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Care for Babies and Children in Florida Theme Parks

Planning your baby’s Orlando vacation

Orlando really is packed with entertainment. If you’re going on a one week vacation, especially with young kids, there’s no way you’re going to fit it all in. Plan in some ‘down time’ for babies and toddlers because the excitement, sights and sounds can be quite overwhelming and they could get tired and irritable if they do too much. Here are our top hints and tips on ways to look after your baby at the theme parks.

A good plan could be to consider a ‘one day on, one day off’ approach to the holiday, taking in a theme park every other day, then relaxing by the pool, eating out, or going shopping on your days ‘off’.

On Day Two, it is sensible to schedule some time to go shopping and buy all your baby essentials and take a look around Orlando. You can also start to try to put your baby into his or her ‘vacation routine’ (whatever that might be). If you are driving, it is likely your baby will drop off to sleep on the way back from the parks.

Many theme park tickets allow you to come and go during the day, so you can schedule in an afternoon nap back at Windsor Palms, before returning to the park for late afternoon/evening entertainment.

Be aware that with young children, different parks will require a different pace. For example, Disney’s Magic Kingdom is perfect for little ones, with shows, rides and the parade aimed at young children. Your time here will probably be taken at a faster pace because there is so much that you will want to do with your kids. Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers fabulous safari themed attractions with live animals to see, and there’s a little bit more shade and quiet walking time, with opportunities to wander and chat. Epcot is a great choice for families of mixed ages and there’s lots of interactivity which the little ones will enjoy, such as the interactive Turtle Talk with Crush and A Voyage Under the Sea with Nemo and Friends. SeaWorld is big and sprawling and there’s a huge range of things to see and do. Babies will be particularly delighted to see the fish up close and wonder at the playful dolphins.

For a day away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, it is worth considering a drive out to Tampa Bay to visit Busch Gardens®. Busch Gardens is about an hour away from Orlando and for those not wishing to drive, a door-to-door luxury coach service is available daily from SeaWorld® and other convenient Orlando locations.

Although the park is known for its rollercoasters too, the zoo is a fantastic attraction in its own right and they have recently opened the Sesame Street Safari of Fun which is a perfect playland for little ones. Again, there’s a different pace here. The size of the park is very manageable (especially if you are bypassing all the rollercoasters) and the gardens are beautifully landscaped and tranquil. It makes a lovely, relaxing break in the middle of your vacation.

Both Universal’s Islands of Adventure® and Universal Studios® provide attractions and play areas for children.

Certain parks are also busier on certain days of the week. Magic Kingdom is busiest on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. EPCOT on Tuesday and Friday. Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday and Wednesday, Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay are busiest over the weekends. You may decide to structure your time to avoid being outside during the mid–day heat. In July and August, you can often find mid-afternoon rain showers. They are fairly short lived, but worth considering when you are planning your day.

Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find Orlando like no other place on earth and you need to be prepared that, however much stamina they may seem to have, your children are going to get tired. Taking them away from the excitement and the heat before exhaustion kicks in is going to make for a much better holiday for all of you.

Care Centers

All four of the theme parks at Walt Disney World, Orlando have Baby Care Centers.  These are fantastic facilities with quiet areas to chill out and read a book or play in an air conditioned environment with changing facilities, breastfeeding rooms and a kitchen with drinking water and a microwave to heat food. They also sell all sorts of baby supplies such as nappies, creams, wipes, baby food, formula milk, juice and even handy medicines like teething gels and antiseptic creams.  They stock a few toys and items such as comforters too. The Baby Care Centers are staffed by professional nurses, all of whom absolutely love working with babies and are very friendly and helpful.

Here’s where you can find the Baby Care Centers in all of the Orlando parks.

Magic Kingdom – Next to the Crystal Palace restaurant on Main Street, USA

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park – Behind Creature Comforts in Discovery Island

Epcot – Inside Future World’s Odyssey Centre

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Inside the guest services building in the main entrance The water parks, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, do not have Baby Care Centers, but toilets do have baby changing facilities.

SeaWorld – SeaWorld has its own Baby Care Centre – cosy and air conditioned with comfortable changing facilities, private feeding rooms and pint-sized toilets located in Shamu’s Happy Harbor area.

There are 10 Baby Changing Rooms dotted all over the park with a sink and tables designed for baby changing.  Some of these are also equipped with a small room – useful for breast feeding.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – There are baby changing facilities in most of the toilets and there is also a family baby care centre in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun  which provides a private, quiet area with changing tables and other amenities. If you are breast feeding this is a good place to do so.

Discovery Cove – Families with young children may wish to hire an exclusive cabana for the day. A spot beneath the cabanas’ ceiling fans could be the summer’s coolest hang-out. Privacy curtains drape all four sides of the cabana, which contains a mini-refrigerator. Included in the rental is an all-day locker, soft drinks, water, juice, sunscreen and a 25% discount on merchandise. Diaper-changing and baby-nursing areas are also available.

Aquatica – Cabanas are also available for hire at Aquatica.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure® and Universal Studios® – Baby supplies are available in various locations throughout the parks.  There are places to heat food and warm milk as well as breastfeeding areas in the health services locations at the front of both parks.  Baby change facilities are located in all restroom facilities.

