Curious George Universal Studios

One of the biggest questions asked about Orlando is: What age is the best to take the kids?  The answer is simple, any time you can make it!
Even under 2s will have a great time in the parks, even though they may struggle to remember much in the future, your efforts aren’t wasted!

Having young kids with you around the Orlando Parks requires a lot of planning and a fair bit of consideration if you are going to make a successful time of your vacation.
We’ve set out some basic advice below, but we will update this important article regularly as we add in more tips and advice about visiting Disney with younger kids.
Food, Rest, Comfort, Boredom and dehydration are the things to focus all of your attention upon, but as expert parents, you already knew that!
Florida however, exaggerates it all unfortunately!

Dehydration and Pre-Schoolers in The Parks

Although you won’t believe it, dehydration is your biggest enemy as a parent of a toddler or pre-schooler.  Often dismissed as moaning or tired, a dehydrated kid will cry, be lethargic and unexpectedly fractious.
If your kids are displaying signs of the above, have a think “when was last time they drank anything”.
You will be amazed at how well they will cope if you keep giving them a little drink regularly at half hourly intervals.
Avoid carbonated drinks as water and fresh juices work best.
A good routine is to always give the kids a decent drink as you get closer towards the front of the line waits, remembering that ‘what goes in, must come out’.
Leaving a long line to take a toilet break can be soul destroying!
Check out our dehydration advice article for more information.

Sunscreen and Toddlers in Orlando

A guaranteed way to ruin your entire family vacation is to let your little ones get burned in the Florida sunshine.  The very thing that lured you on vacation can end up banishing you to a shady retreat for a few days and an expensive medical bill for sun exposure treatments.
As adults, our tougher skin can endure a few mistakes made by haphazard sunscreen applications, but young children’s skin can literally break open after an unprotected hour in the sun.
Whatever happens, don’t judge your vacation experiences elsewhere in the world with Florida.  The sun is very intense and the closer proximity to the tropics means that the sun is substantially more dangerous than back home.
Apply a kid friendly sun screen every 45 minutes or so, (yes as often as that!) to be sure you’ve applied enough.  Don’t worry about the cost of the expensive sun screens, they are a lot cheaper than just one visit to a physician!
Beanie hats are live savers on vacation, so let your kids pick a few and fall in love with them before you head out.  (They are also great talking points when you look back on photos later in life!)
Some areas of the parks are extremely exposed to the sun, and you can end up having to stand in attraction lines for 40 minutes or more without any protection.  Stroller parasols are essential protection in that kind of situation.

Check out our sun screen advice for Florida vacations.

Rest for Pre-Schoolers on a Disney Vacation

If sun and dehydration are your enemies on vacation, tiredness is the demon for younger children!
When on vacation it is so easy to forget how much sleep our kids get back home.
Anything less, will definitely cause problems and fast!
Of course, on vacation, nobody wants to give up precious times of the day when there is so much fun to be had, but rest as well as sleep will pay off parents well.
One of the big mistakes parents make, is ‘over filling’ the itinerary.  Always make sure that you’ve got some nice days by the pool, a few early nights for kids to catch their sleep up and the odd lie in.  This can seem insane after spending so much on a dream vacation, but tired kids are almost impossible to help.  There is no cure other than rest.
For some ideas on how to plan the week, check out our 7 day vacation planner.  It might not suit your own vacation, but the principles are really easy to fine tune for your own needs.

Fireworks and Younger Kids

There’s something worth noting the next time you head to a fabulous theme park firework event such as Fantasmic, Illuminations or Wishes, and that’s the fact that it’s mainly adults that are ‘ooh and ah’-ing throughout the entire show.  Have a look around and you might notice a few kids with hands clasped rigidly to the sides of their heads and eyelids gripped firmly around tear filled eyes!  Fireworks aren’t for everyone.
Also consider that the firework events re always later on in the evening, and no matter how desperate mom and dad are to enjoy a lifelong dream to watch, junior is destined to be pushed over the edge!
Our advice is let the kids have a cool, relaxing day in the pool and enjoy the fireworks as part of a half day visit to keep kids fresh!
Plan B is to find a vantage point at the further reaches of the park to help keep the noise effects to a minimum.

Don’t Force Your Kids to ‘Have Fun’!

Desperate to make sure our kids make every minute of our precious vacation time count, we can often expect too much from our little ones.
All it takes is for one ride to scare the living wits out of them and you risk facing year’s of repeat visits to that attraction in order to undo the effects of those ambitious effects.
Give them time to take in their new noisy and colorful environment before you coax them onto an attraction that they are reluctant to even look at, let alone set foot onto.
Kids are really skillful at knowing what they can cope with!
You might know fine well that it is just the cute old Peter Pan Flight ride, with nothing more than beautiful music and lovely aerial scenes, but to a nervous child, this cute ride might represent a voyage of hell, with a dark, fearsome sky ride, accompanied by certain doom as they plunge thousands of feet to the streets of London 😉
Try to judge bravery from your kid’s perspective, for a happy visit to the attractions!
Editor’s note:  We’ve seen 10 year olds sobbing at It’s Tough to Be a Bug and that’s just a family friendly 4D movie theatre!

