Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Walt Disney World has updated its safety protocols. You can review them here. As a result of the pandemic, some attractions and services may be unavailable such as the FastPass+ system.
Are you going to Disney with kids? Getting everyone ready to go on a big trip can be tough, but these tips will help ensure that the whole family has fun on vacation.
I went on Disney trips at ages 5, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 20 with my family. My mom planned all of our trips, and as my brother and I got older, my mom steadily increased the amount of input we gave about our vacation plans.
Since I’ve been lucky enough to go on several Disney trips, I’ve had time to figure out what I like and the nostalgic things I can’t miss when I’m there.
In this article, I’ll give you Disney tips for children in different age groups — young children, middle-grade kids and pre-teens, and teenagers. But first, let’s discuss some information for the whole family.
Disney Tips for the Whole Family
Where to eat with kids
You know best what your kids will and won’t eat. You can bring your own food into the parks, but if you’re dining out you’ll want to check out the My Disney Experience app.
You can look at menus and prices for quick-service and sit-down restaurants all over Disney World. Plus, certain restaurants let you order ahead in the app.
Get the right FastPasses
Disney World’s free FastPass+ program lets you into the FastPass line at some of the most popular attractions in the theme parks.
The FastPass line is usually shorter than the regular line, so you can spend less time waiting and more time enjoying Disney.
Disney World’s FastPass+ system is digital. You can reserve your passes in advance by creating a Disney account on the Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.
Anyone with valid Disney admission can select their FastPasses 30 days in advance starting at 7 a.m. ET. Guests of Disney World Resort hotels can make FastPass selections 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of their stay. You can choose three FastPasses per day in advance.
Take a family photo
In the My Disney Experience app, you can see PhotoPass locations where Disney’s professional photographers are located.
My family always takes one in front of Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom. However, there are quiet gardens and lakeside views that offer nice backdrops, too!
One money-saving tip we use is to give our phone to the Disney photographer. That way, the professional can take the photo and we don’t have to pay extra for it.
Now let’s look at different age groups, so you can learn how to make your family vacation magically easy.
Tips for Going to Disney With Kids
You can find some general tips on saving money when you pack for Disney in our other article. Here, we’ll give you some tips for specific age groups:
Babies, Toddlers and Small Children
Prepare your child
Whether you’re surprising your kids with Disney magic or they know about the visit months ahead of time, explaining parts of your trip could go a long way with a little one.
Telling them that they’ll be able to get on rides featuring some of their favorite characters may be exciting! However, some children have never heard fireworks or been around people in big costumes and might become afraid.
Clearly explain what they need to know so that they can relax and enjoy the vacation with you.
Take advantage of Baby Care Centers
There are Baby Care Centers in each Disney theme park where parents and caregivers can go to a calm, private space to take care of a child.
Schedule nap times
Doing full days at Disney theme parks can be overwhelming. Scheduling nap times to keep your little ones close to their normal schedules will be good for you and them. Even if they don’t end up sleeping, getting away from the park stimulation may be a good idea.
Take a day off from the parks
I know this sounds crazy if you’re going to see the mouse, but there is so much to do at Disney World other than going to theme parks. If your vacation is about a week long, consider exploring other parts of the Disney World property or Orlando itself. It’s a great way to save some money on this expensive trip!
Choose the right parks for your family
If you won’t be going to all the parks, Magic Kingdom may be the best park for small children because it has the most ride options and lots of characters to spot and meet.
If your child loves animals and dinosaurs, stroll through the Maharajah Jungle Trek and let them play in the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom. Whatever you choose, there will be plenty of Disney fun for the family to enjoy.
Check your child’s height right before you go
There’s no bigger bummer than getting to a ride and realizing you can’t get on it!
Research the rides that have height restrictions if your young one is still under four feet tall. If you’re traveling with a child who’s too short to go on some rides, you can still take advantage of rider switch at some attractions so that everyone who wants to ride can get their turn.
If your child is nervous to go on certain rides, watch ride-throughs on YouTube with them. Then, they know exactly what to expect in person.
Bring your own distractions
Waiting in lines at Disney can’t be avoided, so another thing that can be helpful day-to-day is to have fun things to do while you wait. You can download videos or apps that will keep kids occupied, like the Play Disney Parks app. It has games and activities that are accessible only in Disney parks.
