You may wonder how you can visit Disney World without the Parks. How is that any fun? And why would you do that? For many reasons. Many of them numerous if you are visiting Disney World with children under the age of five. The main reason? Naps. The runner-up reason? The inability to participate in many of the rides.
Having a child that naps limits how long you can stay in a park. You may be lucky if they fall asleep in the stroller or you are staying at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian Resorts and can quickly hop the Monorail back to the hotel. However, even if you are able to work around naps, there are many attractions that your child cannot go on because of height restrictions or it’s not suitable for a child their age. Granted, children under the age of three can enter the parks for free. However, you and your spouse have to pay. With a one day Adult pass at $80+ per person, that is one very expensive short day.
So you may want to consider these ideas to keep your costs (and tantrums) at a minimum. Blend them into your park visits or consider these on alternate days.
Visit Downtown Disney. If you are staying in a Disney hotel, the free bus transportation itself is a thrill for a three year old. Whether you take the bus or drive from an off-site hotel, once you arrive, there are fountains to admire, legos to touch, ice cream to eat, boats to watch and the largest Disney store to explore. For many kids, they may think this is the Magic Kingdom! But if you want to burst their bubble, you can consider taking it up a notch.
Visit the Magic Kingdom (but don’t go in). If you are driving from an off-site hotel, park at the Magic Kingdom parking lot. As of the time of this post, the cost to park is $14 for the day and is valid at any of the other parks too. So the cost for a family of four for the day is $3.50 a person. After parking the car, the kids will enjoy the tram ride to the ticketing area (i.e. semi-entrance) of Magic Kingdom. It’s a ride in and of itself. Then, whether you drove or took Disney Transportation as a guest from one of the Disney hotels, hop on either the Magic Kingdom or the Epcot Monorail. If you take the Magic Kingdom Monorail, stay on, and take a ride around the entire Magic Kingdom property, back to the ticketing area. Alternatively, get on one of the Monorails that stop either at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian Resorts. Disembark to have lunch or explore the great hotels. For example, the Grand Floridian Resort has some great walking trails to enjoy the lagoon, which is a perfect place to push a stroller or let little legs let off steam. Then consider taking the Monorail to Epcot (and back) on the same day or another day for another low-cost adventure. So for $3.50 a person, or less if you are already staying on Disney property, it’s a fun adventure that can be done in between naps or full morning before an afternoon nap.
Go on a Disney Cruise….at Disney World. Drive and park for $14 ($3.50 a person), or take the Disney Transportation, to Disney Hollywood Studios. Enjoy a fun tram ride to the entrance too! Yet, once at the entrance, instead of going inside the Park, continue past the entrance and down a pathway to a boat dock. Hop on the boat for a beautiful ride along a river that stops at a variety of Disney hotels (with its final stop at the back entrance of Epcot.) Get off to explore the hotels, or disembark at the Disney Boardwalk and enjoy a walk around the shops, restaurants and ice cream parlors. Once you are ready to go, hop on a boat back to your car at Disney Hollywood Studios and head back to your hotel. For $3.50 a person (or less if you are staying on Disney property) it’s a fun pre-nap or post nap adventure. It is also fun to visit the Boardwalk in the evening. Consider spending a low key day at your hotel pool, and venture out for a late afternoon and early evening Boardwalk foray before bedtime.
Charlene is a Mom to two children under three, but remembers several family vacations growing up when her family drove over 24 hours to Disney in a Ford Country Squire Station Wagon with wood side paneling.