Category Archives: Disney World

Taking a Baby to Walt Disney World

Taking a baby to Disney really is easier than you might think. We took Ava when she was six months old, so I thought I’d put some things together that would help anyone else who was thinking of taking a little person too.

First things first. The most important thing really is planning. Of course, if you’re taking a baby this would probably seem obvious, but the devil really is in the detail. I think I over planned to be perfectly honest, and considered things that I never really needed to. However I tend to think that over planning is always better than under planning.

Important things to note for us in particular was that I was breastfeeding Ava when we went, so even though I did try and take note of bottle feeding facilites, I didn’t look at those specifically. Also, we were doing baby led weaning with her, which pretty much means she ate whatever we did – no purees or anything like that to deal with. To be honest, although this is easier all round anyway, we chose this method particularly because we knew it would be easier to do with a baby around as we wouldn’t have to worry about jars or warming food up.

Airport lounges: We flew from Gatwick and decided to use the V-Room. I knew there were baby changing facilities in the V-Room but I was particularly impressed with what I found. There was a large baby changing room with enough space for a couple of babies. There was also a curtained off area for breastfeeding. It was lovely in there, with a comfy chair, and not next to any nappy bins, which is always an annoyance of mine. Also, there was nice soft lighting, which if I remember right, you could actually alter yourself if you wanted to. There was also a soft play area, which Ava really loved. It did say on the door that it was for under fives (I think), and that children should be supervised, but this was not always the case. However, we never had a problem, and to be honest, Ava happily tried to climb around everything and everyone anyway! There was a wonderful food section, but what was particularly good was that there was an area that had things just for children. There was plenty that Ava could have here. They’d made up little pots of fruit and jelly, which she loved. They also made her fresh toast which went down well. There was always someone cleaning up the tables, which was good as it was always safe for babies to be crawling around, knowing they wouldn’t be messing around with any dirty pots. Also, we found the big window perfect for entertainment, watching planes take off seemed to be fascinating to Ava!

All in all, the V-Room was perfect for babies, children and adults alike, I’d definitely recommend it!

The flight: We flew with Virgin Atlantic. We booked the holiday a few months before Ava was born. I had called Virgin before I booked and they said to book it for us, and then when she was born, call again and add her to the booking. We did this, and it was easily done. We also requested a skycot, which we really hoped we would get. We actually used the Twilight check in facility at Gatwick so we could be at the front of the queue in the skycot requests. Having one was not a problem, and the lady at check in said she would have been very surprised if we didn’t get one with a baby of Ava’s age. We were called to board the plane first as we had children, but we decided against it as I hate flying. When we boarded we found we were in a group of three seats, in the bulkhead, with the space for a skycot. The skycot is basically a bassinette that sits on a fold down tray, that’s really the only way to describe it. I admit we did tell a little fib, as Ava was just over the weight limit for it, however, this really was not a problem. She did however, totally fill it!

I don’t think a baby older than six or seven months would fit in one of these, but then Ava is a pretty big baby. I did breastfeed her as we took off and landed, to prevent her ears from popping, which was easy to do, just required a bit of jiggling around with her seatbelt, not difficult though. The only problem we did have was that we had to remove her from the skycot whenever the seatbelt sign came on. If she was asleep when this happened, she wasn’t too happy about it. I do believe that in the newer airbus you don’t have to do this though.

Generally though, the flight was fine. I needn’t have worried so much about it.

You do have to be careful with the baggage allowances though. Ava was entitled to 15kg, which was fine. However, she was only allowed a buggy OR a car seat. Now, for a six month old baby, who’s family is hiring a car, both is vital, so I find this rule bizarre. Fortunately as our other child Ben was on a child ticket he had an allowance for a buggy OR a car seat. We therefore used one allowance for the buggy and the other for the carseat. As for Ben’s carseat, we bought one of these which he actually used as his hand luggage.

When we were shopping for a buggy before Ava was born we got one specially that had a UV 50 protection. However, it was one that had a chassis and a seat part. Virgin only allow you to take an umbrella fold buggy, which we didn’t realise until just before we went.

