My initial thought … this is crazy!
When my son and daughter-in-law told me they were taking my grandson, age 10 months, to Disney World, I wisely held my tongue. But I thought to myself that this was would be a waste of money – not to mention a little bit crazy! There was no way the baby would remember anything of the trip. And I had seen enough crying or sound sleeping infants during our own trips there over the years to "know" what was ahead of them. But I also knew that my son, who was stationed in Alabama, had vacation time he had to use up. And there really was not much for them to do with a baby where they lived. So I assumed it would be a welcome diversion for the two adults, but I hoped they were not expecting too much for the baby.
Well, was I ever wrong!
Things that Worked For Them
During the trip and afterward, they called us with all the details about what a wonderful time they were all having. Now admittedly, the trip was a LOT easier for them because they were able to drive. Flying with a baby and all the essentials that they require can be difficult and complicated. Driving also made it easier for them to work around the baby's schedule, rather than a flight schedule. And having a car can make going to and from the parks more manageable as well. So I'm sure that had a big part to play in the relative ease of their vacation.
Another big consideration was staying at a hotel on the Disney property. With or without your own car, it can be less of a hassle to get back to the hotel for afternoon naps or pool time if the hotel is in close proximity of the parks. The room also had a fridge – a must for storing baby formula and opened jars of baby food. It also helped that they went in late September. Since it was no longer the peak season, prices were lower. Smaller lines mean less time waiting with the baby; Plus they were able to take in more of the rides, which is not always easy when you have a little one along. And thankfully, despite still very warm, the extreme heat of the summer was over.
One of the few "mistakes" they made was to not schedule a day off mid-week just to relax around the hotel and enjoy the pool. They were so exhausted by the end of their stay, they decided to stay a day longer just to do that before driving home. (Their big advice here was to be sure you bring or buy baby "floaties" for the pool).
There were a few other things they learned that they had to do differently when touring Disney with a baby. First of all, you've got to take it a lot slower. When it was just the two of them, they were able to get an early start to get to the parks. But when working around a baby's schedule, it often means leaving a lot later than they would have preferred. On the other hand, they were fortified in that they did not need to come back to the hotel during the day. Because they bought their own stroller, which was a lot more comfortable for their son, he was able to simply nap there. Plus he often fell asleep in some of the "dark" rides.
Although they visited the Animal Kingdom, they said later that they should have skipped that. There was not much there for a baby his age. And for that reason, they did not even try to go to Disney's Hollywood Studios. They discovered that when you go to Disney World with kids, it's all about the kids and what they can and want to do. They were able to go on some "adult" rides, but it was difficult to try to "schedule" them while he was napping. For the most part, the "baby swap" worked well. But it was sometimes difficult to handle the baby alone. Fortunately, the lines were not long, and this was another plus of going off-season. And Fastpasses helped keep the wait short as well.
Positive Experiences (For the Most Part)
Even though there was not much for babies at the Studios or Animal Kingdom, there was more than enough at the other two parks to entertain a baby for days. Even though their son was very young, there were plenty of rides he thoroughly enjoyed: The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Mad Tea Party . "Pirates of the Caribbean" was another favorite – especially the little "dip" at the beginning. And in Epcot, he particularly loved "Journey into Imagination with Figment".
But he did not care for "Peter Pan's Flight", which makes sense, since you have to look down to see what's going on: there's very little to see at a baby's eye level. And Ellen's Universe of Energy in Epcot was too long to keep his interest. It really was a matter of trial and error to pick rides he would enjoy.
As far as the essentials, it turned out the baby stations were a real plus. More than just a changing area, they had everything you could possibly need for an infant: areas to breastfeeding complete with rocking chairs, high chairs, changing tables, bathrooms for adults, a play area for toddlers, and even water available from a cooler. Plus you could purchase any supplies you might have forgotten or run out of such as diapers, food, formula and juice. The only downside was that they were not always centrally located or convenient to get to.
For the most part, meeting the characters turned out to be a positive experience. He was already familiar with some of them watching "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". So he took right away to Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald. But he was not too sure about Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore, until they ate at the Crystal Palace character meal. This turned out to be their favorite meal, both due to the experience and the really excellent food .. And after mingling with the group from the Hundred Acre Wood there, he loved those characters as well. The only characters that scarred him were Lilo and Stitch, because he had never watched them on TV. (And personally, I think they're kind of scary anyway!) But in spite of that, it was felt that all the characters really knew how to handle kids … even young babies.
The Food – a Big Part of Any Disney World Trip
Speaking of restaurants, Chef Mickey's (a favorite character meal for our family for many years), turned out to be a disappointment. Mickey did not walk around as he had in previous years – you could only have a picture taken with him (expensive); And the food was not as good as what they had in the past. My son and daughter-in-law also tried a couple of adult-oriented restaurants with some success. There were no problems with bringing a baby along. Menu items suitable for babies were available, although they still fed him his baby food too. But restaurant favorites included macaroni and cheese, turkey, bread, and especially the vanilla ice cream at Ghirardelli's!
Going to Disney World With A Baby? Why Not!
So it turns out, there's plenty for a baby to do, enjoy, and experience by going to Disney World. The pictures we saw later from their trip showed a baby who expressions ranged from awe to absolute joy. And as my son and daughter-in-law went on and on about their trip during their weekly phone call home, I knew it would not matter that their son would never remember his first visit to Disney World – because the parents would never Forget it.