The Pros & Cons: Best Age To Take Your Child To Walt Disney World

The age old question still floats around the internet waves….

When is the best age to take my child to Walt Disney World?

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We first took our daughter at age 3 because, at that time, I thought 3 was the perfect age to introduce her to Disney World. But our boys have been going since they were 6 months old and have loved it from day one. Our daughter is now about to graduate from college, so we have experienced Disney at every age, every joy, every tantrum. And there’s one thing we’ve learned…

There is no one, absolute, definitive, right answer.

There are too many factors involved: family size, budget, temperaments, proximity to the destination, family interests. But there is our pro/con breakdown that can help. Read on!

Infants and Toddlers 

Pro: Older siblings don’t have to wait until “the baby” is old enough. Your infant might not remember her first meet with Mickey but you will forever have her look of absolute wonder to hold onto. Family pictures can include the entire family. The best time to go is when school is in session and your child isn’t in school yet. There are lots of firsts to be enjoyed at this age – first haircut, first foods, first family portrait. What better place to experience firsts than at Walt Disney World?

Con: Having to follow an infant’s demanding schedule when you want to stay out late or stay at a park through naptime can be restrictive. You’ll have to move at a slower pace, impeded by pushing/parking/finding a stroller or nursing schedule. Toddlers and babies don’t like to be confined for long periods of time – car and plane rides/shows/lengthy attractions can be difficult to enjoy.

Our Take: Go. But go at a slower pace. Know that there will be meltdowns (and not just the baby – you may have a meltdown, too.) This is an age to savor the little things. Take time to pet the animals at Animal Kingdom’s Affection Section. Schedule that first haircut at Magic Kingdom. Treat your train enthusiast to their first train ride then show them the monorail. You will be creating memories that you will never forget and the pictures to prove it later on.

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The boys are 4 and 5, meeting a couple of their favorite characters.

 

Pre-Schooler

Pro: They’re not in school yet so you’re not hindered by a school vacation schedule. Typically, this is an age when they really identify with the princesses and characters. I will never forget my shy, reserved son running into Donald’s arms to tell him “I wuv you Donyold!” Priceless. So many attractions are thrilling to this age, yet enjoyable for adults, too.

Con: Some of the attractions may still be a bit too loud, too scary, too intense for this age. Our daughter experienced A Bug’s Life at age 5 (it was one of her favorite movies at the time) and she’s never forgiven us. Pre-schooler’s will often trick you into thinking they have more stamina than they actually have – they’re all go-go-go and then they crash and burn. You’ll need to be very in tune with your child’s energy level as excitement will often cloud their (and your) judgment.

Our Take: Go, with the understanding that days may be cut short unexpectedly, tiny tempers may flare and your powers of distraction during wait times in line may be tested. With a flexible schedule and a backpack-bag of tricks, you’ll be fine.

Elementary

Pro: Working around a school schedule isn’t quite so tricky yet. They are typically tall enough for just about every attraction. They can handle long days and late nights.

Con: While they may be tall enough for an attraction, they may not be able to handle the intensity of rides like Tower of Terror or Dinosaur. Know your child and what they can handle.

Our Take: Go. While I’ve enjoyed every age, this has got to be my favorite time to enjoy Disney World with my kids. They can ride just about anything. The enthusiasm is infectious. We’ve out grown nap time and temper tantrums (well, most of us have.) Go. Go. Go!

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My son is in 4th grade in this picture and my daughter just starting college. They rode Tower of Terror (or Tot, as they called it) 8 times that trip!

 

Middle School and High School

Pro: Aside from the fun attractions, this age can appreciate and learn from many of the educational opportunities Disney offers. Can share in the excitement with younger siblings as they experience it for the first time together. Can take younger siblings on the thrill rides that you aren’t willing to experience (ie., Mission Space). Just being at Walt Disney World gives them permission to be a kid again.

Con: If this is their first time at Walt Disney World, depending on their interest in all things Disney, they may feel they are beyond many of the attractions and be pining for a visit to that other Orlando theme park, instead.

Our Take: Go. There is a playful atmosphere that turns even the hardened, sulky teen into a kid again. When the boys couldn’t remember what Pirates of the Caribbean was like or they were finally tall enough to ride Expedition Everest our daughter got to enjoy the rides all over again in a whole new way – and so will you and your teens.

Yes. I admit. My advice is to “Go!” at any age. As my husband teases me: All roads lead to Disney. But there really is something for every age and a unique, magical way for every family to make it a truly special vacation.

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