Tips for Taking Kids to Disney World
Parents planning their child’s first trip to Walt Disney World often have a lot of questions, as visiting Walt Disney World with kids is uncharted territory that can be intimidating. This guide answers some of those questions. It may seem odd for such a guide to be written by people who don’t have kids, but bear with us and we think you’ll agree that there’s a lot of helpful advice here.
Why would you want to read a guide by people with no first hand knowledge of something? It might seem like the equivalent of learning to ride a bicycle from a teacher who has watched a bicycling video on YouTube, but has never actually ridden one. But, perhaps it’s the equivalent of having a fresh set of eyes offer logical insights based upon years of observations, but no direct experience (sort of like those “Washington Outsiders” constantly campaigning for political office…except in this case, we actually ARE outsiders!).
If you’re planning your first trip with kids to Walt Disney World, chances are that you won’t be reading only one planning article or guide–or at least you shouldn’t. So while we think we offer some potentially fresh advice here, we also aren’t definitive experts on this topic. Make sure to read a few other online guides and buy or check out a couple of books from the library (we recommend The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2018).
Normally, we don’t cover topics about which we’re so blatantly uninformed. But we do have a bit to say on this topic, and people keep finding this blog via Google (not knowing we don’t have kids) and emailing us questions about traveling with kids. So here’s a guide for those folks.
Since there are some serious gaps in our knowledge concerning visiting Walt Disney World with kids, we’ve enlisted the help of our brilliant (and did we mention good looking?) Facebook fans, who provided us over 100 tips for traveling to Walt Disney World with kids. You can find their quotes scattered throughout the article. The great thing about these quotes is that they often provide a sharp contrast to our opinions (and even actual parents can’t seem to agree on things), so they provide multiple perspectives from which you can determine what will work best for you.
This guide is meant to supplement other guides (including our own Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide) and provide a reasonably informed (hopefully) perspective parents might not otherwise hear. All in all, we think this is a pretty decent resource to read as you plan that trip with the kids to Walt Disney World!
The biggest piece of advice we can offer as outsiders is to know your limitations. We’ve seen this scenario time and time again, in a variety of forms: parent pushes child’s limits in one way or another, and everyone has a bad time. We understand that for many families, Walt Disney World trips with kids at that “right age” are a once in a lifetime thing, and a rite of passage. We understand that these trips are really expensive, and that there’s a natural desire to want to “make as much magic” for the kid as possible.
However, even without having kids, we know that both kids and parents get cranky after too much stimulation. We also believe that the crankiness does not occur in that order–parents are usually the cause, not the kids. Parental crankiness manifests itself in a variety of ways, but the unseen way is the most common: in the stubbornness of wanting to keep pushing when they normally would not in “normal” parent mode. This in turn causes crankiness in the child who is beyond their breaking point, which in turns causes more crankiness in the parent, who keeps thinking about how much the trip cost, and how much fun they “need” to “make” their kids have.
As a parent, attitude is everything. (This will be a pervasive theme of this article.) Don’t go into the trip with the attitude that you need to do 17 attractions per day and must have X, Y, and Z done before 11:30 am. Remember that 4 hours per day of quality time in the parks is better than 8 hours consisting of 2 hours of quality time and 6 hours of miserable time. Yes, trips cost a lot of money, but the only priceless memories are good memories. If your memories are mostly of being at each others’ throats, what is the value of those memories? Very little. Brooke W. hits the nail on the head: “Make time for rest! Do not be warriors. Nothing is fun if the kids are crying and the parents are cranky.”
If you’ve been to Walt Disney World before having kids, don’t expect to go at your old pace or to do the same things you once did. The trade-off for seeing the magic through your children’s eyes as they light up with joy upon meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time is that you can’t do marathon hours in the park like we can (unless you bring grandparents! ;)). For what it’s worth, we’re probably more jealous of your experience than you are of ours.
Approaching the trip with realistic expectations and a positive attitude is the most important element of planning a trip to Walt Disney World with kids. A plan of attack for hitting rides in the most efficient order is a great thing to have (as you’ll read below), but parents should be prepared to abandon those plans immediately once the kids on the trip are beginning to approach that wall.
Don’t let parental stubbornness cause child crankiness.
What Age is Right
With a realistic and positive attitude set, it’s time to plan that first trip! By far, the most common question we get is, “what age is right?” This is a controversial question, and we’re going to plead ignorance. Not just to avoid offending people who disagree (don’t worry, we’ll likely do that in some manner before the conclusion of this post), but because that’s a loaded question that really depends on your circumstances. Plus, our answer might very well change once we have kids of our own.
It’s a loaded question because what everyone wants out of a trip to Walt Disney World with their kids differs. For many adults who take their really young children, the experience is not about the memories of the kids, but for the parents. It’s about watching their kid’s face light up as they touch Eeyore for the first time, or it’s about getting that first photo in front of Cinderella Castle. We can say now that we probably wouldn’t want to hassle with taking a 1 year old to Walt Disney World now, but our opinion might very well change once we have a 1 year old of our own, and want those memories of our own.
Our advice here would be not to let other people talk you out of the decision you’ve already made concerning when is right for that first trip. It seems like a lot of parents find themselves thinking that they want to take a trip with their toddler for whatever reason, and then turn to other people, almost as if they want to be talked out of the crazy idea.
In this area of planning, your individual instincts and gut feeling should trump all else. If you want to wait until the kids are old enough to walk, wait. If you want to take them as soon as it’s safe (experts advise that you limit a newborn’s exposure to large groups of people so that they don’t get sick, so they’re the only group we’d rule out definitively as being “not” the right age), more power to you. You know what you want more than I know what you want.
Regardless of when that first trip is, prepare them for it. Build the excitement and help them understand as much about what they’ll see as possible. Jill M. explains this well: “Prep them! As soon you book, start reading Disney stories, watching movies, etc. The Dumbo ride is far cooler after you’ve seen the movie. Meeting Baloo is far more interesting if you’ve seen “The Jungle Book.” Build the anticipation.”
