Friday, July 11, 2014

Touring Disney with Toddlers: When Naptime is Non-Negotiable

By: Melissa

If the idea of your toddler skipping their afternoon nap strikes fear into your heart, you are not alone. And yes, you can go to Disney and have loads of fun! How do I know? Because we did it!

Touring, Toddlers, Naptime

I know. Planning nap time into the day doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But believe me, it was worth it, and we benefited from a nap as much as our toddler did. Once we have an older kid who thinks naps are the most un-cool thing ever, one adult will hang with the napper, and the other will take the older kid to explore the resort or enjoy the pool. We can all have some downtime before heading out for dinner or back to the park to enjoy the evening.

About now, you’re probably thinking of several families you know who took their toddlers to Disney, didn’t take naps, and they managed just fine. And it’s quite possible, especially if your toddler can manage a full day and late evening without a meltdown or they will engage in the elusive stroller nap. Mine will not. And yes, I know families who decided that naps were not a priority. If that works for you, that’s great. It would not (did not) work for us. Our late night of fireworks and staying until park close was much more enjoyable because we had all rested. Sure, the kids were up way past their bedtime, but with a decent nap under their belt, they handled it quite well and we all had fun. Out of our five park days, the two days we made a calculated risk to stay in the park and not go back for naps ended with cutting our evenings short.

So, how did we do it?
  1. Don’t waste the morning. As painful as it may seem, we had to get up and get going. Most families with toddlers are up decently early anyway. (My kids don’t sleep much longer than the sun.) We easily made it to the park in time for rope drop (usually 9 a.m., depending on the season) so we could make the most of the morning. Breakfast is also a great time to schedule a character meal, especially an in-park reservation before the park opens. When you’re done with breakfast, you’re already in the park! We went to Chef Mickey's last time, but an in-park breakfast reservation is on our list for next time.
  2. Prioritize the touring plan. We knew the places we needed to hit first, before the lines got too long. We were sure to ride the important rides first. I tried to plan our day efficiently so we could concentrate on one area in the morning and another in the late afternoon/evening when we went back to the park. I’ll share more about our touring plan in another post.
  3. Just leave. It’s really easy to get caught up in the park, doing “just one more thing.” We had to know about how long it took to get back to the resort so we would know what time we needed to leave to be back for nap time. We were sure to set an alarm on our phone or watch the time so we had plenty of time to head back to the front of the park.
  4. No, really. Take a nap. Once we got back to our resort, it was tempting to just plop on the bed and let the toddler watch cartoons. If that’s what you have planned, that’s fine. But we really needed our people to nap, so we made it happen. We cleaned ourselves up a bit so we all felt refreshed (it can get sweaty in the parks), closed the curtains, turned off the lights (and the TV), and put our little people to bed. That meant we had to lie down too. It was not the worst thing in the world, I promise. We were sure to set an alarm so we didn't miss our evening plans.
  5. Get up and go have fun! After we were rested and refreshed, we enjoyed dinner and evening in the park with our toddler much more.
We would not have made it through five very full park days without naps. The best part (besides not having frequent toddler meltdowns) was that it forced us to rest as well. By the end of the week, we were tired, but not completely exhausted. We made it home with full hearts from our awesome week, but without feeling like we needed another vacation to recover.

When we go again next year, our kids will be eight and four. We will still probably have a mandatory afternoon rest time, at least on the days we plan to stay for fireworks/park closing.

How do you do Disney naptime?

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