Need help with no parks itinerary for toddler!

liamthompson

Earning My Ears
Joined
Dec 4, 2022
Thinking about doing a 5 day trip next Feb with my husband and son. Son will be 3.5 years old then and after some research, I think we'll all be miserable doing the parks...but he loves the Cars franchise and riding the monorail, skyliner, and boats would be fun for him.

I have no idea if he'll still be napping then but am planning on a mid-day return to the hotel. So activity in the morning and then sticking close to the hotel for playground / relaxing time in the afternoon.

My preliminary plan was to stay at a suite in swan reserve or the drury at disney springs. I'm open to other suggestions too...I just picked these 2 based on location. The most likely scenario is that I'll balk at the price of swan and we'll book the drury. Having 2 separate sleeping areas is top priority for me in terms of hotel stay. Location is second, I would like to keep commute time between hotel and activity to be 30 minutes or less under ideal condition (1hr under worst conditions).

Being able to walk to skyliner/boat is the selling point for me on the swan.

Being able to catch a bus back to disney springs from any hotel is a selling point for me on the drury. Although I'm not thrilled by having to do the 15-20 minute walk back from the disney springs bus station to the hotel.

This is what I have so far for itinerary:

Day 1: Travel day and settle in/disney springs

Day 2: Bus + transfer to animal kingdom lodge and lunch

Day 3: Bus to magic kingdom TTC to get on monorail and stop at Poly for sandpit time and dole whip. Lunch at another monorail resort?

Day 4: Bus to epcot/HS to get on skyliner to Art of Animation to check out the Cars section + lunch

Day 5: Boat somewhere? Thinking Crescent Lake and visiting Boardwalk + lunch. Part of me wants to book a character meal at Cape May cafe but I'm not sure if my kid will be terrified. Probably a visit to beaches and cream instead.

Last random note - my husband thinks disney is lame. His only visit was as a jaded high schooler and he thinks of disney as a giant shopping mall. He's a huge star wars fan but I've not been able to convince him to do galaxy's edge. I have sold this trip to him as practice for travelling with our kid in the future. Pre-kid, we would fly to our destination, stay in a hotel, and use the public transportation in the city. This disney trip would mimic those same elements, in a kid-friendly destination. With our kid, we typically drive and stay in airbnbs and my husband is getting tired of having to navigate all the unfamiliar roads and I'm getting tired of all the extra packing you have to do with an airbnb. So I'm really looking for help to simplify my itinerary so that we're not dealing with a ton of logistics, while still giving my kid a taste of disney magic.

Any feedback welcome, thanks!
 
You can't access the skyliner from the bus stops at Epcot.

Day 3: After playing on the beach at the Poly, you could take the monorail to MK and then a boat over to Wilderness Lodge and have lunch there. Another thought for lunch might be Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary, if you think your kid will be OK with characters.

Day 4: Take the bus to HS, ride the boat to the International Gateway at Epcot, then get the Skyliner to AoA.

If you will have a rental car, drive up to Blue Spring State Park. The manatee should be in the springs. They are awesome! There is a raised boardwalk along the spring so you can see the manatee, fish, turtles, etc. There are also boat tours of the river and a big grassy play/picnic area.
 
Do you mind explaining further what you mean by not being able to access the skyliner from the Epcot bus stop? Do you mean that there's no walking path?

And to confirm, there IS a walking path from HS bus drop off to skyliner?
 
Thinking about doing a 5 day trip next Feb with my husband and son. Son will be 3.5 years old then and after some research, I think we'll all be miserable doing the parks...but he loves the Cars franchise and riding the monorail, skyliner, and boats would be fun for him.

I have no idea if he'll still be napping then but am planning on a mid-day return to the hotel. So activity in the morning and then sticking close to the hotel for playground / relaxing time in the afternoon.

My preliminary plan was to stay at a suite in swan reserve or the drury at disney springs. I'm open to other suggestions too...I just picked these 2 based on location. The most likely scenario is that I'll balk at the price of swan and we'll book the drury. Having 2 separate sleeping areas is top priority for me in terms of hotel stay. Location is second, I would like to keep commute time between hotel and activity to be 30 minutes or less under ideal condition (1hr under worst conditions).