Since this section is more or less, “when to go to Disney World with kids,” we’ll lump time of year in here too. If possible, don’t go when school is out of session (especially if your kids aren’t yet in school). We’re not suggesting that you should pull them out of school, but keep in mind that school holidays are the busiest times to go.
David H. offers a glimpse into the madness: “If you have kids that are, let’s say 10 and under, avoid going at peak crowd times if you can. I was there for Christmas Eve last time and the crowd on Main Street/Hub to see the fireworks was insane. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we were afraid that we would get separated from our kids by the crowd and not be able to get to them again right away. It didn’t happen, but just holding hands wasn’t enough. In commercials, there’s plenty of elbow room and you can happen upon Mickey Mouse standing there with few others around, in reality, it’s a nearly solid snowplow of humanity blindly pressing towards the exits and you will be but a snowflake if you’re not careful.”
Our When to Visit Walt Disney World page offers some good tips on what times of year are good and bad times to visit.
Where to Stay
Where to stay really depends upon personal preference. We have Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews that can give you an idea of what might appeal most to your group. Common advice for families is to stay a hotel that’s not spread out. The cheapest compact hotel is Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, but even the Values aren’t terrible options here if your budget doesn’t allow for one of the really compact Deluxe Resorts like the Contemporary or BoardWalk.
Basically, stay in the most compact hotel in your price tier. This means French Quarter out of the Moderates, Contemporary out of the Deluxes, and All Star Music out of the Values. The advantages are more pronounced at French Quarter and the compact Deluxes than they are at All Star Music–pretty much all of the Values are equal in size.
Ultimately, this is “best case” advice assuming you don’t have a favorite hotel, and also assuming this really matters. If you despise the theme of the Contemporary and love the Grand Floridian, you’re not going to be substantially inconvenienced by the short walks there. Now, if Old Key West is more up your alley, there might be cause for concern. Old Key West has an internal bus route, which means more bus time with the kids every time you want to grab a meal or do anything within the resort. But it also means that you don’t have to walk incredibly long distances, because there’s that internal bus system.
We’ve found that despite the sentiments of adults, a lot of kids love the over-the-top theming of the Value Resorts. Stacey G. echoes this: “My kids LOVED Pop Century! There is a ping pong table, Twister game and a nightly Disney Movie by the main pool.” Jarrett G. agrees: “Port Orleans was amazing, but I think the kids enjoyed POP the most due to over the top theming. The Disney theming is more subtle in moderate and deluxe. Little kids like to see their comforter covered in Disney Characters.”
Another resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, that may be inconvenient for people with kids is often popular with families. Megan A. shares: “We took our son to WDW at age 1 and age 2. We stayed at Animal Kingdom Villas, He loved pointing out the animals. We try to do 2 park days, then a rest day, and then 2 park days and a rest day, so that we’re not going, going, going. We took time to watch animals, do the marshmallow roasting and play in the pool. He now calls it ‘our lodge.'”
Resort pools should also be a consideration, as midday breaks at the pool seem to be popular and well-remembered by kids. See what pool theme appeals most (the best pool by far is Storm-Along Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club) to your kids, and factor that in the decision.
Picking the “right” hotel seems to be one of those “YMMV” things. Different themes will appeal to different families. We receive enough feedback from parents who think the spread out resorts are awful because of how inconvenient they are to navigate with kids, but plenty of others don’t mind the internal buses.
If you’re not sure whether it will matter to you and you’re traveling with young kids, you might consider hedging your bets and going for one of the more compact resorts. Along these same planning lines, many readers recommended not going to the park everyday, but instead spending a day or two to rest and enjoy the hotel. To that end, make sure you read in advance Tips for Saving Money on Disney Tickets post, to determine which Disney tickets are the best for you to purchase.
Where to Eat
Certain restaurants are more fun for kids. Namely, restaurants with cool and kid-friendly themes. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater ranks at the top of this list. I still remember eating here as a kid, although I don’t really remember any other restaurant (besides Hoop De Doo Revue, and that’s only because we went there every year, so something was bound to stick to my memory). Our list of the Best Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World is a great resource for making Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs).
There are some places we don’t recommend dining with kids. We’d try to avoid restaurants that charges a $10/person no-show fee to guarantee an ADR, especially at dinner. This is only charged if you don’t cancel the ADR at least 48 hours in advance. The reason we don’t recommend these restaurants is because you won’t know until the day of if the kids will be good to go for dinner after a long day in the park, and by the time you do know, you either have to cancel and pay the fee, or suck it up and take some potentially cranky kids to dinner to avoid the fee.
In some cases, booking restaurants that charge this fee may seem unavoidable. Popular character restaurants like Chef Mickey’s and Crystal Palace charge this fee, but fortunately, both of these restaurants are open for breakfast, when things are much more predictable with the kids. Doing a character breakfast at Crystal Palace also means getting to enter the Magic Kingdom before guests (if you book a slot in the first hour it’s open–these ADRs are difficult to score), which can be a really special experience for the kids!
Our other recommendation for places that many families should avoid is Signature Restaurants. (There’s a lot of overlap between these restaurants and the $10 fee restaurants, as Signature Restaurants charge the $10 fee.) These restaurants do allow children, and a lot of parents bring their kids to the restaurants. However, they’re upscale restaurants that definitely skew towards adults, with adult ambiance, adult cuisine, and adult prices.
If your kids are often loud or unruly during dinner (or need to be entertained with an iPad or coloring book to behave), it’s probably not the best of ideas to bring them to these restaurants. We mention this because a lot of “for kids” guides written by actual parents try to justify taking any children to these restaurants with the mentality that “it’s Disney World, the place was made for kids, they are okay ANYWHERE.”
