Taking Your Too Short/Young Kids Anyway, &*#$@!!

By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: THE LONG AND SHORT OF DISNEY WORLD

This site recommends waiting to go until your kids are at least 48 inches tall and in the third grade or older. If you do, all of the best of Disney World is open to them.

Of course, as noted several times before, kids of all ages can have a great time at Disney World. So you may be ignoring this instruction…

The problem with younger kids is that

  • Younger kids enjoy attractions that older ones and their parents would view as skippable
  • Older kids and their parents enjoy things that younger kids can’t or shouldn’t ride
  • Moreover, little kids also slow everyone else down, as they can’t keep up at the same pace as the rest of the family

The result is that it is very hard to keep everyone happy on a single Disney World trip, and the family overall does not have the best possible trip.

TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO WON’T FOLLOW SUGGESTIONS

The best—not great, but still best—answer depends on your family circumstances. Two variables are critical:
types.jpg

  • First, are all your kids too young or short, or do you have a mix of some the right age/height and others not?
  • Second, could you afford to return?

Suggestions are grouped below based on these two variables; you can also see them organized a little more simply by clicking on the thumbnail to the right.

YOU CAN AFFORD TO RETURN, AND ALL YOUR KIDS ARE TOO SHORT/YOUNG

Go now for a shorter, simpler trip, focused on what little kids like, and return later when they are older for a full scale version of one of this site’s itneraries.

YOU CAN AFFORD TO RETURN, AND ONLY SOME OF YOUR KIDS ARE TOO SHORT/YOUNG

  • Leave your youngest kids behind (grandma, police, kennel) and go on a regular trip with your properly aged kids; return later for a regular trip when your youngest kids are old and tall enough, or
  • Go now with everyone for a regular trip, but split up often and use babysitters often (see below); return later for a regular trip when your youngest kids are old and tall enough

YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO RETURN, AND ALL YOUR KIDS ARE TOO SHORT/YOUNG

  • Wait until they are (you knew you were going to hear that again), or,
  • Go now for a shorter, simpler trip, banking the money saved compared to the regular trip for a short return later when they are old and tall enough, focused on what you missed this time around

YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO RETURN, AND ONLY SOME OF YOUR KIDS ARE TOO SHORT/YOUNG

  • Wait until they are older and taller… (you knew you were going to hear that again), or,
  • Go now with everyone for a regular trip, but split up often and use babysitters often (see below); if you possibly can, return later for a regular trip when your youngest kids are old and tall enough

MANAGING A DISNEY WORLD TRIP WITH KIDS OF WILDLY DIFFERENT AGES

The core problem is that little kids enjoy rides that the rest of the family could skip, and that older kids and parents enjoy rides that little kids either can’t or shouldn’t ride.To help you figure out what is what, all the rides at Walt Disney World have been sorted based on how little kids and older kids and their parents see them.

You can see this sorting in The Comprehensive Guide to Rides by going to this page.

The problem areas are especially the lower left and upper right corners of the page.

  • The lower left highlights how many of the rides that are best loved by pre-school kids fall into the “skippable” category for older kids. (See this for more detail on skippable rides, because not all are equally skippable; especially skippable ones are in italics in the The Comprehensive Guide to Rides)
  • The upper right highlights how many of the rides that are favorites for older kids and their parents should be avoided—or have height limits too high—for little kids. These include 8 of the ten most popular rides at Walt Disney World (in bold).

