When to Take Kids to Disney World

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When to Take Kids to Disney World

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If you are trying to figure out the best age for Disney World I’ve got lots of tips, tricks, and advice to help make your next family vacation the best ever and filled with priceless memories.

What age should you take your kid to Disney? Here is a super helpful break down of the pros and cons of taking babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, elementary age kids to Disney World!

This is part of my Dreaming of Disney Series where I explore everything your family need to plan an amazing disney family vacation.

It is no secret that I LOVE Disney and have such precious memories of visiting as a child and now with my own children. Over the years I have had LOTS of people ask for advice & tips – and I am more than happy to share what I’ve learned to help you make your trip AMAZING! 

Post Revised & Updated February 2016

When to Take Kids to Disney World

Disney World is the best family vacation ever

I am sure there are lots of different opinions here. I’ve heard plenty of people explain that they are waiting until the kids are old enough to remember the trip. The problem with that philosophy is you miss out on the most magical time to take your kids – the time that will give you priceless memories!

Plus I’ve heard some say their kids are too old for Disney (shock! I will NEVER be too old for Disney myself!) Some guests I  was chatting with at Disney (on the bus – you make lots of friends) said they waited and then their kids don’t remember going anyway. I don’t think you can necessarily ensure they will remember unless you wait until Junior High/High School and then they miss a lot of the magic!

Babies at Disney World

babies at Disney World

We’ve taken several babies (under 24 months) to Disney.  Now they obviously won’t remember the trip, but it was so fun to watch their expression on the rides, seeing the fireworks, meeting characters, etc. We have priceless memories and pictures that we will treasure.

Plus all the new sights, sounds, and experiences at Disney will help them make brain connections that can only be made during their formative years. Elementary age  kids’ brains use those connections to learn (we don’t really make new connections at this point). So perhaps we are helping her be a smarter baby later….

Babies are very portable. We carried our 7 month old in a baby carrier. When she was tired, she slept – no biggie (even on the rides).  The characters were great interacting with even her and let her explore (like Mickey with his nose!)

Cons? You will need to take more breaks to change diapers, feed, get out of the son, and maybe just to avoid over stimulation. It may be tiring on Mom and Dad to carry baby the whole time and you will have to swap the baby back and forth to go on the "big" rides.

Hint: If you are taking a baby to Disney don’t miss my Tips for Babies at Disney World.

Would I plan a trip to Disney with only a baby, no probably not. But don’t hesitate to take a baby – they will enjoy it & what’s more YOU will enjoy watching them!! 


Toddlers at Disney World

Toddlers at Disney World

Toddlers are lots of fun to take to Disney World. They not only notice all the special Disney details they really enjoy interacting with characters and riding on ride after ride after ride. You’ll find they have favorite rides too!

When we took our 2nd child she loved Donald & Daisy. Even before we would even see them, she would spot them and  say “Duuuuck” oh so cute! She loved the characters & it was so precious to see her interacting with especially Pooh & friends.

Cons - Like taking a baby you will need to plan extra breaks for kids to sit down, take a nap (if they can't in the stroller), or to splash around in the pool at their own pace. Kids will need more water and food breaks to fuel up. You will need to allow time to doddle and let them go at their own pace. As they are still not tall enough for the "big rides" you will need to use the child swap option.

Would I go to Disney World if I only had a Toddler? Maybe, as long as your child isn’t very scared (like by loud noises or people in costumes)  You and your Toddler will have a blast playing and making memories together. Take them – you won’t regret it!)


Preschoolers at Disney World

Preschoolers at Disney World

Preschoolers are my absolute favorite age to take to Disney!

Not only are 3-4 year olds mesmerized by the Disney magic, filled with their unique personalities, fun to make memories with, but there is a good chance they will remember the trip too – at least a little. My daughters little eyes danced with excitement talking about the trip even a year later - we had the BEST time playing together!

Kids this age are fun to take! We get princess dresses on clearance after Halloween for 75% off. Preschoolers love playing dress up and will LOVE the opportunity to dress up like the princess and get treated like royalty by Disney Cast Members. They will have a blast getting autographs, taking pictures, and interacting with characters. 

Cons? Some kids at this age aren't tall enough for some of the classics like Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain. Kids will still tire quicker than older kids especially if they no longer take an afternoon nap. You will still need to take sitting and shade breaks plus make sure to hydrate and fuel up.