Speaking for the adults without kids who form the main clientele of Signature Restaurants: this isn’t true at all. Not only was Walt Disney World not built solely “for kids” (look at old “Vacation Kingdom of the World” advertising showcasing golf, formal dining, and water-skiing), but other restaurant patrons will be irritated by the presence of unruly children during their nice, expensive meal.
Parents with kids might disagree with this, but we feel it’s one of those trade-offs mentioned at the outset. Adults without kids get to enjoy fine dining, parents get to enjoy the glimmer in their child’s eye when they first meet Pluto…parents, you’re still getting the better end of the deal!
Neil B. offers a suggestion for the best of both worlds: “Make certain to get a parents only ADR at a signature restaurant located in a resort that has a child care center.” These child care centers are pretty common in the Deluxe Resorts, and an adult’s date night can be fun for the adults AND the kids. Some of the most fun I had at Walt Disney World as a kid was playing at the Neverland Club at Disney’s Polynesian Resort while my parents went to Pleasure Island.
If your kids are well behaved, by all means take them to any restaurant (besides Victoria & Albert’s, where they flat out are prohibited). It might be an expensive way to feed kids, but there’s not necessarily a problem with taking them.
As for counter service restaurants, most places in Walt Disney World have pretty tame options that will appeal to children. World Showcase in Epcot is a notable exception to this, as is Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. World Showcase should come as no surprise, and parents with picky eaters might want to have lunch at Sunshine Seasons before heading to the World Showcase, but Be Our Guest Restaurant is located in New Fantasyland, so this one catches more people by surprise. Be Our Guest Restaurant is really cool and the kids will love the experience, so if you can convince them to try things slightly outside their comfort zones, here would be the place to try that.
Our final recommendation with dining is to go early to avoid the crowds. We recommend everyone do this, but it’s especially important with kids. Some restaurants get really busy around noon, to the point where it can be difficult to find a table. Juggling the kids and trays of food during these times can be difficult (we’ve seen plenty of families struggle with it), and it’s just much easier when things aren’t so busy. The opening times for restaurants varies, but most start serving lunch at 10:30 am or 11 am.
Check out our Walt Disney World restaurant reviews to read more about particular restaurants.
The salient recommendation here is to not take kids on rides that they’re not ready to experience. For starters, read our Disney Parks Ride Guides that describe, rate, and provide other info for each ride. Beyond that…how can you know whether they’re ready? Well, the best way is to gauge their reactions or what they say when they approach an attraction.
Lots of kids are scared at the prospect of the Haunted Mansion, and just because a Cast Member tells you that it’s mostly comical ghosts doesn’t mean your kids will pick up on that nuance of the attraction. To them it might be the case that a ghost is a ghost is a ghost, and all are equally scary. You may also find they’re scared of things that seem innocuous.
If they are reluctant to go on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, don’t force them. Kids won’t even be able to ride some attractions due to height, something Tonya J. reminds us of: “With small children, they can not ride most of the rides until they are 40-44″ tall.” However, it’s important to remember that height is no guarantee that a child will enjoy an attraction.
It seems like everyday we’re in Walt Disney World, we see parents trying to coax their kids to “be brave” and go on a particular attraction. This probably stems from the mentality that the vacation was expensive, and parents want to get their money’s worth.
If the attraction is going to traumatize the child and make them nervous about experiencing subsequent attractions with which they otherwise wouldn’t have had an issue, what is gained by forcing them to “be brave”? Nothing. Their memories of the trip will form around those negative experiences, and there will be issues for the rest of the day or rest of the trip. So why force it?
The rationale kids have for wanting to do or not wanting to do things perplexes even astronauts (who are supposed to know everything), so there’s no sense trying to rationalize or reason with them about experiencing an attraction. Karin J. offers solid advice in this regard: “Do not take young children on attractions they aren’t ready for. I’ve heard many stories from others who did that and it can ruin the trip, because the child is miserable and then can be fearful of everything afterward. Test them with tamer rides first if young and see what they like and can handle.”
Of course, you know your kids better than a guide written by some stranger who doesn’t know your kids, and there’s always the chance that your kids have initial hesitation but are typically fine once they actually engage in the experience. If you know this to be the case with your kids, disregard the above advice, and encourage them to go on attractions about which they’re nervous. But if you don’t know, and find yourself just pushing them because you want to do as much as possible, rethink the strategy.
As for what attractions are best for kids, that depends on the kid. We’ve seen kids like and dislike just about every attraction at Walt Disney World, and any list you see elsewhere is going to be based on what the list writer’s kids enjoy. Their kids aren’t your kids.
I absolutely loved Country Bear Jamboree as a child (and still love it), but I read parents all the time who call it a snoozer that puts their kids to sleep. While I assume these kids are communists ;), the point stands that what different people and kids enjoy may be shocking. Erin S. illustrates this point with her daughter: “You can’t plan for everything, so be prepared to go with the flow. Who knew my daughter’s fave ride would be the transportation bus?”
To get an idea of what your kids will like in advance, we recommend watching YouTube attraction ride through videos; just search for the attraction name plus “ride through” and you should find plenty of results. You might even watch these with your kids so you can see their reaction to specific attractions (like we said above, they may be scared by things that surprise you and they may like things that you thought would’ve scared them). You should also order a Free Vacation Planning Video from Disney to watch with your kids. Not only will it get them excited for the trip, but it will give them an idea of what to expect (of course, it might create expectations that you’ll then have to fulfill, too…).
It’s also important to remember that, for kids, character meet & greets are an important part of the experience. Doing a character meal can be a great way to see several characters without waiting in line, and while eating in the air conditioning. We highly recommend character meals. If you don’t want to do character meals, indoor meet & greets are typically better options. Megan R. shares: “Waiting in line for the Epcot Character Spot is better than waiting in separate lines (usually in the heat outside) for the main characters, if that’s something your kiddos want.”
