Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Team Post: What's the Best Age for a Child's First WDW Visit?

Knowing that not everyone has the luxury of going to WDW every year and have grandparents along to babysit, how old should a child be before you take them to WDW for the first time?

Amy's first WDW visit, May 1979
Amy: This is a question where the right answer varies for each family.

• For families such as ours who are regular guests at Walt Disney World, as long as you are willing to slow down your trip and do the extra work required, you could take a child as early as your next normal vacation time. Personally, I don’t think I’d take a child under 6 months, but I’m in the camp that doesn’t like strangers near my infant. Tink’s first trip was for her first birthday but I think her little sibling on the way won’t make it until later. My children will be around two years apart and two small ones might be a bit much, even with wonderful grandparents and uncle to help. Right now, I don’t know when my husband and I will be ready to brave the World with two little ones. We’ll have to meet the new baby and also see where we are living by that time.

Tink's first WDW vacation, April 2010

• For families that visit once every two or three years, I’d suggest waiting until your child is two or three years old. By that age, everything (feeding, potty breaks, etc.) is a little easier. Airlines do require you to buy a seat beginning at age two but Disney considers under threes as free for park tickets and buffet meals. By this age, children have a few favorite characters and are better able to interact with attractions and shows.

• For those families planning the once in a lifetime or once in a decade trip, I’d wait until your child is at least five years old. Not “so they’ll remember it” as many say because we do things for our children every day that they won’t remember. My reasoning is an extension of the ease factor from above. If this is a rare vacation for you, you’re more likely to want to see and do everything. While that’s even tough for adults, an older child will have more stamina to walk around the park and hopefully a little more patience for waiting in lines.

• And within each of the categories above, you’d just have to judge if your child is ready for the crowds, lots of stimulation, and long days. More outgoing kids might enjoy a Disney vacation at an earlier age than those with a more reserved personality. Tink loves being the welcoming committee and greeting those who have visited her parks.

DisneyDad's first WDW visit, December 1971

DisneyDad: After 2 trips this year with my granddaughter, Tink, when she was 12 and then 18 months I have solidified my opinion on vacationing with a child at WDW. I simply love it. I love taking her around to the parks and showing her around. My wife and I have decided Tink will think Granny and Granddaddy live in a Magical place as she has seen us there more than our home. Having said that, how old should a child be before taking them to WDW? My answer…. “It depends.”

IF you are like us and go to WDW once or twice a year and stay at a Disney Vacation Club property, then it doesn’t matter how old they are. Young children need special attention, regular rest, and a regular schedule on a vacation. So at a DVC property you can do all of that.

– BUT –

IF a trip to WDW is an once-in-a-lifetime event for you and your family, I’d recommend that your child be old enough that they don’t need to nap and they can walk ALL day long without having to be carried. I have seen many a dad carrying an older child with head on his shoulders and feet dangling well below his knees. While you love your child (after all you brought them to the “Happiest Place on Earth”) carrying a child that big on your shoulder every day does not make for a pleasant vacation. The older child will enjoy the trip more and be able to remember the trip for years to come.

Ridge's first WDW visit, June 1991
Ridge: This has been a topic of discussion for a long time. Until we had little Tink to take to the World, I don't know that I would have been bothered to drag a baby around. Now I know it can be done but you are not going to be able to get as much done since naps and schedules are a must. With that being said, I still think that if you are all go, go, go then I would wait until your child or children can walk a full day without a stroller. While strollers have a purpose, they are just a lot of trouble. Parking tends to be haphazard even though Disney has Cast Members working at most of the locations attempting to maintain order. All that said, taking a little one can be done. Just look around in the parks and it is wall to wall strollers. If you want your child to actually have memories, then I would wait until they are old enough to make it thought the park under their own power for the majority of the day. Saying that I have seen a grown man asleep in one of the park rental strollers, they seem extremely sturdy, also seems testament to how the park can wear you out.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Has your opinion changed over the years?


  1. Great post! Love the pics!!! And Ridge, I had to chuckle about the adult sleeping in the stroller. I'm mortified to admit that I found my husband sleeping in the jogging stroller when the kids and I came out of an attraction last month. :/ I'm all for a snooze in the stroller! (Well, not me personally, for the kids that is!) We just brought our 6 year old with 6 month old in tow and had a blast!

  2. Like you all said, if it's a once in a lifetime trip I would definitely wait until 5 or 6. We go every year (well we missed 1) so we took our son for his 2nd birthday. A lot of people questioned why bring him because he wouldn't remember. But you know? He had a fantastic time and WE remember those memories!

  3. I don't have kids, so I can't comment in the sense of "this is what I would do for my chidlren" or "this is my personal experience with a child" but I can comment as to what I remember as a child. I was a disney baby, child of a disney fanatic mother. I visited every year from in the womb to 6, and while I'm sure the visits blurred together, I have vivid memories from a young age. and I wouldn't trade those in for anything!

    if I am ever lucky enough to have kids of my own, I envision introducing them at a young age so they too can have those vivid, blurred memories!

  4. For my son's first trip, he was 14 months old and I was 6 months pregnant. With just one stroller and my parents along to help, we were actually able to enjoy the parks with minimal stops. My son was an easy baby and always could sleep wherever we were - stroller, lap, bus, monorail, etc. Plus, he had no fear of the characters and we have some wonderful memories and pictures from that trip. Being someone who knew the parks well, I would say you could bring your child at any age, though like Amy said, I am not sure I would venture out with a newborn or an infant under 6 months.

    But, for my son's second trip, he was 3.5, my daughter just turned 2 years and my youngest daughter was 10 months. Now, I won't say I wish we didn't go, because we had a great trip, but let me say, our motto that trip was 3 kids, two strollers and 1 diaper bag. My son was just about potty trained, but both my daughters were in diapers. This trip was a real eye opener. As much as I knew about park touring, this trip taught me many valuable lessons about touring with three small children (plus,let me add that my brother, sister in law and my 1.5 year old nephew were also with us). In order to enjoy your trip if you choose to travel with more than one little one, you have to be more organized with packing your backpack, keeping track of the kids, feedings, potty stops and everything else than you would going anywhere else.

    So like you've said, it depends on your family, but though traveling with more than one small child is amazing and memorable, it is also extremely busy dealing with the everyday kid things on top of park touring.

  5. I'll 2nd that man in stroller comment. I think I would have snapped a pic and black boxed his face! This is a great perspective as we really debated taking our then 6 month old this fall. While we did have to modify the trip and acknowledge that someone was needed to head back need be, I still felt like it was en enjoyable trip. I think my biggest advice would be if extended family are able to travel with you then ask them along.

  6. Great advice here! This is something I've wondered about for our son. Thanks for all the input!

  7. I went to come comment and realized that I did in 2010! :-) This is a great post. I know back then it was my son's 2nd birthday and we had a wonderful time but we also go every year. When he was 3, it was better than 2 and this year with him being 4 it was even better than the previous trips. I have a feeling that next year when he is 5 will be the golden ticket though - can't wait for all the fun he will have!

  8. My niece just turned five (yesterday!!) My sister and I are taking her for her first WDW trip in March. SO EXCITED!! I'm 25 and haven't been since I was 12. I don't know who's more excited - me or the 5 year old!


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