Strollers and Lockers

Strollers or buggies are available to rent at a variety of locations throughout Walt Disney World, Disney Water Parks and the Downtown Disney Area. Double-passenger strollers are also available the parks but not at the Downtown Disney Area. Quantities of pushchairs are limited so consider bringing your own in high season.

To book a pushchair, or as the Americans call it, ‘a stroller’, ask at Guest Services on your entrance to the park.  You will be given a label to write your name on which slots into the back of the pushchair allowing you to identify it if you park it up at any point.

If you need to leave your stroller (such as when you are going on a ride or attraction), there are stroller parking areas throughout the parks. Avoid leaving anything valuable with your pushchair if you plan to leave it unattended at any point. Also, since many pushchairs look similar it’s worth tying something noticeable to yours such as a ribbon; much like you would with a suitcase.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Single and double strollers are available to rent at the parks, all fitted with a retractable sun shade and safety belt.  Reservations must be made in advance on www.buschgardens.com

SeaWorld

Single and double strollers are available to rent at the parks, all fitted with a retractable sun shade and safety belt.  Reservations can be made in advance on www.seaworld.com or rented on the day at the front of the park.

Discovery Cove®

All-terrain strollers are available for hire on arrival at the park.

Aquatica®

Single and double strollers are available to rent at the parks, all fitted with a retractable sun shade and safety belt.  Reservations must be made in advance on www.aquaticabyseaworld.com

Universal Islands of Adventure® and Universal Studios®

Both single and double strollers are available to hire at the front of each park.  All attractions have designated areas to leave strollers while you enjoy the attraction.

Lockers can be rented for a small fee to store items during your visits to the Walt Disney World, Disney Water Parks and Downtown Disney Area and at all of the SeaWorld Parks. These can be useful for items that are necessary but you don’t want to lug around with you all day.

Eating with babies and infants at Walt Disney World®, Florida

You are welcome to bring your own baby food into Disney’s theme parks. You just need to let a security cast member know that you are bringing food and/or drink in to the park.

Each of the four Disney theme parks in Florida has a Baby Care Center which offers a sanctuary for all kinds of baby-related things. Here, you can change your baby, warm food and bottles, breast-feed and even purchase items such as baby foods, formulas, soothers and diapers. They are clearly marked on Walt Disney World maps.

At the table-service restaurants, children may eat free from your plate, or you can purchase a kids’ meal for them to share. Walt Disney World is all for sharing! The only restaurants that wouldn’t permit sharing are the ones that specifically charge per head such as buffets.

Child friendly restaurants

The Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney is great. You literally enter a rainforest, complete with the animals and plants you might find if you took a wrong turn on your way to Disney Quest and ended up in a tropical rainforest.  About every 20 minutes or so, a rain storm hits, causing the animals to become agitated, and the restaurant to shake with the thunder and lightening.  You’ll hear growling and roaring and some of the sights you’ll see are kind of cool – like the ice age area and another area where you feel like you are under the sea. The table service settings come equipped with wooden high chairs with a separator in the middle.  There is also another Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom.

All restaurants in the parks are child friendly and there are some where you can book a Character meal.  For example, you could meet Chef Mickey for breakfast at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and he’ll introduce your baby to his sous chefs, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy.  You can also watch the monorail sweep into the hotel lobby which is always an exciting surprise.  Character meals are great fun and provide excellent photo opportunities.  Reservations for Character meals can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling Disney Dining, and many of them fill up fast.

Highchairs

You can find highchairs in all the table seated restaurants in Walt Disney World.  As you’re being directed to your seat, most of the servers will notice immediately you have an infant and ask if you need a high chair. If not, just ask for one.

Eating at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and Discovery Cove

There are plenty of great food outlets in these parks. Each area of the park has its own themed restaurant and they all have kids’ menus. Many people have commented on the size of the portions in Busch Gardens in particular (really generous!), so it may be best to share. Remember that Busch Gardens doesn’t permit picnic baskets or cool boxes inside the park however you can bring in baby food as long as it isn’t in a glass container for the safety of the animals.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

At Orang Café you can watch endangered Bornean orangutans swing across their habitat from the patio of Orang Café. Whether it is snack items or main meals, Orang Café’s menu is designed to be ‘kid-siderate.’  All restaurants at the park offer a kids’ menu.

Families can share breakfast or lunch with Elmo and friends on select days at an outdoor dining facility in Sesame Street Safari of Fun. Fill up on hugs from everyone’s favourite characters, delicious food served buffet-style and family together-time during these unique dining experiences. The menu includes plenty of child friendly options.

SeaWorld

All-you-care-to-eat Family Picnic is a buffet restaurant catering for the whole family located by Bayside Stadium and open from 11.30am – 6pm. All restaurants at the park offer kids’ menus.

‘Sharks Underwater Grill’ is a full-service, upscale restaurant that immerses guests in an underwater world to dine with the denizens of the deep.  The ‘Floribbean-style’ menu blends Caribbean and Florida fare with an emphasis on seafood. Priority seating can be arranged by calling (888) 800-5447 or by visiting the host stand at the restaurant.  A kids’ menu is available.

