On our plane ride to/from Orlando, Florida I (Angie) engaged in discussion, with other vacationing families, about the age-appropriateness of Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
How young is too young? How old (for a kid’s age) is too old? When will your children reap the most benefits out of the theme park?
Apparently, while some families take their kids to Disney religiously, each year, including infants, others wait until their youngest reaches the 3/4-year-old age mark. Ultimately, there’s really no “good” or “bad” age to take your kids — if they’re into that whole scene, you can’t go wrong. What I will say, is that if you’re heading there with a child who is three years or younger, you’ll want to read and consider our experience. There are a few things we wish we knew before we went.
LOCATION: Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
DURATION: 1/2 day
DATES: Sept 28, 2015
WHO: Rick, Angie, 18-month old son and 10 year old
There’s a reason Walt Disney World is the number one visited vacation resort in the world — it truly is a magical place for families. We were honoured to be able to take our infant son and grown son to the park for a family-day-out.
That said, there are a few things that can make your visit that much more enjoyable, especially if you’re travelling with an infant or toddler.
Tips on Taking a Toddler to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom:
- Avoid arriving when the park first opens. I lead with this tip because our entire experience could have been different. Our kids always wake at the crack of dawn so we were seriously eating breakfast near the main entrance waiting for the park to open. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones. The line-ups first thing in the morning were crazy. Whether you’re considering parking or the ferry/monorail, this is the worst time to arrive if you’ve got impatient kiddies who might expire. We were told that around noon things really slow down at the entrance. So try waiting out your arrival if you can.
- Don’t be fooled by a rumored “slow season”. We figured September would be the perfect time to visit the park — school’s back in session and summer vacationers have returned home. Again, clearly, we weren’t the only ones thinking this way. Families waiting for summer to end to take advantage of cooler temperatures, less rain and (potentially) cheaper hotel rates, all flock to the park in September. Your best bet is to plan for crowds no matter what. It’s the world’s most popular theme park for a reason.
- Visit the park in the cooler months — trust us. If you’re taking a baby or a toddler to a theme park as expansive as this one, we highly recommend waiting for temperatures to cool off. We happened to be there when temperatures soared between 88-92 F and trying to keep a 1.5 year old feeling cool throughout the day was next to impossible. November through March are much better months to take the younger kids or those who don’t like the heat.
- Bring a ‘leash’ for new walkers. I know, I know, this sounds silly. But theme parks like this are gigantic and crowded. It’s easy to turn your head away from your toddler for two seconds to look at something and have him wander off. Whether it’s a leash style backpack or a wrist-to-wrist, connector, leashes for toddlers make sense in this environment. That way, they get some freedom while you enjoy some peace of mind that they’re relatively restricted.
- Consider travel time to and from the Magic Kingdom when planning out your day. I had never been to Magic Kingdom before, so neither my husband nor I were prepared for the actual “process” of getting into the park. First, you wind through Disney World to get to the Magic Kingdom area. Then you line up to pay to park; next it’s finding a spot and waiting to be directed by park staff; then you either line up for a shuttle or walk 15 minutes to the ticketing area. Next, you buy your tickets and then wait in line for either a ferry boat or monorail. While all of this is doable with older kids (our 10.5 year old was fine with it all) our toddler wasn’t as understanding. You’ll want to factor in all of this travel time when planning around naps etc.
- Set up the Fast Pass before heading to Orlando and plan out some of your family-favorite attractions in advance. Some of the lineups were well over an hour long with the fast pass area being significantly shorter. The fast pass is a process where you register online (up to 60 days in advance) for a time slot to visit an attraction. You’re allowed to sign up for three fast passes per day. There’s a ton more to know about this so click here for more information.
- Wait until your child is old enough to truly reap the benefits of all the park has to offer (like nighttime fireworks) OR stay on property with infants/toddlers for easy nap-time access and access to your room. Ok, so this type is a bit wordy, but, essentially, we ended up feeling like we didn’t get everything out of the park that we could have had we have had a different set up. We were staying off resort and by the time we arrived, went through the whole process of getting into the park, and explored for a while, we had to leave for the darned afternoon nap. It would have taken way too long to get back in to the park so that was the end of our visit. In hindsight, we would have done it differently.
Overall, I chatted with a lot of other families on the trip to do some focused research and thoughts among parents were quite similar:
- Wait until your kids are old enough to stay up well past their bedtime without much of a consequence (usually around 4 years old and up). That way you can all enjoy the fireworks and other park “extras” to make the most of your money and stay
- Stay at hotels on the property if visiting with younger kids to make it easier to take breaks from the heat, a break from the stimulation and to allow for easy access to nap time
- If your kids are excellent sleepers in public (like many infants/toddlers) Magic Kingdom would be the perfect place to take them because there’s a lot of walking and it’s less ride-focused
- Dress comfortably (the whole family) as there is a ton of walking
- Read a lot of Disney stories and watch the movies before you come so younger children are really excited by what they’re seeing
We’re so thrilled we were able to make this theme park apart of our #myorlandostory and I know our family created memories we’ll share for the rest of our lives. I honestly think that no matter the age of your child(ren) everyone enjoys a place like this. It’s magical, fun, outdoors and very stimulating. I’d recommend it for parents with kids of any age providing you consider our experience.
Let us know your thoughts on taking toddlers to Disney via email or the comment section below.
Other photos from #myorlandostory: