Last month I posted tips on visiting Disney as an Expectant Mother. This month we fast-forward to taking those sweet babies on a Disney vacation. This is the first in a series of blog posts with some simple tips for traveling to Disney with an infant or young toddler.
Today we tackle one the hardest decisions; where to stay. I always recommend staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel so that is what this writing will be focused on. There are hotels for every budget and family. Plus, the benefits of staying at a Disney resort make it the best bang for your buck and the most convenient. The hotel is always hard to choose because there are SO many good options at Disney and staying in a hotel with a baby can be tricky. So, don’t necessarily opt for the cheapest hotel or the hotel your friend liked the most. There are important things to consider when staying in a hotel with a baby like room setup and location. We have already traveled with our 16 month old to Asia for a month, Disney (3 times), Universal, and numerous road trips to see family/friends. So, we have some experience with picking out great and not-so-great hotel set ups for baby. Here are my tips and suggestions.
- Choose your resort based on your budget and the room set up. Many people opt for the cheapest hotel rooms on property using the argument that they won’t be in the room much anyway. While this is true for a lot of people, if you are traveling with an infant or young toddler, you will probably be in the room much more than previous vacations. Most infants go to bed early and need at least 1 nap a day. On vacation, you don’t need to be so strict about bedtimes but if you don’t stick to a normal schedule MOST days, it won’t be fun for anyone when sweet baby is cranky and sleep deprived. So, consider upgrading to a suite or a bigger room for a better set up for baby and for you. If everyone is happy and has the space they need, the vacation will be that much more enjoyable. Think about when your baby usually goes to bed. Are you willing to also go to bed at the same time? If you are in a tiny hotel room, that is what you will probably have to do. A suite or a Standard Room with a better floor plan could make all the difference.
- Where will baby sleep? Disney provides Pack n Plays upon request at each resort. So, let your travel agent know if you’d like one and it should be set up when you arrive. Deluxe Villas provide them in each room- just look for them in the closet and call the front desk if you need help setting it up. Linens are also provided for the Pack n Play mattress. The Pack n Plays are very basic but they work well if you are flying and don’t have room to pack it and if your infant is adaptable and/or used to sleeping in a Pack n Play. If you plan to travel often with your baby, I highly recommend a travel bed that your child can sleep in while away from home. This gives them some familiarity on each trip which means they are more likely to sleep well! I did a TON of research and settled on this Delta Travel Bed. It was the BEST CHOICE for us! It is more affordable than many of the other name brands available right now. Plus, it is just the right size to count as a carry on and it fits in the overhead bins on the airplane perfectly. Weighing in at ten to eleven pounds, it’s very convenient and easy for travel. (I am not getting any compensation from Delta…I just LOVE this travel bed and highly recommend it!)
- Provide a familiar sleep environment. Think about what you normally do at bedtime and try to mimic that. Bedtime books, sound machine, etc. At home, our daughter sleeps with a sound machine so we bring this everywhere we go. It works wonders since it gives her the familiarity of bedtime at home but also drowns out any extra noise from neighboring hotel rooms. When she was very young, we had a machine that played music on a timer and displayed stars on the ceiling. This helped her calm down and recognize bedtime. We brought it with us on our first Disney trip and it helped provide that familiarity in a strange place.
- Have your travel agent put in some room requests to help you have the most convenient spot. Many resorts have a Preferred Location category that will get you closest to the main buildings and bus stops. In my opinion these are not necessarily the best location for everyone. So, discuss your needs with your travel agent and come up with your priority list. On our daughter’s first Disney trip, she was 5 months old so being close to laundry and a pool was very handy. We would do laundry while the baby slept (baby = blowouts = laundry) so being close to the washers and dryers was more convenient to us then being close to the main building. We also enjoyed being close to a quiet pool so we could use the restroom facilities at the pool since baby slept in her travel bed in the bathroom area by the sink. After she fell asleep at night, I could run out to the restrooms at the quiet pool and use my hair dryer, brush my teeth etc. and get ready for bed without disturbing her. Just remember, the location and room requests are never guaranteed. Disney does do a good job of working with you to get you what you want. Skip Online Check-In if you have specific requests as it’s usually most helpful to speak to the Cast Member when you check in.
My Room Recommendations:
- Suites are ideal because of the space; a Family Suite at Art of Animation or All-Star Music will offer the best value. You will get 2 full-sized bathrooms, a small kitchenette, a room with a queen bed and a living room area with 2 convertible beds. This translates to your own room for Mom and Dad! Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas also offer suites with more amenities and space, up to 2 and 3 bedrooms. Your best value in a Deluxe category is at Old Key West or Saratoga Springs. We loved the convenience to Magic Kingdom at Bay Lake Tower (at the Contemporary Resort). It’s the closest to Magic Kingdom you can get and it’s on the monorail. With a suite, you can put baby down at regular (or close to regular) bedtime, you can still have your own space to unwind, get ready for bed, watch TV, or even eat dinner with some takeout from the food court. This is the ideal set up if baby is sleeping in their own room at home.
- If you need to save some money or are used to baby sleeping in your room, consider a Standard Room. The rooms at the Value resorts are the smallest. They are quite a bit smaller than a standard hotel room at most places. So, with that in mind and our own experience in the Standard rooms at Disney, I recommend a Standard Room at Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs if you are traveling with an infant and wish to save money or stay all in one room. These resorts have a heavy sliding door that partitions the sink and bathroom area off from the bedroom area. You can easily fit a travel crib or pack-n-play in the sink area (we fit our travel bed in the “closet” space next to the sinks). Slide the door closed and you have a separate small “bedroom” for baby. I could put the baby down and my husband could walk to the food court to get some dinner and we could eat together at the table while she slept in her “room” just a few feet away. This works especially well if your baby sleeps with a sound machine. The sound machine can go on the counter by the sink and you don’t have to tiptoe and whisper in the room once baby is asleep. Lamp light is best since the sliding door doesn’t keep out all of the light. Not a perfect set up since the bathroom is not easily accessible once baby is asleep, (see info above about location), but cheaper than a suite and better than a standard room at a value resort.
- Another set up we tried in a Deluxe Studio (available at any Deluxe Villa property) was to bring a cheap tension rod and black out curtains with us to hang in the hallway area and create a “room” for baby. We drive to Disney so we had plenty of room to throw this in the car and try it out. When we recently stayed at Animal Kingdom-Kidani Village in a Deluxe Studio, we tried this set up and loved it. You will need to check the floorplans for rooms at other resorts since not all have the hallway area. We hung the tension rod in the hallway with the curtains. This provided a small “room” for our 14 month old since it blocked off the rest of the room form the hallway. With her sound machine and the blackout curtains, she could go to sleep in her own space and we still had the rest of the room to enjoy- including our balcony looking out over the Savannah. It was one of our favorite sets ups so far. We still had to tiptoe around her when we needed into the restroom or out of the room but it provided what we needed to have some of our own space and not having to go to bed when she went to bed.
Feeling a little overwhelmed at the choices? Give me a call and we can talk it through and come up with the best setup for your family. Everyone should be able to rest well and enjoy their Disney Resort Hotel. I’d love to help you book and plan a magical vacation for your family.
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal and Disney Vacations including Universal Orlando, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.