Yes, that’s right – without Mom and Dad! I just returned from a week at Walt Disney World with my 10 year old granddaughter and my 17 month old grandson. Was I nervous going in? A little bit. I’ve been taking my granddaughter without her parents since she was about 5 years old but this was my grandson’s first trip without mom and dad. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. At 17 months old it was his third trip and we just had to go – he needed a haircut and Grammy gets his haircut at Harmony Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom!
My granddaughter is experienced at Grammy trips to WDW and knows how to make sure Grammy gets the perfect pictures!
I spend a good bit of time with my grandson on a regular basis which makes taking off for a week with him in tow a bit easier.
Here’s my best advice for getting the most out of Walt Disney World with your toddler grandchild in tow:
Plan Your Travel Bag
Be sure to have everything you need for your travel days – diapers, wipes, sippy cup, snacks, extra outfits, a few toys, and of course, the favorite blankie!. It doesn’t matter how you will be traveling – plane, train or auto – you will need all the same things. We drove from South Carolina. The ride normally takes me about 6.5 hours. With Seamus in tow it took about 8 hours since I stopped to eat at a Cracker Barrel instead of just driving through as I normally do when I’m alone. The trip is almost as important as the destination.
Don’t Over Plan Your Days
Strict and tight schedules don’t always work well with a toddler. I know he gets impatient waiting for meals so I didn’t over plan lots of sit down restaurants. I only planned one breakfast at Chef Mickey’s for our first morning and one dinner at Sci-Fi Dine In at Hollywood Studios. I planned Chef Mickey’s because on his last trip in February (at 13 months old) he was very leery of the characters. I wanted him to get used to having the characters come near him before we waited in line in the parks in case he would still be shy around Mickey.
To be honest, Sci-Fi was a mistake on my part. I knew my granddaughter would enjoy it but didn’t consider that he would want to climb from front seat to back seat while we were waiting for our food. I thought like an old lady instead of a toddler when I made that reservation! Sci-Fi Dine In was not at all a good choice. Plus, it is on the dark side in this restaurant which also didn’t work well.
Quick service is definitely the way to go with a toddler. Waiting for table service meals just didn’t work for me. As wonderful as dining with the characters can be, some toddlers just don’t do well sitting and waiting. They can see the characters in the parks not while they are hungry waiting for food. I found he enjoyed them much more that way. The quick service spots all throughout Walt Disney World Resort offer more than enough options for full meals and won’t have your toddler waiting for their food.
Expect the Unexpected
Poop happens! and when it does – it really does. My daily park bag dedicated to baby things consisted of diapers, wipes, bib, 2 extra outfits for him along with his sippy cup, sunscreen and a hat. I also included little containers of cheerios and animal crackers for snack emergencies. He’s a big water drinker so I also included 4 or 5 frozen bottles of water to keep his cup full throughout the day. I didn’t use his normal diaper bag. I actually used one of those small, square zippered packs that people use to organize inside their suitcase. It was the perfect size to fit in the basket under his stroller and held everything we needed for the day without having a huge diaper bag to contend with. We had several days where we didn’t need his extra clothes but we also had several days that we did.
My grandson loves music so even though we were on our way to another attraction, when he saw the Main Street Philharmonic Band he became so excited we had to stop and watch – and watch – and watch – and watch. It didn’t matter where we were heading, he wanted to watch, so we watched. An unexpected stop that is now a wonderful memory!
I didn’t FastPass the Tea Cups but while we were walking by he was very interested in watching them and there was only a 5 minute wait so we jumped on. I’m so glad I did! I would have never planned for a 17 month old to go on this attraction but he loved it and within seconds realized how to spin the cup and make Grammy dizzy.
Go with the Baby Flow
I let him sleep until he woke up each day, except for the first morning with the Chef Mickey breakfast reservation. Between the heat and the excitement, a little one gets exhausted. He was going to bed each night a couple of hours later than his normal bed time. He did nap in the stroller during the day and when he was napping I either found a shaded bench to relax myself or did any shopping I wanted to do so that he was in air conditioned stores while he slept. (We also used his napping times to eat some snacks we didn’t necessarily want him to have!)
I made FastPass+ reservations for afternoon hours since I wasn’t sure what time we would arrive at the parks each day and I only made FastPass times for attractions I knew he would love based on his previous visits.
Keep applying sunscreen so you don’t end up with an unhappy toddler. I re-applied every two to three hours.
When he reached the end of his day, we left the parks so he could get a bath and get to bed. Don’t push your toddler grandchild to do more than they can do because you are excited to see them experience something. I was fortunate that we only had one toddler melt-down in seven days – and it was basically my fault. Fortunately it happened at the end of the day getting ready for bed. It was the only day he didn’t nap in the stroller and he was so over-tired he just couldn’t cope with Grammy wanting him to take a bath and settle down. If I had thought about it more clearly I would have left the park a bit earlier once I realized he never napped. He could have taken a little power nap on the ride back and would have been in better shape.
When I realized his favorite rides were the parking lot tram, the monorail and the WDW Railroad, we took several rides on each just so I could see him giggle! Animal Kingdom and the safari was his favorite park for some reason and now each time we see an elephant or tiger on TV or in a book he looks at me and says “Mickey!”
Overall, it was a perfect week spending time with my grandchildren. Would I do it again – ABSOLUTELY! As he gets older, the trips will get easier.