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Walt Disney World Travel with an Infant

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I have just returned from a week’s vacation at WDW with my eight month old son. My son was a 32 week preemie so he behaves like a six month old and is not yet sitting up. I thought it would be beneficial to write an article for those who might be a bit reticent about doing WDW with such a young infant.

First, the flight. This was Lucas’ first trip by air and I was really nervous about his behavior. There’s nothing worse than a three hour flight with a screaming baby whether you are his mother or the passenger 3 rows back! We needn’t have worried, but here’s what we did to help ease the trip. First of all we took along our own car seat (the infant carrier kind that snaps into our stroller) and a regular stroller rather than the umbrella variety. Although a bit more cumbersome, it provided much better sun protection, storage for his (and our!) belongings and was much easier for him to sleep in when he got tired. We took the car seat to the gate on the off chance that the flight wouldn’t be full and we might get to use it between our seats but that didn’t happen. Not a problem, we had bought a car seat travel cover prior to leaving (not a necessity for checking it in but it keeps the wear and tear down) and we just checked it in at the gate. As for the stroller, we wheeled it right down to the door of the plane and it was taken from there and reappeared, along with our car seat, at the same place upon arrival.

We were told by our doctor that a decongestant would be helpful so we gave Lucas a bit of PediaCare about 45 minutes before takeoff. We also made sure — and this is extremely important — that he suck on a bottle (not just a pacifier) during takeoff and landing so we brought plenty of "mommy’s milk" and juice to ensure his interest in a bottle at those times. I read recently of one mother who had forgotten to use a pacifier clip and wound up losing it under the seat in front of her so we made sure we had one firmly attached to Lucas’ clothes and we were able to avoid any binky mishaps. Lucas slept virtually the entire flight and when he did awake he was thankfully pleasant and cheerful.

One other note about the plane for mom’s who express their breast milk. My son decided a couple of months ago that he would only nurse at night so during the day I have to pump and store my milk. This provided a new challenge for me as I found myself sitting in the window seat with a sleeping baby next to me on an express plane with no leg room. I had brought along a manual Avent Isis pump in one of those "back to work" cases to easily carry around the parks, so when I found myself leaking at 10,000 feet I took the pump out, pulled my jacket around me for a little "privacy" and produced a new bottle for lunch! My mother-in-law, who was sitting in the aisle seat across from us, said she didn’t even realize I had pumped during the flight so I was sure that no other passengers knew as well.

Our car seat came in quite handy for the trip to our resort as we had booked a limousine. I strapped his seat right into the back of the limo and felt comfortable that he was safe for the ride. We stayed in a one bedroom villa at the Wilderness Lodge and I highly recommend going this route if you have a baby. We had a full size refrigerator that we used for his food, milk storage, and for keeping fruit cold for his baby safe feeder (a mesh plastic bag on a handle that lets him eat fruit without choking on it). We also had a sink to wash bottles in, a dishwasher for sterilization, and a microwave for cereal. Also, we could put him down in one room early in the evening and still be able to move about freely in the living room.

We had no problems with transportation at all. We found ourselves calling cabs several times when we didn’t want to wait for a bus or boat late at night and if you asked for a "van cab" you could put the stroller right into the back without ever having to fold it down. Initially, I was very apprehensive about riding in a cab when we hadn’t taken our car seat with us. Although you can specify a cab with a car seat, we usually just held him on our laps if we were staying on property and the ride was short (and, no, I don’t want any letter about how I endangered my son! Wink, wink.). I’m normally the kind of mother that won’t drive to the end of the driveway unless Lucas is strapped in good and tight.

