When is my child old enough to go to Walt Disney World?
Visiting Walt Disney World is a rite of passage for many kids — and their parents. But when is a child old enough for a trip to Disney World?
Since Disney is built for fans of all ages, anyone can visit. So whenever you want to bring your child to Disney World, it's the right time. But what if you want that first Disney visit to be an extra-special experience for everyone in the family? What, then, is the best age for a child's first visit to Disney World?
Let's look at the pros and cons of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort with children of various ages.
Pros: You don't have to pay for them! Children under age three get free admission to Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks.
Cons: They will not remember even one moment of the trip — at this age, this visit is entirely for you, not them. And you will have to push or carry them everywhere, hauling a diaper bag throughout the parks like a Sherpa climbing Everest. At this age, kids are basically living, breathing, crying, pooping baggage. Okay, for some parents of older children, this might be one for the "Pros" column.
Pros: Three-year-olds likely will be out of diapers by now, though "accidents" remain possible. And kids this age will start meeting some of Disney's lowest height requirements for rides:
- 32 inches: Tomorrowland Speedway
- 35 inches: Barnstormer
Cons: You have to start paying now, but Disney does offer (slightly) reduced admission prices and lower-priced kids' meals for children ages 3-9. While kids this age can walk for a bit, you'll likely still need a stroller to get through a full day in the parks. Also, a three-year-old likely won't remember more than a fleeting moment of your trip, at most. You're not really making memories yet.
Pros: You're still pre-school now, giving you greater scheduling flexibility (even though the "off-season" is becoming a rarity at Disney anymore.) This also is the youngest age at which most kids will be tall enough to ride most of Disney's iconic attractions.
- 38 inches: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Kali River Rapids
- 40 inches: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Star Tours The Adventures Continue, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Soarin, Test Track, Dinosaur
Cons: If your child hasn't hit 40 inches yet, visiting the parks at 37-39 inches is just about the most frustrating time imaginable for a kid. That said, kids this age still probably won't remember more than a few moments of the trip years later.
Pros: Kids this age are more likely to remember their first Disney trip if it comes at this age or older. Potty training is a distant memory. With a little school experience, too, children are more likely to be able to handle lines and crowds with less hassle. Because they are less likely throw a fit than younger kids, friendly children this age are absolute magnets for character attention at meet and greets. They also likely will be tall enough to ride three more of Disney's most popular rides:
- 44 inches: Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, Flight of Passage
Cons: School schedules become an issue now, potentially limiting the times when you can visit and what offers you can take. Endurance remains an issue, too. Plan on investing time in naps, or pay the price later in the day with ultra-fussy kids.
Pros: You can ditch the stroller by now, making getting around the park much easier. Seven years old is is the minimum age that children who meet the height requirement can go on rides unattended, allowing your kids the opportunity for some "independence" while you take a short break. This also is your last chance at those child admission prices. Yet within this age group, your kids likely will be able to go on all the rides at the parks.
- 48 inches: Rock n Roller Coaster, Primeval Whirl
Cons: These are the transition years from toddler Disney to tweenager Disney, so they might proclaim themselves too old for some of the photos ops and experiences that younger children would embrace eagerly on a first visit.
Pros: They almost certainly will be old enough and tall enough for everything. Kids this age are ready for a little extra responsibility, too, taking some of the pressure off you.
Cons: You have to pay the adult price for them now. And when the Inside Out crew hits that "puberty" button, wow, family vacations can enter a whole new stage of drama.
14 and up
Fourteen is the minimum age to enter a park alone. But as high schoolers now, they've missed some of the magic of visiting Disney for the first time as a young child, by this age. Still, as a parent, you've also missed the hassle of diapers, strollers, and missed height requirements by waiting until your child is older to bring them to Disney.
When did you first visit Disney? What's your earliest memory of visiting? And if you are a parent who has brought your children to Walt Disney World, how old were they on their first visit? Did you wish that you'd waited until later... or come earlier? Please tell us about your experience, in the comments.
You also might like:
We took our 18-month-old son to Disney World six years ago and he had some of the most epic meltdowns in the history of man. That being said, we were strolling through Hollywood Studios and here came Minnie Mouse after we rounded a corner, just walking by herself somewhere.
So this is interesting given I was 10 my first Disney trip. However, my niece and nephews go through all these, the first two kids only months old on their first visits. However, you'd be surprised how much one remembers from 2 years old, especially meeting Mickey and others. Yeah, older may be better in some ways but a kid at Disney is always a fun experience and we have so many memories of them growing up via various visits. And seeing the wonder of a toddler to the sights is always an experience to cherish.
I was 4 years old on my first trip to DL. Granted I mostly remember what I do because of looking at photo albums, what I "actually" remember experiencing was the Matterhorn. I distinctively recall being scared to death with my dad putting his arm around me to hold me in place. The flight from east coast to west I also recall fondly because we hit a thunderstorm. So I suppose it's the fearful moments that stand out at that age.