Of course, it’s always nice to have a surprise waiting as a back-up, too! Pick up some activity books or Disney toys from the dollar store before you go. Then, give them to the kids as surprises when you’re facing a long wait.
Grab a stroller
Even if your kids use a stroller only occasionally, they are a must-have item at Disney World. You’ll probably be walking miles every day without realizing it, and kids’ little legs can have a hard time keeping up. Read more about bringing strollers to Disney here.
Meet some characters
For kids on the older end of this group, character dining may be really fun! If your child likes princesses or the classic Disney gang there are a few options in the parks and resorts to choose from. There are also character meet-and-greet spots in the park that you can look up in the My Disney Experience app.
Avoid as many lines as possible
This might seem impossible, but sometimes you get lucky. Use the My Disney Experience app to look at wait times as well as the amount of time it will take you to walk somewhere. If you see rides with short lines, take your kids on them as many times as you can. That way, you spend more time having fun than waiting around.
Bring changes of clothes
Kids need extra clothes regardless of where they are, but Disney comes with its own set of obstacles like water rides and sticky treats along with regular old accidents. Read our article about what you should bring in your park bag here.
Middle Grades and Pre-Teens
Prepare your child in case they get lost
Losing your child in a crowded park is scary, but don’t fear: Disney cast members wear special white name tags with their names and hometowns.
Tell your child that if they lose you, look for someone wearing a name badge that looks like it. Cast members are all over the parks but can always be found manning registers at shops and food stands. When a cast member finds a lost child, they will escort the child to a Baby Care Center.
Ride the big rides
At Disney, you can ride anything once you’re 4 feet (48 inches) tall. By the time kids are around 7 years old, many can ride attractions that they may not have been able to ride in the past. One warning: Check the thrill level of a ride to make sure it’s not too much for your child.
As with younger children, watch a ride-through on YouTube if something may be too scary so they know what to expect.
Bring some surprises
This really works for kids of any age, but bringing a light-up toy or t-shirt with a favorite character is sure to be a winner.
My parents once gave my brother and me each a pillow, one shaped like a Mickey Mouse head and one like a Mickey Mouse glove. We used them for the whole trip and for years afterward.
Doing this not only gives your kids magical surprises but also keeps you from paying full price in the parks!
Take advantage of free and low-cost souvenirs
My favorite low-cost souvenirs from Disney are the pressed pennies that you can get all over the parks. When I was younger, my parents filled M&M tubes with quarters and kept a bag of pennies on hand so that we could transform them into Disney treasures.
You can find Kidcot Fun Stops across Epcot’s World Showcase. Here, kids can do free arts and crafts to keep as souvenirs. Another low-cost souvenir option is the Epcot passport that you can purchase around the World Showcase. Inside the book, there are places for cast members at the Kidcot stops to sign and place stickers from their country.
Set a spending limit
If you want to let your kids pick out souvenirs, setting a spending limit will help keep more money in your pocket. One trick to help with this is to use the My Disney Experience App to check prices at different stores around the parks.
Let them help
Teenagers may have opinions about activities the family could do. Letting them help makes them more a part of the process and may help them plan trips of their own in the future.
Try more out-of-park experiences
Going to Disney park attractions can be fun, but there’s a lot to explore outside the parks as well. Check out an arcade, play mini-golf, or enjoy the NBA Experience to change up your Disney adventure. Find our list of Disney fun outside of the parks here.
Give some autonomy
If you’re going to Disney with older teens, consider whether you want to split into smaller groups or let them do their own thing. If the latter is the case, come up with a meeting point and time and stay in communication.
Plan for longer days
As kids get older, they can handle longer days and that means more Disney fun! If you’re staying on Disney property, look for the days and parks with extra-magic hours in the morning and evening.
If you or your teens don’t want to get up early or stay out late, plan to go to a park that doesn’t have extra-magic hours. It can make a big difference in the crowd size.
One last big tip: Plan for enough time to get where you’re going, whether you’re using Disney transportation, a shuttle or your own vehicle.
Planning downtime and taking a break from the parks is a good idea, regardless of age. We all need time to recharge, especially when you’re walking miles each day and standing in lines.
Whatever your child’s age, talk to them about Disney and include them while you’re preparing the itinerary. Planning your Disney vacation ahead of time makes it much easier to enjoy your vacation and your family more while you’re there.