Multiple beloved characters are in the Character Spot, and although the line can get long for this meet & greet, it’s still usually shorter than waiting in separate lines elsewhere. Chris T. has a recommendation for meet and greets with which we strongly agree: “Skip the stupid autograph books. If you have an outgoing child who’s not afraid to talk, get them to interact with the characters. They’ll have a lot more fun.”
No matter how much you prep yourself and them, there’s always the possibility (nay, probability) that they’ll surprise you once you visit. To this day I remember being scared senseless by the Universe of Energy as a child and hiding on the floor of the ride vehicle when I saw the dinosaurs…and I loved dinosaurs as a child. This was no fault of my parents, but it made for a bad experience that I still remember. Unpredictable things like this happen, and the best you can do is damage control once they do happen.
Plan of Attack
If you’re like my dad, you teach your children life lessons through maxims and colloquialisms. A popular one is always “the early bird gets the worm.” A trip to Walt Disney World is a great time to really hammer this one home. (Okay, maybe not in the sense that the trip is really the time for teaching them life lessons, but you should follow it on the trip.)
Tackling Walt Disney World with kids is so much easier if you’re up early and to the parks before they open. Ideally, you want to arrive 15-30 minutes before official opening time, and you want to have a plan of attack for at least your early morning. Usually this will involve experiencing several attractions in Fantasyland and New Fantasyland, most of which are quickly experienced and can get long lines later in the day. In these cases, the difference between being to the park at 8:30 am versus 10:30 am can be a 5 minute wait for Peter Pan’s Flight versus a 60 minute wait for Peter Pan’s Flight. The importance of arriving early cannot be understated.
As for specific plans of attack, we have a variety of 1-day itineraries for every park at Walt Disney World (and beyond). For Magic Kingdom, we also have a 2-day itinerary.
Don’t expect to stick to these plans if you have small children. They may become tired, irritated, or they may spontaneously see something they really, really want to do. We’re not suggesting that you should always let kids call the shots, but at Walt Disney World…there are a lot of circumstances where you should let kids call the shots.
If your rabbit-loving kid see White Rabbit and Alice over by the Mad Tea Party, but your plans call for doing Barnstormer, it’s going to be difficult to explain the importance of “efficiency” and skipping Alice and White Rabbit. When you’re with kids, these plans should be a rough outline of the day, not rigid plans of attack.
This was advice multiple parents shared with us, and the recurring theme of this advice was that it’s important to slow down and not over-plan. Jennifer D. puts it rather succinctly: “Be patient and don’t over plan. Younger kids will go at their own pace.” Sharlene M. expands upon this a bit, advising: “The youngest member of your group is always going to determine your touring style. Slow down, take a nap, and keep them on as close to their normal schedule as possible, especially for meals. You will have a better trip and everyone else will too. A melt down is no fun for anyone.”
Beyond arriving early and having a loose plan, you should also utilize Disney’s free FastPass+ system, which allows you to get a ticket to return to an attraction at a later time and bypass most of the line at select attractions. Again, be prepared not to use these if your plans change. There’s no crime in letting a FastPass go to waste. Another similar time-saving option is the Rider Switch Pass (more commonly known as a “Child Swap”), which can be obtained from Cast Members outside attractions with height limits.
This pass allows one parent to stay with the kids who don’t meet the height requirement for an attraction while the other parent (or group of above-height people) waits with the kids. When the riding parent/group is done, the waiting parent/group (up to 3 per pass) can use the pass as a FastPass. Since three people can use the pass, your kids who are tall enough to ride the attraction can conceivably go twice: once in line with the first parent, and the second time by using the pass with the parent who did the watching the first time!
Midday breaks are another popular recommendation, and these are something we advise taking advantage of for both parents and non-parents. The middle of the day is not only the busiest time at the parks, but it’s the hottest, too! A midday break allows you to return for nighttime fun, so definitely leave the park during the middle of the day.
When it comes to a “plan” for preserving memories, Karin J. reminds families that photo time should be early in the day on the plan: “Take pictures early in the day when the kids are happy and not worn out…have a current photo that shows exactly what they’re wearing if you get separated during the day.”
Strollers receive their own section here since so many parents shared advice concerning strollers. We figure if this many people are sharing advice about them, stroller tips must be pretty important. The advice over strollers was pretty divided in some regards, with conflicting opinions even from parents. We are of the opinion that strollers are often a necessity. The parks are huge and small children simply cannot be expected to traverse World Showcase or Animal Kingdom without some assistance. However, for larger children, strollers might be overused. If these children have otherwise hit their limit, should they really be forced to kept going with strollers? Especially when they never use strollers are home?
When you look back at photos of Walt Disney World in the 1970s, 1980s, or even early 1990s as we often do, you notice far (FAR!) fewer strollers scattered all around the parks. This isn’t because more children are visiting now, it’s because a greater segment of children are using strollers. When we’ve visited the Paris and Asia parks, we’ve noticed shockingly lower use of strollers by guests at the international parks.
There are still strollers, but not nearly as many. I assume a big part of this has to do with the active lifestyles of Europeans and Asians as compared to Americans, but that’s just a guess. Anyway, our first piece of advice when advance planning would not be to plan on renting a stroller for older kids, but would instead be to work on increasing their stamina before the trip. Strollers are just as much a hassle as they are a convenience, so why take one if you really don’t need it? Of course, this won’t be practical advice for everyone, and we recognize that.
Reader Rhonda B. agrees: “Have your child walk. We took our children to Disney back in the days when children were not obese, went outside to play, and exercised. They were 2 and 4 years old….now 22 and 24 (currently a cast member). My youngest, age 2, did just fine.”
However, not everyone agrees. “Rent a stroller! Even for your kids that have outgrown them…Something that’s comfortable for the kids, we had an lightweight break and had to call Orlando Stroller Rentals they got us one that day. Amazing. It cost the same as our stroller we bought and it was a double, had lots of room for bag and a big sun shade,” says Jill M.
