There comes a time when your kids start to get old enough to want to go to Disney World (for ours it was basically the second they were born. Shocker, right?). Or maybe you haven’t been for a while and you really want to go back — with your baby this time.
Whatever your situation, it can be a pretty hard decision to choose when you’re ready to take those kids to Disney World! After all, Disney is GEARED towards kids in a lot of ways, so you don’t want to miss the window that they’re going to enjoy it in a way that only kids can.
We’re taking a look at the pros and cons of taking your kids to Disney at different ages. Check it out!
Taking Babies and Toddlers to Disney World (0-3 years old)
We’re gonna start by talking about the little ones and then we’re gonna work our way alllll the way up to teens. You might have your own ideas about taking babies and toddlers to Disney World. After all, Disney trips are a handful and so are your babes!
First up, let’s talk about the pros of bringing your kid to Disney at age 3 or younger!
First off, even if they won’t remember the trip, you WILL! You can really make some awesome memories as a parent when you get to watch your baby interact with Mickey for the first time or see your toddler dribble Dole Whip down their face.
Plus, there’s something super magical about Disney pictures and we love having them from when our kids were little babies (and from when WE were babies!).
So precious! We think there’s nothing quite like looking back on childhood photos with your kid when they’re bigger, and Disney photos are some of the best to have mixed in those family albums! They might not remember, but you FOR SURE will have stories to tell! 🙂
Don’t forget that Walt Disney originally wanted to create an amusement park that parents and children could experience together, so a large number of Disney World attractions DON’T have a height requirement. There are actually quite a large number of rides you can enjoy with your baby. IF there IS a height requirement, you can take advantage of the Rider Switch program (but more on that later!).
Another big thing to keep in mind: your tot can visit Disney essentially for FREE. Babies under three don’t require a ticket! This can be massively appealing to some parents because once those kids hit three, you’re looking at full-priced airline seats for your kid (if you fly, that begins at age two) AND close to adult-priced tickets for your kid (the difference between adults and kid prices for tickets is SO minimal it’s crazy. We’re talking a handful of dollars for hundred dollar+ tickets!). A Disney trip when they’re smaller may be more financially doable for your family than when they’re older.
Now, of course, there are cons to bringing the super littles to the ‘World for the first time. This won’t be a trip to remember for little kids. It takes until 4-6 years for long term memory to develop in most humans so odds are your tyke probably isn’t going to be able to look back on this trip like you will. If you want them to remember hugging Mickey for the first time, you may want to hold off for a few years.
And, like we said, babies are a lot of work at home and they’re going to be a lot of work in Disney World. (Luckily, we have tips!)
You will likely have a much better trip if you remember that Disney has a GREAT resource for your day in the parks with little kids. It’s the Baby Care Centers! These are the place to be for anything you need to take care of your babe.
They’ve got diapers, formula, private nursing rooms, and a way to warm bottles and food. Keep in mind that some of the products will cost you a small fee but it’s a great spot to cool off and get some supplies, or just have some calm and quiet away from the stimulation of the parks. This is also a great place to nurse or use your breast pump if needed.
The next thing to keep in mind is that you can get diapers and supplies delivered to your resort. You can use services such as Amazon to have supplies delivered right to your resort before you leave home! No stuffing hundreds of diapers into your suitcase. Take it from our experience, this is a TOTAL lifesaver.
Taking Little Kids to Disney World (4-7 years old)
We’re moving on to little kids ages 4-7 years old. This is a great time to take kiddos to Disney World for the first time since they’re still young enough to be excited about meeting the characters and all the fun, little-kid targeted Disney stuff.
This is the age that we’ve found kids truly embrace the magic of Disney, so it’s a great time to take them!
Now is the age they have a chance of remembering their trip! We especially think this is a great age to take your kiddos if you don’t head to Disney that often. You get the balance of the joy of taking littles to Disney and their ability to remember how much fun they had.
