How to Enjoy Orlando, Florida’s Theme Park Capital, With a Toddler in Tow
There aren’t many times when I would let my daughter bounce on my shoulders, put me in a choke hold and scream at the top of her voice.
Anyone watching us would assume that’s why I had tears in my eyes. But they were tears of joy.
Nothing could have prepared me for the thrill I would feel standing on the main street of Walt Disney World, watching the magic unfold as all of Anna’s favorite Disney characters emerge from Cinderella’s castle.
We wanted to have an unforgettable holiday before she started school (and make the most of being able to travel before having to pay skyrocketing school holiday prices).
So we went to Orlando with Anna, four years old, and her brother Adam, one year old.
Of course, Walt Disney World delivered, with plenty of rides for even the littlest guests.
While the frozen princesses on parade were a hit with Anna, even Adam got to enjoy rides such as Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.
You board a giant seashell to explore Prince Eric’s castle and watch Sebastian the crab entertained in an animatronic musical adventure.
Showing an early enthusiasm for cars, Adam’s visit to Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy at Hollywood Studios was a great pit stop and a welcome air-conditioned break from the heat.
Hunt with a Yeti
Toy Story Land proved successful with both. It’s a colorful area where you explore Andy’s backyard through the perspective of the toys.
Animal Kingdom, a slower paced park, also provided us with shade on one of the hottest days.
We encountered gorillas, hippos and exotic birds on a self-guided tour of Pangani Forest before heading to The Boneyard, a play area where little ones can dig for dinosaur bones.
The Lion King Festival was a great way to introduce the kids to a West End style spectacle filled with songs and puppets.
All that walking can be exhausting for little legs, so strollers are a must. Double strollers are available to rent, but we didn’t think they looked comfortable.
We decided to pre-book ours with the online company Orlando Stroller Rentals, who can deliver and collect your accommodation.
When the kids fell asleep, it was time to enjoy our Fast Passes and other thrill rides including the breathtaking Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest – a high-speed train chase with a Yeti.
The Rider Switch program means one parent can wait with the kids while the other rides, then switch without having to wait in line again.
Each park also has excellent baby care centers for diaper changes and feeding.
With so much excitement around every corner, it’s very tempting to cram too much into your itinerary.
We carefully planned downtime each day to recharge our batteries.
A favorite way for us to unwind was at home for the week – a luxurious condo-style family suite at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek. It’s next to Walt Disney World and close to other attractions, providing great respite after a hectic day.
We loved cooling off in one of the five pools and the lazy river, where Adam fell asleep floating with me on more than one occasion.
Staying here also gave us the ability to cook our own lunches which saved some money. There was also the option of dining on site while watching the fireworks from our balcony, when the kids were too exhausted to venture outside.
We ordered our groceries before we arrived through a company called Instacart, which delivers groceries to your vacation home like any other online grocery store.
We got soaked during the Battle of Bricksburg ride as we sprayed the Duplo alien invaders (and each other) with water cannons
Wyndham guests can take shuttle service to the Disney parks, and the resort is a short drive to Universal and SeaWorld.
We weren’t sure whether to hire one as we had never driven on the other side of the road before – and we didn’t want to attempt that with two distractions in the back seats.
Uber and Lyft are a great option if you have older kids, but they didn’t pick us up on this occasion because we needed child car seats.
We found Kidmoto a safe and convenient solution. Our friendly driver Jaime took the stress out of traveling in a motor from one of his luxurious fleets and played Frozen for Anna and Adam to watch en route to Legoland. This is the perfect theme park for toddlers. My two loved the Lego Movie World, which features rides, attractions, and dining experiences based on characters and themes from the movies.
We got soaked in the Battle of Bricksburg as we sprayed the Duplo alien invaders (and each other) with water cannons.
The Great Lego Race is the first roller coaster with VR technology specially designed for children, which puts you in the center of an action-packed road rally.
Coming this summer is the first Peppa Pig Land at the park, featuring six rides and themed play areas.
One place where we found no race cars was Sesame Street.
SeaWorld brought this beloved children’s TV show to life and it’s full of interactive fun and the chance to meet the likes of Elmo and Cookie Monster. We sat and enjoyed story time with Big Bird and joined the whole gang in their award winning parade.
There is plenty to entertain the little ones outside of the main theme parks.
Icon Park on International Drive was awesome and easy to spot with its 400 foot observation wheel.
At the Sea Life Center, sharks, stingrays and sea turtles swam under our feet and above our heads as we walked through a 360 degree tunnel.
Anna was hypnotized by a mermaid who we watched swim underwater and then found on land for a “shellfie”.
Orlando with the Little Ones was a huge hit for the whole family. We have created memories for a lifetime.
COVID: Fully vaccinated travelers must provide proof of a negative lateral flow test taken no later than one day before travel.
GETTING THERE : British Airways flies from Heathrow to Orlando with return fares from £401 pp. See ba.com/orlando.
STAYING THERE: Wyndham Bonnet Creek suites are from £150 per night, based on four sharing. See wyndhambonnetcreek.com or extraholidays.com.
OUTSIDE & SURROUNDINGS: See visitorlando.com.