As magic key holders (annual passholders) at Disneyland Resort, we are huge Disney park fans. Disneyland is our home park and will always be my true love (sorry hubby). But, Walt Disney World is also amazing, and though I’ve only gone once before, I really want to take my family. The opportunity has presented itself, as Walt Disney World announced their 50th anniversary celebration. This starts in October of 2021 and will continue for 18 months. We are planning on going mid-January 2022, as this is typically a lower-crowd time of year and nobody is in school yet so we can go.
This trip will be different than the one we took before; my husband and I went over Presidents Day weekend two years ago, and I got to choose everything we did. This time around, travel and safety standards are obviously different, and we’ll be going with our two kids, as well as my in-laws, brother-in-law, and his wife and son. All together, we will be 6 adults, and three toddlers (ages 3, 2, and 1). The trip will be for the kids (and me, but I just love the atmosphere) and our rides and schedule will be designed for them.
I’m using my FREE Disneyland trip planner to keep my plans organized our trip, making a few slight adjustments to accommodate 4 theme parks instead of 2. (Subscribers to my newsletter get access to all my freebies, including this planner conveniently located in Google sheets for you to copy to your Google drive, download, or print, fill in yourself, and stay organized. I also have free scavenger hunts l developed to do at Disneyland, and travel tips specifically for visiting Disneyland Resort. As soon as you subscribe, you get access to it all in your email.)
We decided to go with a travel agent (Disney travel agents are 100% free to use) but I had already booked our hotel rooms so will be transferring the booking over to them to manage (you can transfer booking anytime in the 30 days after you book). Not every hotel is currently open, which helped narrow down the choices for me. As restrictions lift, I’m sure Disney will be opening more resorts, but I wanted to get our trip booked for our ideal time and resort before everything filled up. When you book through the Disneyworld website (which I found easy to use) you are only responsible for a $200 deposit for your package with the balance due a month before your trip. This also makes it easy to change resorts/tickets/plans since your deposit stays the same even when your package price fluctuates (which was great because I changed our resort three times!)
I initially booked Art of Animation, a value resort, and had to make three separate reservations for our three separate rooms. I decided to change our reservations a week later to the Caribbean Beach, a moderate resort, because it has more dining options and looks nicer so it will be more pleasant for us adults, while still being on the skyliner route like Art of Animation to cut down on waiting for buses. But, a week later again I decided Caribbean Beach Resort was too spread out for my in-laws and toddlers to walk around, so we upgraded to the Disney Yacht Club Resort, a deluxe. I’m so excited; it’s within walking distance of Epcot, with buses/boat ride to Hollywood Studios, and buses to the other two parks. There are restaurants, really cool pools, and a boardwalk area around this resort. During those weeks that I was thinking about upgrading, I was researching the resorts and comparing them using the maps on disneyworld.com and reading about trip reviews and personal reports on various Disney facebook groups and blogs.
We will be traveling with my in-laws, my brother-in-law, his wife, their son, and my family of four. Total we will be a party of 6 adults, a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1-year-old (both little boys will be free, ticket-wise!). I did some research and since our kids are still younger than school-age, we can go anytime in the year. It seems as though late January/early February will be the best crowd-wise and it won’t yet be too hot (there are crowd calendars online that you can use; obviously this year will be different due to it being the 50th anniversary, but I figured the general trends would hold true).
I am planning for day zero to be purely for travel and dinner at the resort, day one we will do Magic Kingdom, day two is Hollywood Studios, day three is Epcot, day four is Animal Kingdom, and day five is for swimming at our resort/resting/Disney Springs. Day 6 will be just for departure. See my detailed itinerary below, specifically with my toddlers in mind.
I am super excited that parades and shows (especially fireworks) have returned and will be occurring for our trip in January 2022 and am looking forward to hearing more about their special celebrations from the first visitors. I know it will be a prime time to visit, especially as the world opens back up and traveling kicks off again, so I wanted to reserve our spot early. I am glad they have modified character dining available and will be jumping on those reservations at the 60-day mark, hoping that they will be a little more interactive by January. Fastpasses are not currently being issued by DisneyWorld, since they are limiting the number of guests in the parks, so they are not (yet) included in the itinerary. Once Genie+ (the fastpass replacement) we will be considering buying that for our trip, especially if crowds seem bad. Luckily we won’t have to make that decision until we get there and can experience the crowds and wait times first-hand.