Last random note - my husband thinks disney is lame. His only visit was as a jaded high schooler and he thinks of disney as a giant shopping mall. He's a huge star wars fan but I've not been able to convince him to do galaxy's edge. I have sold this trip to him as practice for travelling with our kid in the future. Pre-kid, we would fly to our destination, stay in a hotel, and use the public transportation in the city. This disney trip would mimic those same elements, in a kid-friendly destination. With our kid, we typically drive and stay in airbnbs and my husband is getting tired of having to navigate all the unfamiliar roads and I'm getting tired of all the extra packing you have to do with an airbnb. So I'm really looking for help to simplify my itinerary so that we're not dealing with a ton of logistics, while still giving my kid a taste of disney magic.

Any feedback welcome, thanks!
Picking up on a few things you mention, Sounds like this trip is full of negatives from the start. Providing a taste of Disney magic with a partner that thinks it lame is contradictory.

That said, One of the All Star resorts would be your best option. Disney transportation runs more frequently. Multiple options can be tied together to move about the bubble.

I've never stayed offsite but I get the feeling those shuttle services are on a stricter schedule, most likely to not line up your time schedule.

Look at Mouse Savers site for recommended non-Disney resort style options. This might be the compromise needed.
 
Do you mind explaining further what you mean by not being able to access the skyliner from the Epcot bus stop? Do you mean that there's no walking path?

And to confirm, there IS a walking path from HS bus drop off to skyliner?
The bus stop for EP is at the front gates of the park, and the skyliner access is at the back of the park by the International Gateway.
There is no walking path between the two outside of the park.

You can access the skyliner from the bus stops at HS though.

You can walk, take the skyliner or take a boat ride from HS to the IG at EP.
 
I think you all will be unhappy doing a resort-only trip and not staying on Disney property. We love all the Disney transportation but if I was doing a no parks trip staying on the Skyliner would be top priority. That being said if you really need a separate sleeping space the suites at All-Stars or renting DVC at one of the cheaper DVC resorts would probably be the best option.

If you do stay off site a car would probably be helpful if being realistic about the logistics.

I will say that 3.5 is a good age for a lot of the parks. My youngest started going at 1.5 years and is now 4. She loves the parks. Have you tried watching YouTube videos or the imagineering doc on Disney+ with your husband? I had a couple of skeptics in my family and now they have been 3 times in the last 3 years.
 
Firstly, stay on property. Expensive, yes of course. There are discounts available and many ways to save on food. Time is money at WDW and having transportation available to you (as on your non kid trips) is essential to using it efficiently.

I would certainly encourage you to scrape together money for day #2 to do MK. You should be rested by then, plan on getting up really early, grab your backpack and little one and head out. This sounds like an important milestone you want to share with your family.

Our son is married and in his mid-30's, and we spent many weeks with them at WDW as adults. Our son grew up at WDW as did his future bride. MK really brings back those priceless memories of their childhoods. My first trip was in 1973 when I was a tween. Priceless. My DH's first trip was shortly after we married. We are a bit burned out after all these years, but if a grandchild shows up, that will change everything!

As long as you go to GS before you leave a park, you should be able to extend your ticket. I suspect DH will have a totally different perspective with a wide eyed toddler in tow, rather than a high school group. My guess it, he will be all in. Good luck to you. I hope it all works out!
 
I can’t imagine taking a 3.5 yo and not actually go
go to the parks. To me, that’s like visiting an ice cream shop and not being able to eat the ice cream😂 But to each his own. I know I’ve started going to WDW without my DH (we’ve all gone for years, taking our oldest when he was 15 mo and the youngest was only 1-mo…DH loves Disney but wants a break until he can go with grandkids). As mentioned above, there our definite cons of staying offsite, especially if you’re wanting to use Disney transportation as part of your “activities”. And the lack of theming, especially of your DS loves cars, will be absent. Agree with the above of staying at AoA in the Cars area.
 
I can’t imagine taking a 3.5 yo and not actually go
go to the parks. To me, that’s like visiting an ice cream shop and not being able to eat the ice cream😂 But to each his own. I know I’ve started going to WDW without my DH (we’ve all gone for years, taking our oldest when he was 15 mo and the youngest was only 1-mo…DH loves Disney but wants a break until he can go with grandkids). As mentioned above, there our definite cons of staying offsite, especially if you’re wanting to use Disney transportation as part of your “activities”. And the lack of theming, especially of your DS loves cars, will be absent. Agree with the above of staying at AoA in the Cars area.
I agree, do one day at MK, just you and child. Going on monorail and seeing rides and such but not being able to get to them......
 
