What is the Best Age to Bring a Child to Disney
This is a pivotal question when planning a family trip to Disney. If your family plans on going to Disney a lot, this question may not seem as important. But some families may only go to Disney once or twice before their children are adults. If you want to get the most out of your once in a lifetime vacation, you need to be smart with timing. You need to assess how children will look at the park and how their age group tends to respond to Disney. Here is my opinion of the best age to bring a child to Disney:
Baby (2 and Under)
This is without a doubt the hardest age to bring to Disney. When children are this young, it’s difficult for them to enjoy a Disney vacation. The weather is hot, the crowds are loud, and their daily routine is disrupted. Naps are skipped, meal times vary, and their bedtime is postponed. Not to mention, mom and dad keep shoving a six-foot tall mouse in their face. Disney can be scary for children this young because they don’t know what’s going on. Then the traveling to Disney can be a logistical nightmare…
Disney has complimentary baby care centers in their parks. It’s a quiet place where parents can feed their children and take care of their basic needs. Young children can sit in the living room area and watch a movie. There is even a small shop where parents can buy childcare essentials. It’s a nice oasis for families when they need a break from the parks. But you don’t want to spend over $100 to get into the parks to take a break from the parks.
I would never recommend bringing a child this young unless the situation required it. Waiting for your child to grow will allow everyone to have a better vacation experience. If you decide to come when your child is this young, bring help. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, or whoever. The more people who can help take care of the baby, the more you can enjoy being at Disney.
Toddler Age (3 to 5)
Bringing toddlers to Disney can be an absolute joy. At this age, children can recognize the characters and get excited to see them. Everything they see is real to them. The Cinderella that came to their table is really Cinderella. There are really ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. To a toddler, Disney is their imagination and television screens brought to life.
The challenges of bringing toddlers are like the challenges of bringing babies. There will be meltdowns because their routines are broken. With toddlers, it’s important that parents are prepared when coming to Disney. Bring lots of snacks, water bottles, and juice boxes. Locate the bathrooms on the park map and circle them with a pen. This will help you locate the restrooms in a timely fashion when your toddler is in need. Bring extra clothing in case of accidents and varying temperatures. Know your child’s height and plan your ride choices accordingly.
If you’re planning to go to Disney more than once while the children are young, then bringing a toddler isn’t so bad. However, if you’re only going to Disney once, wait until your youngest is of elementary age.
Elementary Age (6 to 12)
This is the best age to bring a child to Disney. At this age, children know what to expect when they go to Disney and they’re excited. They may have had friends that have gone or they’ve seen commercials on television. They can count down the days and help plan the vacation. Depending on their height, they can go on all of the rides. Staying up later than usual is doable and fun for them. It becomes easier to do Disney and more fun for the whole family when the children are elementary age.
One downside is that some children at this age do recognize that everything isn’t real. They may enjoy meeting Cinderella, but they might know that the princess isn’t really Cinderella. However, they are less likely to cry at the Haunted Mansion which is a plus. Schooling also needs to be taken into consideration when planning the vacation. While I’m an advocate of pulling the kids out of school for a week, for some families, this isn’t an option. A child’s school schedule can force parents to plan their vacation around Disney’s peak season. This makes the vacation more expensive and the wait times longer.
Teenagers (13 and older)
Some people will say it’s too late to take a Disney vacation by the time the kids turn into teenagers. While I do believe it’s best to plan a vacation earlier in a child’s life, it’s never too late to go to Disney. Most people love Disney, even teenagers. There are still plenty of rides and activities they can enjoy. Disney magic is contagious and can make even the grumpiest teenager smile.
Plan activities outside of Disney with teenagers. Explore the city of Orlando. Rent a car and drive to a beach. While teenagers will still enjoy Disney, they may want to do other things too. Listen to their opinions. It’s their vacation too and they should have a say in some of the activities. The more involved teenagers are with the planning, the better vacation everyone will have.
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Special thanks to Brittni Sutter for writing this article! As a lover of all things Disney, I’ve made it my life’s mission to learn about the history and artistry the House of Mouse. I’ve vacationed to half of the resorts and plan to complete the Disney Parks mecca in the coming years. I fill my life with as much magic as Disney can muster and I love encouraging others to do the same.