That age old question about age. What is the best age to take a child to Walt Disney World?
It’s now nine years since I first took my daughter to a Disney park. In 2014 we visited Disneyland Paris. We had such a great time I came home and booked ten days in Orlando so she could experience Walt Disney World. At the time it was that “once in a lifetime trip” so many of us have claimed that first trip to be. She was three. I knew she wouldn’t remember it, but having seen her face light up while at DLP, I wanted to experience that sort of magic again.
Over the last eight years since that first trip to WDW, I have been asked countless times what is the best age to take a child to Walt Disney World. Especially from the UK. There is no denying that a trip to Orlando doesn’t come cheap. Then factor in things like the heat, the long haul flight and the time difference, there is a lot of things for parents to consider. That’s the thing I’ve found with Disney trips, everyone wants to feel like they’re doing it “right“.
If you’re one of those parents feeling at odds about when to book your trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth, I’m going to break down the pros and cons of each age brackets. And hopefully this will help answer the age-old debate.
Taking Kids 3 Years & Under to Walt Disney World
I’d say from what I’ve seen, this is the most controversial age that seems to always be up for debate. I did take my daughter to Disney at two, but personally I wouldn’t have taken her any younger. But I’m a single parent and I already found those years difficult. This is my personal take on it due to my own circumstances. Had things have been different, or if I had another child now, I’d probably go as low as a year because Disney is one place that has something for all ages. And if you want a holiday and magical memories, in my opinion there is no better place than Disney for a small child. My opinions aside, as promised, here are the pros and cons;
The 8 Pros to Taking Kids 3 Years & Under to Walt Disney World
2 year olds and under get free theme park entry at Walt Disney World; Children under three need no park ticket to get into the park. I think this is a very important point to make. So yes, your child won't remember it, but you're also not being charged to take them.
The Disney Baby Care Centre; The Baby Care Centres offer fantastic services. They're a place for parents to feed, change and nurse their baby away from the crowds and the heat. I've used them when my daughter was young to change her out of wet clothes after being in a storm or just somewhere to cool off.
Disney really caters for young kids; This was one of my reasons for taking my daughter when she was so young. I knew strollers, bedsides, life jackets, food, highchairs were readily available should we need them.
Air-conditioning is everywhere; You can't say the same for going on a beach holiday.
Nap time; Your kid can nap in the stroller. When she was really little we did rope drop to park close with no issue as she slept in the stroller every day.
Pure Disney Magic; Now the less practical pros, it's magical. Yeah, your kid can't remember but there is nothing that makes your eyes fill with happy tears faster than seeing your kid toddle towards Mickey Mouse, trust me, I know.
Tons to do; There is enough to keep even the littlest of kid entertained. So many of the rides and shows are still enjoyable for littlies.
It's all real; The magic is real at this age. All the characters are real and that look on their face in the moment will stay with you as their parent for the rest of your life. They might not remember it, but you sure will.
The Downsides to Taking Kids 3 Years & Under to Walt Disney World
They won’t remember it; Like at all. In fact, there is a high chance they won’t even be able to talk about it if they’re really young so it’s even harder to keep those memories alive.
Scared of the characters; There is a chance your kid will be scared of characters at this age. And if that’s one of your biggest motivators for going, it’s going to be so disappointing for you and maybe even traumatic for your kid.
It’s hot! At the moment Florida weather is very hit and miss, they have had some really cold spells where it’s usually hot. But nothing is guaranteed! I went in February once and was hotter than I was in September! It’s busy; The crowds and noise. If you have a kid that can’t just drop off anywhere and feels distressed in a noisy atmosphere it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience for another. Over tired toddlers are no joke.
Lots they can’t do; There are a lot of rides your kid can’t experience. And that means splitting the party up. Sometimes that’s a pro, but more often than not it’s a con. Then if you single parent it like me, you don’t get to experience those rides.
If you truly feel like that this will be your once in a life time trip, I don’t feel under the age of three is a great age. Especially from the UK. But if you feel like this is the start of many Disney adventures, go for it. Start as early as you can! It’s a different experience but it can still be enjoyable.