I would really consider taking a Preschooler for the most magical experience!!

Elementary Age Kids at Disney World

the best age to take kids to Disney World when they will remember it

If you are trying to find a balance between the magic of taking a small child, less stressful traveling experience, and pretty much ensuring your child will remember the trip - take your Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grader to Disney.

For parents who aren't die hard Disney fans or who are pinching pennies and have one shot at it, taking a 5-7 year old might be your magic spot! They are young enough to still love the magic and be delighted with most things!! But they are old enough to ride EVERYTHING (assuming they are average or taller) and remember things in great detail.
My 6-year-old loves to recount becoming a Pirate in the Pirate League, fighting Darth Vadar at the Jedi Academy, going down Splash Mountain (his favorite ride), evening parades & show, and It’s a Small World. He will still wear costumes (think Woody or Peter Pan), get pictures with characters excitedly, have autographs signed, take his OWN pictures, and have ideas on what rides he wants to go on. He will remember this for a long time (if not forever). He doesn’t wear out as easily as a Preschooler and is so fun to interact with at the park.
Cons? Not many! Most are tall enough to ride everything (even Expedition Everest). They walk well and can go all day as long as you mix in shows and parades to allow them to sit.

Taking a 5-7 year old is a MUST in my book.

Taking Older Kids to Disney World

Kids of all ages will enjoy Disney, but your itinerary will be different with older kids. You will probably skip the character lines, autograph books, dressing up like favorite characters, and riding kiddie rides time after time. Instead you will camp out at the more exciting thriller rides like Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Test Track, Mission Space, and others.

Older kids of this age don’t wear out easily, you will be able to maximize park hours and get a lot in a day. Because of that, you will be able to tackle all of Disney World easily in 5 days.

Disney World Family Vacation

More Disney Vacation Tips

  1. When to take your kids (what is the 'perfect' age)
  2. Planning for your trip (time of year, how long to stay, Disney hotels, and affordability/deals)
  3. Tidbits (20 tips from the best place to see Mickey to strollers to super cool Disney features you may not know about)
  4. Dinning: My top picks for snacks, quick meals, and reviews on 12 restaurants (including character meals)
  5. Magic Kingdom
  6. Animal Kingdom
  7. Hollywood Studios
  8. Epcot
  9. Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, CA

    Best age to take your kids to Disney World


    1. Thank you for sharing:) We're planning a trip this fall with our 11,9, and 4 year olds. Our oldest will celebrate her birthday there! I also can't imagine ever being too old for Disney!

    2. LOVE THIS!!! So excited to read it! We are taking a trip early March this year with our almost 5 year old, 3.5 year old, and 10 month old. Any tips for us on the littlest traveler? We figured he'd nap in the stroller in the morning and then we'd all come back and rest in the afternoon....

    3. I can't wait to take my kids. We are planning on going when my husband graduates in 3 year. My kids will be 5 and 7. I'm so excited. I want to go now.

    4. Pint Sized Life, your little one will be able to ride on many of the rides!! On more rides you can wear the baby in a baby carrier which is really helpful. So if your baby falls asleep you wont have to wake him every time you want to get on a ride (or have one of you miss all the fun!!) There are baby care stations in each park that are a MUST (clean changing tables, private nursing room, little potties, and tv/books to relax & cool off). I will chat more about it later but get pins (on ebay a bulk set real cheap) and let your kids trade them with staff members - it is a BLAST! My kids loved taking their autograph book & getting characters to sign them =-) Hope that hels - Beth

    5. Wow, great post. Answers to many of my questions. I have a 4 y/o and a 19 m/o boy. We're not going any time soon but I did wonder what would be a good age for them both. Thank you for sharing your expertise :)

    6. This is a great post as I book Disney vacations and I have so many people tell me that they are waiting for the exact same reason! We took my son at 5 months, 18 months, 2.5 years, and next trip he will be 3.5 years. It has been so much fun to see everything through his eyes, and every trip has been different in some way!

    7. We leave for Disney in 17 days with a 2 1/2, 3 1/2 and 12 year old =)

    8. I went for the first time when I was 18. It was amazing! I have to say the Disney Mahic did not dissapoint. I really enjoyed meeting the characters too, it this strange? I am planning on going back after I graduate college in a few years.

