Today is the last of a six part Disney with Kids series. I hope you enjoyed the practical stuff, and found some new info.
I wrote an overview of our experiences at Disney, as well as about the Fast Pass System (twice), our hotel, and the Meal Plan before.
The 2017 Disney with Kids series:
Disney while Pregnant
The Magic Kingdom
Disney with Strollers
Disney Stroller Basics
In my opinion, strollers are a necessary part of the Disney experience for anyone six and under. Even if your child gave up the stroller years ago, there are big advantages to having one at Disney. First, and foremost, there is a lot of walking. I cannot say that enough. Your small child will get tired. And, you might be tired too. They can get some variety being carried, but nobody wants to do that all day.
A stroller also gives you a place to put things. For example, you will want water for everyone in your party. You might want snacks, sunscreen, sweatshirts, dry shoes (hello Kali River Rapids), guide books, park maps, or other items. You might purchase items in the park (though, make everyone’s life easier if you have those items sent to your on-property hotel or the park pickup location if you are staying off property). While there is always a chance of theft, we have never had anything stolen from our stroller.
The first thing you need to understand at Disney is that your stroller will rarely be where you left it. If you do not leave it in a designated stroller parking area, a Disney employee will move it to the closest one. Depending on where you are, this may not be obvious. Do not assume your stroller has been taken; ask a Disney employee where stroller parking is. If you do leave your stroller in stroller parking, it will still move. Disney staff are constantly rearranging strollers to pack more in. Or, it might be moved by a fellow guest needing access to their stroller. If you can’t find yours ask.
Many people choose to flag their stroller with a balloon. Personally, we have not found this to be necessary, even when using a Disney stroller. That being said, even our orange stroller has been tricky to spot in the inevitable ocean of strollers so if this would be stressful for you, a balloon might help.
If you enter a building, you will generally need to leave your stroller outside. This is true for most restaurants, even the quick service ones. It is also true for most of the shops as they just aren’t spacious enough inside. I’ll try to point out the few exceptions to this on a park by park basis.
Your Stroller (or outside rental) vs a Disney Stroller
This is a common question. You can run the numbers, but you should also consider the pros and cons of both options. We have done both; it highly depends on your needs.
Contrary to what you may read, my children have never found these strollers uncomfortable. The doubles are reasonably easy to steer and have plenty of storage. They are neither lighter nor heavier than typical double strollers. I assume the singles are similar, but we haven’t used those. We have brought our double stroller and rented one from Disney to hold all the kids when we had many little ones.
Disney strollers are picked up and dropped off inside your park each day. So, you do not have them on the bus/boat/monorail or through security. If you ride the train around the Magic Kingdom you will leave them at your boarding point and pick up a new one when you disembark. Remember to take your name card and belongings with you. The disadvantage of this is that you are less able to race for a ride to start the day as you will be waiting in line to pick up your stroller. You can send one person to pick up the stroller while those who want to ride go ahead. I recommend this approach even if the rest of the group waits outside as the stroller pick up and drop off areas are somewhat small and can be congested.
Your own (or outside rental) stroller
Your stroller will be with you all the way from your car or hotel. This means you will have it on Disney transportation and through Disney security and ticketing.
Your stroller must fold in an umbrella fashion to go on Disney buses, parking lot trams, and the Magic Kingdom train. Sorry, the big Bob-type joggers don’t work well. Essentially, it needs to fit like a single person, or in the case of the buses, fit under the seat. Because even double umbrella strollers will fit under most seats on the buses, I prefer using my own stroller. This way, you can roll your smallest children all the way to the park, and your sleepy children home at the end of the day. The stroller will need to be unpacked and folded, but it still dramatically reduces the amount of carrying you will be doing. For the parking lot tram, it may make sense to walk with the stroller while the non-strolling members of your party take the tram. Many times I have arrived at our car at about the same time this way.
