Napping In the Parks

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

A long day at a Disney Theme Park really tests our young children’s endurance levels. Recently on our MousePad message board, member cookie7762 asked for advice about taking stroller naps on vacation. Inspired by cookie7762, this week we asked our Parenting Panel: How do you get little ones through a long day of Park touring? Do you retreat to a hotel? Or do you rest in the parks?

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

I think it’s obvious that every person wants to get the most out of their Disney vacation. In many cases, that equates to getting as much park time in as possible without interruption. Admittedly, my first Disney trips were totally “commando-style” where we would get to rope drop, hit everything we could, and leave the parks really late. It was an exhausting way to enjoy the parks. Sure, we thought that we got a lot accomplished and we made many memories, but it took a couple days after we got back home to recover from all the running.

When my son was born, we took three Walt Disney World trips before he was 2. This obviously slowed us down slightly, but it also introduced us to the idea of taking more time to enjoy things along with a break in the middle of the day. That is to be expected with a toddler, of course, and we toured around his schedule. Sure, he would fall asleep in his stroller and my wife and I would take turns finding a cooler, shady spot to relax with him as the other would do something with my daughter. We knew this was best for all of us and followed his cues. (He never really had a structured nap time.) It prevented meltdowns and our forced need to slow down caused us to see a lot more of what we were touring than just enjoying an attraction.

Now that both of my kids are older, you would think that the need or desire to take that break would pretty much be gone. However, it has only become more of a part of our plans. It may be more because our touring happens during the hotter summer months, or the idea that we have a desire to relax more during our vacations. We simply desire to take time away from the constant park stimuli and hit the resort's pool or community hall to do something a bit different. My wife and I don’t see this as wasted time as we get into all the different activities along with our kids. We also get into conversations with other guests, exchanging stories about the day’s events and the like. If we don’t think that a full-fledged, multihour break can fit easily within our schedule, we might hit a nearby eatery to enjoy a relaxing snack or even hit a resort arcade for a bit of electronic distraction. We also see that these mid-day breaks also allow our family to explore the parks a bit later after dark as well.

Keep in mind; We don’t plan a break every single day. With the advent of FastPass+ at Walt Disney World and other touring enhancements, there may be times where we have attraction or dining reservations that might fall in the mid-day time frame. That’s OK too. We simply start our day a bit later or plan or end our day a bit earlier. The key here is to plan it so that we get all of our plans covered throughout the day, allowing for flexibility, and not end the day worn out or with us accidentally going after each others throats because we are too tired.

I know we all want to get the best value out of our vacation dollar and sometimes that may seem like that means that we should always be on the go. Sometimes taking time to slow down will allow you to see and experience more in the long run. It may take a bit of planning and maybe changing expectations a bit, but between the memories you make and the fact that you don’t need a vacation after your vacation; you will then know the change is for the better.

MousePlanet columnist Chris Barry, his wife, Diane, Samantha (15), and twins Casey and Alex (12), live on Long Island and are all major Disney and Walt Disney World fans. Chris writes:

A well-rested child is a happy child. A well-rested child on a Disney vacation is an ecstatic child and that of course leads to ecstatic parents. There are a few things that I have always recommended to parents in regards to taking children to a Disney park. The first, above all, is rent a stroller. Better yet: Rent a Disney stroller. At Walt Disney World, they’re big and roomy and have made my kids so happy over the years and therefore…we have been happy.

My Disney-inexperienced friend Lou came with us on a Walt Disney World vacation. He has two boys near the same age as our twins, around 5 and 6 at the time of our trip. We immediately got on the stroller line for the twins, even though they were 7 and long out of strollers at home. Key phrase there is “at home.” A Disney park isn’t home. Needless to say we barely made it down Main Street and into Fantasyland before he was rushing back to the park entrance to rent a stroller.

Get a stroller, even if you think your kids are too big. Here is a photo of a perfect reason for renting a big roomy Walt Disney World stroller. Need I say anymore?

Chris Barry's twins, Casey and Alex, nap side by side in a Walt Disney World rental stroller. Photo by Chris Barry

The other major tip is taking a midday break. This is where staying at a Disney hotel really comes in handy. Getting back to your hotel for a nap or a swim or just some air-conditioned hang-time in the room is essential. The kids will feel better when you venture back out, and you will, too. The Disney transportation system is convenient enough to get you back to your hotel shortly. We’ve always done this on just about every day of every trip and every member of our family has fallen asleep at one time or another during these necessary breaks.

