08 Nov Disney Day 1: Travel Must Haves for Toddlers and Animal Kingdom Lodge Review
Have you ever flown with 2 very talkative toddlers? 7000 questions, a few potty breaks, a gigantic Costco size bag of gummy snacks and ants in pants. The flight was just long enough from Memphis to Orlando for us to reach cruising altitude and then land and my kids were EVERYWHERE. It was so fast, and I was very grateful. Jack was an angel, really he was. He was so excited to fly on an airplane. Especially with his new Lightning suitcase as an escort.
Tater on the other hand? He never sat still. We thought that a midday flight with no layovers would equal naps. Nah. Tate fell asleep for just a few minutes in the airport (babywearing to the rescue) and was amped the rest of the trip. There was a younger baby seated behind us and Tate needed to talk to him the whole time. They even held hands during landing and takeoff. We flew Southwest Airlines and had zero complaints. The staff was friendly and even the passengers didn’t outwardly complain about our kids bouncing around like monkeys.
We bought several things to prep for our trip but one of the best purchases was these temporary tattoos from Etsy seller, TatASaurus! They had our cell numbers on them just in case, God forbid, we got separated from the boys. They seriously gave me peace of mind in so many crowded spaces. I bought two packs of 8 and we had several left over. They lasted all day most days, even after tons of snacks, sweat and hand washing. Definitely a must have if you are traveling to the parks with littles!
Short takeaway from this that I will use in our future travels. Never again will I fly with a lap baby. Yes, it’s much safer in a car seat, but that isn’t even my main concern. A baby in a car seat is contained. Tate being out of his car seat on our flight was like wrestling an octopus. A strangely strong one. This trend of his restlessness on transportation continued throughout our trip on buses and the monorail.
DISCLOSURE: If you are a parent planning an elaborate Disney trip and telling yourself “my kid will nap in the stroller/room/carrier”, don’t bet on it! At least not passed a certain age. Our one year old did take naps in the stroller or baby carrier everyday but our three year old was having none of it! He would go and go and go and go and then crash as soon as we made it back the the hotel in the evening.
When booking a hotel for Disney World one of our main concerns was the “feeling” of the hotel and theme. We looked at several that were themed for children and a part of us was a little afraid of sensory overload. We were worried the kids might come back to the hotel overwhelmed from park time and be bombarded with more sights and sounds that riled them up again. When we discovered Animal Kingdom Lodge and saw several reviews calling it “chill”, we were sold. It is one of the resorts on property that is farther away from Magic Kingdom, so bus travel to that park can take upwards of 30 minutes. We didn’t mind that so much, but if you have things planned for several parks throughout your day or plan on returning to the resort for naps you may want to consider a resort on the monorail loop.
Arriving at Animal Kingdom Lodge is breathtaking. Once you step into the lobby you are immediately transported to the continent of Africa. The lobby buzzes with sounds from a crackling fire pit and the restaurant and common areas below. A gigantic 3 story window immediately opposite the entrance beckons you to wander outside and try and catch an animal grazing. There are grand details everywhere you look and smells of rich sandalwood, vanilla and charred wood make you feel like you just stepped into a safari camp.
When we arrived in our room we were blown away with how well the theme is carried throughout. Wallpaper in the bathroom mimics a safari map and the boys loved picking out animals on it. The large wooden beds are draped with mosquito netting and a balcony outside is perfect for coffee sipping.
As far as the layout of the room, it was great for the 4 of us. The bathroom had a large cutout perfect for Tate’s crib and separated him just enough to have an early bedtime a couple of nights and allowed John and I to stay up without waking him. The beds were super comfy and actually had room underneath for our suitcases once we unpacked, which was wonderful.
Our bags, stroller and groceries were all delivered to our room shortly after our arrival. I cannot recommend enough renting a stroller from someone other than Disney. They are more expensive for a week’s rental and hard plastic that does NOT look comfy for tired little ones. We didn’t want to bring our own because lugging it through an airport sounded awful and I had heard horror stories about them getting stolen and I did not want to come home without our beloved BOB Double Jogger. We used Orlando Stroller Rentals and were very happy with them. The delivered directly to our hotel and picked up at the end of our stay.
After getting settled we headed downstairs to scope out the rest of the resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge does an awesome job of having fun activities for kiddos in the evenings. They have several viewing areas for the animals and there is staff nearby to answer any questions you might have. They also have fire pits for roasting marshmallows outside, which the boys loved.
We spent a while scoping out all the amazing animals and taking in the sights before heading to dinner.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has several options for dinner and we had a reservation for their sit down African themed buffet, Boma. The food was delicious, but my favorite was the jalapeño margarita. After a long day of travel with overtired babies, it hit the spot.
After dinner we wandered back to the lobby to discover a drum parade! The hotel staff does it every evening and uses it to teach kiddos about the African culture and animals. We all 4 paraded around the lobby beating our drums and singing African chants.
After our drum circle and asking the very patient staff about every animal they could see, we were zonked. We all 4 crashed before 8 o’clock!
Traveling to Disney soon with littles? Check out my travel must haves to keep everyone sane below!
- A safe and comfortable baby carrier: I used our Lillebaby, which works great for us because both boys can use it! Unsure of what works best for you? Check with your local Babywearing International Chapter and they will help you choose before you buy!
- Electronics: Flying with toddlers is no time to pick a high horse to ride on and ban electronics for kids. We limit screen time but the 2 hours we were on the plan were free game. We love our Kid’s Kindle due to their replacement process WHEN not if you kid breaks it.
- ID: Kids need ID too, if only for peace of mind. I found several options like ID bands but I wanted something the kids couldn’t remove. I wasn’t comfortable with putting their names on them, so we just did these temporary tattoos with our cells. I watched a mom lose her 6 year old in Magic Kingdom one day and it solidified for me these are necessary, especially for a toddler who cannot ID themselves if separated.
- Luggage: I think it works best if kids and parents stuff are packed separately if available. We picked this adorable Lightning McQueen from Amazon and it helped Jack really feel like such a big boy!
- Easy entertainment: Even with a tablet, kids get antsy if one activity tries to hold their attention for too long. We brought along these Water Wows from Melissa and Doug and they were perfect. No crayons rolling around or risk of a random passenger taking a marker to the face. Just water and paper. Perfection!
- Gummy Snacks: Most toddlers cannot be trusted to chew gum and these really helped our boys ears. Make sure you buy these INSIDE the airport as some jellies/gummies are completely banned by TSA. We learned this the hard way. Crackers and cookies are allowed if you want to pack a snack bag ahead of time!
- A light jacket: This could be replaced with a favorite blanket if you are traveling somewhere you know you won’t need the jacket. Airplanes get cold and our boys needed that little extra warmth. We brought along these Columbia full zip fleeces because they are warm and easily washable.
Have any other recommendations for our next trip?? What did you drag to Disney that you didn’t need and what did you wish you brought? Share with us in the comments!