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 April 2018
When to Take Kids to Disney World
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
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 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
Elementary Age Kids at Disney World
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.
More Disney Vacation Tips
- When to take your kids (what is the ‘perfect’ age)
- Planning for your trip (time of year, how long to stay, Disney hotels, and affordability/deals)
- Tidbits (20 tips from the best place to see Mickey to strollers to super cool Disney features you may not know about)
- Dinning: My top picks for snacks, quick meals, and reviews on 12 restaurants (including character meals)
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, CA