Plus, this is the age your kiddos will GROW LIKE WEEDS. That means that, if you have any little early adventurers in your family, they may hit heights where they can start going on some “big kid” rides like Splash Mountain or even Tower of Terror (one of our kids grew FAST and actually went on this at three and LOVED it! You never know how your kids will surprise you!). For some kids, this can feel like a rite of passage to be tall enough to ride these rides, and it can be fun to see them experience them for the first time with all the “big kids.” But be sure to really prep them for those big kid rides — YOU might think they’re ready, but if they’re not, it can be a big set-back for your Disney dreams.
On the con side, don’t think that you’re going to escape strollers just because your kids are a little older! Disney World means literally MILES of walking and that can be a lot on little legs, especially in the Florida heat. So know your kid’s limits! Bring or rent a stroller if you need one.
Plus, kind of like babies, little kids can still require a lot of attention on a Disney trip. Make sure you’re keeping up with normal schedules, like snacking and napping, so that they stay in a good mood while they’re in line to meet Mickey. Sometimes they won’t be happy, and that’s OK too!
For us, this age range was when our kids suddenly had a LOT of opinions about what we did or didn’t do at Disney World. This meant a few more disagreements all around but also meant they felt more involved in the family vacation. Brace for any meltdowns and set clear expectations with your kids BEFORE your trip to help prevent what you can, but remember to stay flexible.
We’ve got a BUNCH of great tips for hittin’ the parks with littles this age. The first one is to make sure you check the Times Guide for when characters meet. Sometimes you’ll find characters meeting that aren’t listed on the My Disney Experience app, so it can be valuable if your kiddo is looking to meet a lot of characters. You can also grab times guides from the front desk of your resort hotel!
We also recommend using Rider Switch for rides that your kid is too short to go on or just doesn’t want to ride. If you have a bigger kid or if both parents want to go on a ride, ask a Cast Member about Rider Switch at the entrance to the attraction.
An adult can wait with your little while anyone big enough to ride goes through the line. After they’ve ridden, you switch and the other adult gets to ride without waiting (along with 2 other guests, if a bigger kids wants a second ride!).
Another great tip for anyone, but especially at this age, is to plan a resort day into your trip. Never ever underestimate most kids’ attraction to pools. It’s more appealing than most of the rides in the parks to our kids and usually what they’re still talking about once home! Many resorts feature a kids’ splash area if they’re not strong swimmers or just want to get wet, and all Disney pools offer complimentary life jackets for kids.
Taking Big Kids to Disney World (8-10 years old)
Alright, let’s talk about Disney with big kids, AKA 8-10 year olds. There are some surprising differences between traveling with big kids and little kids!
A pro to bringing bigger kids is most children start to want to ride coasters and grown-up rides at this point.
Now, this is isn’t a catch-all! A lot of kids start riding coasters at 5 and 6 or even younger. Whatever age your coaster-riding kiddo is, make sure you check out height charts before you go with whatever shoes your kid plans to wear! 8-10 should be the ages that most kids can ride anything they want in Disney World, but double-check, especially if you have a shorter little one. The tallest height requirement in Disney World is 48 inches for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Primeval Whirl.
Remember, even if you’re kid is tall enough, don’t push them too hard! Make sure they’re comfy with the coasters and rides they want to go on. For some scarier rides, it might be a good idea to watch some ride-throughs on YouTube before your trip to see if they’re still interested. You don’t want to be ON Tower of Terror when your kiddo realizes what’s about to happen to them! 🙂
Another benefit of traveling with big kids is that they’re going to have more energy. Like…a lot more. 🙂 You still need to pay attention to their needs, but some kids might have the ability to start early and stay late.
This can be great if you like to get the most out of your day by spending as much time as possible in the parks but would be otherwise limited by a younger child tapping out early in the night.