It’s about a 50/50 split as to whether you should bring a stroller or rent one at Walt Disney World. Megan R. shared this: “TAKE your own stroller! Totally not a hassle in the airport (can be gate checked for free) and so much nicer and cheaper than renting the plastic ones from Disney.” On the other side, some parents recommend renting a stroller because what you’ll want at Walt Disney World might differ from what you’d normally use at home. Again, a YMMV situation.
Regardless of whether you rent or bring your own, the overwhelming recommendation parents shared with us was to use an umbrella stroller. Dawn B. said this: “When my boys were younger, we always brought umbrella strollers (if it reclines for naps, that’s a bonus–not all umbrella’s recline). The umbrella stroller was nice because it folds easily for bus rides to parks and helps save grown ups from carrying little ones from the parking lot into the park.”
Kayla E. shared a few additional tips: “Bring a poncho or rain cover for your stroller…if you’re in a ride or eating when an afternoon rainstorm breaks out, that will help. Tie a scarf, balloon, something identifying on stroller. It will probably be moved from the time you park it to picking it up.” She further added, “think in advance how you’ll ride the bus. If you have two or more kids, a stroller, and a few bags, boarding the bus can be a mess.
Know how to fold the stroller, and if you can, fold it before the bus arrives, not as you’re stepping aboard.” The bus advice is something to consider when deciding which stroller to use in the parks. On the one hand, a Cadillac-sized stroller can be nice to use, but the drawback is transporting it when there aren’t kids in it, which can really be a pain. Weigh the pros and the cons before settling on one stroller.
Enhancing the Fun!
A lot of people look for little ways to make the trip more “magical” for their kids. We’d advise parents not to fret too much about adding more “magic” for the kids, as it seems more likely to put pressure on the adults than to really result in that much of an enhanced experience for the kids. Really, if you’re a kid at Walt Disney World, that’s already about as magical as it gets.
There are ways to make the trip more “interactive” for the kids. Ben H. summarizes some of our favorites: “Hidden Mickey books go over well, too. And prizes to daily winners, if you can afford. The books have different Mickeys at different point values, as do the apps! Disposable cameras are an inexpensive way to let a kid be a photographer without risking their iPod Touch or your iPhone to damage. Zip-top bags are a must for electronics… they’ve saved my butt more than once in a surprise rain storm!”
Buying Disney pins in advance of the trip to trade with Cast Members was another piece of popular advice. Here’s what Bernadette G. had to say: “Pin trading was a huge hit for our three kids (teen through six year old) on our first trip to WDW last year – great for helping shy ones muster up the courage to interact with cast members, etc. I second (third?) buying them in advance on ebay – we doled them out a bit at a time over the vacation to spread out the fun.”
The over-arching advice regarding souvenirs is to always buy before leaving home, as things are much more expensive in the parks. Rosalie gives another example: “Bring your own costumes, never buy them at the parks. Buy your Princess dresses right on or immediately after halloween from Disney.com, they will be on sale, or wait for any of the numerous sales Disney.com has. Never pay full price, if you like it, wait and it will go on sale.”
A recommendation of something that might make the trip a little more special for parents is shared by Darleen L., who writes: “Many people don’t know about the Main Street Barber Shop. It is NOT just there for looks/atmosphere. They do an AMAZING “baby’s first haircut” there! By amazing, I mean, take your tissue and camera!”
Another miscellaneous tip comes from Sara S., who recommends taking a lot of photos (we agree!): “Another tip that was great for our family is take pictures of everything. My husband loves photography and snaps pictures constantly. It’s not uncommon for him to take over 6,000 in a 10 day trip…. He took tons of shots of our kids, but also took lots and lots of pictures of the parks themselves. There are so many details that I missed because I was so busy looking down at our youngest. I was so grateful to have to pictures when I came home, even the ones that were a little out of focus!”
We could keep going and going with tips, as lots of great ones were shared, but we fear this article is already bordering on information overload. If you still have unanswered questions, feel free to post them below! If you want perspective from actual parents, consider visiting the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel. If you need personalized help with planning any aspect of your vacation—we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so none of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
We’ll close out this article with perhaps the best piece of advice and something that’s always worth remembering from reader Anthony G., who writes, “BE A KID TOO! All the prep tips are awesome. But enjoying Disney with your kids as a kid is the best part of going to Disney with Kids!”
We agree. A trip to Walt Disney World with kids can seem overwhelming and it might sound like a lot can go wrong…but way more can go right than can go wrong. Roll with the punches and remember to lighten up and have fun!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Now that you’ve heard from two people without kids, let’s hear from people who actually have kids. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
There is a wonderful program Disney offers for children with cognitive disabilities called
Disability Access Service Card
The Disability Access Service, “DAS” Card, is intended for Guests whose disability prevents them from waiting in a conventional queue environment. This service allows Guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current queue wait for the given attraction. Once a return time is issued, Guests are free to enjoy other theme park offerings such as meeting a character, grabbing a bite to eat, enjoying entertainment or even visiting another attraction until their listed return time. Return times are valid until redeemed prior to park closing.
Guests may only have one active return time. As soon as an outstanding attraction return time is redeemed, Guests may receive a return time for the same or a different attraction.
This service can be used in addition to Disney FASTPASSÂ® Service and Disney FastPass+ service.
I think this is worth mentioning in your post.
Also please let us not judge each other on the stroller issue. My son is 8yrs old and has cognitive issues and a stroller is a must for us in Disney. It gives him a place to have a break when he is feeling overwhelmed. It is the only time he uses a stroller but it’s a must for us! He is not lazy or over weight. He looks totally “average/normal” so you never know what the case by case issue is and we should not judge one another!
These are my 2 cents for dining with kids. I took my then 4 year old daughter to WDW in November, and we stayed at BLT. I treated my parents and splurged for a 2 bedroom (I rented DVC points). We ate at California Grille twice that week, and it worked beautifully. First of all, California Grille is noisy. Yes, there were a lot of adults, but there were quite a few large groups of adults. My daughter, at that time, was in a high chair and did not run too often. She also liked steak, and she enjoyed the children’s menu filet. We were on the DDP meal plan, too. So, Cali Grille provided bang for our buck because the adults are sushi lovers. The biggest problem we encountered was waiting for a table once we checked in (long waits are common).
