I have been taking my kids to Walt Disney World for the past 14 years—starting when they were babies and now the oldest is 19 (how did that happen)?? Planning trips with kids can bring more things into consideration to make sure that everything flows smoothly. Here are 10 questions I frequently get about taking children to Walt Disney World, and the answers.
10. What is the best resort for kids?
This is a tough question to answer because all of Disney’s resorts were designed with families in mind—they all have something different going for them. I love the monorail resorts for kids: Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. Of the 3 I like the Polynesian the best. It has the easy monorail access to the parks, an amazing pool, the beach area to play, great family-friendly restaurants on site, and a fun tiki theme. Beach Club (and Yacht Club) also rank high for the mini-waterpark pool Stormalong Bay, a relaxing theme, walking path to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and access to the entertainment on the Boardwalk. If you are just looking at the exterior décor of the resorts then Art of Animation is a great choice for kids. The larger than life Disney icons accompanied by landscaping really capture kids imaginations and put them in their favorite animated features.
9. What is the best age to bring a child?
At every age and every stage of their childhood there are different things to see, do and enjoy during your Walt Disney World Vacation. Some trips we were in the “have to hunt down every character stage.” Other trips it was all about thrill rides. Some trips they wanted to add things outside the parks like boat rentals, fishing trips and archery lessons. No matter what age your kids are—that is the perfect age to take them on a Walt Disney World vacation. If you are only going to make one trip to Walt Disney World, usually somewhere between ages 6-8 (or 9) is sort of the “magic” age where kids are tall enough to ride most attractions (and daring enough), but still young enough to really believe in the Magic of Disney. Of course, I haven’t outgrown believing in that . . . so . . . . .
8. What age is considered a “child?”
While Walt Disney World is the place where no one should ever grow up, it does have some rules on what ages are defined as a child. If you are bringing your baby or toddler ages 2 & under he or she will be free—no ticket required, and no dining plan (if you are adding that to your package). Along with this I’m often asked about making FastPasses for kids under 3—they don’t have tickets so you can’t make a FastPass, but you can bring them on any attraction you have a FastPass for as long as they meet any height requirements. Children ages 3-9 are officially kids. Their ticket prices are lower and if you have the Disney Dining Plan that price is lower per night. If a child is 9 when you arrive, but celebrates a birthday turning 10 during your trip they are still considered kids for pricing. Anyone ages 10 and up is considered and adult for Disney pricing. That means adult tickets and adult Disney Dining Plan.
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7. How do I meet my child’s favorite character?
Disney tries to make as many characters as possible accessible to their fans, and throughout the parks. There are 3 ways to meet characters: reserve a character dining meal; visit a permanent character meet & greet; find characters at outside meet & greets at scheduled times. As you enter the park for the day be sure to pick up a times guide—it will list the times and locations of the characters who will be out that day for meet & greets (even those in permanent indoor locations). You may also find some “extra” characters hanging around as you tour the parks as a bonus. You can make FastPasses for some of the meet & greets like the Princesses in Magic Kingdom, Mickey & Minnie at Animal Kingdom, the Character Spot at Epcot and more. If characters are a big priority you might consider this. Or, in your planning book some character meals to take care of eating and meeting characters at the same time. Just keep in mind that you can meet a variety of characters in each park, not just Magic Kingdom.
6. Should I take my kids to Epcot?
This is my pet peeve question, mostly because I am a huge Epcot fan and my kids have loved it since they were little. I think each park has so much for kids. Epcot has a huge number of characters, and my favorite character meal. In Future World you will find fun attractions for smaller kids like The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Journey into Imagination. In World Showcase you have the Gran Fiesta Tour with Donald and the Three Caballeros, Frozen Ever After, Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet, and characters in nearly every country to keep younger kids happy. Soarin’, Test Track and Mission Space thrill rides make this a great park for older kids. And many of the Festivals hosted through the year at Epcot have added kid-friendly elements like scavenger hunts, playgrounds, and activities. Don’t skip Epcot with kids—they may love it more than you do.