On the cons side of bringing big kids, they might not be as interested in character meet and greets which can be a bummer if you miss that window for their first Disney trip! It depends entirely on your kid and their personality, but unfortunately, this is the age it can start to be “not cool” to meet the characters. 🙁
If you plan on using the Disney Dining Plan, you have something else to keep in mind with kids this age. Kids below 10 are required to use the children’s Dining Plan, meaning they order form the children’s menu at all locations. Child portions are still relatively large, but if you have an older kid with a ravenous appetite or more adult tastes, you may want to explain beforehand that they’ll be required to stick to the kiddie menu. Or consider foregoing the Dining Plan and paying out of pocket so your kid can order as they please from the adult menu.
One important tip that we like to suggest if you ARE traveling with multiple age groups across your kids is to not be afraid to split up if you’ve got more than one adult and more than one kiddo! You and your kids might have a better time if you can focus on their needs (and yours!) separately.
At this age, if one kid HAS TO ride all the roller coasters, but little sister is too small and would much rather meet the princesses, splitting up can save time and sanity. We’ve also got some great tips on introducing kiddos to rollercoasters for the first time in this DFB Guide video! Dividing and conquering, even for a brief time, can be a useful tactic to tackle the parks with multiple aged children.
Taking Tweens and Teens to Disney World (11+ years old)
And finally, let’s talk about taking your teens and tweens to Disney World!
There’s nothing wrong with waiting til your kids are in their teens or preteens to visit Disney World — it can be fun to have a more grown-up Disney trip with the whole fam. The great thing about tweens and teens is that they’re old enough to be able to do their own thing so that you can have some mom and dad time too.
Kids this old are also QUITE opinionated (in good and bad ways!), but they CAN help plan your trip as a family. You can ALL decide what you want to do and make sure everyone checks off a few items on their must-do list, which helps everyone feel equally invested.
On the other hand, teens and tweens come with some pretty unique cons. If you wait until your kids are teens to take them to Disney you’re going to miss a lot of milestones. It’s possible a lot of the kid stuff won’t be up their alley anymore, so you may have missed some of the memories!
Another consideration is your accommodations. If you thought your kid shot up like a weed when they were younger, this is the age they often grow taller than YOU! If you have multiple kids, the idea of sharing a bed with siblings in your hotel might not be as appealing to them as it once was, so discuss this with your kids before booking. You may need to pop for different accommodations to comfortably fit everyone.
Plus, this entirely depends on your child, but this age is when many kids don’t want to engage with the family as much. It’s possible they may be in the “I’m too cool for Disney” mindset and have their heads down in their phones the whole trip. On the other hand, some kids are MORE engaged with their family at this age — so again, it really depends on your kid. If your kid falls in the “too cool” category, it can really stink to spend the whole time begging them to get off their phones! Consider having a talk with your teen prior to the trip so that they know that you want to be able to spend some no-phone time with them.
The big way to help make the most out of your vacation with teens is to give them a little bit of independence. This might be the trip where you splurge to get more spacious accommodations. We also think it’s a great choice to have them help you plan the trip so they’re more engaged when you get there. If they feel like their opinions were heard when planning, it’s possible they’ll be more engaged in the trip.
If they’re old enough and you’re comfortable with it, plan to give them some alone time. Let them separate from you to go chat with friends, sleep in while you ride rides at rope drop, or hang out by the pool while you do something they’d rather not do. You can let your teen kids split off and give them gift cards to use as limited spending money.
For more tips for teens, click here to check out our guide to dining with teens!
So, what age should you take your kids to Disney World?
So, with all that in mind, what age SHOULD you take your kids to Disney World for the first time?? The answer is simple: Whatever age you think is OK! There is literally no right or wrong answer here it really and truly depends on your family and your kid.
Maybe families with dedicated Disney fans might want to start a little earlier than those who are going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or maybe that “free until three” bit seems a little too enticing? Maybe you want to wait until your kids are more grown so you can experience it all alongside them? Regardless, each age we brought our kids has been great for different reasons and we wouldn’t take back any of those trips or the memories. So decide what’s right for YOU!
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What age did you first bring you kids to Disney? Tell us in the comments!