Another suggestion is to go with the flow of a child’s need to nap. I can remember our first trip with our daughter. She was 4 years old at the time. We spent the morning at Animal Kingdom and decided to hop a bus to the Transportation and Ticket Center and then a monorail or boat over to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, after a fun filled morning, Samantha passed out cold on the bus. We got off and instead of pressing on at that time and heading over to the Magic Kingdom, we found a shady spot on a wall outside of the gift shop, Mickey’s Gift Station. There we sat for a good 30-40 minutes, with a sleeping daughter in my wife’s arms.

Is the Transportation and Ticket Center a fascinating place to spend 40 minutes of your Disney vacation? No, certainly not. But, it was what was needed at the time and so we delivered. She woke up fresh as a daisy, albeit a little confused as to where she was. She was ready to roll and me…let’s just say that I got to look at every single item for sale in that little gift shop thoroughly. We actually bought her a Pooh and Friends beach towel there at that moment that we still have today! So, all was not lost.

Get a stroller, take a break and let the kids nap wherever and whenever they need to and you’ll be a happy set of campers for sure.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By Tater

    My boys would love for me to rent a stroller for them, but they are 17 and 14. But really anytime you can get younger children to take a break and rest it a wonderful idea. It will make the experience so much better for them. Great article.

  2. By josephbandrews

    When friends brought their toddler last year to WDW (under a year old at the time), she was so easy to deal with it didn't even require planning. When she'd rack out someone would just sit with her in the shade while others hit the rides.

    I even sat with her by that store at the top of the steps to down to Splash while they rode that--tired to make sure Bekka wasn't left out by always having to stay with her. She slept through a performance of British Revolution with me, and even slept through the entirety of IllumiNations (which I still can't believe). I don't have any parasites of my own, so I normally don't have to think about just worked out on its own.

    I didn't read the entire article... Did they mention napping places for old kids? My Dad usually wakes himself up snoring at least a couple times in CoP, HoP, and I think he even managed to nod off in the circle of life theatre (a real feat considering how crazy loud it is).

  3. By DisneyGator

    For stroller use, I will say that there's a big difference between WDW and Disneyland. Our last trip to WDW, the kids were 7,5, and 1. We brought a double stroller for the big kids and an umbrella for the little one. So glad we did it that way, because the walking there is incredible. The next year, we went to Disneyland and only brought a stroller for 1. That worked out really well. The older two got along fine for the most part, and it has to do with the small size of both parks. There are no mile loops like there is at Epcot or AK. If I were to go to WDW right now, I'd probably be tempted to bring the double stroller. The now 3yo will definitely need it, but it would give a break to one of the others, even though they're 7 and 9. It may look funny, but the last thing I want to do is walk to the bus, wait for it, spend hours at the resort, wait for another bus, walk all the way into the park again...... That alone seems to exhausting.

  4. By BrerFrog

    I had a 5-day trip to WDW recently with my 3-yr-old, we stayed at Saratoga Springs. We came back to the hotel to nap every day, and they were the longest naps she has ever had!! Occasionally we had to wait for a bus back to the resort, but in the middle of the day the buses are cool and empty. We only rented a stroller for AK and Epcot... MK is fine with no stroller, in my opinion.

  5. By Karin

    DH and I still talk about how much fun *we* had on our trips to the MK when Cub would nap. We'd quickly get the monorail to the Poly and go out to the end of the bar where the beach starts and sit in the shade and have an adult beverage. We lament the loss of that time we had together to just sit, relax and enjoy a drink since Cub stopped napping 3 years ago!

  6. By Moms

    Last time we were at DL the kids were 1 year, 2.5years, and just turned 4. We had a tandem stroller and an umbrella stroller - I would just throw the umbrella in the back of the tandem when the older two wanted to walk. All of our stroller napping was done while waiting for the oldest to get finished riding the bigger rides with dad or just while walking from one part of the park to the other. We aren't "find a quiet place" to nap sorts of people - our kids get a sleep on the go. For our next trip the kids will be 6, 4, 3, and 9 months and we have the same game plan - only with 2 umbrella strollers and a baby carrier.

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