Thursday, May 31, 2012

Disney with Kids - How old should they be?

A while back a reader asked me to give some tips on taking a trip to Disney with kids. So I've decided to break it down into a series of posts ranging from what age they should be when you take them to choosing a resort to learning opportunities for kids. I'll also share some travel tips as well. If you want to read my Top 10 Disney tips (which are more generic), click here.

So let's tackle our first topic. How old should your children be when you take them to Disney World?

The Princess was four and Mr. Lego was five, almost six on our first trip.

Well, it's really up to you. You know your child better than anyone. You know their abilities and limitations. But here are some considerations to keep in mind.

1. Is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip for your family? If it is, wait until all of      your children are old enough to remember the experience. Your children might be spread out in age, but be assured that Disney offers something for everyone of all ages. If you plan to take your family several times as they grow up, it can be fun watching them experience the magic of Disney at different ages. Here's a tip - I wish I'd thought of it before this year! Take a photo of your children in front of the same ride, statue or landmark every time you go. You can capture the changes and growth of each one through the years.

2. Do you want to push a stroller around all day? If your child is a toddler, chances are they're not going to be able to walk, walk, walk all day long. And since the average guest walks about 7-10 miles per day, your young child might not be able to keep up. Strollers can make for some tight manuevering through crowds. And they are not allowed in queue lines, so you have to park them outside the rides. If your wait time for a ride is 30 minutes, you're going to be standing in line either holding or holding on to your child. Also, if you aren't able to bring a folding stroller from home, you can rent one at the parks. But don't forget to budget that expense as you plan your trip. Click here for info on renting strollers at the parks.

3. How important it is that you ride the big attractions, like Space Mountain or Expedition Everest? There are height requirements for every ride, so your young children may not be able to ride everything with you. Oh, there are plenty of toddler-friendly rides like Dumbo and Peter Pan's Flight. But some guests feel they aren't getting their money's worth if they can't ride every single ride. Fortunately, there is a rider switch option for some of the bigger attractions that allows one parent to ride with the children who are old enough while one parent waits with those who can't. The waiting parent then switches with the parent who just rode without having to go to the back of the stand-by line. Just ask the Cast Member at the entrance to the ride for details. Click here to see descriptions and height requirements for all Disney attractions.

4. Are you willing to take breaks throughout the day? Some parents are commandos, meaning they won't stop for anything. But remember that a small child is used to taking naps throughout the day. That's not going to change simply because you're at Disney. Their little bodies still are going to need recharging. And don't forget that older children may need a break, too. Go back to your resort and take a swim, if the weather permits. Then head to the park again for the evening. Bottom line, taking small children to Disney requires flexibility.

Our Experience

We took our kids to Disney when the youngest was four. Here's why we waited.

1. We weren't sure if we'd ever have the opportunity to go back, so we wanted her to remember the trip. Four was the perfect age, as she was still young enough to think everything was magical. And she remembers it very clearly.

2. We didn't want to deal with the stroller issue. Outside every ride is a sea of strollers that you have to wade through to get to yours. So we felt like we'd be spending a lot of time unloading the kids for a ride, trying to find our stroller, then loading back up again. Also, on the Disney bus system, all strollers have to be folded up, so we thought it would be a hassle every time we got on or off a bus.

3. We wanted both kids to be able to ride as many things as possible if they wanted to. On that first trip, there were only a few things they weren't tall enough to ride. Disney enforces their height restrictions, so if your kids aren't tall enough, they're not riding even with you. If I recall, the only ride the children really wanted to go on but couldn't was Primeval Whirl in Animal Kingdom. After riding it myself, I could see why. The twists and turns on the ride really throw you around!

4. We didn't want to worry about diaper changing or potty accidents. By age four, my child could tell me when she had to go soon enough that we could find a restroom. Silly, maybe. But not something I wanted to deal with at Disney.

Please keep in mind, that these are OUR reasons for waiting. If you want to take children younger than that, you will get no criticism from me. You know your children and what they can handle. You also know you and what you can handle!

Now, here's a great video by the Wolf family. They clearly know how to have fun and not worry about what people think of them. And they're making fantastic family memories at the same time. Enjoy!


  1. Thanks so much, Marsha! I love the photo idea for each visit!! I also really appreciated your reminder that strollers aren't allowed in lines - I hadn't even thought of that. Great stuff!

  2. Great points you got here!