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Are you considering a Walt Disney World vacation, but wondering if your kids are too young (or too old)?
Obviously there’s no magical answer to when to take you kids to Disney World. Some of the factors to take into consideration are how many kids you have, how spaced out they are, what your school schedule is like, how much money you have, and whether or not you’ll be able to take another Disney trip within the next 4-5 years.
After reading this post, you’ll know some of the pros and cons of a Disney vacation with each age group and what our experiences have been over the years.
Babies (age 0 – 18 months)
I have never taken a baby to Disney World, and frankly, would not really want to.
Between worrying about nursing and bottles and diapers and changing stations and the intense heat and naps (one of my babies would not sleep in a stroller at one point … it makes me tired just thinking about it.
Certainly many families have gone to Disney World with babies and
survived had a great time. (And if you had, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.) So it most certainly can be done.
But if you’re considering going to Disney World with a baby, I would highly recommend waiting a couple years if at all possible.
Toddlers & Preschoolers (age 18 months – 5 years)
On our very first Disney trip, my son didn’t exist yet and my daughters were two and a half and four and a half years old and both out of diapers.
If you can go when your youngest is two and a half and fully potty trained, I say do it.
Your youngest will get in completely free (because they’re under 3 years old), and your older kids will most likely still be at the “child” (ages 3-9) price.
The nice thing about going to Disney World at this age is that everything makes them happy.
It wouldn’t have occurred to them to complain or feel disappointed because we were staying off-site. (They happily called the condo “The Disney House.”) They couldn’t care less that we ate sandwiches for lunch and had dinner at Perkins Pancake House near our condo instead of having any character meals. They weren’t the least bit disappointed that we skipped the parks altogether one day.
In fact, later I asked my four year old what her favorite part of the trip was, and she said it was going to the pool.
So going to Disney World can actually be fairly cheap at this age.
The downsides, of course, are:
- They don’t remember many details from the trip (which never particularly bothered me; we have photos and our memories of the trip that we share with them)
- The kids are more high-maintenance and wear out more quickly. (We were lucky to have my parents join us on the trip, which made it less exhausting.)
- They can’t go on a lot of rides, so if you’re like me and into the thrill rides, you’re going to either forego them or use baby swap. (Again, having grandparents with us was helpful.)
Elementary age (6-9 years old)
This is probably the sweet spot, depending on how many kids your have and how spaced out they are.
The kids are old enough to know what’s going on and and be a bit more self-sufficient, but young enough to enjoy it in a child-like way. They’re less likely to be scared by things and more likely to be tall enough (and brave enough) to ride the roller coasters.
Plus they still get the child prices until they’re 9 years old.
So if you wanted me to give you the perfect age, I would say to go right before your oldest child turns 10.
Now one big issue that comes up at this age is:
Should we take our kids out of school for a Disney World vacation?
Fortunately, we never had to address this. My kids were homeschooled for many years, once the oldest started going to public school, we went to Disney during our district’s week long “fall break” in September.
If you’re debating whether or not to take a Disney vacation during the school year, the first thing you need to do is check the school’s policies on absences and make-up work.
I’ve heard of anything from family vacations automatically being excused absences, to having to write a letter to the principal explaining the educational value of the trip, to getting angry phone calls from the school threatening to report the parents for truancy.
So first make sure you know what you’re dealing with.
Personally (and I’m a teacher myself), I don’t really have a big problem with the idea of kids missing a few days of school, as long as the kid is a good student and is responsible in making up what they missed. Definitely let your teachers know well ahead of time and be very gracious and respectful about it, since them having to adjust for you adds a bit to their already-full plate.
It’s also a good idea to ask your kids how they fell about missing school. Believe it or not, this can be an issue for some kids, especially if the class is doing something special that week.
Tweens (ages 10-13 years old)
One of the best Disney trips I ever took was when I went with just my two girls when they were 12 and 14.
Part of it was because it was just the three of us, which made it easier than having to deal with five different people’s preferences.
But part of it was because that age was so easy compared to earlier years. They didn’t need me to go with them to the bathroom or the buffet. They weren’t sobbing on the Disney bus on the way back to the resort after a long day at the park. We didn’t have to deal with people being too scared for this or too short for that. And the girls were much more involved in planning the trip and researching and choosing the restaurants, which was a lot of fun.
It was a really good trip.
Now having that said that, this is an age where taking your kids out of school gets more tricky, not only because of missed work, but also because of extra-curricular activities, play rehearsals, sports practice, etc.
Teenager/High School Age
Unfortunately, our next trip was not so pleasant. In fact, I almost would go so far as to call it a “mistake.”
For this trip, our kids were 13, 15, and 17. We booked the trip several months in advance, thinking it had a been a while since the whole family had gone.
