“That was the best thing of the year!” my toddler exclaimed after he watched his first Walt Disney World parade. Floats carrying princesses, Peter Pan, a giant fire-breathing dragon and, of course, Minnie and Mickey, were among the highlights of our kids’ first visit trip to Disney World.

Taking in the expressions of my two little ones, Elliot and Corinne, as they explored the theme parks was the most fullfilling part of the trip for me. My almost two-year-old daughter was thrilled to meet Minnie and give her a big hug. She was eager to try the rides and especially enjoyed riding on Dumbo. After our first fun-filled day, my 3-year-old son climbed into his pull-out couch, happy and tuckered out. He was so excited he said, “Mama, I’m so happy with you.”

Best Park for Preschoolers

Preschoolers love Magic Kingdom with its focus on favorite Disney characters including Mickey and Minnie, all the princesses and princes, and even pirates. Corinne went on her first carousel ride and got to ride next to the ugly stepsisters from Cinderella. It’s a Small World has amazing staying power for toddlers, as they were mesmerized by the music and animatronic dolls throughout the ride. It’s such an easy and entertaining ride for little ones. Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan are also easy, fun rides that my toddlers loved.

I was surprised to discover that my 3-year-old likes roller coasters. The picture of Elliot on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train showed him with that perfect mix of emotions we all love with roller coasters: pure trepidation and fun. Afterwards he loved the ride so much he wanted to do it again. So then we had to hit another junior roller coaster, the Barnstormer, too.

Skip the Lines

A day at Magic Kingdom can be made more enjoyable by making sure you plan ahead and book a FastPass+ as soon as you can. FastPass+ allows you to skip the lines at popular rides at all the parks. Three FastPass+ reservations can be made per a day. Try to arrive when the park opens to take advantage of shorter lines at some of the attractions and book your FastPass+ rides in the early afternoon when lines get longer. I would recommend using the FastPass+ for Peter Pan’s Flight, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, and character Meet and Greets.

Use Technology

Disney offers the latest mobile app technology to make your trip easier. The My Disney Experience free mobile app lets you see and make all your trip plans. Book a FastPass+ right on your phone, make restaurant reservations, see wait times and character locations, find restrooms and baby care centers and more.

A Few Splurges

A Character Meal is the perfect way to get up close and personal with your favorite Disney characters and get a sit down meal. At Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, kids can meet the Big Five, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Donald Duck. Characters walk around to the tables to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

A fireworks cruise is an awesome experience on a small boat – and a big plus if you have a transportation-loving toddler. We were fortunate to have a great cruise guide who shared with us the history of Disney World as we toured the lakes before the fireworks show. Taking in the fireworks from the bay offered an excellent vantage point for viewing that was not too loud. This was the first fireworks show my toddler didn’t find frightening.

Stay onsite close to the Magic Kingdom. We stayed at Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary Resort. It was nice to walk to Magic Kingdom or hop on the monorail (one of my toddler’s favorite attractions) to get around.

Take a night off. Select Disney resorts offer a comprehensive day care program for kids ages 3-12. The newly renovated Lilo’s Playhouse Kids Club at Disney’s Polynesian Resort includes fun activities and a meal for kids who are potty trained. It’s $15 an hour with a two-hour minimum and kids can come play from 4:30 p.m.-midnight. Nap mats are available for younger ones staying later.

Capture the moment. Disney is now helping you keep your photographs all in one place, and avoid the trouble of having the whole family make the picture. The Memory Makers Photo Package is connected to your family and friends MagicBands (see sidebar) and any picture connected to it shows up in your digital account. They even capture pictures of you on the rides. When you get home, you can download and decorate your photo album.

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