Discovery Cove

Included with admission, guests at Discovery Cove enjoy unlimited access to a fantastic selection of food and drink all-day long. A light continental breakfast is served at Laguna Grill until 10.30 am, followed by lunch from 11am to 3pm. From familiar fare to chef specials, all dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients and incorporate healthy elements, with daily seafood selections, salad options, and vegetarian dishes available. Snack stations throughout the park provide all-day service, and offer everything from yogurt and soft pretzels to fruit smoothies and gourmet coffees. Ice-cold beverages, including bottled water, juices and sodas are also offered all day.

Aquatica

Banana Beach Cookout offers a great value all-day-pass with unlimited dining for the whole family.  For quick picnic food try Mango Market, where families can pick up bite size healthy snacks such as carrot sticks and fruit. All restaurants at the park offer a kids’ menu.

Lost or sick children

First of all, there are no lost children at Walt Disney World Resort, just lost adults – because children are always where they should be, it’s the parents who forget! But there are a few things that you can do as a parent to prepare your child, depending on their age:

When you arrive at Walt Disney World, show your child a Cast Member and their distinctive name badges. Let your child know that if you should become separated from each other, they should only go with a Cast Member.

Put your cell number in your child’s pocket and, if they are old enough, teach them to show it to a Cast Member should they become lost.

Each morning, take a picture of your child before departing your room so you will always have a record of what your child is wearing.

For toddlers, it can be a good idea to use reins or a wrist strap to keep your child close as, in crowded areas, it can be hard to spot little ones.

If you do get separated, Walt Disney World Cast Members will usually take a child that has lost its parents to the Baby Care Center. There are systems in place to help lost children. If you like, stop by City Hall in the Magic Kingdom to speak with a Cast Member about their procedures.

First Aid Stations

Walt Disney World offers First Aid Stations that are very helpful for guests and their kids if they become ill. They are staffed with friendly and professional nurses who are very willing to lend a hand.  You will find these stations available at the following locations:

  • Magic Kingdom – to the left of Crystal Palace restaurant
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – behind the Creature Comforts shop
  • EPCOT – at the Odyssey Centre
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – near Guest Relations
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon – near Leaning Palms
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach – near Lottawatta Lodge

These First Aid Stations are noted on park maps and Cast Members can also point you in the right direction. If, for example, your child suffers from asthma, the First Aid Stations can store a nebulizer while you enjoy your time in the parks.  When your child needs to use their nebulizer, return to the First Aid Station where you will find private rooms or cubicles in which to relax during treatment.

First Aid sites, including areas where nursing mothers can feed babies, are also available at Busch Gardens.  Pick up a map at the front gate to locate these.

If your child gets sick at Universal Islands of Adventure®, visit the health services location at the front of the park or near The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad® stunt show.  At Universal Studios®, health services is located at the front of the park or across the street from the BeetleJuice’s Graveyard Review™.

What to bring with you to the Theme Parks

When you are spending a day at one of the theme parks, you don’t want to bring too much, but you need to make sure you have everything you need.  We’ve compiled a few helpful tips on what to bring with you for a day out with babies or toddlers.

As mentioned you can rent strollers at each Disney Theme Park, but you may prefer to have your own for walking to and from your car and going on the monorail etc.  Bring a lightweight umbrella stroller that is easy to fold down and has a sun shade or parasol.

Pack your diaper bag lightly, with enough diapers to get you through the day, wipes, and a change of clothing for emergencies.   If you like the water rides, you’ll need to take changes of clothes for all of you as you WILL get wet.  Alternately you could buy a lightweight poncho or bring a cagoule from home.  (Babies are not permitted on water rides, but most have a Rider Swap system available).

Carry a long sleeved top and long trousers for your children in case they get too much sun and need to cover up.  Muslins are great for hanging over the front of strollers to protect your baby from the sun while breastfeeding, and hanging over the front of slings to protect babies ankles.  They also take up very little room in your bag.

High factor sun cream is an absolute must.  Apply it frequently as the Florida sun can burn even on a cloudy day.

Bring a sun hat for everyone, and a spare one for your baby.  Sunglasses are also good if your children will wear them but make sure they have proper lenses, or they may do more harm than good.

Wear the most comfortable shoes you own.  Trainers (sneakers) are best, even if it’s a very hot day.  Although it may not seem like it, you will be walking a very long way.  If you have a cruising baby who likes to kick off his shoes, bring a spare pair.

Easy to eat snacks like crackers and cereals in zip lock baggies are great, and juice boxes, bottled water and sippy cups are a must. Fresh fruit can get sticky and worse attract bees, so bring raisins and dried fruits instead.

If you’re planning on eating a meal in the park, bring disposable child utensils for the restaurant. Keep in mind that all bags must be searched before entering the parks, so have your diaper bag organized and ready to go to save yourself a long time at the entrance.

Bring a credit card or cash for those tempting souvenirs of your day.

Finally, don’t forget your theme park tickets! Orlando awaits…