Restaurants were a different story. As I mentioned, Lucas doesn’t sit up well yet but he wants to be part of the action and he gets bored very easily when everyone else is eating and he’s not. We could not yet use one of WDW’s regular wooden high chairs because he just folds over on it or slides down out of it. Although they DO offer an infant high chair in some of the restaurants we didn’t take advantage of it because the one time we tried, he was just too big for it. The infant hi chair looks like a plastic car seat on a high wooden base and would be great for really young babies. We saw one being utilized by a fourteen day old (now THAT’s a mom with stamina!). Although most restaurants ask you to leave the strollers parked outside, if we asked very nicely and if he was asleep, as was often the case, then the host or hostess will accommodate your request to leave your infant in it and bring it inside next to the table. Since Lucas likes to be heard a lot (he’s in a screaming for attention phase) we often found ourselves taking turns eating while the other one cajoled him into submission, fed him fruit (always provided free of charge with pleasure by our server at whatever restaurant we were at) in his feeder, or wheeled him around outside waiting for others to finish up. Since we were there on the Deluxe plan, we felt we had to take advantage of the restaurants. Next time, I’d skip the plan and do a LOT more meals in the room and take advantage of room service or the groceries available at the resort!

As for the parks themselves, we fell in LOVE with the Baby Care Centers! There is one at every major park and they are each themed to the area they are located in. For instance, Magic Kingdom provides a Baby Care Center next to the Crystal Palace restaurant and the interior is designed in a Victorian manner with beautiful striped wallpaper and crystal chandeliers. These centers consist of several rooms. A feeding room is provided with Peg Perego high chairs, there is a family waiting area with comfy chairs and a television, there is a full kitchen along with a fully stocked "sundries" area where you can purchase everything from diapers to prune juice and infant Tylenol to teething rings. They also have a "nursing mothers only" room where I was able to pump my milk in relative privacy. This room is dimly lit, warm and inviting, furnished with rocking chairs and nursing stools and is just the right place for nursing your little one. These rooms are not for those who don’t want to share their space as they provide 5-6 nursing "stations" and at the Magic Kingdom, I pumped alongside a nursing mom from India whose daughter was born 10 days before Lucas. I was able to take all of my equipment to the kitchen and was greeted by a very knowledgeable CM who had evidently dealt with many "pumping moms" in the past. She provided me with an ample sink, dishwashing liquid, fresh clean sponges and towels to clean up with. I utilized the Baby Care Centers at every single park and they were lovely to have available.

We didn’t have to do the "baby swap" thing at the rides because that’s why you bring Nana along! We DID make the mistake of thinking that Lucas might enjoy the new Journey into Your Imagination ride at Epcot, but we’d never been on it before and didn’t realize that there were parts that were WAY too intense for him. He became very scared and screamed and cried and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough! He really enjoyed the Safari ride at AK, Small World and the Carousel at MK, El Rio Del Tiempo, Spaceship Earth and the Living with the Land ride at Epcot, and he LOVED the Great Movie Ride at Disney/MGM Studios. The highlight of the trip, by far, was watching him see Bear live at Bear in the Big Blue House at Disney/MGM studios. He’s been watching Bear on TV every day since birth and you should have seen how round his eyes got when Bear came out on stage. He even had his picture taken with the "host" of the show, Serena, when it was all over. He also became a big fan of the SpectroMagic parade, not missing a wink but closing his eyes promptly as the last float went by.

Finally, we got to experience what to do at Disney with a sick child! Lucas came down with a double ear infection the night before we were due to fly home. After a looooong sleepless night we inquired about medical help at guest services. We were told of "CentraCare" a health service that makes "house calls" if you will. For $172 a really wonderful doctor and his assistant visited our room and diagnosed Lucas’ condition, promptly grounded us for another 4-5 days, and ordered medication to be delivered to us later that day. Although we were supposed to check out at eleven, the doctor called the manager (who became like a good friend to us that day) and asked that we be extended the courtesy of remaining in our room free of charge until our medication showed up. Because it was a Saturday during peak season there was no room for us at the Lodge and the manager called around and got us a room, very cheaply, at the Caribbean Beach Resort. After our medication was delivered she had one of her CMs at Guest Services drive us there with our luggage in one of the resort Suburbans so that we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of getting a cab or taking a bus. Everyone we encountered that day was kind and understanding and more than accommodating. We spent the next two days at CBR, holed up in our room while our little guy rested and got better. Of course we were really lucky that our two best friends live about 40 minutes away and they came and took us home with them for the remainder of our stay.

The flight home was equally uneventful as Lucas slept the entire time. I was pleased with our first trip, exhausted, glad to be home, and already starting to plan the next one! For those of you thinking that Disney isn’t for young babies — I say "You are never too young to love the World". article edtor

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