A few people have stopped me after reading my posts about our trips to Disney Parks this year and asked me when the best time to go is. Not as in best time of year, but the best age to visit Disney World, or Disneyland (here’s a recap of my Walt Disney World & Disneyland comparison).
So many people worry their kids will be too young, and won’t remember. Or too old and “cool” to truly enjoy it. What’s the perfect age to visit Disney World?
After rehashing about our trips this year, and going to a Disney Social Media Moms “on the road” conference that expressed more about the mission and goals of the company for the parks, I think I have an answer that could surprise you.
0-2 Years 11 Months
What? A baby? Are you kidding me? They won’t even remember anything or enjoy it. I frequently hear that people don’t want to visit Disney World until their child is X-years-old because they want them to be old enough to appreciate it. While I understand this logic, my counter argument is this: They’re FREE.
If your children are anything like mine, they’ll light up with every character they meet, be mesmerized by the rides, and be delighted by the parades and shows.
They may not remember visiting Disney World as a toddler, but you will. And those memories are priceless.
Not only do kids under 3 not need a ticket, at many restaurants they eat for free too. Most rides at the parks are for any height requirement, and all are rides that you can ride with your kids. You don’t have to put them on alone.
And if your baby has a strict bedtime and prefers to sleep in a comfortable bed vs a stroller, you could always take the option of Kids Night Out, where one-on-one babysitting comes to your room while you’re out at the park.
My son wasn’t yet two on his first trip to Disney World, but he loves watching the videos we took at the parade, of the rides, and him meeting the characters. I know he won’t remember it forever, but the memories we made with him are priceless.
0-3yr Old Tip: Plan to take beaks when you bring a little one this age. You may consider going back to the hotel for a mid-day break, then heading back for the nighttime fun.
Oh wait, did you think I was done? Nope.
If you have an outgoing 3-year-old who already has a knowledge of Disney, I’d start planning your trip now.
This age range is the most special and magical of them all. Every aspect of the parks, the magic, the princesses and pirates they meet, and the land itself is undeniably real.
If I lived closer to a Disney Park I’d want to budget for an annual pass and visit as much as I could during this timeframe.
My daughter doesn’t distinguish the difference between animated characters and real-life people she meets. When we rode on Peter Pan’s Flight, in her eyes, we were actually FLYING on a ship. And I couldn’t convince her otherwise.
When she had her makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique and her fairy godmother in training told my daughter her nail polish was magic, she went on for days telling people that she had magic powers, and would try to use them for good (and to help her clean up the house faster).
The only downside to this–If you have a hyper-imaginative child is sometimes the scary things can seem really scary. We didn’t go near Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, or Pirates of the Caribbean because I knew it wouldn’t go over well with my daughter. Though other kids seriously love those rides.
Meeting every single princess and watching the parades however, never got old. And Disney Parades aren’t your average parade. Not even close. We had to stop and watch each one (if she was awake).
She loved dressing like her favorite Disney princesses, and asking them questions about their lives.
Here’s a fun video I got to see at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference in Austin that really drives this point home.
3-6 year tip: Take some time to plan out your visit. Decide which attractions are a priority and get FastPasses and advanced dining reservations (ADRs) where you can as this age doesn’t always come with patience. Strollers are still a big help at this age.
Take everything that rocks about the ages above, and add in longer hours.
While the magic may not feel as real to these cool tweens, you’ve finally graduated to the age of no-strollers. No more height restrictions, and they can hang til the park closes down at night.
They’re old enough to get in on the planning and add input about what they’d really like to do. This is an optimal age many families aim for when planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I fell in this age range when my family took us on our one and only trip.
One thing to note is kids do start to pay adult prices for park tickets and food once they hit 10-years-old.
There is so much at Disney World for every age, but at this point nothing is off limits, and you’ll be making lasting family memories that everyone will remember.
Divide and conquer. High school and college graduation trips, girlfriend getaways, and romantic couple escapes. I didn’t get to visit in this age range but I have friends who celebrated milestones, and made wonderful memories visiting then.
Run Disney gives people like me who suck at running something to dream about and aim for, and gives serious athletes a run for their money.
Parental Prime Time. This is when you get to enjoy the magic through the eyes of your child. For me, this has been my favorite Disney experience. I want to visit over and over and over again because experiencing the magic of Disney with a little one is something extra special.
My husband’s parents arranged for their kids and grandkids to visit Disney World with them in February. They had never been before but they were so excited, ready and willing to have a blast. No coaster was too big, no line too long (thanks in part to fastpasses!).
It’s hard to pick a better spot for a multi-generational vacation.
Planning trips can go the other way around too–kids taking grandparents. One way to take them is to try to win free trip by entering Walt Disney World’s best grandparents contest.
And there are plenty of accommodations for grandparents who need a little extra help getting around. I noticed wheelchair lanes in most of the lines we waited in. And there are plenty of low-key attractions to stop at take a break at.
My husband asked me where I’d thought most people would want to celebrate their 100th birthday. Automatically I guessed “Disney World.” He said that was the one answer no one guessed to that question on a round of Family Feud.
My great-grandpa will be 97 this year. I need to check with him first, but I’d LOVE to take him to Disney World for his 100th birthday.
So did I narrow it down for you? Bottom line is, there’s no one perfect age to take a trip to Disney World. It could vary depending on your family situation and preference. But one thing’s for sure. You’ll be making magical memories no matter when you go.