Most people have a vision of Walt Disney World as a children’s paradise, the ultimate family vacation destination. It certainly can be, but parents should not assume that their little ones will instantly love every part of the Disney World experience. A day at a Disney theme park involves tiring amounts of walking and standing, as well as a tremendous amount of sensory stimulation. Planning and flexibility are both required to make sure that both you and the kids come out of the vacation agreeing that Disney is the most magical place on earth.

Adults who have grown used to navigating Disney World on their own should be prepared to make some major changes when kids arrive. You may not be able to ride the same attractions, visit the same restaurants, and keep the same hours that you used pre-children. It’s a great idea to set aside a little time that is just for the grown-ups, but make that the majority of each day is tailored to fit the needs of your kids.

When taking kids to Disney World, plan to be flexible and do the things they enjoy.

When taking kids to Disney World, plan to be flexible and do the things they enjoy.

Making sure your kids don’t burn out is a key factor in making sure they love Disney World as much as you do. Getting enough sleep – including naps – is an important part of keeping them happy. This may mean that you miss the opening show at Magic Kingdom or the fireworks at night, but those sacrifices are worth it if it means you don’t end up with miserable children by day three.

No Disney Death March

Resist the temptation to become a drill sergeant, marching your children from attraction to attraction as fast as possible. You’ll visit fewer attractions, but you may just find yourself enjoying the leisurely pace, and noticing things through their eyes that you never had the time to notice before.  You will also have an opportunity to take in many of the special Disney details you might otherwise overlook.

You may find yourself spending much more time at your resort than you are used to. What used to be just a place to sleep is now refuge where the kids can get away from the sights, sounds, and smells of the theme parks. On a very hot day, your children may prefer to spend the afternoon splashing in the pool rather than standing in a long line for The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.

Eat Like a Child

If your children don’t like to sit still for long sit-down meals, try to limit the number of table service restaurants that you visit. There are plenty of quick service restaurants to choose from, so you won’t feel too limited by the types of food you can eat. Disney character dining is a table service experience that can take a particularly long time as you wait for characters to visit your table.

Don’t hesitate to have snacks for your kids to eat in the middle of the day. Keeping their tummies full will help them remain full of energy, and keep them from getting tired and cranky too early. If you prefer not to purchase the relatively expensive snacks at the park, plan to bring your own snacks with you.

Ride The Rides the Kids Want to Ride

Rider swapping can be handy, and most attractions with a height limitation offer the service. But don’t force your child to stand in line after line for attractions that they can’t ride. And don’t assume that a certain attraction will be fun for your child just because there is no height limitation. Let them pick what looks and sounds fun to them. Be prepared to ride the It’s A Small World, and then be prepared to ride it again.

If your children end up loving Walt Disney World as much as you do, you can keep coming back as they get older and more and more rides open to them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to grow up with Disney all over again.