Rides: This was the easiest part really. Babies can go on anything that doesn’t have a height restriction. Whether you take them on all the rides is another matter though. Ava particularly loved it’s a small world (unsurprisingly). To be honest though, we took her on everything she was allowed to go on, and she loved them all. She did however fall asleep on Kilimanjaro Safari, must have been the rocking sensation I think! We also made good use of parent swap. This is where you all go to the ride entrance, and the CM gives you a parent swap pass. One parent rides (in this case, Ben went on too), and the other parent stays with the baby. When the first parent comes off, the second goes on, through the fast pass queue, and the first stays with the baby. The parent swap pass can be used for up to four people, so if I waited with Ava whilst Ben rode with my husband, Ben could also ride with me as well, which he loved as it meant he got two rides. We worked out that you could also combine this with fast pass, so the first parent goes down the fastpass queue, and then the second parent uses the parent swap pass to go down the fastpass queue. It also works with single rider lines. For example, we all went to get a parent swap pass at Test Track, then I rode in single rider. Once I was off, Ben and Anthony went down the fast pass queue with the parent swap pass. This did mean that Ben only got to ride once, but he didn’t mind.

Restaurants: As I said, Ava eats whatever we do, so there was always something suitable for her to eat. However, the servers in restaurants were always brilliant with her, and if they saw she was eating the bread, they’d bring a bit extra over. We did choose our restaurants very carefully, more so for Ben than Ava though, places that had plenty of things like pasta (which she can eat with her hands), and vegetables (green beans were particularly easy for her to eat). They always brought extra bowls and spoons if we needed them too. If you have a baby who can’t sit unaided, high chairs might be a problem though, as the only high chairs they have in restaurants do not have a high back support. If Ava was ever asleep when we got to a restaurant we always told them at the podium, and they allowed us to bring the buggy in with us. They always ensured we were at a table where there was plenty of room for it to go as well.

Clothes: We found taking lots of very loose fitting clothing was perfect. I decided not to take clothes made from jersey fabric, but stuck to cotton. This made life a lot easier as she didn’t get too hot and bothered. Big floaty dresses were also perfect for her. It was vital to have a hat of course, and plenty of sun cream, whatever she was wearing. We also bought a sunsuit, that had a hat with it, for the pool. It kept her totally covered which was wonderful.

Getting around: We had a buggy of course for Ava, but with her only being six months old we ensured it was as comfortable for her as possible. We had a fleecy footmuff for her, which was lovely. It was also important to have one that went back totally flat so that she could sleep. Do be careful though, don’t take an expensive buggy (I’m so pleased we didn’t take that lovely one we bought for her). The reason being that on the flight back the buggy was damaged beyond repair, and they only compensated us 50% of the purchase price. We also had a little battery operated fan, which clipped onto her buggy and was very useful. However, the best thing we bought was a ‘sunshine kids’ sun visor. This was so much better than using a parasol.

It folded away easily and since it was there all of the time she could always see what was going on and it shielded her totally from the sun. I think it was the best £8 we ever spent!

We also had a baby carrier, which we used a lot, particularly if we were queuing a long time for rides. It was also especially good for some of the areas at EPCOT like The Seas, where you can’t take a buggy in. We invested in a very sturdy one with a particularly strong back support. We’ve used it since she was born, and we still use it now, at nine months old.

The hats however, are totally optional!

We also had a ‘hippy chick’ hip carrier, which I used a lot.

We had a car, but we also used the buses a lot. The buses were very easy to get on and off, even with all the baby things we had! A lot of the time we put Ava in the carrier so we could have our hands free for everything else we needed to do. If we were in the car, we tended to arrive as early as possible, so that we would be at the front of the car park and would be able to walk to the entrance. Just made things easier if we could get everything set up on the buggy, and then not have to collapse it to take it all on a tram.

Buying things there: We didn’t take many nappies (diapers) with us, we just bought them there. Do be aware though, the sizes are different (from the UK). Ava was in size 4 Pampers, which are different in the UK and US, so just check the weights before you buy them. I’m sorry I can’t comment on the food pots really, but I did see plenty of them, which you’d expect really. There were also some available in the on site hotel shops as well, but the choices were limited.

General baby change and feeding facilities: Although the babycare centres were wonderful they weren’t always convenient to go to. There were baby changing facilities in every toilet, in both the male and female facilities. However, a lot of these were hard metal, so you’d want to make sure you had some kind of changing mat to lay your baby on or they’d get a bit chilly.

As for feeding, as I mentioned earlier all of the restaurants have good facilities for solid baby food and for bottle feeding. I also breastfed Ava a few times in the restaurants, and nobody batted an eyelid. I did chat with some other mums in the nursing rooms about attitudes to breastfeeding in America, and it seems as though they’re pretty much the same as in the UK – you can pretty much do it anywhere. I was always sure to be discreet though.

