To Stroll or Not to Stroll at Walt Disney World
"We're Going to Walt Disney World!"
Even before those magical words come out of your mouth, and a million questions have been answered and a million more are coming. Hopefully, you are getting close to narrowing down a place to stay and when you are going, but especially if you have kids there may be questions you would never know needed to be answered. One of those questions is, do I stroll my kids or do I let them walk.
If you have a child over the age of three, you may think this is a no brainer. "Let them walk! Its good for them to move!" We've even seen babies and toddlers making the trek around Epcot sans stroller. Because every family is different, here are three questions to ask yourself to see if your kids are ready to take on the World sans stroller.
1) How far do my kids walk in a normal day?
If your kids are super active and are used to walking decent distances a mile or more at a time, without complaining they may be ready to take on the World sans stroller. To give a little perspective, on any given day we put in 6 to 9 miles when we visit the Parks, and we usually spend about 4 to 5 hours in a park. Our 5 year old usually strolls, because he hasn't build up the momentum to handle those miles without wearing out. Walt Disney World is a big place, and if you are coming for a "once in a lifetime experience" or popping in several times a year as an Annual Passholder, its easy to underestimate the magical miles. There is a reason that 25 years ago they started a Marathon (26.2 miles) running through the parks, this place is huge.
2) How much am I planning on doing in a day?
If your family is planning on a rope drop to fireworks daily plan, with or without a nap/rest break in the middle, I highly encourage bringing a stroller or renting one, if your kids are younger than pre-teens. (What is considered a Pre-Teen? Honestly, ask your child, however silly it sounds. Usually at about 9 or 10 kids start calling themselves Pre-teens, and wouldn't DARE be seen in a STROLLER!) If you are expecting an always magical experience at the most magical place on earth... think again. Kids (and adults) get tired, cranky, and down right rude even at Walt Disney World because they underestimated the schedule and all there is to do. Even with a break during the day to rest, swim, eat, and cool off, most people on a normal day at home aren't waking up at 7- 8 o'clock in the morning, standing and walking around 12-14 hours putting in 6-9+ miles and staying awake until 10-11 o'clock at night. Throw in a good "relaxing swim" and you'll be amazing how many calories you end up burning. We can almost time the "nap time" meltdowns we see around the parks (and experience with our son), and the moments the glossy eyes of doneness from the rope droppers and early morning crowd will pop up. (Noon-ish on the nap time, and between 3-4 o'clock and lasting through the evening the glassy eyed masses being to appear.)
3) Are my kids too big for a Stroller?
This one seems a bit more "controversial" in many ways. On a normal day, am I going to ask my 5 year old to ride in a stroller? No, usually if we take family walks under a mile long he is right there with us. We are an active family, and he loves to run. But, if I need to take him along on a long run for some reason, you better believe he is hitching a ride in the jogging stroller because his legs aren't conditioned to go that far yet. The same is true for Disney for us, we have attempted to do shorter park days with him sans stroller, but his little legs aren't quite ready for the long haul. So back to the question... are my kids too big for a stroller? According to Disney's stroller rental page, their double stroller can accommodate a child who is 100 lbs (or two children plus any bags... under that combined weight). Does that mean the kids always have to be in the stroller? No, of course not, but it means through crowded areas and long stretches their legs can get a rest while you may be booking it to the next Fast Pass or dining reservation. Mentally, super independent kids may feel too big for a stroller much earlier than others, and Pre-teens would not want to be caught DEAD in a STROLLER... so it is a conversation that may need to be had if the other two questions have you leaning toward renting a stroller for your trip.
Other things to consider...
There are several options in the Orlando area to rent strollers if your kids have long out grown a stroller for regular use. Many of which can even be delivered to where you are staying on Disney property (and sometimes off property from what I understand). Disney even lists their featured providers on the stroller rental page. Renting strollers from an outside source means that no matter where you go, you can take that stroller. For example, if you are staying at someplace like Coronado Springs, where some rooms are decently far from the dining options or the pool, you would still be able to stroll the kids and reserve some of that energy for I don't know, swimming or standing in lines.
If you don't really need the stroller outside of the parks, there is also an option to rent strollers from Disney. These are the hard plastic kind, with a little shade and little to no "storage" for other items. We have friends who swear by them, and say they are very easy to push. If you don't want to deal with strollers on busses or the many other forms of Disney transportation, this may be the way to go. They are also more "big kid" friendly, as they don't scream stroller and are easy to jump in and out of. If you choose to rent these for "length of stay" you can also park hop and pick up a new stroller at each stop including Disney Springs. They come in both "single" and "double," but for bigger kids I would lean towards the double as it gives a bit more room for other gear and has a higher weight limit.
How to be prepared if you choose not to stroll.
If you are thinking that strolling really isn't an option for your family, but you realized that you may not be as prepared to take on the World as you once thought, I have a few tips to help you get ready.
Start adding family walks into your schedule. Its amazing what a little conditioning can do to help prepare you. Start small. Walk around the block. Enjoy time as a family, and if it becomes a daily or weekly activity, not only will you be more ready to take on the World, you can start making memories even before you take your vacation.
- Find good shoes for walking and use them before the trip. Remember WDW is in a high humidity area, and you will be putting in miles. Choose shoes that are supportive and make sure to use them on walks. If you can help it, you don't want to have to visit first aid because those "cute princess shoes" are rubbing huge blisters before the end of your first day.
Plan to take breaks. As simple as it sounds, there is so much to do at WDW, and there is a ton of pressure to feel like you have to do it all. Remember that this is more of a Marathon than a Sprint. Take moments to stop and use those snack credits. Find a bench and sit down. Yes you, stop pacing and propping, and sit down. Kids learn by example, and if they see you purposely taking breaks (before you are down right exhausted), they are more likely to follow along.
Have a good night time strategy. Especially if you are planning on rope drop to fireworks kind of days, it is important to have a good night time strategy. When you get back to your room it may be nice to explore the resort, and there usually is a lot to explore no matter where you are staying. It's important to remember that you have done a lot to your body and need to give it rest. I love taking a warm shower and stretching my tired muscles after a good day in the Parks. If you are staying in a place that has a hot tub or your room has a tub, utilize these, and encourage your kids to too! Taking a warm bath can help loosen up tired muscles. Try these stretches after to help as well (the last one can be done with a towel).
Water, Water, Water! You are probably adding in a decent bit more walking than you normally do. It is super important to make sure you are drinking enough water to help your muscles get rid of that lactic acid (the stuff that makes you sore the next day). Watch your caffeine intake, and skip a coke at lunch or dinner, instead opting for a caffeine free beverage like Sprite or water. Usually, it isn't the sugars that get you on long days in the parks, but the caffeine, because your body needs the extra hydration especially on warm/ hot Florida days. We bring reusable water bottles with us (like these for us and our son), and if needed refill with the free ice water available at almost all counter service restaurants. If you are super picky about the taste of your water, choosing a water flavor option like Dasani water drops or an electrolyte replacement like Nuun can really help get in the extra ounces your body needs.
Whatever you choose, remember to take moments to breath, and know that strolling or not, meltdowns and exhaustion happens.
If you have any questions make sure to comment below. We love exploring Disney and noticing the little things, so if you have any suggestions on things you want to see next let us know! We are Annual Passholders who live around the corner from the Magic Kingdom. If you want know more check out the About page here!