We ate at Jiko with less success, because it is a quieter, fine dining restaurant. I think that parents and grandparents of children should be able to gauge what their children are capable of. We also ate at Hollywood Brown Derby, which is very quiet. But, that was a better experience because the food at other DHS restaurants just did not appeal to us.
Also, I know many parents who expose their kids to fine dining at an early age. I had friends whose kids are adventurous eaters who would eat kalamata olives and raw oysters.
ã‚«ãƒ«ãƒ†ã‚£ã‚¨ã‚«ãƒ«ãƒ†ã‚£ã‚¨cléãƒ€ã‚¦ãƒ³ã‚¹ãƒãƒ¼ãƒ—ã‚’åŽšã„å´ã‚’æŒã¤ã¨çªèµ·ã¨ãªã£ã¦ãƒˆãƒŽãƒ¼ã‚¹ã‚¿ã‚¤ãƒ«ã‹ã‚‰æ¥ã¦ã„ã‚‹ã“ã¨ã«ã‚ã‚‹ã€Œãƒ¬ãƒˆãƒãƒã‚¹ã€ãŒã‚ã‚Šã¾ã™ã€‚ã“ã®æ™‚è¨ˆã¯ã¡ã‚‡ã†ã©å°‘ã—ãã‚Œã‚ˆã‚Šå¤§ãã„ã¨ã„ã†æ„å‘³ã§ä½œæˆã™ã‚‹ã¨ã€å¹…40 mmï¼ˆæœ€å¤§ã®ï¼‰ã«ã€ç§ã¯ãã‚Œã«ãƒãƒ³ã‚µãƒ ãªç”·æ€§ã®ãƒ¢ãƒ‡ãƒ«ã‚’ä½œã‚‹ã¨æ€ã„ã¾ã™ã€‚ã‚ªãƒ¡ã‚¬ ã‚¹ãƒ¼ãƒ‘ãƒ¼ã‚³ãƒ”ãƒ¼ç§ã¯ã€ã©ã®ã‚ˆã†ã«å¿«é©ãªcléæ‰‹é¦–ã«èª‡å¼µã™ã‚‹ã“ã¨ã¯ã§ãã¾ã›ã‚“ã€‚ã“ã‚Œã¯ã€ä½Žåº§ã£ã¦æ™‚è¨ˆã‚’æ‰‹é¦–ã«å¿ƒåœ°ã‚ˆãã•ã›ã‚‹å ´åˆã®æ›²çŽ‡ã«èµ·å› ã™ã‚‹ã€‚ http://www.brandiwc.com/brand-super-11-copy-0.html
ã€Œå°ã•ã„ã“ã‚ã‹ã‚‰èŠ¸è¡“ã®è–«é™¶ã‚’å—ã‘ã€è¨“ç·´ã®ã‚°ãƒãƒªã‚¢-ã‚¤ãƒƒãƒ—ã€è¿‘å¹´ã€èŠ¸è¡“ç•Œã‚„ãƒ‡ã‚¶ã‚¤ãƒ³ç•Œä½œå…¨æ–¹ä½ã®ç™ºå±•ã€å‰µä½œç¯„å›²ãŒåºƒãã€ä¸ã«ã¯é™¶èŠ¸ã€çµµç”»ã€è£½å“è¨è¨ˆã€åŒ…è£…è¨è¨ˆãªã©ã®ç•°ãªã‚‹é ˜åŸŸã€‚åœ°å…ƒã®èŠ¸è¡“ã¨ã—ã¦ã®ãƒ‡ã‚¶ã‚¤ãƒ³ç•Œã®æ´»èºã®åˆ†åã€åŠã³é¦™æ¸¯ç²˜åœŸã®èŠ¸è¡“å¦é™¢ã®å‰µå§‹è€…ã®ä¸€ã¤ã§ã€ã•ã¾ã–ã¾ãªã‚¢ã‚¤ãƒ‡ã‚¢ã®é–‹ä¼šã‚°ãƒãƒªã‚¢-ã‚¤ãƒƒãƒ—ã‚‚æ•™æŽˆèŠ¸è¡“ã‚³ãƒ¼ã‚¹ã€åŠã³ã€å¤šãæœ¬èŠ¸è¡“ã‚„æ‰‹èŠ¸ã®æ•™è‚²ã®æœ¬ã€‚ã‚°ãƒãƒªã‚¢-ã‚¤ãƒƒãƒ—ã®å‰µä½œåºƒãèªã‚ã¦ã€ã‹ã¤ã¦ç²å¾—ã—å¤šãã®èŠ¸è¡“è³žã‚’ä¸»å‚¬20åº¦ã‚’è¶…ãˆã‚‹ä½œå“å±•å±•é–‹ã‚’ååˆ†ã«ç™ºæ®ã™ã‚‹å½¼å¥³ã®èŠ¸è¡“ã¨è¨è¨ˆã®æƒ…ç†±ã¨ç´ è³ªã€‚ã‚«ãƒ«ãƒ†ã‚£ã‚¨ã‚³ãƒ”ãƒ¼æ™‚è¨ˆæœ€è¿‘ã§ã¯ã€æœ‰åãªè…•æ™‚è¨ˆãƒ–ãƒ©ãƒ³ãƒ‰ã‚’å‹™ã‚ã‚‹ã‚°ãƒãƒªã‚¢-ã‚¤ãƒƒãƒ—æ‹›ã‹ã‚Œã‚¹ã‚¤ã‚¹ãƒ†ã‚£ã‚½é–‹å‚¬ã€ã€Œæ—…ã€ã‚’ãƒ†ãƒ¼ãƒžã«ã—ãŸã€Œï¼‘ï¼–ï¼é€±å¹´çŽ¯å®‡æ¼«éŠã€è¨è¨ˆè©¦åˆåˆ‡æ‰‹ã®å¯©åˆ¤ã§ã€ä¸€æ–¹ã€ã‚°ãƒãƒªã‚¢-ã‚¤ãƒƒãƒ—ã‚‚æ‹›ã‹ã‚Œã¦ã¯ã‚¤ãƒ™ãƒ³ãƒˆãƒ‡ã‚¶ã‚¤ãƒ³1é …ã®åˆ‡æ‰‹ã€‚ã‚¹ã‚¤ã‚¹ãƒ†ã‚£ã‚½è¡¨ã®åŽšæƒ…ã«èª˜ã‚ã‚Œã¦ã€ä»¤æ„›ã™ã‚‹æ—…è¡Œã®å½¼å¥³ãŒã„ã‚‹ã¨ã¨ã¦ã‚‚èˆˆå¥®ã€‚ http://www.gginza.com/%E6%99%82%E8%A8%88/%E3%83%AD%E3%83%AC%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF%E3%82%B9/day-date/f640a24e7f9f7a5a.html
1929å¹´ã‚¢ãƒ¡ãƒªã‚«æ ªå¼å¸‚å ´ã®å¤§æš´è½ã—ã€ãã®å½±éŸ¿ã‚’å—ã‘ã¦ã€è‡ªå‹•è»Šè£½å“ã®è²©å£²é‡ã‚’å¢—ã‚„ã™ãŸã‚ã€ã‚¢ãƒ¡ãƒªã‚«ç™ºèµ·ã—ãŸé‹å‹•å ´ã®æŠ€è¡“é€²æ©ã¨ã—ã¦ã€æ©Ÿèƒ½ãŒç¾Žå¦ã•ã»ã©é‡è¦ã§ãªã„ã€‚ãƒãƒ¥ãƒ¼ãƒ‰ãƒ«ã‚¹ãƒ¼ãƒ‘ãƒ¼ã‚³ãƒ”ãƒ¼ã“ã®é‹å‹•ã®å¾Œã«å¯¾ã—ã¦ã‚¿ãƒ–ç•ŒçŸ³è‹±å±æ©Ÿã«å‰µå¾Œæ²åœŸé‡æ¥ã‚’ç”Ÿã˜ãŸå•“ç™ºã‚’å—ã‘ã€çŸ³è‹±å±æ©Ÿå¾Œã®ã‚¿ãƒ–å•†ã‚ˆã‚Šé‡è¦–æ©Ÿæ¢°æ™‚è¨ˆã¯ãƒ‡ã‚¶ã‚¤ãƒ³ã€‚ã“ã®å‚¾å‘ã¯ã€90å¹´ä»£æœ«ã¨21ä¸–ç´€åˆé ã®è…•æ™‚è¨ˆã®ä½œå“ã®ä¸ã§ç¾ã‚Œã¦ã€‚ http://www.ooowatch.com/tokei/hermes
Le risque de se peser tous les jours est d’être frustrée de ne pas constater de perte de poids flagrante et donc de se mettre Á
grignoter pour soulager cette contrariété.