Taking 4 – 7 Year Olds to Walt Disney World
I’m going to seem biased about this age as this is when the bulk of our trips have happened (so far anyway). I’ve been lucky enough to watch her almost grow up at Disney. Each year has been different as she’s grown and changed as far as what she enjoys doing at the parks but not one of the years were bad. If I had to narrow it down to one single year that was my favourite, I’d have to say six. While still being small for her age she could get on a lot of the rides, she could swim, she was very aware of everything that went on but the magic was still 100% there. It was still very real for her.
So disclaimer, our Disney trips have always been about what she wants to do. It wasn’t until we went on a Disney Cruise in 2021 that I had my own time as she could be in kids club. So this is probably why this age bracket is my favourite. She could take the wheel.
The Pros to Taking Kids 4 – 7 Year Olds to Walt Disney World
Flights are easier; The flights are a little more manageable. The older your child is the easier they can stay entertained for a long period of time and the flight becomes more exciting than daunting. You can get them to pop their ears, they’re more likely to enjoy the foot and in flight entertainment.
More flexible; You don’t need to worry about all the things you need for a baby. No more nappies, formula and sticking to their routine isn’t as vital.
Still time for naps; Your kid can still sleep in the stroller. I’m an advocate for strollers for kids in Walt Disney World for as long as they fit safely. I recommend you hiring one before you arrive from an outside company like Kingdom Strollers. They’re so much more comfortable than the ones on Disney property.
More rides; The list of rides and attractions suitable for them continues to grow.
Can cope with more; Yes, the stroller is there and the ability to return to your hotel for a break. But they can walk further, queue longer and feel less cranky in the heat.
It’s magical; But most importantly, it’s still magical and there is a high chance it is still real for them. That is Rapunzel they’re hugging. Tinker Bell waved from the parade. Minnie twirled with them at dinner. And trust me, cast members go out of their way to make kids feel special.
They can remember visiting; They will be able to come home and talk about it. It’s the reason we have our Instagram account. My daughter loved going through the photos and videos and reliving that moment.
Only young once; They’re only this young once, and you should be enjoying the magic of it.
The Downsides to Taking Kids 4 – 7 Year Olds to Walt Disney World
Memories fade; While they will remember it at first, these memories do eventually fade. My daughter remembers nothing from our early trips without prompting and even then I’m sure she’s only remembering what I’m saying. So once again this is something to take into consideration. They have opinions; They start having their own opinions on what they want to do which can lead to upset. Which isn’t a huge issue if you’re plan is “just go with the flow” but if you’re truly honest with yourself, that’s not what a Walt Disney World holiday is. You want to pack everything in.
They still might be scared of the rides and characters; You don’t always luck out with a theme park loving child. Even at this age some kids don’t like characters or rides so you end up making hard choices about how to spend your day including splitting from the rest of your party.
They wander off! The fear of losing them is real. They can climb out of strollers, they could get swept away in a crowd. This was something that terrified me once she started to become more assertive.
Lots of waiting around; There is a lot of waiting. There is no way around it and even by seven, kids struggle to wait in long queues when it’s really hot.
The lists of cons is getting gradually shorter while the pros stay the same. For me this is the best age and I would go back and relive those Disney days between three and seven in a heart beat. I honestly thought by seven, we’d both be over it. But nope, she’s eleven now and we’re desperate to go back. And the next two age brackets will give you an idea why.
Taking 8 Year Olds & Above (Tweens) to Walt Disney World
Personally I’d say from the age of eight is when you get your money's worth as far as Walt Disney World being a theme park resort goes. But you need to offset it against the fact your child is growing up, and for some children that means growing out of Disney. You’ll know yourself if that is how your child feels. Some kids feel like Disney is babyish and uncool. Which as adults we now know that isn’t a real thing, there is no such thing as being cool! Thankfully I feel like these days Disney is well and truly catering for the older kid crowd with Star Wars and Marvel, there is no denying that Walt Disney World is trying it’s best to be a holiday for all.
The Pros to Taking Kids 8 Year Olds & Above to Walt Disney World
Better value for money; Your child will probably be tall enough to ride everything. Hence getting your moneys worth.
