My first tip is to get to the park at rope drop. Most families of older children or couples traveling without children prefer to sleep in while on vacation. But, if you are traveling with small children, you usually don't have a chance to sleep in, so make the most of those early mornings! I would advise getting up and being at the park at least 10 minutes prior to the opening. When the "rope drops" you are there, ready to go. Plus, you get to see a special celebration opening the parks! The park crowds are usually smallest early in the morning because so many people do sleep late and plan on staying until the park closes.
Next, be flexible. I've mentioned this before. Whenever you travel with small children, you have to be flexible and willing to change plans at a moments notice.
Don't forget to take breaks. These breaks can be back at your resort, on a quiet bench in the park, at an air conditioned restaurant or in the baby care centers. Let your little one slow down a bit and rest. Even if they don't actually sleep, it's nice to have a break and rest.
As I mentioned above, use the baby care centers. All 4 parks at WDW have baby care centers that are great for parents of small children.
When I'm planning my trips to the world, I find out which rides are appropriate for my children and plan from there. I check the height requirements and the "scare factor." Even though my son was tall enough to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Snow White's Scary Adventure at the Magic Kingdom, they were not good choices for him! I did stay away from the Haunted Mansion! If you want to see a parade, plan your day around it.
Utilize the park guide maps to find out where restrooms, baby care centers and restaurants are located. You can also find where characters will be meeting guests and what time shows and parades will start.
There are great web sites and books that will help you plan your trip and determine which days are best to visit certain parks. Tow great web sites are Touring Plans and Easy WDW. These sites will show you crowd patterns and which days of your vacation will be best spent at each park. You can check your local library or book store for books that share sample schedules for touring the parks. Passporter and Birnbaum are two that come to mind.
On my trip to WDW this fall, we are spending 1 1/2 day at Animal Kingdom and 1 1/2 day at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is my plan for my family:
- Arrive at Rope Drop and head toward Kilimanjaro Safari. If the stand by line is short, stand in line but also grab Fastpasses for later.
- Walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trial to see the animals. If you haven't eaten breakfast already, grab a bite to eat.
- Go to Camp Minnie Mickey to meet some characters and get in line for The Festival of the Lion King show.
- Walk some of the trails around the Tree of Life while you move toward Dinoland.
- Play in The Boneyard playground and ride Triceratops Spin.
- If your Fastpass time for Kilimanjaro Safari has arrived, head back to ride again.
- Ride the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch and experience all there is to do.
- Grab lunch if it's time.
- Walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see the animals.
- On your way out of the park, spend time looking at the animals in The Oasis.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Arrive at Rope Drop and move directly to Toy Story Mania!, without stopping! First, get Fastpasses for your entire party. If the line is manageable, stand in line.
- Grab breakfast, if needed.
- Go to Disney Junior- Live on Stage! to see your favorite characters. You may be lucky enough to meet some outside the attraction.
- Stand in line for The Great Movie Ride. (There are parts that may be intense for younger children, but my 22 month old did fine with this attraction)
- If the line isn't too long, ride Studio Backlot Tour and spend time playing on the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" Movie Set Adventure.
- Watch Muppet*Vision 3-D and hope that it's time for your Fastpass at Toy Story Mania!
- Grab lunch, if it's time.
- See Voyage of the LIttle Mermaid on your way out.
I hope this helps!! There is so much more to do in both parks- restaurants, shopping, hidden gems, etc- but this is a quick 1/2 day trip to try to get in as much as possible.