Guide to Disney With Kids
by Edward Drummond
Taking the kids to Walt Disney World may be the ultimate vacation for the younger set. But without proper planning, it can be a stressful and overwhelming experience for the parents, especially for those who have never been there before. On the other hand, a practical, flexible approach can help make the trip fun and memorable for everyone.
Goofy's Barnstormer is a roller coaster aimed at younger kids.
Disney With Little Kids
For little kids, there are few things as magical as a trip to the Magic Kingdom. However, remember to keep your child's limitations in mind to help prevent meltdowns and over-stimulation. If your child typically takes a nap after lunch, try to make sure he or she still gets that daily snooze--even if you have to go back to the hotel room to do it.
It's important to have a good plan when little kids are present, but it's equally important to keep it flexible and try not to over-schedule the days. Little kids don't have clocks or calendars, all they know is Mickey is in the tent and they want to see him again.
While each park has some attractions that are friendly to little kids, The Magic Kingdom is by far the best place for them. Fantasyland and the neighboring Mickey's Toontown Fair are filled with toddler-friendly attractions like "Dumbo," "it's a small world," "The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh" and "Goofy's Barnstormer."
Small children love to see the live animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which also has some of the best opportunities to meet Mickey Mouse with little wait. He's in Camp Minnie-Mickey, and the lines for him here are generally shorter than those in the other parks.
"Playhouse Disney Live!" at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a great show for the toddler set, but "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" just across from it is too intense for most little kids. In Epcot, little kids enjoy the giant aquarium in The Living Seas pavilion, which also features a "Finding Nemo"-themed ride that has some mild scares.
Disney With Older Kids
Older kids are of course more independent and will be more inclined to have their own ideas--sometimes very specific ideas--about what they want to do at Walt Disney World. They can also research the parks themselves and may even be helpful in planning the family's agenda.
Older kids, especially teenagers, tend to be more interested in the park's thrill rides. In the Magic Kingdom, plan on stops at "Space Mountain," "Big Thunder Mountain" and "Splash Mountain." In the Animal Kingdom, your likely rides will include "Kali River Rapids" and "Expedition: Everest." "Expedition Everest" is one of the few rides in Walt Disney World to feature a single-rider line. If this ride is not to the rest of the family's taste, your daring teen can easily join the single-rider line and be back with the group in as little as 10 or 15 minutes.
Epcot also has some youth-friendly thrill rides, including "Mission: Space" and "Test Track." "Soarin'" is a simulated hang-glide over California, and while it is a fantastic ride, it's not particularly intense and can be enjoyed by everyone in the family who meets the 40-inch height requirement.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has two teen-friendly thrill rides: the free-fall experience of "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" and the Aerosmith-themed "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster."
In some cases, if your children are old enough to enjoy the parks on their own for some of the time, it might be best to split the family into groups, especially if there is a mix of younger and older children with vastly different interests in rides. After all, your teen may want nothing to do with "Dumbo" and "it's a small world" while your toddler may want to ride them repeatedly.
If you do not typically let your child go out on his or her own, then Disney may not be the best place to try this for the first time. The parks are big, crowded and it's easy to get lost or lose all track of time.