To keep everyone as happy as they possibly can be, follow these approaches:

  1. See the rides that little kids like. Even though they may be a little dull for the rest of the kids, the joy of the little ones should be enough to keep at least the parents motivated
  2. Take more/longer afternoon breaks, swims, and naps than the itineraries already indicate
  3. Parents, take turns entertaining little kids during the morning stretches that present ride after ride inappropriate for little kids, especially at Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom. Check your morning itineraries at these parks, and note where they have a number of rides that little ones should or must avoid. You can do this entertaining one of two ways: (1) The parent on duty sleeps in with, or goes for a morning swim, with the littlest ones, rejoining the rest of the family 60-90 minutes into their tour of the park; or (2) The parent with little one duty can follow the same schedule as the rest of the family, but take the child to the more skippable child rides at the park or the character greeting areas while the rest of the family is on the inappropriate rides.
  4. Use babysitters (check at your resort’s concierge desk for recommendations) for the littlest kids for when the rest of the family is at Cirque du Soleil, is spending late evenings at Epcot and the Hollywood Studios, and is at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue.
  5. If it is on the itinerary for your trip (it is not on all of them), skip the Sunday Gospel Brunch and either sleep in or return to a park where you missed some key stuff.

OTHER RESOURCES FOR HOW OLD AND TALL YOUR KIDS SHOULD BE



42 comments

1 Kristen { 02.09.11 at 5:40 am }

I can definitely understand why your age/height minimum would be 3rd grade/48″ but I have to tell you… My first trip to Disney (all the parks.. minus animal kingdom, which was not around then) was in 1990, when I was 5 years old and just 44″.

I will be 26 in May, and I still remember that trip from my 5 year old mind’s perspective. I am not sure what I really missed out on… but I do know all the cool stuff I got to do! Including Space Mountain.. I really thought we were going through Space. I thought we were really flying in Peter Pan’s Flight. It was just so magical for me. I really believe that is why I have always loved going to Disney World so much.

Meanwhile, it was also my sister’s first time going at the age of 16, and she could live without ever going there again. I also at the age of 5, lasted every single day, all day… no rest! We had to go back and forth several days from my grandparents, which was an hour away.

Maybe I am an exception to the rule.. but I really dislike this advice of waiting so long to take your kids to experience Disney.

I have known for a very long time that when I had children, that the perfect first age to bring them would be 5. My daughter just turned 5 in January and one of her presents is our upcoming trip to Disney World in May. She is a lot like me… so I hope it’s as magical for her as it was for me. :)

2 Dave { 02.09.11 at 9:25 am }

Kristen, what a sweet and touching story, and I’m sorry you dislike the site! Don’t tell anyone :)

My advice on kids’ ages constitutes the most-disliked and disagreed with stuff I have ever written.

However, I think part of the issue is misunderstanding, or just plain unclear bad writing on my part.

Here’s what I say on my home page:

  • Kids of any age can have a wonderful time at Disney World. However, if this may be your kids’ only childhood visit, consider going when your youngest child is at least 8 or 9, and your shortest child at least 48 inches tall.
  • The key word there is only, which I have just highlighted in red on the home page–it used to be just bold…

    If the question were just about the earliest age a kid could have fun, I’d be fully with you.

    But if it is first and perhaps only trip, then it gets harder, as the question becomes how old enough should a kid be to get almost all of the best of WDW…which is why I end where I do…

    3 Kim { 04.16.11 at 10:56 am }

    I wanted to say bravo – this is an interesting site. I am having fun navigating around and seeing other peoples opinions. I have been described as being obsessed with Disney. My first visit was with my parents in 1976 and have returned about every other year. My one parent had a second wedding in Disney, both me and my sibling had our Honeymoons in Disney and we have many family reunions in Disney.
    I consider myself to be a great resource on Disney and have advised many people over the years. I wanted to make a small comment on the age of children advice. I agree with you if parents are considering a once only type visit. For families more like mine, where you plan on making Disney more of a traditional type vacation.
    Parents consider taking your family when your youngest child is around 2.5years. At this age your youngest won’t ride rides, but you get to see so much of the parks that you normally run past getting to the next greatest attraction. You get to interact with the staff and some of the characters will spend so much time with the young ones. Even Better is that under 3 is FREE!!! So they get to be on your dining plan no charge, no charge entry into all the parks, no charge for hotel stay. If you take tons of pictures and talk about your trip your child will remember. My son is 6 and he remembers his first visit at 2.5 years because we talk and look at the pictures a lot. My twin daughters are 2 this summer and I feel it’s time to start planning their first trip. My son will not be interested in any of the same things, but it also won’t be his last visit so he can learn to slow down. The twins will have a great time and this will be the start of new traditions for our family.