    9. Thank you! Your disney series has been very helpful. I grew up a few hours away from Disney world so my grandparents would get us season passes for Christmas. I havent been since I was 15. My husband has never been and I have been DYING to take him. I really appreciate your posts. They have helped jog my memory as to what I really liked and things I could go without doing/seeing!

    10. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a comment. So glad to help out. We LOVE Disney =-) But you probably already knew that!

      Have a great trip,
      Beth =-)

    11. Thanks so much for this article! I have been wondering when to take my two boys to Disney World for the first time (they are 2 and 4 now). I am a HUGE Disney fan too...I will never be too old for it, either! Your opinions have helped me a lot...thanks! :)

    12. Love your website! Our family loves Disney too. We plan on going for our 10yr anniversary next september. Our kids will be 5 and 2. We are so excited! Thank you for sharing your experiences and your tidbits!

    13. Hi thanks for your post. I love Disney too. I hope one day I can afford to take my children to Disneyland, Hong Kong. Though there are lots of horror stories about kids being kidnapped there.

    14. Thanks for your post! I live in Brazil (actually in Amazon) and I'm planning to take my kids to Disneyland next January. I was afraid my 4 year old kid wouldn't like the trip, but now I'm confident. Thanks a lot!

    15. I love love Disney World! I almost 20 years old and have been a total of five or six times. My last three trips to Disney World, I was 10, 17, 19, respectively. And honestly, those are my favorite memories with my family. Yes, the past two trips I was a little over the little things, for example: riding Dumbo, finding the little Mickeys everywhere, getting autographs and etc. Meeting characters, rides, and the shows are still my favorite parts of the trip. I try very very hard to meet Mickey at least once while I'm at the parks because he is my absolute favorite to see. I have noticed that the older I get the less interested I am in Magic Kingdom, but more so Epcot. I could easily make both half days since MK is geared mostly toward little ones and Epcot doesn't have so many rides. But the best part about being older is that I can ride the rides over and over again by myself! Disney kid at heart and I will never be too old for the Happiest Place on Earth.

    16. Why not take your baby or toddler? They get in FREE! Can't beat free at Disney! ;)

      1. We love taking littles. It does change your experience, but we think it changes it for the better!!

    17. Love Disney and this was great! I agree that each age holds something magical! My kids have been 5 times and the oldest just turned 14. She can't wait to go in 2014 when Fantasyland is completely open. Our twins celebrated their first birthday there. We've been there for 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. All brought special memories.

    18. I went with 3 teenage boys and loved the experience. We had so much fun . While they may not have been amazed at every ride, they still were in awe of the magic that is Disney .They saw Disney with adult eyes but it was still a very special trip. The fun part about bringing older kids to Disney , you get tired before they do .we had a lot of fun going on the rides as a family
      . The best part about going with teens is that they want to go on the same rides you do.
      If money was no object , I think you should go every 5 years beginning at age 5 .

    19. We took our twin boys at age 7. On the first day, one got scared by the trolls in the Epcot Norway ride....and was scared of "bad guys' for the rest of the trip. You don't realize how many villains are in the Disney movies until you are with someone who is freaked out by them. But, he loved the characters, especially meeting the Power Rangers!

      We went again when they were 11....not quite as magical, but more fun because the fear factor was gone.

      Now they are 14, so we need to think about going again in the next couple of years. Maybe, I won't have to ride Space Mountain and Mt. Everest alone next time!

    20. I went to Disneyland for the first time ever 7 days before my 19th birthday!! I remember it so well :3 it was 18 november 2012, Mickey's birthday by the way...but I didnt go with my family, it was a study trip with college/career friends to Los Angeles and it was the last thing (it was all day) we did before we returned home. It was awesome (there was an Elvis tribute in Tomorrowland that day), I'm from Mexico in the north and my parents never took us (my younger brother and I) to Disneyland or Disney world when little and it's okay, I guess because I wouldn't take the rides I took in my last visit ._. (The Tower of Terror for example) :c
      When I have kids(and money lol) I'll take them to the different ones around the world :)

    21. We just got back from a Disney trip. We went with our daughter, son-in-law, 2 1/2 year old grandson and 7 week old granddaughter. It was absolutely magical for my grandson (and for those of us experiencing it through him). Our granddaughter slept through most of it but there were times that she sat in my lap and watched the activities going on around her. I believe any age is a great age to take to Disney. I can't wait until we go again.