“What’s the right age to bring kids to Disney World?” This is an age-old question that doesn’t really have an answer. Every kid is different, and there are a multitude of factors involved, including how far away from the parks you live. Some parents bring their kids when they’re just a few months old, others swear that 7 is the perfect age.
We say that Disney World is fun for all ages, and with the right planning you can have a great trip no matter how young or old the people in your party are. There are 3 main categories of planning a trip with small children: accommodations, food, and park touring. Let’s take a look at some of the best tips for each category.
Where to Stay in Disney World
If you’re driving to Disney World, staying at a hotel or resort that’s near Disney, versus a resort on Disney property, is a no-brainer. You’ll save a significant amount of money compared to what you’d pay to stay on property, and you’ll be within 15 minutes of the parks.
If you’re flying down it may seem tempting to skip the car rental, stay on property, and use Disney’s transportation system. However, many families find that it’s actually less expensive to get a resort off property, pay for a rental car, and pay for parking at the theme parks. You’ll also have a lot more flexibility when you want to return to your resort for a little rest and relaxation – which is a must with small children!
Resorts Vs Vacation Homes
One of the biggest surprises for first-time visitors is how affordable it can be to rent a vacation home. They start at just $99 per night, have numerous bedrooms, full kitchens, private pools, and even washers and dryers.
You may also consider one of the nearby resort hotels that have impressive amenities of their own. Remember that touring with small kids likely means taking a trip back to your resort or home in the middle of the day for a little wind-down time, so take that into consideration. The peace and quiet you’ll find at a vacation home rental can be well worth it.
Food Planning: It’s Not as Simple as it Seems
Many first-time visitors show up with a few of their kid’s favorite snacks and assume they’ll find plenty of spots to eat in the parks. This strategy will certainly get you fed, but it can lead to spending way more on food than you’d like, and spending an awful lot of time in lines. Consider these simple tips to help you keep your food budget within reason and experience some of the best food Disney World has to offer.
- Bring your own snacks. You can bring outside food and beverage into the theme parks, and can even bring a soft cooler – though hard coolers are not allowed. Bringing food for young children is a smart move because you never know when they’ll refuse to try something new.
- Eat at less popular times. If you’re traveling in the summer months, you could experience waits of more than 30 minutes just to get food at a counter service restaurant – unless you plan properly. The busiest times for lunch are noon to 2 PM and the busiest time for dinner is 5 PM to 7 PM. If you go before or after these times, you could have no wait at all.
- Plan character meals months in advance. There are numerous restaurants in each theme park that offer a meal plus interaction with Disney characters. These can be a ton of fun for the kids, and give parents a much needed chance to sit down and cool off, but reservations can be gone long before your visit. Plan your character meals as much in advance as possible so you can get all the meals you want. Reservations open up 180 days in advance.
- Head back to your vacation home or hotel for meals. If you’re staying close to the parks, then it’s an easy trip to just head back to your home base and have a delicious meal you prepared yourself. Once again, it also gives you a chance to relax and recharge. Vacation homes have full sized refrigerators, ovens, stovetops, and everything you need to prepare and serve a meal.
Tips for Choosing the Right Attractions
There are height restrictions on many rides, which will narrow down your options, but don’t assume that your child can handle a ride just because they’re tall enough. Disney World attractions can be loud and dark, but no one knows your child better than you. If you’re not sure which rides are appropriate, check out some YouTube videos and watch the ride from start to finish. Check out these other tips to make the most of your time in the parks.
- Plan your itinerary for touring the parks. Understand that your kids only have so much energy. You don’t want to burn them out on the first day. Plan your days around their abilities, their level of activity, and don’t be afraid to take breaks for naps.
- Prepare your kids for characters. Many kids are frightened by the characters at the parks, who can be up to 6 feet tall. If possible, expose your kids to life-size characters before the trip to see how they react. When you’re in the park, go up to the character first and give them a hug. This will show your kids that they’re safe.
- Bring medicine and first aid items. Talk to your family physician to see if there are any special medications your kids might need. Bring plenty of sunblock, wet naps, and wipes to the park with you each day. They’ll come in handy!
- Get a park guide. Even if you’ve researched before you leave, always stop to get a park guide when you enter the park. You can check the show times for that day, plus note where all the first aid and baby care centers are.