Babycare centres: These were an absolute lifeline whilst we were at WDW, just brilliant! There is one at each park, and I thought it’d be easiest if I wrote about them all separately as they are all quite different.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – The babycare centre here is located just as you go through the entrance, on the left hand side. You have to go through guest services to actually get to it. They are happy for you to take buggies in there. Have to admit, this was my least favourite of all of them. As you walk in there is a small room that has a TV, high chairs, a sink and a few baby items for sale. To the right of this room there is a baby change room with a few huge baby change areas, which are lovely and padded. Just off this room is a toddler sized toilet which is very useful. Just off the main TV room there are two private curtained areas with a comfy chair for breastfeeding. These were ok, but really tiny, I found it hard to get the buggy in there and move around into the chair. I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos in here, sorry. Also, this one was not staffed, probably because you had to go through guest services to get here.

Magic Kingdom: The babycare centre here is located at the bottom of Main Street, to the left, just past Casey’s Corner. They prefer you to leave buggies outside. This one is very Victorian in style, really lovely. As you go in there are large chairs in the corridor, not that I ever saw anyone using them. As you go along the corridor there is a room on the right for breastfeeding mothers. There is a sign that this is for mothers only, but I did see some people taking people in there with them. Now, I didn’t mind this, and to be fair, the guests always asked if it was ok, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable saying no it wasn’t really. However, it was only ever women I saw in here. This room had four rocking chairs and was low lit, which was nice. There was also a few table lamps, so you could have more or less lighting if you wished. It was a nice atmosphere in here and a lovely place to chat to other breastfeeding mothers. I only ever saw all four rocking chairs in use once on the whole trip.

Further along from this room there was a room with small tables and chairs, highchairs (with high backs), a shelf of books, and a TV.

Ben and Anthony often went in here when I was feeding Ava, was just a nice room to relax in really.

There was also a kitchen, with a water cooler, baby food warming facilities and a small selection of baby items for sale. There was also a large baby changing area.

Just off the baby changing area were toilet facilities (mixed sex), with adult and child sized toilets.

The facility was always staffed and they were very helpful and chatty.

Animal Kingdom: The babycare centre here was located past Camp MinnieMickey, just before you get to the bridge to Africa. I always get lost at AK, so always had trouble finding it! This was one of the nicest of the babycare centres, and absolutely huge! You can either leave the buggy outside or take it in with you.

As you go in there is a large welcoming area with some baby items for sale, there is also a toilet here.

Off this room there is a TV room with some tables and chairs and highchairs.

There is also a massive baby changing area, which I didn’t photograph, as there was always people in there. There were probably six or seven tables in there. There was also baby food warming facilities in there.

Just off this room there were three private rooms for breastfeeding. These were wonderful!

They had the comfiest chairs of all of the centres. They were really big as well. You could alter the lights which was really useful. As you can see there was a changing table as well. Now, I hate there being changing tables in the same place as a breastfeeding area, as it feels as though your baby is eating in a toilet. However, after every time one of these rooms were used, they were cleaned and the nappy bins were emptied, so it never smelled.

Loved this babycare centre!

Epcot: Probably my second favourite of the babycare centres. It’s located on that long walkway between Test Track and the World Showcase. They prefer you to leave buggies outside here.

There’s a small playroom, with a TV and lots of toys. In fact, this was where this one was the best. There were no toys out at the other centres.

There was also a large baby changing area, again, no photo as it was always being used.

There was a large area with baby items for sale, baby food warming facilities and tables and chairs.

The breastfeeding area was again a separate room, but it was communal with several rocking chairs.

It had low lighting (the flash went off when I took that photo), and you could control the lighting and the temperature if you wanted.

The babycare centre really was lovely at EPCOT, and the staff were always very friendly.

Generally, all of the babycare centres were fantastic. They were always well managed, by friendly, helpful staff.

I hope this has been of some use to some of you, and I do apologise if it was overly long, but I know I had a lot of questions before we went to WDW, and with any luck, having some answers all in the same place might help you.

If you do have any further questions, feel free to send me a message on the main forums, my username is just ‘Vikki’.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I hope you have a wonderful time at WDW with your baby, we certainly did!

