It’s 1:15pm, and you see the signs. Your little one is rubbing their eyes, and the energy from that ice cream is slowly starting to crash before your eyes. If you were at home, this would be nap time, and you know it. Just as you are about to pick up your little nugget to rock him or her to sleep, you hear it: the sounds of the “Move It Shake It” dance party making its way up Main Street U.S.A., and you only have a minute before that music is blaring and a full meltdown commences.
Inevitably, if you are a parent at Disney, this moment has happened to you. No matter how hard you plan and try to avoid the busy areas at nap time, you will find yourself in DEFCON 5 mode. I am by no means an expert as all children are different, but I will give you some ideas that have helped the times I have taken my son to Disney, and how we have gotten him to nap in the parks.
- Try to get at least one nap in a quiet space
We did not do this on our first trip with my son and, when we did this on the second trip, it changed his entire mood. While this may not be possible for you and your plans, if you can do this, it will be a life saver. My son soon figured out the new routine, and took long morning naps in his pack and play at the hotel, and, as a result, we got a happier boy in the afternoon who wasn’t melting down. If everyone in your party is wanting to stay in the parks all day long, use the Baby Care Centers located in each park. I cannot tell you how great those places are. They really do have everything. They have quiet areas where you can rock your little one, and watch a nice Disney cartoon as well.
- Find out times for parades and shows that may be loud
This I learned from experience. Walking past the castle in the middle of the afternoon show, I knew I only had a brief window to push my little one through quickly while the dialogue was still going on. I almost got through and BOOM! Fireworks go off. This immediately set off my child, and nap time was over. If your child is on a schedule, take a special look at the times of all shows and parades throughout the day. Avoid those areas at least 10 minutes before as crowds tend to form as well.
- Make sure you have a comfortable stroller and your child’s favorite lovey
For most children, a certain stuffed animal or blanket is needed to ensure that they drift off to sleep. Bringing this item to Disney is a no brainer. Use a nice stroller toy strap to allow your child to use their favorites without the threat of losing them to the streets of Disney. Most strollers recline, and we tend to make sure that when our baby is awake, he is seated upright. Likewise, when the stroller reclines, it’s a sign that he should close his eyes. If a child is not comfortable, they may struggle going down, so try to make their area as comfortable as possible.
- Use these quieter spots
Throughout my times at Disney, I have found a few stellar spots that tend to be a lot quieter for napping babes. If you are in Animal Kingdom, all of the paths in the front of the park (as long as you’re not at park opening) tend to be very calm and serene and perfect for a sweet babe to fall asleep. My favorite Epcot spot is behind the tea garden in the United Kingdom back by Christopher Robin’s bedroom. There are a lot of benches and fun things to look at. In Hollywood Studios, avoid Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land like the plague and head over toward Muppet Vision 3-D or the pond next to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Finally, at Magic Kingdom, if you can get over to it, Tom Sawyer’s Island offers a quieter place to calm down and walk around.
- Don’t push it
If you know that your child won’t nap in the stroller or with other people around them, adjust your schedule. Having a screaming baby with you because they are miserable is not a fun way to spend your vacation. Know your child’s limits, and work around them. Soon enough, you will have kids who don’t need naps, and the parents will be the ones begging for a break. Work at your own pace, and know that a tired baby will not be a happy baby!