About a month before the trip we discovered that not only did one kid adamantly not want to go at all, but also the kid who used to be obsessed with Disney couldn’t care less anymore, said they’d rather stay home and hang out with their friends, and begrudgingly went along.
During the trip were texting their friends constantly and were more interested in finding a Starbucks (again) than going on a ride or, God forbid, getting a photo taken with me. Nobody wanted to see any characters. One kid made the comment that they didn’t understand why anyone over the age of 10 would like this place. Another kid chose to stay in the hotel and watch a movie one evening.
I was hurt and disappointed, and I reacted by getting mad at them.
Still, there were some bright moments. I caught the kid who really didn’t want to there saying, “I love this ride” when we were on Splash Mountain. We all had a fun dinner together at Wolfgang Puck in Disney Springs one evening. They really liked both Test Track and Dinosaur. Everyone loved the food at Ohana (although the kids all quickly left in embarrassment when I went to join in with the hula dancing lesson.)
I know that plenty of families go to Disney World with their teenagers and (at least appear to) have a good time, so don’t necessarily be scared off by our experience.
But unless your teens are specifically begging to go to Disney World, I would recommend that you find some new vacation destinations for a while.
What do you think is the best age for Disney World?
Now it’s your turn. Do you think there is a “best” age? Have you ever taken a baby to Disney World, and what was that like? Did you ever go to Disney World with teenagers, and was your experience better than mine?
Let us know below in the comments!
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As you know, taking your family to Disney World — especially for the first time — isn’t something you decide to do and then show up and wander in when the date comes.
There’s a lot to learn.
To quickly get you ahead of the curve, I put together a list of things that it took us a couple trips to get it right, so you won’t make the same mistakes.
It’s probably going to rain, perhaps with little warning.
Especially during Disney’s rainy season (July-September), rain can appear hard and fast out of nowhere. On one trip, we got completely drenched right as the park was closing. On another trip, we paid a fortune of Disney ponchos because we didn’t want to get drenched.
Now I always keep a few of these disposable ponchos in my park bag. (I also like to wear one on Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom when I’m not in the mood to get soaked.)
And umbrellas are also allowed at Disney World, if you prefer them instead of (or in addition to) ponchos.
What Disney World Rides Close in the Rain
Good shoes are critical.
The first couple times we went to Disney World, we just thought, “Okay, everybody pack your sneakers,” and that was the only thought we gave to shoes.
And everybody ended up with sore feet by the end of the day.
These are the shoes I’ve worn for the past 4-5 Disney trips.
And this shoe is the most popular one among my readers. (It’s actually prettier and cheaper than the ones I wear, but unfortunately I couldn’t get my feet to like them.)
Cooling Towels Really Help.
It wasn’t until about our third or fourth trip that I brought some Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towels, and yes, they really make a difference:
- They cool you down just enough so you don’t feel fatigued from the heat
- They protect your neck, back, and shoulders from the sun.
Incidentally, on one trip we bought a cooling towel at the park and did not find that brand to be effective as the Frogg Toggs.
What are the Best Cooling Towels for Disney World?
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is invaluable (and funny)
Yes, blogs are helpful, but for a topic as broad as Disney World, I still like to have a book in my hand that I can easily refer to.
The Unofficial Guide to Disney World is by far my favorite book about planning a Disney vacation. It isn’t afraid to share the negative as well as the positive, and it also offers opinions from readers (which are sometimes hilarious).
Don’t be afraid of the book’s huge size. You’re not going to sit down and read it from the beginning; you’ll just flip to the chapters and sections you need when you need them.
Oh, and one more thing: This is one time that you don’t want to get the Kindle version.
You can eat at resort restaurants even if you’re not staying at that resort.
I guess I knew that, but it took me while to really broaden my options when we made dining reservations.
Some people may argue that heading to a resort to eat wastes valuable time, but I guess it just depends on what’s important to you. We always enjoy one “relaxed day” where we sleep in a little, spend more time at the pool, and don’t go full-force at the parks, and this is when a resort meal can really be treat.
The other nice thing about eating at the resorts is that you can spend some time enjoying the resort itself, even though you may not have the gobs of money required to actually stay there.
Regardless of your dining choices, I would highly recommend you take the monorail (or walk!) from the Magic Kingdom to visit the Grand Floridian Resort at some point.
It has a beautiful lobby, often featuring live music, and the soap store, Basin White, is a lot of fun if you like things like bath bombs and scented soaps and lotions.
It takes forever to get to the Magic Kingdom.
You could say that it takes forever to get anywhere, but Magic Kingdom is especially bad, because you have to park in the Transportation & Ticket Center, then ride the little tram thing across the parking lot (since it’s huge), and then take the monorail.
Oh yeah, and then don’t forget having to go through security.
Speaking of taking forever: While the Disney buses are convenient, they’re not fast. Between making multiple stops at your resort and sometimes running late, it literally can faster to stay off-site and just drive in yourself.
All that to say: Make sure you always allow plenty of time to get where you’re going. And then maybe add another 20 minutes to that.
Meeting Disney Characters is more fun if you play the game.
I’m really sorry to say that during our first few trips, our character meet and greets consisted of us just standing there, smiling, and then getting a photo.
It was fine and I always enjoyed it, but it felt more like something we were doing for the kids’ sake.
Over the years something dawned on me: the Disney characters are very skilled actors doing an improv show for us.
And once I realized that, I started having a lot more fun with the characters.
- I started joking around with them and asking questions.
- I adopted the same pose at the character.
- I asked Magician Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater if he could do a magic trick for us.
- I told Timon that I loved seeing him on Broadway.
- I told Cinderella’s stepmother that I was really sorry her daughters couldn’t join us at 1900 Park Fare that day. (She grimaced and said, “Really? I’m not. I could use the peace and quiet.”)
So have fun with it. Interact with the characters as much as possible. I’m sure that makes it more enjoyable for them too.
Funny Things to Say to Disney Characters
It can get cold during the winter months.
When you think of going to Disney World, the last thing on your mind is how to stay warm.
But yes, it can be cool — and even uncomfortably cold — in winter, especially in the evenings.
The photo above was taken in November. Notice how we’re all wearing jackets (and I have on my oh-so-fashionable socks with my sandals.) By the time it got dark that evening, we were cold. We got a great spot to watch the fireworks that night because the park was relatively empty.
So it’s important to be prepared. Make sure you bring at least a jacket, and probably even a hat and gloves.
What to Wear to Disney World During the Winter
Disney Pin Trading is fun and [can be] cheap.
One of my daughters got really into pin trading one a couple of our trips, and it added a nice extra touch without spending much money.
We bought a set of pins like this one and, everywhere she went, she would stop and look at pin trading boards or pins that a cast member was wearing.
It was like shopping during your entire trip without spending any money — plus I enjoyed the chats we had with all the cast members.
Are Disney scrapper pins fake?
Arriving at the park before rope drop makes a big difference.
It’s not enough to arrive at the parks when they open. You need to arrive 30-60 minutes before they open (especially for the Magic Kingdom).
Those first 30 minutes really make a difference in how long the lines are, and being there at rope drop, ready to make a beeline for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is going to allow you to have a much shorter wait than if you come strolling onto Main Street ta 9:15am.
Plus the Opening Ceremony is a lot of fun.
Video — Magic Kingdom Opening Ceremony (Rope Drop)
You can have stuff shipped directly to your hotel.
A few years ago, Rob (my husband) and Ben (my son) decided that my Very Old Phone just wasn’t going to cut it for this trip, and that I should upgrade to at least just an Old Phone.
While on line for
the golf ball Spaceship Earth one morning, the two of them got on Amazon, did some research, and ordered me a refurbished iphone (yes, I’m an Apple girl), which I picked up at our hotel lobby less then 48 hours later.
Ordering things ahead of time to be delivered to your room is especially great if you’re going to Disney World with toddlers.
Glow sticks should be on your packing list.
There’s just no excuse for not bringing glow sticks to Disney World. They don’t take up much space and they’re ridiculously cheap, especially if you buy them at the Dollar Store.
When it gets dark at the parks, you (and/or your kids) are going to see other people with glow toys and want some for yourself.
But you’re NOT going to want to spend $15 on them.
So do yourself a favor and buy them before your trip and throw a bunch into your park bag.
Also: I recommend bringing 5-10 extra glow sticks to the park (again, they’re super cheap) and passing them out to glow stick-less families nearby. It’s an easy way to make a kid happy.
Disney Glow Sticks & Light Up Toys
You can get great photos with PhotoPass — without spending money.
Ugh … this is the one I regret the most. For years I totally ignored the PhotoPass photographers, thinking we didn’t need to spend any extra money on photos, we’d just take our own.
Now that my kids are older and I look back and see how few photos there are of the entire family, and how few “spontaneous shots” there are of meeting characters … yeah, I wish I had sprung for a few photos.
But it turns out that we didn’t have to spend any money at all.
We could have just handed our phone or camera to the PhotoPass photographer and they would have gotten a bunch of great shots for us.
So don’t make my mistake! Be sure to use those photographers, whether you spend money for it or not.
What do YOU wish you knew before your Disney World trip?
Now it’s your turn. Do you agree or disagree with this article? What things do you wish you’d known sooner? Let us know below in the comments!
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There are all kinds of things you need to do to prepare for a Disney World vacation, from making a packing list, booking a hotel, getting restaurant reservations, and finding out where to find your favorite characters.
But there’s one thing you need to prepare for that’s easy to forget …
All that walking!
