When we started planning this Orlando trip we knew we wanted to go to Universal (because Harry Potter World, duh) but I wanted to try and sneak a one day Disney park trip in there as well. September is the perfect time to do a theme park trip if you have the flexibility because it’s the slowest season and tickets are the cheapest! Nathan and I went to Magic Kingdom around this time a few years ago and while amazing and oh so fun, it was a completely exhausting, jam-packed day and the thought of doing that with a baby did not seem all that appealing to me. Hollywood Studios is great, but even less baby appropriate from my perspective and I didn’t think Epcot would give us a bang for our buck so that left Animal Kingdom! I had been to AK once when I was younger and remembered it being more relaxed plus Nathan had never been so I did what any person would do – I Googled “taking a baby to Animal Kingdom.”
After read a few things (loved this post) and realizing there are only four rides/attractions at AK that babies aren’t welcome on (this chart was super helpful and there is one for each of the Disney Parks if you hunt around) and I knew we had a winner. Guys, this might have been the best decision OF MY LIFE. Animal Kingdom is literally PERFECT for a baby.
Here are a few Dos and Don’ts taking a baby to Animal Kingdom (and some good tips even if you aren’t!):
Do download the Disney My Experience App
This app has come a looong way since we were at Magic Kingdom just a few years ago. I bought our tickets, booked our Fast Passes, made dinner reservations, saw wait times for rides and shows, and used the map all. day. long. Even if you are going for just one day – DO THIS.
Do wear cute shirts
You are at Disney for goodness sake! Embrace the cheesy cuteness and just go for it. Every other person there will be doing that too. Almost every man was wearing this Hakuna Matata tee from Target, I snagged a coveted Best Day Ever tee, and we picked up Camden’s tee in Downtown Disney on our first night because his Target shirt didn’t ship to the store in time. I liked it a lot more anyways
Do go into the day with a positive attitude
I am a firm believer that babies are super aware and affected by the “vibes” we give off. Go into the day with a laid-back attitude and your baby will be more cooperative, I promise. There is no need to be nervous, you got this!
Do watch the shows
The Festival of The Lion King show was the thing that stuck with me from my trip as a child the most. They have recently added a Finding Nemo show and both are INCREDIBLE. I can not say enough good things about them. They are mini Broadway shows of the highest quality. They only last about 30 minutes so are the perfect length for kids (or husbands 😉 ) with short attention spans. I put Camden in the Ergo while we were waiting in line for both of the shows and he slept right through both of them. Not only are the shows great, they give you a chance to get out of the heat into an air conditioned building and sit down and rest for a while.
Do use Fast Passes
Since we were only doing a one-day trip we didn’t have a fancy Disney package with wristbands and lots of Fast-Passes. Us regular people got three Fast Passes for the day. We used ours for the two shows with reserved seating (Lion King and Finding Nemo) and for one of our trips on the Kilimanjaro Safari. I’m honestly not sure what prompted me to do this (other than I was dying to see them!) but it was such a good decision. We probably could have gotten into the shows at the same showing times without our Fast Passes but FP holders get seated first and that extra 15 minutes is A LOT when you are toting around a 15 pound babe!
Do take advantage of the Baby Care Center
AKA heaven on earth to a breastfeeding mama – or any mama! Changing tables, private nursing rooms, water for baby bottles (or mom’s water bottle!), every baby care item you can think of to purchase, bathrooms, plus a room playing a Disney movie for siblings (or dad’s ;)). One of the best things about Animal Kingdom is it is smaller, so the baby care center was a fairly short walk from pretty much every where and 100% worth the hike! It’s kind of tucked back in a corner right past Starbucks (what a shame) and right before you walk into the “Africa” part of the park. Ask a team member to point it out to you if you are having trouble!
Do explore the walking trails
They have so many trails that get you up close to the animals PLUS you can take your stroller so they are perfect for naps if your baby likes to nap in a stroller. Mine prefers to be in the baby carrier! You also might get to see a gorilla fight because someone got too close to someone else’s baby. I feel you, girl. I’d do the same thing.
Do bring your own stroller (and baby carrier)
One of the best decisions we made was to bring along our own stroller. We checked it for free on the plane and it was so much nicer than the ones you can rent at the park! Shade, actual storage for bags, and cup holders made it 10000% worth it.
Do wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes
Hauling your baby around Disney is NOT THE TIME for cute sandals. Thank goodness they make cute tennis shoes these days amiright? I wore these Nikes and they were perfect!
Do go to Starbucks
The Disney themed cups are SO CUTE and caffeine. That is all. (Still kicking myself for not buying the Animal Kingdom Starbucks mug. IDIOT.)
Do ride the Kilimanjaro Safari… at least twice.
I read this in one of the posts I found and was so glad we did it! We used a Fast Pass to ride once during the day, then we went back after dinner (as the sun was setting) and rode again. A lot of the animals sleep all day and move around more at night so it’s a totally different experience. The lions were all sleeping up on rocks where you couldn’t really see them during the day but on our night ride they were all up roaming around and we even heard one of them roar! So cool. I suspected you could ride this ride 5x in one day and have a different experience each time because A) There are a ton of different tour guides, B) There are a ton of different paths your guide can take, and C) The animals literally just ROAM so you never really know where exactly they will be. So cool.
Don’t do It’s a Bugs Life
Or at least listen when they tell you at the beginning of the show that the loud noises and things that happen might scare your baby. It WILL scare your baby and you will feel very guilty he is scared and pray the whole thing ends very soon. (It does. And your baby will be fine. But really, just because they LET you take them…don’t.)
Don’t assume you can’t take your stroller somewhere just because everyone else is dumping theirs
Always ask! There is ALWAYS a team member at the entrance to any ride, trail, or whatever. ASK them if you are allowed to take your stroller. If not, you will end up walking .5 miles out to Rafiki’s Planet watch, then turning right around and walking .5 miles back because YOU FEEL LIKE YOU MAY DIE WITH THIS BABY STRAPPED TO YOUR CHEST. Learn from our mistake here people!!
Don’t forget there are single rider lines
Leave the baby with the other parent and hop in that single rider line for the things you can’t take them on! Expedition Everest is awesome if you like roller coasters. Just remember to get in the single rider line so you don’t wait longer than you have to. (Learned that lesson too).
Don’t be too tired to go to the night shows
They had just stopped doing the Jungle Book night show and were setting up to transition to the new Rivers of Light show while we were there, which means we didn’t get to see either. Boo. We did, however, stay and watch the Tree of Life light up a few times and it was pretty! It “goes off” about every 10 minutes and you have to be in the front-middle of the park to see it. It doesn’t light up on all sides! We thought we were so smart finding a secluded spot close to the water where we could see it and after waiting about 20 minutes a team member took pity on us and told us you had to be in the front. Whoops.
There you go! I soaked up as many of this info as I could beforehand so I hope this helps someone planning their visit to Animal Kingdom. Like I said, I was skeptical if there would be enough for us to do with a baby and thought it might be really difficult and neither of those things were true! It was an amazing time – such awesome memories made with our new family of three