Strollers

You will need a stroller, we’d definitely suggest that you either take your own and load it onto the plane.  Most carriers do not charge a great deal extra, if anything at all.
In Park stroller hire can weigh in at a hefty $15 a day ($13 a day if you hire more than once) and those costs soon take a big chunk out of your vacation budget.
An advantage though is that the theme park rental strollers are very well made, can carry lots of ‘kids’ stuff’ and offer sun protection too.
The parks often sell compact strollers in the parks, but they are flimsy and become tiring both to push and sit in (we would imagine!).  At $60+, you could buy 3 of the same strollers if you paid a quick visit to a Walmart or Target once you are in Orlando.
Having your own Stroller enables you to make it through the parking lots too.  The hire units do not leave the park gates.
Our advice is to first take your own, or buy in a superstore.
Many vacation rental homes already have a stroller in the garage so check first with the owners or property managers.

Car Safety Seats

Hire car companies charge seats by the day with a cap at around $70 per rental period.
While car seats are cheap in the super stores, they are out of reach for your first trip from the airport to your accommodation, so thrifty tourists sometimes choose to hire a seat for one day, buy one, and then drop the hire unit back at the airport.
If you have valued saving for your vacation, you probably won’t want to waste valuable time shuttling backwards and forwards to the airport to waste fuel and save a few bucks.
Our advice is to either take your own, load it onto the flight, and reap the benefits of using a familiar child seat, or, take the $70 hit and be done with it.
The only downside of a rental seat, apart from the cost, is that you might need an extra few minutes to secure the seat properly and become familiar with adjustments etc in the rental area parking lot.
Taking your own, might seem an impossible task, along with cases, strollers, hand luggage and cases, but if you can take your own seat, we think it is worth it.

Keeping Cool

Most first timers totally underestimate the effect of the heat on their youngsters.
Staying in cool restaurants and stores in between rides can really help keep the kid’s temperatures under control.  Also, every park has a wet play area or two and although mum and dad might not be so keen about their kids splashing around in their only dry clothes, these areas not only let your kids have a wild time out of their strollers, but they are an incredibly effective way to cool down.
Go prepared, take some spare shorts, t’s and sandals.  Let them go crazy!
Many Florida residents maximize every opportunity to stay in air conditioning throughout a theme park visit.  Some stores act as great ‘cool shortcuts’.  Even though they route isn’t the fastest, it revitalizes you before the next segment of your sun-baked journey across the park.

Helping Toddlers avoid Boredom in the theme parks

Families with just young kids won’t have too much to worry about when it comes to boredom.  Much of your attention will be focussed on junior and the whole family will have a great time.
The problems tend to arise when families with mixed ages head out on vacation.
Don’t be concerned though, with a little thought and planning, the whole family can have a great time.
For youngsters, the big tip is to avoid forgetting about them!
The distractions for adults easily cause you to focus on yourselves and quickly forget that junior has been immobilized in the stroller for hours in the noisy, bright sunshine and humid heat.
Keep things varied, give them stroller time, walk time and of course the cuddles and chat time that they normally would get back home.  Kids love routine, even on vacation!
The key to avoiding boredom is interaction!  Lots of very varied interaction!

Feeding Toddlers on an Orlando Vacation

Almost all toddlers are fussy eaters, and the parks are filled with strange foods that they haven’t encountered before.  Some of the choices are undoubtedly irresistible and while perhaps not the healthiest choices, your kids will find something that they love and not go back home half starved.
For very young kids most parks stock a limited range of jars of baby food if needed.
Walmart, Publix, CVS, Walgreens and Target among other large stores are much better options if you need regular supplies of diapers, food and other baby supplies.
If you are on vacation for a while, it will pay well to visit a store and stock up.
For bottle heating etc, most parks have Baby Care Centres that include quiet nursing areas for mum and baby.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Orlando Theme Parks

Guests can enjoy a fantastic day with the family , almost oblivious to the outstanding levels of security that operate within all of the theme parks.
Although statistics and facts are very hard to find, our understanding is that the Orlando parks are probably the safest public places in the USA and we have not heard of any credible reports that children have been at risk from strangers.
Having said that, always be vigilant about your children’s whereabouts to ensure that they don’t themselves get lost or out of sight.  Don’t be flippant though.
If you do get separated, don’t panic, contact a member of staff and they will find your child quickly thanks to the exceptional communications systems for such situations.
Hundreds of times a day, kids sneak around a corner unexpectedly and Disney have it sorted.
Don’t panic, but also be alert as the parks are busy and kids can move swiftly through a crowd of people much to their delight as they escape mom and dad.
For some great advice on how to keep your kids safe in the parks, visit our article here!

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