By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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(What If They’re Too Short/Young?)

By Dave Shute


If this may be your kids’ only childhood visit, wait til the youngest/ shortest is 48″ tall and around 8 or 9 years old.

If you do, then they will be able to ride all attractions with height restrictions, and should have the emotional maturity to appreciate most of the best of Disney, and to have fun even on the “scary” rides.

If this is impossible for you, the material below suggests that setting 44 inches as your  target minimum height costs you only little.

However, children of this height may be as young as five and a half–or even younger.

For young children, test the effect that their first scary ride has on them, and base your exposure of them to further scary rides (listed below) on how that goes.

(See this page for help if you have no intention of following this advice!)


The image shows height requirements for 17 rides, so that you can see exactly what your child will miss at the height you expect him or her to be when you attend Walt Disney World.

These 17 rides include most of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World. You’ll see that after 48 inches, the next key height is 44 inches.

If your child is less than 48 inches, but at least 44 inches, at the time of your vacation, then your child will miss only two rides, and only one of these—Rock n’ Roller Coaster—is one of Walt Disney World’s ten most popular rides.

However, if your child is less than 44 inches, then he or she will miss in addition Flight of Passage, Space Mountain, Mission: Space, and Expedition Everest–three of these are among the most popular rides at Disney World.


Children less emotionally and cognitively developed than the typical third grader will have some of the best of Disney World go right over their heads, and may have trouble with some of the best, but scary, rides.

Test one such ride on your children and base their exposure to the rest on their reaction to the first.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 50% of both American girls and boys hit 44 inches by age five and a half. 90% of girls are 44 inches or taller by age seven, and 90% of boys by age six and a half.

These children may be too young for the scary parts of some of the best Walt Disney World has to offer.

Six attractions–five of them being among the most popular rides at Walt Disney World– for which a 44 inch tall child is tall enough may be too scary: Flight of Passage, Mission: Space, Tower of Terror, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, and Space Mountain.

The last is “just” a roller coaster, and is too scary only if your child is not rational enough to understand that he or she takes much bigger risks of injury when riding in a car than on a roller coaster.

The first five are a little tougher: the actual physical and visual experience that is being imitated–the “story” of the ride and its effects–can be a little scary even for older children.

If you must bring children with less than the emotional and cognitive development of a third grader, base your exposure of your children to the final four on this list based on their reaction to the first one of these they encounter.  If the first one is too much, keep them off the rest of Tower of Terror,  Mission: Space, Stitch’s Great Escape, Dinosaur, and Expedition Everest.

See this page for help if you have no intention of following this advice!

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1 caryn { 09.09.12 at 4:38 pm }

We are planning to go the week of Thanksgiving and, after seeing this site, I am scared! I have a 9, 7 and 4 yr old. Is that whole week bad or will it get better on Thanksgiving day and after?
Also, my 4 year old 39 inches tall. She can’t ride some of the other events with an adult?
Thank in advance for your reply.

2 Dave { 09.10.12 at 7:20 am }

Hi Caryn, the whole week is bad, but the worst days are Weds, Thurs, Fri and Sat. Your 39″ can ride anything except the rides with height limits of 40″ or higher–see this

3 mike { 03.19.13 at 3:32 pm }

When traveling with a 2 year old on WDW busses, from airport to hotel and hotel to parks ,does the child ride on a lap or does the child have to ride in a car seat? Understand riding in a car but a bus we are not to sure. Thanks

4 Dave { 03.19.13 at 5:16 pm }

Mike, you do not need a car seat on the busses!

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5 Michelle { 09.20.13 at 7:31 am }

Since I live across the globe from Disney (in Indonesia), I want to make sure that our visit to Disney would not be a waste of money. So, I apologize for the barrage of questions I’m listing here beforehand.