    4 Dave { 04.16.11 at 11:28 am }

    Thanks Kim!!

    5 Anonymous { 01.05.12 at 1:20 am }

    Hi Dave, very nice site indeed! so i am taking a 4.5 yr old and a 2 yr old for the first time in the week pre-easter. took your advice and doing a 4 day trip starting on Monday 4/2/2012. we are staying at the swan Dolphin and was wondering if you have an itinerary suggestion. thanks!

    6 Dave { 01.05.12 at 8:11 am }

    Honestly, I’d rebook. That’s the second busiest week of the year, and little kids can be really hard to manage in such crowds…

    7 Kelly { 01.10.12 at 6:49 pm }

    Your site offers great advice; I worked at Disneyland for 5 years and you have a concise way of communicating all of the tips that my friends and family have solicited from me over the years! I particularly agree with your comment above about avoiding crowds. Crowds at Disneyland do have a tendency to feel worse than WDW due to the cramped nature of the park, but a free, open park vs. a crowded environment will make or break a trip. I know first hand that on busy days, fellow guests are quicker to lose their temper and potentially put a damper on your magical day.

    8 Dave { 01.11.12 at 8:46 am }

    Hi Kelly and thanks for weighing in and your kind words about the site–I always love hearing from current and former cast members!

    9 Tammy { 01.17.12 at 12:25 am }

    Hi Dave,
    We are planning a trip to florida the week of 4/27/12 to 05/04/12. We have accomodations about an hour away at friends. I have a 3.5yr old son that LOVES Mickey Mouse club house and keeps asking to go to his house. We also have an 8yr old daughter that has been to Magic Kingdom 2 yrs ago. Can you suggest the best place to go? Is there an actual club house where he can meet all the caracters? Is there any deals on tickets for this time of year? Is there any other low cost attractions that we can do while we are in Florida, so that we can make it a great trip for all? Thanks so much in advance. Tammy

    10 Dave { 01.17.12 at 9:25 am }

    Hi Tammy!

    There’s no one place where he can meet all the characters–and no “clubhouse”–but characters are everywhere, and especially so in the Magic Kingdom. He can meet Mickey right inside MK, in the building to the right.

    For deals, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/03/29/walt-disney-worlds-latest-spring-and-summer-deal/

    I don;t really cover other attractions, but from what I’ve heard, you likely wanna check out Legoland… http://florida.legoland.com/

    11 Anon from Scotland { 06.01.12 at 10:39 am }

    We took our then 18 month old daughter to Disneyland Paris and she had a ball. She loved the Characters and the Fantasyland rides and we could even go on things like PotC as she was too young to be scared of it. We have wonderful memories and beutiful photos to cherish. Sometimes by 9 children have started to lose the magic and its all about the rides. So they can’t ride all the rollercoaster’s at 5 or 6, but you can bet the look on their faces when they first see Mickey or a beautiful Princess will be worth the pay off.+69

    12 Dave { 06.01.12 at 10:49 am }

    Hi!

    The issue is not whether young kids can have fun–of course they can, as I note multiple times.

    The issue is if it may be their only childhood trip, how old should they be…a much harder question…

    13 Kay { 06.19.12 at 11:12 pm }

    Hi Dave,

    You have such wonderful advice. I have 2 kids (21 and 2) and my sister has 9 kids (17-2). I know. 5 over the ‘perfect’ age and 4 underI am planning a trip to Disneyworld and paying for it and it will probably be my sister and her kids only trip. I was so racking my brain and heart over can we all go, who goes. I want them to remember this and i want to have fun to so should I wait 6 more years and take everybody or should I take half now and half in another six years or should i just place concern in the wind and take everybody now??