My 2 cents.....I can't see staying for 5 days at a DS hotel with no parks and have it feel at all magical. It's going to be 5 days of juggling lots of transportation on buses and possibly dealing with a tired, cranky toddler. Will you be taking a stroller? Again, lots of struggling for little payoff.

To make it more of a vacation, I would suggest forgoing the separate sleeping space and staying at either Pop or CBR. You would then have easy access to multiple resort pools, playground, daily activities at the resort, and multiple food options. You could easily hop on the skyliner and visit the playground and food options of other resorts and the Epcot area.

CBR has the large bathroom area that you could place a pack-n-play and close the doors for nap time if needed. CBR also has a wonderful kids waterplay area and the most pools to keep a toddler happy! The large playground area and nightly movies are a bonus. CBR is a resort not "just a hotel."

If you really need a separate sleeping space, I would book AOA or Allstars suites. AOA gets you the great access to the skyliner being able to roll a stroller into the "car" to hop around to other activities and food without the frustration of a bus and carrying a stroller.
 
The bus stop for EP is at the front gates of the park, and the skyliner access is at the back of the park by the International Gateway.
There is no walking path between the two outside of the park.

You can access the skyliner from the bus stops at HS though.

You can walk, take the skyliner or take a boat ride from HS to the IG at EP.
Thank you for clarifying!
 
I think you all will be unhappy doing a resort-only trip and not staying on Disney property. We love all the Disney transportation but if I was doing a no parks trip staying on the Skyliner would be top priority. That being said if you really need a separate sleeping space the suites at All-Stars or renting DVC at one of the cheaper DVC resorts would probably be the best option.

If you do stay off site a car would probably be helpful if being realistic about the logistics.

I will say that 3.5 is a good age for a lot of the parks. My youngest started going at 1.5 years and is now 4. She loves the parks. Have you tried watching YouTube videos or the imagineering doc on Disney+ with your husband? I had a couple of skeptics in my family and now they have been 3 times in the last 3 years.
Renting DVC points was originally on my radar but my biggest hesitation is the no cancellation policy. Life happens! Do folks typically buy trip insurance to cover this?
 
Any chance you can squeeze in a trip before he turns 3? The trips we took with one free kid were amazing. ETA: Then adding in tickets while pricey doesn't feel like a burden. The kiddo is free and you can set a low bar for how much you can do.

But if not, I don't think you can have an "easy trip" and stay offsite. There's just too much logistics involved, especially if you're not renting a car.

I just wouldn't want to deal with the hassle of visiting Disney resorts and staying offsite, at that point, I'd just rather book the Marriot World Center or any other fun hotel that has a nice pool and things to do.
 
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I agree with the statements above that life will be so much easier if you stay on property.

I really just wanted to add that I think you can have a lot of fun with a no-parks trip (especially since your kid doesn't know what he's missing). We did a basically no-parks trip last summer with our girls (7 and 9) and even knowing what the parks offer, they LOVED our trip. Spending time at Animal Kingdom Lodge was a big favorite, along with just looking at the animals, be sure to check out the "String of Memories" activities that are offered, fun interactive activities with the cast members and they get a bead souvenir at each one. We spent the better part of two days just hanging out at this hotel. They have an awesome kids lounge too with very cheap activities.

Some other activities you could consider: watching the fireworks from the Polynesian beach, visiting the Tri-Circle D ranch to see the horses, miniature golf (2 different locations), pin trading with cast members.
 
Any chance you can squeeze in a trip before he turns 3? The trips we took with one free kid were amazing. ETA: Then adding in tickets while pricey doesn't feel like a burden. The kiddo is free and you can set a low bar for how much you can do.

But if not, I don't think you can have an "easy trip" and stay offsite. There's just too much logistics involved, especially if you're not renting a car.

