5 Ways to Prepare Kids for a Disney Trip | Advice from a Therapist
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Disney is full of magic, but it can also cause little ones to be overstimulated and overwhelmed. I’m excited to introduce you all to my friend Lindsay so that she can share a few ways to prepare your kids for a Disney trip! I know her advice will be helpful and she is a children’s therapist so she knows what she’s talking about.
Lindsay and I met in a business mastermind online and when she was ready to take her family to Disneyland, I was lucky enough to help her plan the trip. She has so many great resources on her website and also has a podcast, Mindful as a Mother, you should check out too!
Meet Lindsay Adams
Hi new friend, my name is Lindsay Adams and I am taking over for Shannon today. Before I jump into ALL of my tips for navigating and preparing for Disney as a children’s therapist, I just wanted to introduce myself. I am a child therapist, mindful motherhood educator, and most importantly, a mom to three young children. I have a son who is 6 and twin girls who are almost 4.
We recently visited Disneyland for the first time. It was AMAZING. Much of that is thanks to Shannon’s help in planning and preparing for our trip. After our first trip, I wanted to share some things that helped me and my family and I know they will help others who are planning their own Disney trip.
This is my first time blogging, so go easy on me. I know that most of the time, the biggest tip is last but in this post, that is not the case. The first tip is the most important one and it will set you up for all of the other tips.
5 Ways to Prepare Kids for a Disney Trip
1. Ask yourself what your priorities are for the trip and see if they align with your kid’s priorities.
Let me tell you a quick story. After two days of trying to make sure we checked every ride off the list, my son was begging to ride Radiator Springs Racers again. We were going back and forth with timing and planning when my husband said the most insightful thing to me. “Is he going to remember that we rode ALL the rides? Or is he going to remember riding his favorite ride? ”
This hit me like a ton of bricks. I had gotten so caught up in trying to plan what felt like the perfect vacation from my perspective, that I forgot to think of the kids’ perspectives. I thought of my own childhood, and it was accurate. Focusing on how the experience will be for your child and what is important to them will help you plan the vacation that they will remember forever.
2. Talk about your plans ahead of time.
Let your kids know what each day will look like and involve them in making as many decisions as possible. Remember tip #1. What are they going to remember? Having kids who are involved in the planning process will help them feel more in control and invested in the whole experience. What foods do they want to try? Which ride to do next? Make them an active part of the process. Bonus Tip: This will also help prevent unsavory behaviors because they have some control and are able to take ownership of the vacation.
If it’s your first time or your child’s first time, I suggest letting them watch YouTube videos about Disney and all of the rides. This way it’s not as overwhelming. A lot of the time, kids will be afraid of the unknown and be scared. After watching the videos, they likely will feel excited or at least know what to expect. This will help their brain prepare for the experience and will help prevent meltdowns and sensory overload.
As a family, you can talk about what you are most looking forward to or what you are the most excited about. You also can give them space to share any fears they have and talk them through the things that might be scary.
3. Add in rest time to prevent sensory overload.
As an adult, Disneyland was overstimulating. The sights, the smells, the sounds, ALL of the excitement. Creating time and space for rest is super important so that everyone makes it through the vacation. If your children are young, I highly recommend staying at a resort that is close by so you can sneak away and get a midday nap. We did this, and this is the thing that kept us going.
When we are tired, it’s hard to regulate our nervous system and our emotions. This is usually when difficult behavior arises (AKA tantrums and tears). The midday rest helped my tantrums and tears as well. If your children are older and don’t need a quiet hotel room and a nap, I would recommend planning some quiet activities after lunch. When preparing for our trip, I learned that Disney has so many cool shows, drawing classes, and places to take a little break and enjoy some downtime.
Need a checklist of items to pack in your park bag? Grab a free one here!
4. Take into consideration your child’s specific needs.
Every child is different and has different needs. Make sure that you plan for your child specifically, and not based on a general agenda. My son is neurodivergent (he has ADHD and autism). He LOVES Mickey Mouse and Lightning McQueen. My girls love Elsa and Anna and were excited about the rides as well. I was able to use this information while planning.
We qualified for and were able to utilize the Disability Access Service that Disney provides. In addition to this, I was intentional in making sure to incorporate the character experiences into our days as well. Another example would be if your child loves rides but gets tired easily and doesn’t do well when hangry, then you would want to make sure you are spacing out the rides with downtime and lots of snacks in between.
5. Make a plan and then go with the flow.
This relates a little to the most important tip (#1). There are so many resources for help in making sure you get to ride all the rides, try all of the fun snacks, and experience ALL the things when it comes to a Disney trip. This is super helpful, and I love to feel prepared as much as the next mom. Just make sure that you don’t get SO stuck in the planning part of things that you forget to have fun and go with the flow.
Kids are going to get cranky, rides are going to close, and things won’t always go exactly as you have them planned out in your head. If we go into the trip expecting disruptions and are prepared to embrace them, then we are able to enjoy and live in the moment. “What will they remember from this trip?” They will remember a parent who had fun with them and let them ride their favorite ride as many times as they wanted.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope your next Disney experience is as amazing as mine was! –Lindsay
A trip to Disney is an opportunity for both kids and parents to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. By fueling their excitement, involving them in the planning process, and preparing them for the adventure ahead, you can ensure that your family’s visit to the magical world of Disney is filled with joy, wonder, and enchantment. With careful preparation, you’ll set the stage for an unforgettable experience that will bring smiles to everyone’s faces for years to come.
Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing these tips and your family’s vacation experience. I know this will be helpful information for parents planning to take their kids on their first (or next!) Disney trip. Make sure to follow Lindsay on her Instagram (@linds_adamslcsw) and check out all of her tips for mindful parenting.