    14 Dave { 06.20.12 at 6:58 am }

    Kay, if this may be her only trip, I’d go ahead and take everyone now. If you wait the older kids may be too old to get the most delight.

    15 Penelope { 11.08.12 at 7:15 pm }

    Dave,
    I love the site. I’ve been to WDW as a teenager and loved it. My husband has not been and really wants to go soon so I am hoping to book by June for Dec. 7, 2013. My only concern is that our son will only be 5. My husband doesn’t ride anything that would be considered too scary though like roller coasters (he has a bad heart) So I am wondering if age would be a big deal. I’m thinking my husband will love it so I doubt this will be our only trip. I love rides so I know riding as a single can go much faster anyways. Any advice as far as should we change the itinerary?

    16 Dave { 11.09.12 at 9:31 am }

    Hi Penelope and tanks for the love!!

    So long as you will be returning when he’s older, going when he’s 5 will be fine! You’d want to thin the intieraries based on this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ and also maybe eliminate Epcot entirely…

    17 Hayden { 11.30.12 at 6:15 pm }

    We went this past April 2012 with 3 kids ALL under the age of 5. Let me tell you, we had a blast and I would never in a million years have left the youngest at home with grandma! haha. But we fall into the category that this was not our one and only trip to Disney World. I do agree with the fact that Disney World is more geared towards children ages 8+. My 3 kids were exhausted by 6 pm everyday. The littlest one was 11 months old at the time and was able to ride SO many rides as long as we were holding her. She had a great time. But yes the kids do slow you down but that’s the whole reason we went-for the kids enjoyment. We just had to make sure to take breaks, call it a night much earlier than usual and we were unable to ride Space Mountain or the Aerosmith roller coaster because of height restrictions.

    18 Dave { 12.01.12 at 11:03 am }

    Thanks, Hayden!

    19 Miranda { 12.25.12 at 9:38 pm }

    we are planning out our first trip to DWmy husband went as a child, I have never been or my daughter. She is 7 right now and her birthday is Dec 14. we are going to try to go Dec 2013 so she will be 8 a few weeks after our planned trip. We live near Dollywood in TN and have season passes and go often so she is used to the theam park thing. She does tire out some days and others she is fine. She does better when it is less croweded she has a little bit of special needs and i think thats why the crowds bother her. Im feeling like this will be a good time to take her while she can still enjoy the magic (she loves all things disney) but she also loves to swim, do any of the resorts have an indoor pool, that may be good to just retreat to if she is having a bad day? We hope this will not be our only trip but its hard to tell so we are kinda planning like it may be and we were only planning on staying 4 days should we up that to 6? Due to work thats the longest we could stay. Loving all the info on here. Thanks.

    20 Dave { 12.26.12 at 8:25 am }

    Hi Miranda!

    Six days is much better than 4–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-long-to-stay/

    And you are right that that will be a pretty good week to go–I rank it the #1 week of 2013–see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ None of the Disney hotels have indoor pools.

    December weather can be all over the place–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/

    Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

    21 Rachel { 01.17.13 at 5:06 pm }

    Dave, this site is AMAZING! Thanks for making planning so much easier. I’ve been to WDW six times, starting when I was 2 (I’m now 35!), and we’re planning a 2013 trip. It’s my husband’s 1st trip, at age 43!! We’ll be taking all five of our kids: ages 20, 17, 13, 5, and 2. Your site is going to help us SO much!!

    22 Dave { 01.18.13 at 7:24 am }

    Rachel, thanks so much for witting! And I’m glad the site will help!

    Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

    23 Kerri { 03.17.13 at 1:12 am }

    Taking my 4.5 year old and 1.5 year old daughters for their first visit (9/26-10/1). Knowing that this will probably not be their only trip, it is more for the memories my husband and I (and maybe oldest daughter) will make. Already booked the flight, but we’re still undecided about a resort to choose. Leaning towards the new AoA but we’re worried about the bus transit with 2 young ones. Thinking the Wilderness Lodge or a resort on the monorail may be more convenient, but can only afford it if they offer free dining or 30% discount. Any thoughts about which may be the best way to go – obviously there are pros and cons to each, but any advice you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    24 Dave { 03.17.13 at 7:56 am }

    Hi Kerri, first, I wouldn’t count on a deal. One may happen, but your dates are at the opening of the Food and Wine Festival, and that opening week has often been left out of discounts, especially free dining, and WL and the monorail resorts lately has been seeing only 20% savings. (See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/02/13/the-2013-epcot-international-food-wine-festival/ and http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/01/03/new-walt-disney-world-discount-mid-february-through-mid-june-2013/) Note that if a deal happens, you can book into it, then cancel your AofA reservation…

    WL or a monorail resort would be more convenient for MK–which will likely dominate your trip, given the ages of your kids–but not for the other three parks (Poly would be for Epcot)…

    Hope this helps! And if so…

    …Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

    25 Laura Miller { 06.28.13 at 4:11 pm }

    Hi, Dave, Love the site and all the great advice! I am taking my 1 year old daughter for her first visit with plans to return many times. I’m planning to take it easy and just enjoy being with her at Disney. I’m debating between Pop Century for her enjoyment or one of the moderates for my comfort. Also, I’m not sure how many days to pay for park entry. When we go to the parks, I’ll probably take her for 3-4 hours, then back to the resort, and only go out in the evenings if she’s bright-eyed and bushy tailed. So would you recommend tickets for all 4 days that we’re there, or just 3 days with one day off? I’d appreciate any other advice that springs to your mind for WDW with a young toddler. Thanks!

    26 Dave { 06.29.13 at 10:18 am }

    Laura, I focus on much older kids, so don’t have much to offer.

    But from what I know, you should design the trip for yourself. There’s next to nothing she’ll be able to or understand other than meeting the characters, so I’d just spend a morning at each of the 4 parks–and thus get 4 days of tickets–so you can get a sense of the lay of the land for future trips. And for similar reasons I’d pick the hotel based on what you want. Don’t worry about the best hotel for her until she’s old enough to appreciate it!!

    Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

    27 Shannon { 02.21.14 at 9:19 pm }

    I am glad I read this because I see so many of my friends who have brought their kids to Disney way before 5 and I think man, I am slacking as a parent. We are planning to go next year before we start trying to get pregnant with our 4th child and our children will be 10, 9, and 7. My daughter is petite but she is now 43″ so should be well over the 44″ height and be able to enjoy mostly everything. My boys are both already over the height so I think our family will thoroughly enjoy Disney next year. Good thing is, she loves princesses, so we can go looking for princesses while the big boys ride the big rides with Daddy. Thanks again!

    28 Dave { 02.22.14 at 8:32 am }

    Shannon, it’s fine to go when they are very little if you can bring them back later! But if you may not be able to, then waiting til they are old enough to “get it” is always the right move…

    29 Melissa { 04.08.14 at 11:10 pm }

    I am trying to plan a trip for 2015 . I am wondering which would be cheaper, in your opinion. One option is May. My twins will be just shy of 3. We plan on the dining plan with the sit down dinner. The other option would be September. The twins would be over 3 then. We would still want to do the dining plan. Our schedule is very flexible.

    30 Dave { 04.09.14 at 10:08 am }

    Melissa, with kids younger than three, you don’t need to pay for tickets–nor, if you choose to get it, the dining plan. So May will be MUCH cheaper for you…

    31 Melissa { 04.11.14 at 11:35 pm }

    Hi Dave,
    Another question. I looked over your 2015 week breakdown of when to go, and a thinking of te week of May 9th. My question to you us, do you think the 30% of rooms will available then??

    32 Dave { 04.12.14 at 9:17 am }

    ?30% of rooms? Melissa, I’m not following you…

    33 Melissa { 04.12.14 at 6:44 pm }

    I am sorry, typo. do you think the 30% off resort rates will be available the week of May 9th 2015??

    34 Dave { 04.13.14 at 12:02 pm }

    Oh, I should have figured that out!! There will be a room rate deal for then, I’d guess. It’ll be less than 30% at values and moderates, and around that at deluxes.

    35 Melissa { 04.13.14 at 9:46 pm }

    Its ok :). Thanks for your help!!! You are amazing!!! I am sure I will have plenty of questions between now and then. Thank you again!!

    36 Andrea { 05.27.14 at 11:45 am }

    Hello.. I’ve been looking at your site and have found it to be very informative. In December last year, we told our 4 kids that we are taking them to Disney from March 22-28, 2015 (their Spring Break from school).. We’ve been saving so we can afford a nice trip as with a family of 6 it won’t be cheap. While this isn’t their first visit to Magic Kingdom and very likely won’t be their last trip to a park, this will probably be the only time we plan to stay at Disney for a week. Our kids will be 8, 7, 6, and 4 at the time we go and none of them will even consider the thought of going on any of the bigger rides such as Space Mountain (which is ok with my husband and I as we aren’t fond of roller coasters). The “problem” with our vacation is that 2 months ago we found out that we are very unexpectedly expecting again and the baby will be 4 months old at the time of our trip. We plan to stick to the younger kid friendly rides, character meets, and a lot of pool time anyway (our oldest has extremely high functioning Aspergers and only likes the smaller rides and our almost 4 year old is the size in height of a tall 2 year old).. Is it possible to still have a good time with baby on board? Also, are there usually any type of discount or deal during that time?

    37 Dave { 05.28.14 at 8:25 am }

    Andrea, my guess is that there won’t be much in the way of discounts, if any, then. Plenty of babies go to Disney World–frankly, they are usually less of a problem than 4 year olds! You can make this work if you plan your days carefully, and are willing to split the family up at times…

    38 Stacey { 06.05.14 at 3:20 pm }

    So am I understanding this right? If we book a value resort for January 2015 now (or when the prices come out in the next few weeks actually), then if a deal pops up in October we can still get it, even if we’ve already paid? What if the deal is only for the moderate resorts? Would we then be able to switch the resort reservation to take advantage of the deal? In your experience will there be deals for late January, seeing as its already the cheapest time of year?

    39 Dave { 06.06.14 at 7:53 am }

    Stacey, if a deal comes out and you already have a reservation, you can then call and either re-book your resort into it or change your reservation to a resort that is eligible your dates. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to do so–if you find out late, there may not be anything left–but you also are not harmed in any way by already having a reservation except that you have to change over the phone–you can’t change an existing reservation online. And yes, that time of year commonly sees room rate deals.

    40 Valerie { 09.04.14 at 10:21 am }

    Hi Dave! I’ve begun to tentatively plan this once in a lifetime trip for my daughter. Originally I planned on taking her next spring break or May 2016. She would be in the second grade and 8 years old. (She is currently 44″ so I’m assuming she’ll grow at least 4 inches in the next 18 months!) However, due to money constraints I’m considering the following year to be more feasible. So that would put her at 9 years old in the third grade. She is the only child at the moment, but we do plan on having more a little bit later down the road which is why this trip is critical. I want her to experience the magic of disney as well as participate and experience everything the park has to offer. What is your advice for this once in a lifetime trip? Is there that big of a difference between 8 and 9? When do kids begin to lose the magical feeling? Thanks!

    41 Valerie { 09.04.14 at 10:22 am }

    *magical experience

    42 Dave { 09.04.14 at 12:58 pm }

    Valerie, every kid is so different. Basically, the younger, the more magic, the older, the more completely they get WDW. Is it financially conceivable to do two shorter trips–one soon, one later?

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