After reading this post, you’ll know
- Why it’s important to prepare for walking at Disney World
- What you should do
- How to make training more fun and get the kids involved
- How to take care of your hard-working feet while at the parks
How many miles a day do you walk at Disney World?
Most sources say that you’ll walk a bare minimum of 7-8 miles per day at Disney World, and that some people walk as many as 10 miles a day.
That’s a lot of walking.
Which Disney Park has the Most Walking?
According to Disney Trippers, Here’s the rough mileage for walking around each of the Disney parks:
- Magic Kingdom — 2.2 miles
- EPCOT loop around World Showcase Lagoon — 2.8 miles
- Hollywood Studios — 1.40 miles
- Animal Kingdom — 2.3 miles
So … yeah, Epcot is where you’re probably going to walk the most. (Just circling around the World Showcase Lagoon is 1.2 miles.)
There’s really two slightly different concerns you need to prepare for:
- Physical stamina
- Sore feet
Let’s cover each of those separately …
Training for Disney World Walking
Let’s face it; a lot of us don’t exercise regularly — and even if we do, we certainly don’t walk 8+ miles per day.
So if you don’t want to sore and exhausted during your trip, you’re going to want to prepare for all that walking.
There’s no officially correct way to do this, but here are a few suggestions to get you inspired and give you a good starting point..
First of all, I suggest you start walking regularly at least 2 month before your vacation.
If you don’t normally exercise much, start slowly — maybe even just 10-15 minutes a few times a week. Consider adding 5 minutes to your walks every week until you hit a full hour of walking.
Make it more interesting by tracking your walks on a Disney countdown calendar, walking together as a family, and/or walking while listening to a Disney playlist.
Don’t forget that there are other ways to build your stamina besides walking. If you prefer something like swimming or bike riding, then by all means do that instead — or maybe mix it up with walking.
And don’t forget to stretch. I don’t mean just after your walk or bike ride (although you should do that too), but use this time before your vacation to build your flexibility in general.
Because not only do you have to walk a lot at Disney World, but you also have to stand a lot, which is a different kind of stress for your body. The less tight your muscles are, the less you’ll have to worry about low back and other muscle pain at the end of a day at the parks.
I’m a big yoga fan, and I particularly love this YouTube channel.
The instructor is encouraging and funny, and there’s a huge amount of variety in the workouts. Some are are 6 minutes long and others are almost a full hour. Some focus more on relaxation on meditation, and others do a bunch of side planks and make you feel like you’re going to die.
Even if you’re not into yoga, I highly recommend spending five minutes doing “legs up the wall” in your hotel room every day during your trip.
Legs Up the Wall (after a day of walking at Disney World)
Speaking of exercise videos on YouTube, if you have a treadmill, you can watch this video, which takes you on a 21-minute virtual walk through Magic Kingdom.
Treadmill Series: Magic Kingdom
Get Moving with Disney Family — The Incredibles
We all know that exercise is a great stress reducer, so this can be a great side benefit. Whether you’ve had a rough day at work, just got off the phone with your most difficult relative, or are starting to stress out because you still haven’t been able to get reservations of Chef Mickey, I promise that doing your daily walk or swim or yoga will make you feel a whole lot better.
The Best Shoes for Walking in Disney World
You could be a world-class athlete and still be miserable after a day at Disney if you don’t wear the right shoes and socks.
First of all, I highly recommend wearing shoes that don’t require socks (like sandals or crocs)if you can stand it.
Between the possibility of rain, rides like Splash Mountain, and the fact that your feet will get sweaty, your socks are almost certain to get wet, which is not only kinda gross but can lead to blisters.
If you really can’t live without socks, then be sure to keep an extra pair in your park bag so you can switch them out when needed.
I also like to apply Body Glide all over my feet every morning before I put on my shoes to reduce friction. (Body Glide is, by the way, the single most popular product among my readers.)
Okay, now let’s get to specific shoes.
These are the shoes that I’ve worn for my last 4-5 trips to Disney World.
No, they’re not the prettiest things in the world (years ago I got a cute orangey-red pair, but haven’t been able to find them since), but they work for me.
I really wish I liked them, because they’re much cuter and less expensive than the shoes I wear, but they just don’t feel right to me.
These are the shoes my oldest daughter wore on our last trip, and they’re quite popular too. Some people don’t like them because they have a lot of straps, but my daughter liked them a lot.
I’ve often heard that it’s good idea to pack 2 different pairs of shoes so you can switch them out, but I’ve never actually done this myself.
Oh, and one last thing — definitely break your shoes in for at least a week or two before your trip.
Did you having a Training Program Before Your Disney Trip?
Now I want to hear from you:
- Did you have an exercise regime before you went to Disney World?
- What are your favorite shoes to wear to the parks?
- Any other advice to prepare for all that walking?
Let us know below in the comments!