Baby in Training for Walt Disney World
I can almost hear the murmurs now, “Why would she bring a baby to Walt Disney World?” It’s true, in a few weeks my son will be fifteen month old and taking his first trip to Walt Disney World.
So, why would we embark on a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth with a child who will not enjoy most of the rides, indulge in some of Disney’s best snacks, say “Hi” to Mickey, or even remember the trip? Necessity. With three generations traveling to the “World”, we simply don’t have anyone crazy enough to watch the baby for a week while we play in the sun. And, our son will surely enjoy Disney World’s fanciful sights and sounds, even if he’ll have to rely on photographs to tell the story of his first trip.
Traveling with a baby requires some extra planning and preparation, especially in the areas of sleeping and eating. After all, what does a baby do most? Not one to be without a plan, I started my baby in training for Walt Disney World about 10 weeks out from our Disney trip.
The goal? Make my son as comfortable as possible with the logistics of traveling.
The Training Plan
Our son is a great sleeper. In his room and crib, that is. Things take a turn for the worse when he’s in the Pak ‘N Play. To him, the portable crib is his nemesis – a device designed solely to curb his adventurous spirit. After all, he should be able to open drawers, unroll toilet paper, and empty the trash can while mom’s in the shower, right?
When we’re on our vacation, he’ll be using one of Disney’s Pak ‘N Plays to sleep, a reality for which he is sorely unprepared. What’s a mom to do? My husband and I started “sleep training” for our little one. First we simulated an unfamiliar hotel room by moving our Pak N Play into a different space than he’s used to sleeping in. Then, we chose to tackle the overnight sleep, when he falls asleep very easily, before naps.
Success. We had a few rough nights in the beginning but it wasn’t long before he was sleeping like a champ overnight in the Pak N Play. After we increased the nighttime trainings to twice a week, it was time to move on to naps; he quickly acclimated. I can breathe a sigh of relief that our biggest traveling challenge won’t be so challenging after all.
Leave the Bottle, Take the Pacifier
My vision of a relaxed family vacation most definitely does not include baby bottles, which are bulky to pack and time consuming to sanitize. It was an easy decision to completely transition our little guy from the bottle to sippy cups before our trip.
What about the pacifier? It stays for now. My son only uses it to sleep and I don’t want to make too many changes before the trip. Also, now that the bottle is kaput, the pacifier will hopefully help soothe him and his little ears on our flight. I also bought Earplanes®, a product that is designed to reduce ear pressure but do I see him wearing them the whole flight? No. I give it about two minutes before he’s trying to tug them out of his ears.
Dinner is Served
Food is a big part of our Disney vacations so I want to make dining out with the baby as effortless as possible. We have a multi-pronged plan on this front: straws, portable high chairs, and table manners.
First up are straws. Although bottles are a thing of the past, my son hasn’t gotten the hang of using a straw yet. Is it crucial for our trip? No, but it would be nice. No worrying about packing sippy cups in our theme park bag or cleaning them every night. Fortunately, I can purchase sippy cups in the Baby Care Centers if I forget them.
Unlike at home, restaurant high chairs don’t have a tray and kids eat directly at the table. Lucky for us, portable booster seats which are secured to dining chairs are inexpensive and easy to find at stores selling baby products. The little man can now “pull up a chair” and get used to eating finger foods from our table at home instead of from his high chair’s tray.
My ultimate goal for eating at Disney is making sure we exit the dining establishments with all their dishes intact and without having to be followed up by a cleaning crew. You can decide whether I’m a germaphobe or exercising common sense but I won’t be placing my son’s finger foods directly on the restaurant table. Sadly, a napkin, paper kids’ menu, or worse still a plate under his food is a disaster waiting to happen. In the blink of an eye, he’ll tug his “prize” and proudly wave it around for all to admire. That is, when the other guests aren’t ducking from the food that just went flying. I’ve decided to bring self-adhesive, disposable placemats and a combo plate/no slip placemat.
I’m sad to report that no progress on the straws has been made. Really, how do you teach a one year old to use a straw? On a brighter note, using a travel high chair and items to assist with eating from the table has gone very well.
Disney World is not a Hat Optional destination for my kids. But, keeping a sunhat on a 1 year old can be an exercise in patience. He takes it off and he giggles, I put it back on; he takes it off and he giggles, I put it back on. You get the idea. Bucket hats are just too tempting and easy for my son to remove. His Disney hat is a wide brimmed one that fastens under his chin which at least makes him work harder to take it off.
Wherever he goes, his hat goes.
Being away from the familiar comforts of home challenges different kids in different ways. With a little extra planning and preparation, I developed a plan to make my little guy more comfortable with the changes that come with traveling.
I would love to hear how you prepare your very little ones for Walt Disney World. What should I add to my son’s Walt Disney World training regimen?
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe.