The resort you choose will be a determining factor in how well your trip goes with kids under 5. This covers where to stay, resort pools, views of Cinderella’s Castle, and the best ways to start and end your trip.
Stay on the Monorail
You’ll be spending most of your time at the Magic Kingdom with young kids, and the ability to quickly get in and out of the Magic Kingdom is important. Stay at a resort on the Monorail. We went from the Polynesian to Magic Kingdom in 10 mins, and didn’t even have to collapse the stroller. That means you can run back to your room for a proper nap during the day, and then go back into the Magic Kingdom and stay until bedtime. Staying anywhere else makes it a lot tougher to go back and forth quickly, and once you leave you’re not likely coming back. You’ll also have to collapse your stroller on all buses and some boats.
A nice perk of staying on the monorail is that you have more dining options because you can easily ride the monorail to another resort for food. We rode over to the Grand Floridian for dinner one night, and it was fun. It was super nice, but it’s also one of the most expensive properties at Disney World, so there are definitely fewer kids there. The ones we did see were much more likely to be wearing seersucker or monograms.
The Polynesian is far and away our favorite resort. It’s a got a really fun, laid back feel and something is always going on.
Staying on the monorail is pretty expensive, but use Magical Vacations Travel or rent DVC Points to get a deal. If that still doesn’t fit your budget, you’ve got a couple of options:
- Wilderness Lodge – A little further away, but still has a direct connection to the Magic Kingdom by boat.
- The Campsites at Ft. Wilderness – The cheapest on-property accommodations, and connected to the Magic Kingdom by boat. But then you’re camping in your own tent or camper. In Florida. No thanks.
Disney World Resort Pools are amazing
All moderate and deluxe resorts have splash pads, zero entry pools, and water slide(s)! There are multiple lifeguards on duty, and all resorts have life jackets of various sizes for the kids to use, so no need to bring your own. Life jackets are first come, first serve, but we’ve never had a problem getting one.
Tip: They have swim diapers for sale in the resort store if you forget
Views of Cinderella’s Castle are both good and bad at Monorail Hotels
Seeing Cinderella’s Castle from your room is awesome, right!?! Well, if you can see the Castle, you can also see and more importantly hear fireworks that go off every night at 9pm for ~20 mins. Make sure your kids are in bed well before 9p so they’ll sleep through them. Then you can watch from your hotel room!
If your kids are up late enough and want to see the fireworks, there are also other places at the resort where you to watch them.
The Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower are the closest resorts to the Magic Kingdom, so the fireworks will also be the loudest there.
We also had a Castle view from Wilderness Lodge, but it was far enough away that the noise wasn’t a big deal for the kids.
If possible, get to to the resort earlier in the day. Then you can check in, explore the resort, and get in some good pool time before dinner. There really is a lot to see at each resort, so be sure to allow time for the kids time to wander around and enjoy it.
Don’t fly out before noon
Do NOT book your return flight before noon if you are taking Disney’s Magical Express to the airport. Your resort pick up time will be 4 hours before your flight departure time. I booked 8:30a flights both ways once, and arrival was easy. My wife never let me forget our departure time…
Other Lodging Tips
- If you’re staying more than a couple of days, consider taking a resort day instead of going to a park. Kids will enjoy hanging out at the pool just as much, and it’s free!
- Wilderness Lodge is also a great option if you’re kids don’t nap. It’s a 15 min boat ride, and you may not have to fold the stroller depending on what boat you get. Also, if you’re leaving the park at the same time as everyone else (e.g., after fireworks, or before the start of a party), the monorail and bus line will be *packed*, and the boat line will be WAY less crowded
- With older kids, try Art of Animation. They have suites!! But beware, the room decor is pretty wild..
- Also with older kids, try Pop Century. It’s a value resort that was recently remodeled, so it’s really nice
- All resorts have Pack ‘n Plays, no need to bring your own