So, here goes:
1. Which one would you recommend for a 5 year old and an 8 year old to visit, Disneyland or Disneyworld? We’ll be based in Chicago, where my sister in law is residing at present, and we will go in a car as we want to combine road trip into it as well and return by plane. Also, I notice that you only put Disney World, but perhaps you might have some insight on Disney Land as well
2. When would be the best time to visit, June-July or end of December-January (these are when the kids have more than two weeks holiday)
3. How long would a reasonable stay be to enjoy the visit? Will three days be sufficient?
4. Do they have the firework display every night? Because Disneyland Hong Kong only put up Firework Display during winter season only.
5. Do you suggest hotels inside the compound or the hotels outside the compound are also fine? What would be the perks staying in Disney Hotels (other than the awesome amenities, Disney stuff, close proximity and discounted entry tickets)?

Thanks a lot, Dave. I really appreciate your answer.

6 Dave { 09.21.13 at 10:39 am }

Hi Michelle!

on 1 either would be a great choice, so I’d pick based on other factor-s–e.g. would you rather be in California or Florida.

On 2 neither is a good time. The end of December and early Jan is wildly crowded, and after that you go into ride closure season. June-July is very crowded, and can be unspeakably hot. See

On 3, see

On 4, the fireworks at Epcot are on every night, and at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios >75% of nights. It varies a bit by time of year. No fireworks nights at MK are most common September-mid December.

On 5 see

Was this even remotely helpful?

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7 Michael { 11.19.13 at 10:11 am }

First thank you for you great site, but I do have a few specific questions.

This will be my son’s (7yr old now) 2nd time and daughter’s (3yr old now) first time going. Planning on a trip around Thanksgiving week 2014. Hoping to leave Chicago on Thanksgiving and go for about 6 days. Last time stayed at Board Walk Villas. Loved access to parks and room.

Looking for other (cheaper) places to stay with:
Easy access to parks
Fridge/micro in room (heat up pancakes for breakfast or snacks)

Don’t care about views from room or pools (too cold)


8 Dave { 11.19.13 at 4:48 pm }

Hey Michael, and thanks! There’s nothing that fits all your criteria. Noe of the least expensive rooms have either microwaves or easy park access.

The closest fit would be a Studio at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, but it may be more expensive than you are thinking. See this: for about $442 a night then.

If this is too much $ lemme know!

9 Mike { 11.20.13 at 10:16 am }

The Villas are the only one with fridges and micro? If so figures. I think with the kids it easy to make cheap meals and snacks.
Of all the Villas which one do you think would be best. Again, son will be 8 and daughter will be 4. You had talked about the Villas at the Wilderness is that a long bus ride to the parks?

P.S. thanks for the height chart for the rides!!! Thank you for your time.

10 Dave { 11.20.13 at 3:01 pm }

Mike: you can find fridges and microwaves for less–but not a whole lot less–also at the two Family Suite value resort offerings, and also at the moderate Cabins at Fort Wilderness.

none is particularly convenient to a theme park; all are more spacious and livable than the Studio at the Wilderness Lodge.

Links to all three are here:

11 Michael { 11.20.13 at 10:17 am }

Dave, the above message was from Michael, but addressed to you. I messed it up. Ha

12 Dave { 11.20.13 at 3:01 pm }

Fixed, Mike!!!

13 Jared { 12.20.13 at 6:14 pm }

Great site lots of great info. I am in the military and will be visiting WDW the week of the 18th. I see that there is some military discounts. Do you have any info on this?

Thanks in advanced,

14 Dave { 12.21.13 at 10:40 am }

Jared, there’s great deals for the military. See this and its links:

15 vicki { 12.31.16 at 1:54 pm }

First of all, this site is a gem! So much more info! Thank you!
Question: how strictly do cast members check for height requirements, would you say? I ask because I figure my daughter will only be around 42″ when we go, but would LOVE Space Mountain!

16 Dave { 01.02.17 at 9:16 am }

Vicki, while not obsessive, they are pretty strict, as the heights are guided partially by the mechanics of the safety systems on the rides. So it’s possible, but unlikely, that she will be allowed on.

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