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A parent's guide to Walt Disney World

A trip to Disney World is one of the most magical and exciting holidays you could imagine for a child. Each day is filled with new adventures as they meet their favourite Disney characters, experience thrilling rides and enjoy back-to-back entertainment options. Let their imaginations run wild and make it a holiday to remember for a lifetime.

Being prepared for Disney World: a parent’s guide

Disney World can be just as enjoyable and magical for parents. Seeing your little ones’ faces light up as they watch incredible fireworks displays or meet Mickey Mouse is fantastic, but there are also lots of fun activities for adults too.

Easier for you

When you’re travelling with children you need to be organised, plan in advance and schedule in relaxation time.

Parents should make the most of the FastPass+. The pass is included in your ticket price when you buy in advance and allows you to reserve up to 3 FastPass+ experiences per day. Experiences include rides, select shows, character greetings, and parade and fireworks viewing areas. This will save you time queuing and allows you to make the most out of each day. Use the My Disney Experience mobile app to schedule in your plans and make sure nothing is forgotten.

Make the most of the Rider Switch service which is available for families with small children. If you have a child who is too small for a particular ride then you can queue together as a family and then one parent will ride. Once the ride is over they can then skip to the front of the queue to take care of the child while the other parent has their turn. Speak to a cast member at the attraction who will show you where to queue.

There are 68 attractions at Walt Disney World designed specifically for toddlers. Magic Kingdom is the best park for little ones with mini rides such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Astro Orbiter. Most interactive shows are suitable for all ages as kids will see their favourite characters performing live on stage. Epcot is a better park for older children who appreciate the interactive learning and are interested in the world around them.

As soon as you enter any Disney park, make sure you have a family meeting point. There are designated meeting points you can point out to your children too. It can be easy to get separated in crowds and older teenagers often prefer to explore parks alone. Cast Members are on the lookout for lost children and will immediately escort them to the Baby Care Centre where they will be well cared for until you arrive.

Where should you stay in Walt Disney World?

It’s a good idea to stay in a Disney property close to the parks. You can then get back to your hotel room with minimal fuss and easily pop back for naps or a few hours of downtime. There are complimentary transport services between resorts and parks via buses, boats or monorails which make it simple to get around. You can also use Disney’s Magical Express Transportation. The complimentary service swiftly takes you from the airport to your accommodation and makes the transfer process a breeze – exactly what you need before and after a long flight.

Guests at Disney Resort Hotels can make use of the Extra Magic Hours Benefit, whereby resort guests can stay or arrive early for an extra hour of crowd-free fun.

You can bring your own pushchair or hire one when you arrive at all Disney parks. There are plenty of spaces in all the parks for ‘stroller parking’ so there is always somewhere to leave it when it isn’t needed. Pushchair hire starts from $15 for a single or $31 for a double and discounts are available for multiday hire. Many parents hire pushchairs for older children too as an easy way to rest little legs or allow kids to nap. A pushchair is also a great place to store bags, snacks, drinks and coats to save you carrying them throughout the day.

Childcare at Disney

Each of the four theme parks at Disney World has a Childcare Activity Centre for children aged 3-12. This is a place for children to play, dine and make new friends during crafting sessions and organised games. Reservations are recommended and can be made 180 days in advance.

Childcare is not available at the waterparks but there are play areas designed for toddlers. These are safe and lots of fun for little kids provided they are accompanied by an adult.

There are activity centres in select resorts too. Swan & Dolphin Resorts have Camp Dolphin. Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney's Beach Club Resort have Sandcastle Club. You will find Cub’s Den at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Simba’s Cubhouse at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Club Disney is at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

In-room babysitting services are also available through independent childcare provider, Kid’s Nite Out. They can care for between 1 and 4 children with prices starting from $16 per hour plus a $10 transportation fee. They can care for children aged 6 months to 12 years and keep them entertained with fun filled activities. This is a great opportunity for parents to enjoy a romantic dinner or let their hair down for the evening.

Another great option is In-Park Assistance whereby a childcare specialist will accompany your family to the parks. They provide a helping hand when needed and will care for smaller children while you go on the rides.

Dining with kids at Walt Disney World Resort can be a lot of fun. Character dining and themed restaurants will always be a winner. Head to Chef Mickeys at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where you can enjoy a buffet meal with everyone’s favourite mouse. Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is an Old Western eatery with plenty of colourful attitude to keep kids laughing throughout their meal. This place can be rowdy but families are sure to leave with big smiles. The T-Rex Café Restaurant in Disney Springs (formerly called Downtown Disney), is a fun experience for dinosaur loving kids. The interactive restaurant gives a hands-on prehistoric experience with animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar.