c. How Old/Tall Your Children Should Be for Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

“While every child is different, in general this guidance is dead on.” –David C. MD, Pediatrician, former Chief Resident, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital

OVERVIEW

How Old and Tall Your Kids Should Be For Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netIf this will be your kids’ only childhood visit, as of your arrival date at Walt Disney World, your youngest child should be 8 or 9 or older, and your shortest child should be at least 48 inches tall.

See What if They’re Too Short/Young? if you just aren’t waiting til then.

Children of any height or age can enjoy Walt Disney World.  However, this site assumes that you are not sure whether or not you will ever be returning for another visit.

Because you may not be returning,  your children should be old enough, 8-9 years old or older, and tall enough, 48″ tall or taller, to fully enjoy Walt Disney World on what may be their only childhood visit.

HOW OLD YOUR CHILDREN SHOULD BE FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD

Walt Disney World is not designed for children.  It is designed for children and their parents. One of Walt Disney’s original visions for Disneyland–the model for Walt Disney World–was to build a place where he could have as much fun as his daughters.

As a result much of the best of Walt Disney World has a level of sophistication, and a set of physical and emotional demands,  that will elude, or worse, overwhelm children younger than 8 or 9–third graders.

Third graders, on the other hand, are making the transition from primary school to higher abilities to experience and interpret the world.  They typically are substantially ahead of younger children in independence, personal responsibility, physical stamina, attention, and memory.

Moreover, they typically are open to suggestion, risks, and new adventures.*  Consequently, third graders are much more capable than younger children of appreciating a place that they possibly may not see again until they bring their own families.

A couple of notes:

  • The real issue is physical, emotional, and cognitive development, not chronological age. Some children will be ahead of, or behind, a typical chronological developmental schedule.  Evaluate your child, and since you need to make plans at least 180 days in advance, you will need to do a little forecasting, not only on the developmental side, but also on height (see below.)  It is better to delay your trip a year than to bring your child too immature or too short for their only visit.
  • On the other hand, there is a price break for children younger than ten at the time you check in.  Children younger than 10 are about $350+ less expensive over the recommended trip than children older than 10.  (See What to Budget.)
  •  The core issue is your child’s ability to enjoy the best Walt Disney World has to offer on what might be their only childhood visit.

HOW TALL YOUR CHILDREN SHOULD BE FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD

Height is more straightforward.

Many rides at Walt Disney World–including many of the best–have minimum height requirements, usually determined by features of a ride’s safety system: its seat belts and such.

Some height requirements also serve as a proxy for sufficient maturity to not be emotionally overwhelmed by the “scary” aspects of a ride.

Disney World Ride Height Requirements from yourfirstvisit.netFifteen major Walt Disney World theme park rides have minimum height requirements, of which the “highest” requirement is 48 inches.

So a child who will be 48 inches tall at the time of his or her visit will be able to experience all rides at the theme parks.

(Click the thumbnail to see these rides and their height requirements; when open, click again to enlarge.)

LINKS FOR HOW OLD/TALL YOUR KIDS SHOULD BE

*University of Chicago Laboratory Schools



58 comments

1 Christine { 03.28.12 at 12:45 am }

I would highly recommend making sure your youngest child is 40 inches tall, particularly if they are adventurous with rides. We took our kids to Disneyworld for the first time last summer when they were 4, 7, and 9. We wanted to go before our daughter, age 7, outgrew her passion for princesses. What we didn’t consider was the height of our youngest. He luckily was 40 inches tall, just making the cutoff for some key rides, such as his favorites, Test Track and Thunder Mountain Railroad. This made our trip SO much easier, as there was pretty much only one ride in each park he couldn’t ride. We did the rider switch three times, and honestly, the Mission Space waiting area is SO fun that he had no idea that he didn’t go on a ride. Our trip would have had some disappointing moments, if he had to skip all of those 40 inch rides, but for us, it worked out great. It was not our “one and only” trip to WDW, just our first. And a side note… I loved how many rides accomodated odd numbered families. We truly were able to ride most rides without anyone sitting alone.

2 Dave { 03.28.12 at 5:50 am }

Thanks, Christine!

3 Jonathan { 04.23.12 at 1:34 pm }

Help! We want to take our 17 and 14 year olds to Disney for the first time this year 2012. We have to go in August due to school holidays and as a treat after GCSEs. They are both red heads so we know that it will be hot for them. Can you let us know the best lux villas or hotels with focus on teens? We still want to do all disney parks and universal studios too. Thanks

4 Dave { 04.23.12 at 2:45 pm }

Hi Jonathan! At Universal, Hard Rock is the most teen appropriate; at Disney, there’s nothing so clear. I think any of the deluxes or villas would do. Teens often–but not always–prefer Epcot and/or the Hollywood Studios; for these, one of the Epcot resorts is most convenient–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/16/the-epcot-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/

5 Jonathan { 04.24.12 at 11:16 am }

Thanks very much!