The itinerary below will obviously be updated as they announce new shows and attractions for their 50th anniversary celebration, and as they reopen shows as restrictions get pulled back.
- Take snacks. Whatever you bring with you will be cheaper than what you get in the park (you can get groceries delivered to your resort if packing enough isn’t feasible).
- Take a stroller fan, hats, sunscreen, rain covers, and jackets for weather changes to accommodate them – happy toddler, happy life.
- Plan restful breaks/naptimes
- Take a stroller so they can rest
- Plan for rides that they can go on (usually this means the ones without height restrictions)
- Character meals are really fun if they are familiar with Disney characters
- Bubble wands are fun. You can buy cheaper ones to take into the park
- Bring a change of clothes
- Plan for shows and parades, and not just rides
It’s different than Disneyland but instead of focusing only on the different rides, since the toddlers will still love it there we’ll do even the same rides. I want to try the mine train because we don’t have that one here at Disneyland, and plan to use baby swap for that ride, but also want to do all the Fantasyland rides. Luckily our three kids are around the same age so we can pander to their preferences and schedule. I am planning that we will probably wake up around 8 or 9 every morning, because our kids are early risers but on the west coast, so 6am PST is 9am EST.
- 9am est – wake up
- 10am – breakfast at the resort
- 11am – head to Magic Kingdom via resort bus and take an iconic picture in front of the castle (I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy the Memory Maker for access to their professional photos)
- Snacks to try today in this park: Dole Whip, Nuttella waffle at Sleepy Hollow, BBQ pork waffle fries at Golden Oak, LeFou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern
- 12 – Fantasyland rides, as time allows. This includes Dumbo, Teacups, Pooh, Philharmagic show, Peter Pan, and Small World. Obviously we won’t get to all of them in an hour, but depending on wait times and toddlers’ interests, we can prioritize certain rides.
- If there is a parade running during anytime, that will be priority over rides
- 1 – Tomorrowland: Buzz Lightyear and the Peoplemover, depending on toddlers’ interest levels. If they’d rather do more Fantasyland rides, that works too
- 2 – Lunch reservation at Crystal Palace (if they reopen it as character dining) or Liberty Tree
- 3 – naptimes (they normally nap at 12 PST so this should work) If they nap in the strollers, then the adults can ride Mining Train or Haunted Mansion, or we can go back to the resort
- 6 – head back to the park, take a round-trip train ride
- 7 – Frontierland (bear jamboree, Pirates, Tiki Room, Aladdin’s Magic Carpets)
- Somebody will be sitting and staking out fireworks seating with a view of the castle
- 8 – quick service dinner while waiting for fireworks. Probably from Columbia Harbor House or Flame Tree BBQ
- 9 – Disney Enchantment fireworks show (it will only be 6pm PST so I think the toddlers will all be fine)
- 7 – try to get virtual boarding passes for Rise of the Resistance (we’ll have to use rider switch for this ride)
- 8/9 – wake up
- 10 – breakfast at resort
- 11 – head to Hollywood Studios via ferry for a different experience
- 12 – Runaway Railroad ride and a quick walk through Walt Disney Presents
- 1 – try to get rise of resistance reservation
- 1 – Lightning McQueen’s Raceway
- 2 – Lunch at Hollywood and Vine character dining, or 50s Prime Time Cafe
- 3 – naps
- If they nap in strollers, adults can do Rock n Rollercoaster and Millennium Falcon
- 5 – Beauty and the Beast live on stage
- 6 – Toy Story (slinky dog, toy story mania, alien saucers)
- 7 – quick service at ABC Commissary
- 9 – Wonderful World of Animation fireworks show
- 7am – try to get a virtual boarding pass for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure since there’s no height requirement
- 8/9am – wake up
- 9 – breakfast at resort
- 10 – head to Epcot via its back entrance since our resort is within walking distance