5. What are the height requirements?
Disney puts height requirements in place for attractions as a safety measure. Even if a child is daring enough to ride a big roller coaster, the seating mechanisms and motions may not be safe if he or she isn’t tall enough. You can visit Disneyworld.com before your trip to click through the parks and find the height requirements for each attraction, or a Google search may turn up results for the most up-to-date information. The park maps that you pick up as you enter the park, or at your resort will also list height requirements. It is helpful to measure you child at home in the shoes he or she will be wearing to the park to get an accurate measurement. With my kids I never promised any attractions that they were right on the border for the requirement—just in case they didn’t measure up when we got there. You’ll find that most attractions do not have any kind of height requirement—and for these I’ve taken kids as young as 6 months old. Many have relatively short height requirements, and those with taller requirements are based on the intensity of the attraction and the type of seating to safely accommodate your child. Just remember that these restrictions are in place to keep your child safe. Cast members are doing their job enforcing them so that no one is hurt.
4. Should I bring a stroller for my child?
Walt Disney World is a sea of strollers. Most of the time the answer is yes, if your child is 8 or younger. Keep in mind that Walt Disney World vacations are typically 8+ miles walking per day. And you are usually waking your child up early, and keeping them up later than normal. Kids legs get tired—if nothing else it is nice to have a stroller to let them sit, have a snack and be pushed around (rather than complaining about legs hurting and being hungry—think of it as saving your sanity). You have stroller options. You can bring one from home. You can rent one of Disney’s strollers in the parks. Or you can rent a stroller from one of Disney’s authorized companies. This way you have the stroller with you from the bus to the park (and vice versa after a long day) and you have it around the resort. The authorized companies are allowed to drop it off at bell services and pick back up there after your vacation so you don’t have to coordinate meeting them. Added bonus of the stroller: cup holders and a place to stash your stuff.
3. What are the best restaurants to make reservations for my kids?
Again, most of Disney’s restaurants have kids in mind. There are a few where children would not be allowed (Monsieur Paul and Victoria & Alberts), but the vast majority (even signature dining) have kids menus and are family-friendly. It is up to you to decide if you want to do a signature meal with your children, if they will be happy sitting through the experience. Character meals are always great for kids—all you care to eat meals, most have a buffet with lots of choices; characters to meet; and entertainment like a parade through the restaurant. Some of my other top choices for kids dining include: 50s Prime Time Café (TVs all around playing 50s shows; entertaining servers; home cooking), Sci Fi Dine In Theater (seating in a vintage car; vintage “horror” movies on the big screen; good menu), Whispering Canyon Café (server hijinks; kid-friendly menu items).
2. What is the best place to take care of my little one?
In each Disney theme park there is a Baby Care Center where you will find facilities for feeding and changing little ones, along with supplies to purchase if you run out or forget something. These facilities are all really nice, but the size varies in each park and as such the exact amenities may be slightly different. Each one has:
- Private nursing room with rocking chairs
- Changing room with tables and a unisex bathroom
- Feeding area with highchairs
- Kitchen with microwave, oven and sink
- Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa
- On-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase
If you cannot get to the Baby Care Center, each restroom will have a changing table (even the men’s rooms).
The Baby Care Center is also where lost children are taken by Cast Members to be reunited with parents (if the parent is not found in the immediate area). It serves as a centralized location for lost children, so if you become separated from your child it might be helpful for one parent to stay in the last area you were together, and one to go to the Baby Care Center to check there.
1. How does rider swap work?
If you have children who are not tall enough to ride, or maybe just not quite ready for it yet, don’t despair. There is still a way for both parents to get a chance to ride. For my family, I make a FastPass for the attraction for my husband and 2 older boys, say for 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. At the time of the FastPass we all go to the FastPass check-in and request the rider swap. My band is scanned to add the swap, and they are scanned to use their FastPass. While they are riding the first time we go to a nearby attraction where we have a FastPass (like the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). After we both ride we meet up and I am able to ride 7 Dwarfs Mine Train with up to 2 guests. So in our case we both get to experience it with our older children which is really nice. Not all attractions offer the rider swap option, so be sure to ask. There is also a time frame within which you have to return to use the swap pass, so be sure to make a note of that. Just keep in mind that while the first group is riding there are normally lots of things around that area to keep the younger one entertained, you don’t have to just stand by the exit to wait on them—have some fun on an attraction, play area, having a snack or meeting a character.