I have to hand it to you guys, as someone with 2 littles (2 & 4), this was an excellent guide for planning! It really helped me re-think our upcoming WDW trip from a realistic/fun perspective. Although regarding strollers I have to say – we took our double to our last Disneyland trip and it served as an excellent bed for our kids after they conked out at night. My husband and I were able to amble around the park for another 2 hours in peace, and enjoy the fireworks show, without having to shoulder 30+ extra pounds.
Overall great article, especially considering you don’t have children of your own to take with you.
I do have to say, I went to Disney a lot as a childless adult and I thought I knew what to do with kids when I went. Turns out I was dead wrong on a lot of things. I will be interested to see what here changes once you have your little ones. You have to do an edit of this post once you do.
As an aside on the restaurants. I agree you shouldn’t take kids to “nicer” restaurants that you are not willing to discipline and make behave (I actually extend this to all restaurants, if you’re not gonna take the time to teach your kid how to behave, don’t go). That said, Disney is a GREAT place to teach kids good table manners at nicer restaurants. Regardless of how much you try, sometimes even the best behaved kid has a meltdown and was you’re walking out of the restaurant with your screaming kid to spare your fellow diners and the poor kid whose just had enough, you will get MUCH less angry looks at Disney World than at the local fancy restaurant.
Hello! My husband and I just got back last month from our first trip to Disney World with our 10 year old, 7 year old, 2 year old, and infant (3 months). Here are a few tips I thought I’d share!
– Bring along comfortable shoes! Even new shoes that are slightly worn in can cause blisters if your children aren’t used to walking in them all day. Also have a small supply of bandaids on hand just in case you need them for sore feet
– STROLLERS – At WDW, for a lot of the attractions, there is a spot designated for stroller parking. When you leave your stroller there, don’t panic if when you come back, it’s moved. The park employees will move the strollers as some leave and more come in. This can be a royal pain if you have the same Graco double stroller as 50 other people, so try to put something on your stroller to distinguish it (neon tulle tied on it or something) or it can take a lot of time to find it again!
– You can bring back packs with lunch boxes in them to keep items like small juice boxes cold. Also, you can pack a small lunch in your back packs for time at Magic Kingdom so you don’t have to spend $$ on lunch. At all 3 of the other parks, you can walk out to your car but it takes much more time at MK since you have to take transportation via monorail or ferry to get to your parking area so bring your lunch or snacks with you at MK.
Very helpful post when parents going disney world with their kids,this blog will help you dealing with some issues which occured.
Very good post. I will be dealing with some of these issues as well..
With all the early solid planning I’ve done for our trips, there have been so many changes to our schedule; too many to name lol.