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Brit Tips – Handy Information for UK Visitors to Disney in the USA

A large number of visitors to Disney Parks in the USA are from the UK, many visiting for the first time. With the help of our wonderful Disney forum members we’ve put together some essential tips to help Brits visiting the USA.

BOOKING YOUR TRIP

Don’t be scared of booking a DIY trip! Packages are easy to book but don’t necessarily provide the best value. Airlines often have sales or offers. And Disney are releasing new offers all the time, with room discounts and free dining packages that can save £££.

If you don’t want to book the hotel yourself, consider using a specialist Disney travel agency. They don’t charge anything for their service and will find you the best deals available.

The Walt Disney Travel Company UK has some great offers available, including free dining and discounts of up to 45% on Disney Resorts.

Travel insurance is absolutely essential! Just getting to see a doctor for something minor like a sore throat will cost you upwards of $200. Make sure you get a comprehensive policy with at least £2million medical cover. Check that the cancellation cover and baggage cover meet your needs too.

If you plan on visiting Universal Orlando, consider staying one or two nights in one of their hotels (Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay, Royal Pacific). As a hotel guest you’ll get 2 days of queue jumping at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure, early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and can have up to four adults in a room. Plus, you won’t have to get transport there or pay for parking, transport to and from the parks is free.

Alternatively, if you plan on doing several non-Disney parks, split your stay with time at an I-Drive hotel and time at a Disney Resort. This is especially good if you won’t be hiring a car, as transport to non-Disney parks is much easier from I-Drive.

You may think that Disney hotels are expensive and not worth it. But if you’re not hiring a car you may find it difficult to get to and from the Disney Parks. Whilst many off-site hotels provide free shuttle to Disney, they are usually only at limited times and may stop at several other hotels along the way. Staying at a Disney hotel offers many benefits, including free transport to Disney parks, early entry to the parks on select mornings, great recreation options, and aren’t necessarily as expensive as you’d think, especially the value resorts.

If there’s a large group of you, you may find that hiring a villa is the best option.

TRAVELLING

If you have to get a connecting flight, make sure you ask the airline (if it’s possible) to transfer your luggage to the new flight automatically, without having to collect it yourself.

If you plan to eat at the airport, check out the price of the airport lounge. As well as being a more comfortable place to wait for your flight, they also offer all you can eat / drink, so may save you money.

Depending on work/school considerations, try to gently adjust your body clock a couple of days before travelling by going to bed and getting up later. Even an adjustment of an hour will help you in your first few days.

If flying with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick, use the twilight check-in option to remove some of the hassle of checking in and also to cut down on your time in the airport – especially when travelling with kids.

If available, check-in for your flight online the day before you travel. You’ll be able to print your boarding pass at home and will only have to drop your bags at the airport rather than waiting to check-in there.

Virgin Atlantic offer a check-in service at Downtown Disney West Side every morning. The service is free for Virgin Holidays customers, but passengers who have booked direct with Virgin Atlantic will be charged $10 each (including children who have a seat).

If travelling with kids, make sure you take plenty of activities onboard to keep them occupied. The in-flight entertainment system may not be working properly, or they may get bored of watching TV for 9+ hours. Check out this article for ideas.

Make sure you book a child’s meal if required, as they aren’t necessarily provided automatically. Also take snacks onboard in case your child doesn’t like what’s provided.

Need help with luggage at the main airport terminal building at MCO? Trolleys that you push yourself cost around $4-5 each. “Skycaps” are the men wearing baseball caps with the big trolleys. For a tip of a few dollars they will help with all your luggage and can be worth their weight in gold.

CAR HIRE

It may sound obvious, but when booking your car hire, make sure that the car will be big enough to fit all passengers and luggage in.Take notice of the recommended passenger and luggage number shown against each car type when booking.

We recommend booking through a company such as Holiday Autos or US Rent A Car, who include all necessary insurances in the total cost.

Most companies charge a premium for drivers under the age of 25, and for second drivers.

Car hire companies also charge extra for baby / child seats, often around $10 a day, which can soon mount up. If your airline allows it, take your own with you. We bought a relatively cheap seat from Asda specially to take with us. It was very cost effective compared to paying to hire one over there, and didn’t matter if it got lost or damaged on the way back.

When picking your car up and Orlando Airport (MCO), either go there before getting your luggage, or split up and leave someone to get the luggage while you get the car hire sorted.

Remember that cars are automatic over there, so put your left foot to one side and let it have a rest while you drive.

