plopped in the nearest secluded corner to nurse.

Another thing I discovered is that while there are places for toddlers to play, there aren't many places to put down a crawling baby!  I wish they had a few indoor play locations for that purpose. Once Ella became mobile, it became even harder to keep her content in the stroller, and it would have been nice to put her down more often, although we did put her down inside Goofy's house and inside the animation building.  A few months ago, we were back at Disneyland, and now Ella walks- it was so much more fun that way!  We could just put her down and watch her skitter all over Toontown.

I definitely recommend having both a carrier and a stroller- strollers cannot go into lines, and it's so much easier to wear a baby than to hold her.  On the downside, it gets too hot to comfortably do this for too long during the summer. The stroller was nice to be able to put stuff down and park somewhere in the vicinity of where we were hanging out- just remember that any valuables you leave in it are at your own risk.

A baby/ young toddler can definitely still have a lot of fun at a Disney park.  Ella's favorite from the get-go was the Enchanted Tiki Room.  In fact, she loved it so much that we bought a print for her room and now say goodnight to the Tiki Birds each night as part of her bedtime routine. She went on lots of dark rides and spent most of the time just staring intently at everything as if she was thinking, "What on earth is this?" but she did enjoy Small World as well as the Disney Junior show- before she could stand, she kept insisting on being held upright so she could see.

When it comes to the characters, ever child is different.  I've seen babies adore them and six year olds run in terror- you just never know.  When she was younger, she was indifferent, but during her first trip as a toddler, she adored Mickey and Minnie- both of whom she calls Minnie. She walked right up to them going, "Minnie! Minnie! Minnie!" My advice for a first meeting is to move slowly to test your child's reaction, and if he or she doesn't want to stand close and you absolutely must get a picture, stand with your child in your furthest arm from the characters or stand several feet in front of them. 

All the advice I've read on taking children recommends going back to the hotel mid-day for rest. We probably should have done that more than we did.  We can still occasionally get Ella to fall asleep on the go, but the older she gets, the harder it is to pull off.  We tend to push our luck because we don't like wasting time at the hotel if we can get away with it.  I'm very thankful we can afford an annual pass so we don't have to stress about getting our money's worth. On our most recent trip to Disneyland, she napped poorly the first day, so we gave her a break in the hotel during the afternoon on the 2nd, and she ended up sleeping for 3 hours! I took advantage of my husband staying in the room with her to go for a swim- she wouldn't fall asleep with me being right there anyway.  Having stayed in hotels with her several times at this point, I like it better when we have a suite and can put her down in a separate room.

Since we've had the chance to experience taking Ella to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World within a couple weeks of each other, I can tell you with reasonable authority that Disneyland is by far  easier to navigate with a baby than WDW and also allows for more freedom in planning your day.  At WDW, everything is quite spread out- there are buses and/or monorails to get to everything. Every time you board one of those buses, you must fold up your stroller.  This can be very frustrating if you have a napping baby or you are using your stroller to hold backpacks and such, and going back to your resort for a nap is a huge pain unless you are lucky enough to be staying in a particular hotel and going to it's adjacent park. At Disneyland, however, everything- even many off property hotels- is right there within walking distance.  The two theme parks are literally a courtyard away from each other, and Downtown Disney and the Disney resorts are just beyond that- no folding up strollers necessary.  I would add, however, that while strollers do not need to be folded for WDW's monorail, they do on Disneyland's equivalent which is quite a bit more compact.

The question people always ask is if it is worth it to take a baby to Disney.  I would say that the answer depends a lot on how you feel about Disney parks yourself.  I am a Disney geek.  If the only way I get to go to a Disney park any time soon is to take a baby, then by golly, I'm taking a baby!  If however, you aren't really into the parks yourself but want to do it for your child, you may have a better time if you wait a few years. When you go to Disney with your baby, you are really going because *you* want to go. However, if you are a big Disney fan like I am, rest assured that your baby can still have lots of fun!  Just take it easy and work with your baby's schedule with the understanding that you'll have to change your approach, that your visit will be different that your previous trips but with just as much magic as long as you remember to look for it!