6 Dave { 04.24.12 at 12:26 pm }

You’re welcome! Let me know when you get back what you decided and how the red-heads liked it!

7 Patsy { 06.24.12 at 1:17 pm }

We plan on taking our 2.5 year old and 6 year old in April 2013. I realize they are young, but this will be, hopefully, their first of many trips, and potentially the last trip they will take with their elderly grandparents. My question is, do we bother with Epcot and Hollywood Studios? Is there enough at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom to cover four or so days at Disney?

8 Dave { 06.24.12 at 1:33 pm }

Hi Patsy, certainly not Epcot, and maybe not the Studios. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ If you plan two to three mornings, one late afternoon (for the afternoon parade) and one evening (for the evening parade and fireworks) at MK, you can easily sample AK as well and have a good 4 day trip…

9 Alyson { 07.09.12 at 3:15 pm }

Hi,
We were thinking of taking our daughter in November for her 3rd birthday she’s pretty tall for her age 36in currently and very advanced…It wouldn’t be our only trip for her childhood but all of our firsts. She’s infatuated by disney princesses and fireworks I dont really care too much about her getting on rides as much as getting pictures with the characters and maybe a breakfast with a character or something. Is it still too early to take her for a 2-day trip to the Magic Kingdom?

10 Dave { 07.09.12 at 3:42 pm }

Alyson–kids of any age can have fun. My focus on older/taller applies only if this may be your only trip! Two days at MK sounds just right…

11 John { 08.04.12 at 6:49 pm }

I have friends who are insisting that their 18 month old daughter go to Disney. Everyone has told them she won’t remember a thing about it and won’t be able to do most of the stuff…but they believe she is more grown up than she is. They say that anyone over 1 will remember it. They are bragging on their facebook page how she will be making her first. long lasting Disney memories in just a few weeks. How much will she actually be able to do?

12 Dave { 08.05.12 at 10:05 am }

Hey John–these battles aren’t worth fighting…there’s a lot of rides she can do in a lap, and she can do dining and character greetings…I doubt she’ll remember a thing, but he r[parents will enjoy (mostly) her reactions…

13 Gail { 09.12.12 at 10:22 pm }

While I totally agree with the overall age/height recommendations… Don’t be afraid to go earlier if you have tall adventurous kids. My son rode Tower of Terror for the first time when he was 2yrs old and LOVED it. You can imagine the looks on the faces of the terrified teens when the ride was done and he squealed with delight and announced “Again Mommy!”. We took our 2 kids 5 times before our oldest was 5 (obviously not a one and only visit), and each time was great and had it’s own memories unique to that age/ stage. Just have realistic expectations of how much they can handle and realize that although they won’t remember much long term, you will!

14 Dave { 09.13.12 at 6:56 am }

Hi Gail, great point! I’m sharp on minimum ages because I am thinking of a family that can only go once, and never return. If you know you can return, kids of any age can have a ball–including some 2 year olds on Tower of Terror!

15 MrsMxn { 09.21.12 at 2:24 pm }

Hi Dave, I am planning our honeymoon which would be in August and I also have a 7 year old who is actually on the small side. It is likely that this will be an only trip to disney, in fact im 33 and its my first though my oh has been before. Anyway just wondering if you think we should hold off. He does like rides but not majorly adventurous in that way. Do you think maybe we should have a short break and leave the disney trip another year or so? Thanks for your great website.

16 Dave { 09.21.12 at 4:12 pm }

Hi Katie–if you are sure this will be your only trip, I’d wait. If it’s possible you could return in the next two or three years (that means, practically, that if you like it enough, you could afford to come back), then go ahead!

17 MrsMxn { 09.21.12 at 4:20 pm }

Thanks Dave. The only other thing is that in a few years i may have a baby.

18 Dave { 09.21.12 at 4:29 pm }

Got it…then I’d wait a year or so!

19 page { 10.24.12 at 10:38 am }

Hi,
we were invited for next year, but my daughters will be 5 and 3….this will be our first time going, but I just started questioning if this is too soon for my younger daughter. And I’m sure this will be the only time we go as well…

20 Dave { 10.24.12 at 1:02 pm }

Hi Page, if this will be your only trip I would absolutely wait!

21 Gillian { 11.15.12 at 10:07 pm }

I brought my son when he was 2 and it could have been better. He was way too small and doesn’t remember going at all! My husband and I go to islands of adventure and halloween horror nights every year and leave the tikes at home. It’s our own little vacation we have together. Now that he is 5, he wants to go like yesterday LoL! We are bringing him next month for MVMCP. He’s currently 38 inches but hey, he will at least remember it!

22 Dave { 11.16.12 at 4:39 pm }

Hi Gillian, and thanks for your thoughts!

23 Davin Wood { 02.04.13 at 4:48 pm }

Hi Dave,

We live in Australia and planning on doing a trip to Disney World in October this year. Planning to stay for approximately 10 days at Disney World. We have previously been to Disneyland in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. We have 3 boys, aged 7, 10 and 12 and I was looking to take them now before Disney becomes to cool!!!. Reading your site I’m assuming the length is about right, however I was looking for your guidance on whether this is a good time to visit, appropriate ages and where you would recommend you stay.

I’m not sure you are the right person to ask, however do have views on Disney Cruises and whether they are worth it?

24 Dave { 02.05.13 at 8:32 am }

Hi Davin, I don’t have an opinion on Disney cruises.

The second half of October is a great time for a WDW visit–see the weeks ranked #s 4 and 5 here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

My suggestions on where to say are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/04/26/walt-disney-world-resort-hotel-reviews/ A family of 5 though is hard to fit in the moderate and value resorts, and two of the deluxe resorts. At the values you are limited to the family suites, and at the moderates the Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans Riverside, or a Cabin at Fort Wilderness. You can fit in any deluxe except standard rooms at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Your boys are about the perfect age for WDW, especially if the 7 year old is a little mature and adventurous for his age! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Hope this helps!

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25 Gerry { 03.04.13 at 2:20 pm }

Hi Dave, we’re going for the first time with a party of 9 (6adults, 3 kids(9, 7 and 5) to visit WDW from Europe. Of course we want to maximize the fun but I’m not really sure how all things work. What do you advice us wrt fast passes?
Thanks!
Gerry

26 Dave { 03.05.13 at 6:27 am }

Gerry, at Disney, all the fastpasses are free with your ticket, and using them is built inot all of this site’s itineraries. Check out for example, this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/itineraries-for-the-rest-of-the-year/v2-of-2009-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary/

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27 Matthew { 03.20.13 at 3:16 pm }

Dave,
My wife and I are heading to Disney World this coming weekend with our two daughters who are 8 and 5 . We were gifted Disney Park tickets for 3 days. We were planning on going Sun, Mon and Tues. Both of us are newcomers to Disney. I know we need a plan – what should we hit (must-sees) for the 3 days for our girls. Any recommendations. Also do you recommend any Iphone Apps which are helpful?

28 Mrs B { 03.21.13 at 6:33 pm }

My family is planning a trip this fall. My husband & I have both been to Disneyland CA & Paris & Disney World twice, this will be a first for both my girls 9 & 13 at the time of the trip. In our previuos trips we had observed many unhappy struggling families, with younger children either crying or napping in lines. At that time we did not have our own children, but definitely made note that we would wait to take our kids (if & when we had them) until they were old enough & tall enough. It’s been a long wait as our girls are both on the smaller sides, but now they are even taking part in the planning and we are ALL super excited to be going.

29 Dave { 03.22.13 at 9:52 am }

Hi Mrs B! Thanks for the thoughts, have a wonderful trip, and let me know how it goes!

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30 Jacqui { 05.03.13 at 3:29 pm }

Hi, I am looking to go to Disney next May and there is a chance that it might be our only trip only because my husband really hates to fly. We want to go with his parents, myself and my husband and our three kids. I have twin boys who will be 9 and my daughter will be 6 by the time we go. Any suggestions would be great!! Thanks.

31 Dave { 05.04.13 at 7:41 am }

Hi Jacqui! Just start on the home page and work your way down its topics and links–start here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/

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32 Robert { 05.27.13 at 11:51 am }

Dave,
My wife and I are both in our 60′s with no physical impairments and very active. I have never been to D. World (my wife has been once 20 yrs ago) We have both been many time to D. Land. We both would like to go to D. World, especially Epcot. Do you have recommendations for adult only type trips, where to stay, etc.?

33 Dave { 05.27.13 at 5:53 pm }

Hi Robert, I don’t have formalized adult recommendations, but for where to stay see the material in this series: http://yourfirstvisit.net/x-personal-favorites/ and also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/06/26/the-most-romantic-walt-disney-world-resorts/

The itineraries (here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/ ) are meant for the young at heart 8 and older–through 80!–so you could use as, is, likely tossing some of the charater dining and spending another evening at Epcot.

You can also use this to thin them down: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

If you don’t like these approaches, then see these two starting points: http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/touring-plans?utm_campaign=referral&utm_medium=website&utm_source=yourfirstvisit&utm_content=r1&property_id=1 and http://www.leaveittogenie.com/

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34 stacy collier { 05.29.13 at 3:38 pm }

Hi Dave,
I’m researching what may be our first and only family visit to Disney. We are avid RVers and are considering staying at Fort Wilderness. Our children are ages 9,7,and5. I noticed that a few of the biggest downfalls to staying at Fort Wilderness are the issues with interpark transportation and onsite dining. However, I wonder if the savings associated with RVing will outweigh these negatives. My questions for you are what are your thoughts on this and if you had to choose a key month to go which would it be? We home school and really want to choose a time where the crowds are few, the rates are better, and the weather is most optimal. Just one other question, is there a better option for visiting that we haven’t considered? I didn’t know if there was another RV park close to the parks that may better. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

35 Dave { 05.30.13 at 7:09 am }

Hi Stacey! First, on when to go, see this for 2013 http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ and this for 2104: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/10/15/2014-weeks-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-order/

And on saving money by RV’ing…well, first, if you do RV, then definitely do pick Fort Wilderness. But second, I don’t know you’ll save that much. FW is not cheap–see this http://www.mousesavers.com/2013-ft-wilderness-campsites-rates-season-dates/ and is only $20-40 less per night than a value resort…

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36 Sophia { 06.08.13 at 4:55 pm }

Dave-
This year, I’m taking my only daughter (along with a friend her age) to Disney World. We’re going in early November, and my daughter and her friend are 11 years old. We’re staying there for four days. We’ve been there before, but my daughter was very young and hardly remembers the two trips. I doubt this is our last trip, but if we do go again, it won’t be for a while. While we don’t have Park Hopper (I feel we don’t need it), we do have the Water Parks Fun and More option. What do you think are the best rides, attractions, and entertainment spots for eleven-year-old girls? Please keep in mind that we have four days.

37 Dave { 06.09.13 at 8:49 am }

Hi Sophia, at that age, they’ll enjoy almost everything.

With four days you could spend a day at each theme park, or pick with them the top three of the four, see those for three days, and on your fourth day decide the night before whether to return to one (likely the Magic Kingdom) or to see the fourth park.

This might help in choosing both the parks and what to do in them: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

On such a short trip, I’d dump the Water Parks and more and its expense and go back to straight tickets. There’s days more of great stuff in the parks you won’t be able to see, and the stuff covered by the Water Parks and more option just isn’t as good as what you’d miss…

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38 Solomani { 06.30.13 at 7:31 am }

Hi all, I just wanted to make a comment on this. I just went to Tokyo Disney Resort with 4 kids aged 2, 4, 7 and 9. We had to split up everyday with the younger two only joining at lunch and then again in the evening. While the older two were with me 30m before opening until 1400 or 1500 before taking a break then returning at night until close. Older kids had a much better time and though I don’t regret not going – we all had fun- I am glad I opted for a “smaller” Disney and will definitely wait until the youngest is 7 or 8 before attempting WDW.

39 Dave { 06.30.13 at 12:02 pm }

Thanks, Solomani!!

40 KEITH { 10.05.13 at 2:15 am }

Hi Dave,
How much non-disney park stuff do you recommend for 1st timers, ie boating, quest, pl. h’wood, mini golf…we’re not doing the water parks..spending 6 nights this month.
Kids are 9/7/almost 5.
Thanks!

41 Dave { 10.05.13 at 9:32 am }

Keith it depends on your plans for coming back. The Disney theme parks themselves take 6 days, and you need some time off, so if this your only visit, I’d focus on them and on rest time.

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42 Joe h { 11.18.13 at 1:07 am }

Hi. First thanks for your amazing and informative site! We’re going this mid january for 6 days to wdw. 3 adults and 3 kids 9,7,4. Staying in the vistana lake buena vista. What parks do you suggest we visit – is Lego land and Epcot a good choice or others are better? And do you suggest we take a day off in the middle of the vacation to chill at the hotel/visit sea world etc, or just go
to another park?

43 Joe h { 11.18.13 at 1:08 am }

Oh. And how’s the weather that time?

44 Dave { 11.18.13 at 7:38 am }

You bet Joe. There’s 4 Disney parks, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Each is better than legolsand except for the 4 year old. So I’d just focus on them. See this for an example itinerary: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/itineraries-for-the-rest-of-the-year/v2-of-2009-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary/

45 Dave { 11.18.13 at 7:38 am }

Joe, weather than can be quite cool or warmish. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/06/18/january-2014-at-walt-disney-world/

46 Anonymous { 12.05.13 at 5:55 pm }

Dave,
We are flying in on Saturday April 26th. Our flight leaves at 9am and gets in at 1:30pm. We leave the morning of the 30th. I am a single mom of a 9, 8 and 2 year old and I am bringing my 16 year old sitter with us.We are doing a suite at the new Art of Animation resort. I know you do not reccommend doing the Magic Kingdom that first night but this will be my 7th trip and my older kiddo’s 4th. Knowing the magic that is there it is hard to stay away. We are doing 4 day hopper passes. What would you suggest our plan of action be that first night for rides/dining/parade?

47 Dave { 12.07.13 at 3:05 pm }

Hi, if this isn’t your first trip, then park order doesn’t much matter and you should do what makes sense for you! Right now the 26th has a parade at 9 and Wishes at 10. I’d bet that an 11p parade will be added–so I’d do some rides first–check out FastPass+, you’ll get more good rides than you think–and then do the 9.30 castle show, 10p Wishes, and 11p parade!

48 Anonymous { 12.07.13 at 7:53 pm }

Thanks Dave! Also I wanted to mention for first timers I would recommend renting a stroller from a local company. They deliver it to your hotel and.pick up from there at the end of the trip. This way you have the stroller to get to the entrance of the park and all the way to the bus. When using the monorail you dont even have to fold it up. I believe I paid $40 for four days for a double stroller last January. It was a life saver and much easier then bringing one from home.

49 Dave { 12.08.13 at 12:11 pm }

Great point, unless you need a stroller at the airport too..

50 Ashlyn { 12.31.13 at 12:17 am }

Hi! My husband and I are taking our boys Feb 2-8. Our oldest is 3 1/2 and 41 inches tall. Our baby is only 14 months. Are there a decent amount of rides that the baby will be able to sit on our lap for? Should we choose our fast passes before we go? I haven’t been since I was 9. Hoping to take our boys once a year!

51 Dave { 12.31.13 at 7:13 am }

Ashyln, I focus on kids 8 and older, so don’t have much to offer you. Check in with Kuleen? http://thedisneykids.com/

52 yoshie { 01.28.14 at 6:26 pm }

Hello!, me and my family are planning on visiting Disney this summer, my two children’s are ages 6 and 11, but I think that my 11 year old son will be to old to enjoy Disney. Please help

53 Dave { 01.29.14 at 8:00 am }

Yoshie, literally tens of millions of 11 year olds have loved Disney, so I wouldn’t worry…

54 julie { 01.29.14 at 12:56 pm }

yoshie , my son is turning 12 on Friday and he can’t wait to go on his 6th trip in November! This is a place that is fun for all ages! No worries your son will have a blast!

55 Katie { 05.04.14 at 9:52 pm }

Hello and thanks for all the info! I will be going in the fall with my 11 year old son. I have a bad back and can’t go on the thrill rides. He’s old enough to want to go on them but yough enough to feel anxious separated from me if he has to spend the whole wait time in the queue’s with crowds and strangers. Everything will be unfamiliar to both of us, having not been there before. Will I be able to go in the lines with him and then go wait to meet him after he gets off the ride? Is there anything I need to do or anyone to inform to be able to do this? Will it vary depending on the ride-like a roller coaster vs tower of terror? We will be doing the Universal parks also, so I have the same question about those, in case you know, or could suggest who to checkb with. Thank you so much!

56 Dave { 05.05.14 at 7:11 am }

Katie, I don’t know about Universal, nor can I think of anyone who answers questions. At WDW you will be able to get quite close to the boarding area. Just tell the cast members as you enter the ride your intention…

57 Chris { 07.15.14 at 10:04 pm }

Dave,

My wife and I will be taking our 3 1/2 year old to DW in October. He is about 40 inches on the money. I know he absolutely love MK and he is infatuated with Toy story, Cars, and many other Disney characters. I have had people say it’s too early but it won’t be our last trip. Heck, I’m even excited just as much as he is. My question to you, should we stay at a monorail hotel for convienence or go for the art of animation hotel due to the characters and lively rooms. Yes, I know this trip is for him but I also usually only stay at 4-5 star hotels due to service quality and accommodations. What are your thoughts on this and thank you in advance for your suggestions! Have a great day.

58 Dave { 07.16.14 at 6:34 am }

Chris, if it’s not your only trip, then age doesn’t matter, so I’m with you! On the hotel question, he will grow out of his infatuation with Toy Story and Cars, so why not luxuriate in it now at Art of Animation? If you are there long enough to make the hassle worth it, you can also stay in two hotels–start in one, then shift to another.

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