The stroller does not need to be folded to go on the monorail or boats. However, the monorail compartments are small and usually jammed full. If you have a stroller it is much easier to take a boat across the lagoon to your car or Magic Kingdom resort. You do not have to cross the lagoon if you are using the Disney buses.
Disney security is pretty stroller friendly. Specifically, you do not need to remove your children from the stroller for either the bag check or Magic Band stations. You will need to remove any bags from underneath.
Park by Park
As you might expect, the Magic Kingdom is full of strollers. But, there are obstacles. First, you will find Main Street USA is narrow and has real curbs. You must also watch for the trolley tracks, which can easily catch a wheel.
Strollers can go on the Liberty Square Riverboat, but they cannot go on Tom Sawyer’s Island. If you choose to take the Walt Disney World Railroad, you will bring your stroller, but leave a Disney stroller behind and pick up a new one when you disembark. During the parade, the boardwalk is the only way to move between Frontierland and Liberty Square (rest of Magic Kingdom). While this is technically possible with a stroller, I do not recommend trying to enter or leave Adventureland or Frontierland during the parade. It is just too congested and too many access points are closed. Plan your day around the parade schedule.
The only buildings you might be able to bring a stroller in in the Magic Kingdom are Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and Starlight Ray’s Cosmic Cafe. Even then, probably only at off hours. Both can be crowded, especially at dinner when dining options in the Magic Kingdom are limited.
Counter-intuitively, Epcot is the most stroller friendly park at Walt Disney World. The walking paths are largely open and smooth, and the crowds are not as packed in as other parks. You don’t even need to fold your stroller to take a boat across the lake.
Unlike the other parks, strollers can go in many of the buildings. You can explore Project Tomorrow and Innoventions in FutureWorld East. You can go in Imageworks, the Land Pavilion, and the Seas Pavilion in FutureWorld West. In the Land Pavilion you can go to the Sunshine Seasons food court with your stroller.
In the World Showcase, you will find opportunities for al fresco dining. You can also take your stroller in the Circle-Vision films inside the China and Canada pavilions.
Animal Kingdom doesn’t have the curbs and trolley tracks of Magic Kingdom. But, the walkways are similarly narrow, if not more so, and they are both hillier and bumpier. That being said, Animal Kingdom is likely to be your most relaxing day so definitely take advantages of all the paths through the animal viewing areas. They are all stroller accessible. You can even take your stroller (not a Disney one) on the Wildlife Express Train.
Stroller parking does seem to be farther from the attractions. In many cases this is because it is at the exit of the attraction and you have to walk back to the beginning. At Kilimanjaro Safaris, you will hand your stroller to a cast member who will bring it to the stroller parking area.
I don’t believe any of the buildings in Animal Kingdom are stroller friendly. But, most of the dining is al fresco and spacious enough to accommodate strollers.
Despite being much newer, Hollywood has many of the same stroller problems as the Magic Kingdom. Namely, curbs and narrow streets. Therefore, it is not as stroller friendly as one would think. Sunset Boulevard is shockingly narrow, especially with the vendor carts, and has actual curbs (as many Disney “streets” do, unfortunately). It is also easy to get stuck in the Center Stage area also as it is mostly accessed by stairs.
Be prepared to walk/stand in line with your normally stroller bound children for the rides. Stroller parking is clustered and therefore not really near anything. Unlike other parks, it can sometimes be covered, which is nice on rainy days. And, because the shows are rather long, they all have some level of line so your small children will be free or carried more often than at the other parks.
The only building you can go in with a stroller is Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. Frankly, though, unless you’re looking for stroller friendly AC, it’s not worth the time.
If you are traveling with kids (for admission purposes Disney kids are under 10), you will probably want a stroller. This does not limit what you can do. If you don’t need it much, use it as a home base. In most parks, you can leave the stroller in one parking area and do multiple attractions around it. If you would normally leave a baby/toddler in it all the time, realize that to experience most parks you will need to take them out. Disney definitely tries to accommodate strollers.