Some of our fondest memories: my son’s first of many visits began at 4. I have so many pictures of him laughing and playing with cast members. One late night waiting for a parade, cast members brought out jump ropes, chalk, and other games. He had a blast while they played with the kiddos while we waited. During special events the cast members often have stations set up with activities and would play with him. He enjoys playing spooky hopscotch with others more than going on a ride another time just because there are little to no lines. At 4 he already knew he liked Japanese, French, and British fares. He understood the process of making paper as well as the importance of recycling and living green. Over the years we have been collecting books with fairy tales from all over the world. Just looking at child development, the exposure has been a significant advantage for him. Cultural knowledge, tolerance, empathy, manners, and curiosity brought to him through WDW is priceless.
One more…having a stroller when he was even 8 was so wonderful when at the food and wine festival, he conked out early. I was able to have me time walking around sampling amazing foods and have a glass of wine all the while knowing my son was safely with me.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be there for a couple of weeks, don’t try to pack everything you want to do (or you want them to experience) into that one first trip. It’s tempting because it is that ‘trip of a lifetime’ vibe, but exhausted, burned out kids do not happy memories make. Ours were 9 and 8 when we first went and they were wiped out after several intense days, so remember to make room for downtime too, be it naps, pool time, or enjoying one of the resorts beach facilities.
Don’t feel downheartened if their favourite ride is the monorail, and don’t guilt trip a child into going on a ride he’s not sure about (meaning don’t point out a younger kid and say ‘ see? she’s not scared to ride’. Even tamer things like the PeopleMover can throw kids that don’t like the dark for a loop when it runs through Space Mountain.
As the comment above mentions, hydration is absolutely key. If your kids aren’t keen on plain water then bring along some of those flavoring sachets to mix in, at the very least then you have a ready alternative handy to the ever present sodas that they will no doubt clamour for otherwise.
If your child has a meltdown and is too tired / exhausted / crabby to make staying in the Magic Kingdom a pleasure yet you don’t want to stray too far away, a few loops on the Monorail can work wonders, or a boat ride across to Fort Wilderness, perhaps to see the horses and animals there makes a relaxing break.
Great tips all around, but I especially like the one about a few loops on the monorail. Sort of like the idea of driving around a sleeping child! 🙂
Just a tip from our trips with kids. Give yourself plenty of time. I know it’s expensive but if you’ve only got a couple of days the time constraints put pressure on you to do too much. That’s when it goes wrong. Accept that you’re not going to be able to do everything and leave some things for next time. A more leisurely pace will be much more enjoyable and allow you to really explore the Disney details that actually create those magical memories.
Feed and water your kids. At the parks it’s really easy to become distracted running here, there and everywhere and forget to eat regularly to keep your energy levels up. Take some snacks in your bag and eat them in lines, while watching shows etc. the Florida heat dehydrates so quickly too so make sure there are plenty of water bottles around.
children can be very different even within the family. our oldest son rode Toads wild ride at 5-was scared of it. Our second son rode the same ride at 2 and loved it. At 3 his favorite ride is the haunted mansion (because he can be like Scooby doo exploring-which he likes). You do want to prepare your children for what they will see. we watch Disney movies before the trip-so that they can re-associate with the different movies and rides based on the movie. It makes them want to experience the ride for themselves.
when we went into the haunted mansion with our 3 year old-I offered him some Scooby snacks before we went in. While in the ride he kept saying, “there just people trying to scare us”. he is not afraid on any of the rides at the park.
Hi, loved your blog! We are planning our trip to disney, and im looking forward to see my 3 year old living the magic for the first time! You gave exellent tips!
I believe we really have to know our children, and remember that what is scary for some might be silly for others. My child for example, would preffer a ride in the haunted mansion than meeting the living characters. They really really scare her… Altough I know she will miss out a very fun part of the disney experience, I cant force her to meet them… But I know she will love the rides, hope she grows a bit more untill the trip, so she can go in most of them!!!
“We really have to know our children…” <- Truer words were never spoken (or written). Great advice!
I just wanted to thank you for the thorough, intelligent, and generous advice you have given people traveling to Disney World. We just took our kids, ages 12, 10, 6, 3, and 8 months, and we had an awesome time, thanks in great part to the wealth of knowledge you published on your site.
I wrote my own little post about visiting the Magic Kingdom with kids of varying ages, called 11 Tips for a Short & Sweet Disney World Trip: http://www.frugal-mama.com/2014/05/11-tips-for-a-short-sweet-disney-world-trip/
Thank you again for sharing your insights and experience.
All the best,
My two cents is a personal story! My parents took my younger brother to WDW in 1988. I was almost 10 and my brother 8. This was before MGM (whoops, I mean Hollywood Studios!)even existed! I remember many things about that trip, from being bored in Epcot and loving the Hoop-dee-do revue. What I remember most and the story that is always told is how I sobbed into my dad’s chest during our ride in through the Haunted Mansion. I still remember the feeling of being petrified. I wasn’t able to ride it again till I was 22 and while I have been on quite a few times since, at 35 years old it still takes a little coaxing and still scares the heck out of me! Don’t force your kids into doing anything they aren’t comfortable with! For the record, I do not hold it against my parents even though I’ll bust their chops for it.
My son is turning 3 in a couple months and has about 40 Disney Days of experience already (we lived close to DL Park for the first 2 yrs of his life). There were several half day trips we took when I would leave his stroller behind because he’s able to walk 2-3 miles, no problem.
HOWEVER – I cannot stress this enough – if you are planning on being in the park all day or park hopping, please bring a stroller for your child. You can easily walk 8-10 miles in a full day at WDW, and there is no way that a child will do that without having a meltdown. Often, I’ll bring our umbrella stroller and use it for getting in between lands, parking it along the way. That brings up another point that I haven’t seen mentioned yet – don’t leave anything in your stroller that you can’t live without, and if possible, use the cheapest stroller you can afford to “lose”. Theft happens way too frequently at Disney. Yes, even at the happiest place on earth, your personal belongings can go missing and security won’t/can’t do much about it.