- 11 – France (Remy ride, kidcot)
- Kidcot stations throughout the different lands of Epcot, traveling counterclockwise
- 1 – Norway (Frozen Ever After)
- 2 – Garden Grill character dining or in Mexico
- 3 – naps (adults can try Test Track)
- 6 – Nemo aquarium area
- 7 – Figment
- Beacons of Light nighttime show at Spaceship Earth
- Canada – try the cheddar cheese soup
- 9:45 – Harmonious night show
- 8/9am – wake up
- 10am – breakfast at resort
- 11 – head to Animal Kingdom via Disney bus and take an iconic photo in front of the Tree of Life
- Snacks to try here: Dole Whip, Lobster mac n cheese at Beastly Kiosk
- 11:15 – Festival of Lion King show
- 12 – Pandora (Navi River)
- 12:45 – KiteTails show in DinoLand
- 1:15 – Kilamanjaro Safari
- 2 – Lunch at Tusker character dining or Rainforest Cafe
- 3 – naps
- If they nap in the strollers, then the adults can ride Expedition Everest or Flight of Passage
- 6 – Dinoland or shows
- Awakenings of the Tree of Life
Disney Yacht Club Resort/Boardwalk/Disney Springs
- This day will be more restful, we can recover as needed from our park days and enjoy our resort. However, I have ideas of things to do if we have enough energy:
- The pool, duh! One of the big perks of the Disney Yacht Club resort is their pool so we will have to try it out.
- Beaches and Cream – reservations are hard to get here, but their to-go window just reopened so we can at least try their ice cream!
- Disney’s Boardwalk area has lots of activities and shops to experience
- Disney Springs has a lot of shopping to do
- T-Rex Cafe in Disney Springs is popular and I think our toddlers would really enjoy it
- I doubt that we’ll have a ton of energy, but Art of Animation would be a lot of fun to walk around and experience. It’s pretty far from Yacht Club, though, and it would be harder to catch direct transportation there.
- The skyliner also looks fun to ride, but again, it would be harder to catch transportation to and take more energy.
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- We are not taking our stroller, nor our carseats (this is a major perk for me for getting a travel agent, because Disneyworld is discontinuing their Magical Express in December 2021 and I don’t want to figure out transportation from the airport to resorts with three in carseats). I’ve heard a great place to rent strollers from is Kingdom Strollers (they also have cribs and scooters for rent). I will be bringing our mifold portable carseat but am not planning on using it.
- One day of coordinating outfits for everyone (we have a cricut so we will make these ourselves but there are tons of cute ones on Etsy).
- Cute Disney clothes for the kids each day, and for adults that want to participate (definitely me – already scored a matching 50th-inspired dress for Lily and I at Magic Kingdom Boutique).
- Jackets/ponchos/stroller covers for rain
- Ears/Accessories – I have a Belle shirt with matching ears and jewelry, we have a few different Minnie and Mickey ears, and various Disney bows for Lily
- Diapers/wipes/extra clothes (I’ll have one in diapers and one potty-trained toddler)
- Sandals, swimsuits, sunscreen for the resort pool
- Good walking shoes, and a spare pair in case they get wet from rain
- Reusable water bottles
- Snacks for the kids (primarily for the flight there, we can get some groceries delivered once we check in to our resort)
- Stroller fans
- Ribbons or something to make the stroller easily identifiable, especially if you are renting a stroller
- New toys for the flights there and back (I’m considering Water Wow books, reusable sticker books, and downloading Little Einsteins episodes)
- The My Disney Experience app with our linked tickets (it also has park maps and showtimes, and is how you can try to get virtual boarding passes)
- Foldable bags for when we fold the stroller to return to the resort (stuff just collects in the stroller and especially if we buy stuff, I want extra bags)
- Temporary tattoos/tags/bracelets with our phone number to put on the kids. I haven’t decided what method to use yet, but there’s a few options.
- Portable batteries and phone cords to recharge our phones.