MONEY

Don’t wait until you get to the airport to buy your currency, you’ll get the worst rates available. Shop around before you go to find the best deal. Travelex online consistently offer the best rates.

If driving from the airport you’ll need cash for tolls.

If buying currency from a travel agency they may try to talk you into getting a pre-paid card, saying that traveller’s cheques are to become obsolete. This isn’t true and is just a ruse as they get more commission on cards. I prefer to stick with traveller’s cheques and just take a few out with me at a time, leaving the rest in the hotel safe. That way if I lose some I still have money in the safe. Lose a card and you have nothing until you get it replaced.

Make sure you write down the numbers of all your traveller’s cheques in case they get lost or stolen.

Beware that when you use your credit card or debit card abroad you will get charged fees of up to 3% per transaction.

Try to avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash abroad as there are usually steep charges and you’ll pay interest on whatever amount you withdraw (this can be up to 25%)

GETTING AROUND

Make sure you know the local traffic laws before you set off, and don’t forget the most important – drive on the right! We’ll be covering the various traffic laws in a separate article.

Make sure you know where the nearest petrol (gas) stations are located once there and don’t let the fuel tank get too low. You may find yourself travelling much longer distances than you realise and don’t want to run out of fuel in the middle of the interstate!

When you go to the Gas station to fill up with petrol, you’ll usually be required to pay up front before filling the tank. Once you’ve paid it will only allow you to put in as much as you’ve paid for. Insert the hose nozzle into the tank, then you’ll need to lift the holder to start the petrol flow.

COMMUNICATIONS

Don’t use your UK mobile phone if you can help it! You will be charged not only to make calls but also to receive calls. Cheap US mobile phones (cell phones) can be purchased at the likes of Walmart, Target, etc. The Virgin phones are recommended and can be set up via telephone or internet. If you’re in a large group, have older kids who go off on their own, or will be splitting up to do different things, having mobile phones to communicate with will be very useful. US mobile phones are also a cheaper way of calling home.

Never (unless it’s an emergency) use your in-room phone to make calls, especially international ones. You will be charged a small fortune for the privilege!

DINING

During the week before you travel, go online and join as many restaurant loyalty clubs as you can (or just those you’ll be visiting if you know which ones). By doing this you should receive coupons for free food items or discounts. Many of them tend to only be valid for a short time, so do it as close to your trip as possible.

SHOPPING

If you plan on visiting any outlet malls, such as Premium Outlets, join their shopper clubs via the website. You’ll get a voucher to print off to collect a coupon booklet from the outlet mall. Check their websites for any current discounts and coupons too.

EVERYTHING ELSE

The Florida sun is much stronger than we’re used to in the UK. Always wear a high factor sunscreen, even on cloudy days, and make sure kids wear hats when out and about. Read our article on how to survive the summer sun.

Stroller (pushchair) rental can be expensive if you hire at the parks. But there are a few other options. Check with your airline if they’ll allow you to take your own, if so they usually require it to be a simple model that folds up easily. If you have transport over there, visit Walmart or Target when you arrive and pick up a cheap umbrella stroller for around $30. If you want the use of a proper, more comfortable pushchair, check out Magic Strollers, who rent out strollers on a daily or weekly basis.

On the day you arrive, resist the temptation to go to bed at 7pm and try to stay up as late as you can to help your body clock adjust to the new time zone.

It’s likely that you’ll be wide awake at stupid-o’clock on the first morning, so take advantage of this and book an early breakfast, plan to go to the park that has morning Extra Magic Hour (if you’re staying in a Disney hotel), or visit a supermarket.

Speaking of supermarkets, if you have a car it’s well worth visiting Walmart, Target or Publix to stock up on a few groceries. Bottled water in the parks costs $2.50, yet you can buy a case of say 12 bottles of water for something like $5 at the supermarket.

If you’ve got a multi-day pass for the Disney parks, don’t waste one of the days on your arrival day.

Take some tea bags with you! The tea over there isn’t as good as we’re used to, so if you’re a big tea drinker you might be glad to have your own with you.

Many places offer free refills on soda (fizzy drinks).

It’s customary to tip in restaurants (18-20% of the final bill), bar staff, porters / bell services  and taxi drivers.

Biggest tip – chill out and realise that you’re on holiday and that it’s going to be impossible to see/do everything on one trip! If there’s stuff you don’t get to do, and there will be lots, it’s a good reason to save up and go back another time!

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