They have more energy (hopefully); They will probably have great stamina. They won’t need a stroller, or a car seat or anything extra just for being a child.
Pack more into your day; You can probably do more in a day without having to factor in naps and what queues will be too long for your little.
Still magical; It will still be magical, but a different kind of magic and there is still a high chance they’ll get swept away in all the innocence of believing. They’re not hormonal teenagers just yet!
Creating new memories; They’ll remember a lot of it until those old memories start being replaced by new.
The Downsides to Taking Kids 8 Year Olds & Above to Walt Disney World
Can be harder to make them happy; That really innocent time of childhood is starting to slip away. It can still there but it’s a case to case and all depends on the child. “I don’t want to do that” and the difficulties that go along with this especially if you’re trying to please a large group of people.
I feel like now there are less pros and cons, but they’re bigger things to consider before booking and they might even be a deciding factor in the best age to take a child to Walt Disney World argument.
Taking Teenagers to Walt Disney World
As of yet, I’ve never taken a teenager to a Disney Park, but I went myself as a young teenager. I loved it as much, if not more than when I went at nine and twelve. And I would have continued going back to Disney if it wasn’t for the fact my parents made the decision to do beach holidays instead. My sister on the other hand, wasn’t even half as attached to our Disney holidays. Again this shows that the real best age to take a child to Walt Disney World is when they’ll most enjoy it.
From the age of ten, your child is classed as an adult at Walt Disney World and will require an adult ticket. So even prior to the teenage years they’re going to be paying adult prices so you want them to get the very most out of their own personal experience. Disney isn’t for everyone and it’s important to bear that in mind.
The Pros to Taking Teens to Walt Disney World
More grownup, more adult fun; You can have a more adult holiday. Walt Disney World has so much more to offer than just characters, rides and fireworks. There are some amazing restaurants, pools and extra activities like renting boats or bikes.
Let them loose; The older your teenagers are, the more freedom you can give them within the parks. You don’t have to do the same thing and with free Wi-Fi within the parks, you can keep in touch with them.
It’s magic; It will still have it’s own element of magic and will be enjoyable in a completely different way. You can stay up late, enjoy all the thrill rides and those hugs with Mickey will be nostalgic novelty.
And of course; They’ll remember it.
The Downsides to Taking Teens to Walt Disney World
It’ll cost you more; it’s going to be more expensive, after the age of ten you’re essentially travelling with an adult in the eyes of Disney.
They need more space; A lot of the rooms are set up with two double beds. If you have older children they might not be comfortable with sharing which means you’d either have to go for a villa, a family room at a resort, or conjoining rooms which again is extra cost.
Might think they’re too cool; While I mentioned it will have an element of magic, it won’t be the same sort of innocent magic you have with younger children. And if that’s really what your after, the teen years are probably not for you.
It’s important to remember these pros and cons for any age might not apply specifically to your kid. These are broad and compiled from my own experience and the experience of close friends who have visited Disney with their children of various ages. Your seventeen year old might still stare up at the castle with teary eyed amazement. Or your four year old might exclaim “that’s not the real Pluto!” while you stand in line. And trust me, I’ve seen it and I’m not sure who was crying more, that child’s mother or the six year old standing behind them in the queue!
The main argument is and will always be “but they’re not going to remember it” but if we’re truly honest with ourselves as parents, what do they remember from those early years? Just because they don’t remember those first few holiday seasons, it doesn’t mean we skip them all together? What your kids do remember though is feelings. They remember feeling loved and happy. And I know this because it’s been 20 years since my last Disney holiday with my parents, and that’s all I remember of it without looking at photos.
Ultimately, any age is the best age to take a child to Walt Disney World. It ultimately comes down to what you as a parent want your child to get out of it. Or perhaps what you as their parent wants to get out of it. There really is no right answer or right way to do WDW. You know your child and while all these pros and cons will give you things to think about, only you can make the call.
At the end of the day, haters are going to hate but if you’re happy. Your child is happy. Just go for it. Because no matter what age they are, it’s going to be magical in it’s own way.
When you’re booking such a big holiday, it really is the little things that stand out most and that’s why you should use a small agent when booking your Disney holiday.
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