Whether or not to bring a stroller at Disney World can be a tricky decision. Will it be a hassle? Will the kids get too tired of walking? Will I be too tired after a full day of pushing? Every family is different. Some parents choose not to bring a stroller at all and rest frequently throughout the day, while others bring some wheels along so the kids can konk out when they need to. Lily's stroller usually ends up more like a shopping cart by the end of the day, piled up with discarded jackets, half-full water bottles and souvenirs.
A trip to Disney involves a lot of walking and is likely to tire out everyone at some point, especially younger children and even those who don't normally use a stroller. For those choosing to travel with a stroller at Disney World, here are some tips to make life easier for you and those around you while visiting the parks.
1. Bring your own
For those visiting with young kids, I always recommend bringing your own stroller at Disney World. Rentals can add up quickly, and the umbrella strollers available in the park are expensive for their size and look exactly alike. It can be a pain to travel with a stroller, but having my own stroller makes life a lot easier. It’s easier to identify, I know how it maneuvers, and it has the features I need, no more, no less. I used to be a fan of the cheap, small strollers you could pick up at Target or Wal-Mart because they were so light and portable, but as Lily has gotten bigger, they just don't roll as easily as they used to, and I've found myself relying on my trusty Bob. If you are bringing an infant with you, I highly recommend a stroller with a removable car seat. Strollers must be parked outside of the attractions, but most shows and even some slow-moving rides will allow you to bring the car seat inside.
2. If you rent, keep the receipt
If you do choose to rent a stroller while in the parks, pre-paying for the duration of your vacation will save a few dollars. Make sure to hold on to the receipt AND the tickets they give you, even if you are only renting for one day, and keep these two items separate. If your stroller is lost, it can be replaced at no charge if you have the ticket or receipt for that day. Stroller rental is located at the entrance of each park. Both single and double strollers are available and have two cup holders, a seat belt and a sun shade, and they come with a complimentary name placard to help identify your stroller. A single stroller rental currently costs $15 per day, and a double costs $31 per day. Buying multi-day/length of stay rental saves $2 per day for a single and $4 per day for a double. A $100 deposit is required for strollers rented at Downtown Disney. Keep in mind, stroller rentals are only available at the four main parks and Downtown Disney, not at the resorts or water parks. You cannot remove strollers from the theme parks, so if you're park hopping, you will need to need to rent (and return) at each park. Hang onto your receipt, because you only need to pay once a day! While I don't generally recommend renting, it's helpful to know that it's an option in case you changing your mind about needing one or forget your own (it happens!).
3. Know your stroller
Whether it’s your personal stroller or a rental, make sure you are familiar with the stroller. It will make your trip so much easier if you know how to apply the brakes, how to collapse the stroller, and how it maneuvers. If renting, take a few minutes before loading up and heading off into the park to familiarize yourself with these features. With hundreds of strollers traveling through the parks at any given time, it’s invaluable to have some kind of identifier. Disney rental strollers come with a paper “license plate” that you can write a name on to identify yours from the dozens of other beige Disney strollers. Even though it’s Disney, you don’t want to leave a bunch of stuff with your unattended stroller, especially valuables. I’ve seen different colored ribbons attached to strollers as identifiers, like luggage on a bag claim belt, to help distinguish one stroller from another. Other folks have decorated with string lights, duct tape, or carabiners and key chains.
4. Be prepared to collapse your stroller
Strollers must be folded when utilizing Disney transportation, which includes parking lot trams and Disney buses. Traveling light will make it easier to load and unload in these situations. When getting off of the parking lot tram, make sure to move past the yellow line before opening and reloading your stroller so that the tram can leave to pick up other passengers.
5. Bring rain gear
Despite being known as the Sunshine State, Florida is notorious for its sudden showers, especially on summer afternoons. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for these surprise showers with a water-repellant cover made for your stroller, or in a pinch, one of those handy ponchos works almost as well.
6. Care for your stuff
As the day goes on, stuff inevitably accumulates on the stroller. Kids' half-eaten snacks are crumbled in the seat, heavy backpacks are draped over the handles. I have two tips that will help keep your stroller and stuff in good condition. First, take valuables with you any time you leave your stroller. There is typically no one assigned to watch your stroller, and even if there was, how in the world would they remember which stroller goes with which family? Bringing your stuff with you into an attraction or restaurant also means that if you come out and someone has accidentally taken your stroller, you still have your stuff. Second, finish or tightly close any open food. Squirrels and birds are bold at Disney World. They seem to instinctively know when the coast is clear and they can ravage through that package of partially eaten Goldfish crackers or the remnants of your Mickey pretzel, leaving your stroller a crummy, dirty mess. Many attractions do not allow food and drinks inside, so finish eating before you enter or bring some extra plastic zipper bags to store leftovers.
7. Stay to the right
In the United States, people naturally tend to walk on the right. Following the flow of traffic will make traveling through the parks more fluid, and feel less like salmon swimming up stream. However, not everyone sticks to the right, and sometimes cast members will give specific directions concerning walkways during events or busy afternoons. Follow the flow of traffic and heed cast member instructions as you travel throughout Disney World.
8. Watch out for pedestrians
With so much to see at Disney, it’s hard to remember to watch out for what’s around you. I am guilty of almost running into a family posing for a photo because I was distracted by the lights and sights. Consider the stroller a vehicle and those around you, pedestrians. Just like on the road, sometimes pedestrians do silly things like suddenly swerve in front of you or stop unexpectedly, and there is only so much you can do to avoid a collision even if its due to the actions of the other person. Especially on crowded days or during events like parades and fireworks, I am hyper-aware of what is right in front of my stroller so I don’t run over anyone. Also, it’s a stroller, not a tank. I’ve seen folks use their strollers like a battering ram to get through a crowd with no remorse for whomever’s ankles might get scuffed up in the process. Stroller or not, Disney requires patience and courtesy for everyone as we all enjoy the parks.
9. Park and walk to parades
Parade time can get chaotic at the Disney parks, especially at Magic Kingdom. There are people everywhere, and they line up early. One trick I use when traveling with a stroller is to drop it off in the designated stroller parking area of whichever attraction I plan to head to after the parade, then go find a spot. We don’t have to line up as early because it’s easier to maneuver without the stroller, and I know it’s already waiting for me after the next attraction. The kids used to complain that they couldn’t see from the stroller and I would end up holding them anyway. Not having to deal with it during parades is so much easier. It’s a small thing that saves a little time and hassle, and it leaves more space for other people to enjoy the parade as well.
10. Don’t panic
Sometimes strollers are moved. The cast members are not playing tricks on you or trying to be mean, they are doing their jobs. Often cast members will move strollers in order to organize them and make them more easily available at the exit of the attraction. If a stroller is left in a walkway or an area in which it doesn’t belong, cast members will typically move it to the designated stroller parking area. The signs for these are sometimes hard to see, but you can usually identify them by looking for an area where strollers are neatly organized near the exit of an attraction. So if you come off of a ride and find that your stroller is not where you left it, don’t panic or cry thief. It’s probably just been moved to the designated area. If you don’t see it, let a cast member know where you left it and ask if it might have been moved and to where.
Traveling with a stroller at Disney World can be hard. Hopefully, these tips will make the trip easier and more enjoyable for you and your kids. Now it's your turn! Share your tips for making stroller life easier at Disney World and the other theme parks.