One element that was not brought up . . I have a close friend who took his two children and they were about 5 and 3. The 3 year old remembers so much because they took videos of him meeting characters, going on rides, waiting for parades. So little David remembers a lot because his family loves to bring out the old vacation videos and rewatch his reactions. For some reason when Woody and Buzz came up to him--little David skirted around Buzz (Buzz giving a hilarious perplexed response) and David jumped toward Woody to give him a big hug.
I've been pretty satisfied with the way we have approached our Disney vacations since the birth of our son. We visited WDW once when he was 6 months old. Infants are pretty easy to tote around the parks (except when they're crying on the Carousel of Progress and you try to discretely leave the theater but end up e-stopping it while opening the exit door), and parent swapping policies make it easy for new parents to still enjoy many of their favorite attractions while providing adequate care for their child. Our son doesn't remember his first WDW trip at all, but our photos of us holding him in front of iconic backgrounds are cherished.
14 and up -- Time to switch to Universal Studios!
Whatever the downsides of taking younger kids, 3 and under, is more than redeemed by the sheer joy of watching them BELIEVE everything there. Thoughts of my 2.5 year old daughter waiving at the Princess float, and thinking they were waiving back, makes me misty to this day, haha.
Russell, I think we're gonna need the long version of the COP story. Time for a "
8 years old is perfect age to get an Annual Passport. They are safely at the height limit for most rides and can walk on their own without strollers.
We live in the UK but my 5 year old has been to WDW in Florida twice and Disneyland Paris twice. My 2 year old has been to WDW once and Disneyland Paris once. Both of them can remember quite a lot. My 2 year old met Snow White and got a kiss on the head. She still remembers it. Both of them still like to act out meeting the characters and make me and their Mum queue to “meet” characters and get our photos taken. They also act out Small World all the time and unfortunately still sing it practically every day. They also like to sing and act out the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the Star Tours ride. Even if they don’t remember it in a few years we have beautiful photos and precious memories of them meeting all the characters. So I would say go at any age. When we went to WDW last year our 1 year old was grand, our 4 year old was the one kept having meltdowns but that was just because every ride we came off and into a store he wanted a toy in every shop. I don’t think Disney should end all rides in a store but that’s an argument for another thread I’m sure.
Up to the age of 4 or 5.5 yo (depending on the individual maturity, there is no strict rule),
"Missed some of the magic?" I didn't visit a Disney park until my mid-30s (Epcot, Tokyo DisneySea, and Animal Kingdom, in that order) and I felt it was adequately magical. Admittedly, it was a different kind of magic than for small children -- I was enthralled by the theming rather than the characters, and since I was travelling solo, I absorbed it at my own pace rather than sharing with family.
I know a lot, most, people will jump all over this but I felt that the best age to take my children was when they were old enough to not be a disturbance to everyone else. There is nothing worse then trying to have a good time and having to put up with somebodies screaming princess or pirate. You are taking you children to the parks to enjoy themselves and create memories well guess what so is everybody else and if little Timmy or Tammy aren't old enough to behave all you did was ruin everyone's day. We didn't take our children until the youngest was 9 and even then we maybe should have waited a couple more years, he's on the Autism spectrum and it wasn't always fun.
I would agree with you Herwig, but every kid is different and for many, every day is different. Some kids will take in as much as they can handle, and just nod off to sleep when they're over-stimulated. Those same kids may exhibit that same behavior for 3 straight days on a trip, but then all of a sudden wake up on the wrong side of the bed on Day 4, and completely flip the script. Some kids may go 7 days until they flip, but there's no way for a parent to know until it happens. Unfortunately, the cost, and necessary advanced planning for a WDW vacation does not allow for the level of flexibility most kids need, and after all, many attraction at WDW are geared towards that age group where kids are predictably unpredictable. What's a parent to do when they've pre-paid $200+ for an evening ADR at Cinderella's Royal Table, and their children go ballistic at 10 AM after riding Space Mountain? I'm sure there are parents out there that are selfish, and would drag their kids because, "doggone it, I paid for this trip, and we're going to get our money's worth", but I think most parents are faced with this situation, and don't really know what to do. It's a tough call, but I think it really depends on your kids. It also doesn't help that a WDW vacation has to be planned months in advance, and you're trying to predict how your children will react months from now to stimuli they've never experienced before. Kids change fast, and in other ways are slow to change, but predicting the mindset of a child visiting WDW for the first time 6 months before you arrive is like trying to pick the Powerball.
Delivery and then go......i thought that was the norm :)
Russell, some advise you can pass along to your nephew's parents, this not from experience but from my sons counselor, include him in the planning. Our first trip to WDW with our sons was a surprise trip, we broke his routine and he didn't have a good experience. The next year we went to Niagara Falls and the to Lake George in New York, we included him in all of the planning and but for a few minor melt downs it was a good trip. Our last trip to WDW was in 2013 he was involved in all decisions, even thou the final say was ours and we had a great time.
Money Saving Tip:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.