I just wouldn't want to deal with the hassle of visiting Disney resorts and staying offsite, at that point, I'd just rather book the Marriot World Center or any other fun hotel that has a nice pool and things to do.
When I started looking at tickets prices, I realized that this would have been an excellent strategy but my kid turns 3 in a few weeks :)
 
I hear you all on trying MK for one day! Especially the analogy about going to the ice cream shop and not being able to have anything haha

I just can't justify $400 for one day tickets to myself right now...based on past outings, my kid is likely to do one activity...and then want to push his stroller all over various surfaces...or get stuck at the same activity for hours. We WILL do the parks properly when he gets older, I just don't think he is going to get very much out of it right now.

Thanks all for the thoughtful responses. I'm going to take another look at the AoA family suite - I was thinking they were the same price point as swolphin but I think that's rack rate.

I realized the mid-day nap is really what's pushing me into the suite and I have no idea if that's actually going to be the case. Alas, my kid is very anti-stroller nap, despite my best efforts.
 
My 2 cents.....I can't see staying for 5 days at a DS hotel with no parks and have it feel at all magical. It's going to be 5 days of juggling lots of transportation on buses and possibly dealing with a tired, cranky toddler. Will you be taking a stroller? Again, lots of struggling for little payoff.

To make it more of a vacation, I would suggest forgoing the separate sleeping space and staying at either Pop or CBR. You would then have easy access to multiple resort pools, playground, daily activities at the resort, and multiple food options. You could easily hop on the skyliner and visit the playground and food options of other resorts and the Epcot area.

CBR has the large bathroom area that you could place a pack-n-play and close the doors for nap time if needed. CBR also has a wonderful kids waterplay area and the most pools to keep a toddler happy! The large playground area and nightly movies are a bonus. CBR is a resort not "just a hotel."

If you really need a separate sleeping space, I would book AOA or Allstars suites. AOA gets you the great access to the skyliner being able to roll a stroller into the "car" to hop around to other activities and food without the frustration of a bus and carrying a stroller.
Thank you for suggesting CBR....it was not on my radar at all because I was so caught up in thinking that if I wanted a nice resort, I would book one of the bonnet creek area hotels...but I think a lot of your points are good ones. All the amenities are definitely a plus, especially if not doing the parks, and with the bonus of being a skyliner station.

My kid is unfortunately too big for the packnplay and I do very much miss the times when I could just stick him in it, turn out the lights, and shut the door!
 
I hear you all on trying MK for one day! Especially the analogy about going to the ice cream shop and not being able to have anything haha

I just can't justify $400 for one day tickets to myself right now...based on past outings, my kid is likely to do one activity...and then want to push his stroller all over various surfaces...or get stuck at the same activity for hours. We WILL do the parks properly when he gets older, I just don't think he is going to get very much out of it right now.

Thanks all for the thoughtful responses. I'm going to take another look at the AoA family suite - I was thinking they were the same price point as swolphin but I think that's rack rate.

I realized the mid-day nap is really what's pushing me into the suite and I have no idea if that's actually going to be the case. Alas, my kid is very anti-stroller nap, despite my best efforts.

I've found that the kids I take on vacation aren't the ones that I live with. But I once heard on a podcast when traveling with kids, set the lowest bar possible and just accept that if you do X, you'll wish you didn't but if you didn't do X, you'll wish you did.

What i might be inclined to do, because I'm bonkers, is squirrel away the money for the one-day at MK but don't pull the trigger until closer to the trip. But I'm a person who did a one day Epcot trip pre-cruise.
 
As someone who did non-park trips to Disney with a toddler, I have a few suggestions. There is a Hilton property right across from Disney Springs (used to be the Buena Vista Palace) that might have more affordable suites. There is also a Doubletree with suites down the road close to Disney Springs. I know staying on site is nice, but if you don't plan to visit the parks, maybe stay at a nice condo hotel offsite? You can drive to Disney Springs and park for free and do the fun kid things there (train, lego, Ghirardelli, carousel, visit Rain Forest Cafe, take boats). Being off site with a kitchen will give you some flexibility, and you can do some other fun kid things in the area if you want that are outside of Disney. There are a ton of condo type properties in the area that will be much cheaper than onsite. From Disney Springs you could take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to see the animals, or to Contemporary and ride the monorail, or to one of the resorts with access to the Skyliner.
 
















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