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Navigating Disney with Little Kids: Making Magical Memories!

Navigating the parks with littles - elementary-aged and below.


Planning the perfect vacation for kids of multiple ages can be tough, especially when there are limitations of size and interest. Something many families run into when visiting theme parks such as Walt Disney World with kids of multiple ages. We had our first experience of this as a family during Christmas time when we traveled with my step-kids and our son who was 5 months old at the time. By focusing on the desires of the bigger kids, bringing reinforcements (grandparents), planning, and remembering to be in the moment as a family, we were able to make the most of our Disney experience while ensuring all of our children had a memorable time. 


Planning

As we were planning for our trip, we were sure to build a “rough draft” itinerary for what we thought each of the kids would be interested in throughout each park. This included some research on ride limitations and height requirements. Because this was our first trip to a theme park as a family, we were not sure which rides the kids would like. If you fall into the same boat, where you are unsure about what your children will be comfortable riding, I recommend doing your research and listing rides from chill to thrill. We chose to start with the “chill ride” and work our way up if the kids liked it, if they did not then we knew our limitations for the trip. 


Luckily, we were able to bring along grandparents from both sides of the family and an aunt to help out with the kids and our family experience. If you are entering the parks outnumbered, I highly recommend including family members on your trip. There is no shame in having an extra hand when inevitably one of your kids is having a meltdown and the rest are ready to continue onto the next thing. This also created a space for one of our kids to stay back on rides they had no interest in riding without us missing out on the experience of the other riding for the first time. For those who are not as fortunate, Disney does offer Single Rider or Rider Swap options.

Quick Tip: If you have two kids and one does not want to ride, one parent can ride with the child who wants to ride and you can parent swap, DOUBLE the ride time for the one child!

Pre-Trip Packing

Similar to packing for one kid in the park, you are going to want to make sure that you have a good number of snacks, water bottles for all, clothing appropriate for the time of year/weather, and comfortable shoes. If you are planning on using Disney transportation, you do not need to worry about bringing a car seat. Depending on the ages of your kids, you may want to have a stroller with you throughout the parks. You can always bring your own stroller, but in the case, you want to make your travel a little easier, Disney does provide a stroller rental service. 


Park Bag

Your park bag is essential to a successful day within the parks with kids of all ages. The time of year can play into what you include in your bag, but generally you will want: 


  • Snacks! - While there are multiple kid friendly snacks available in the park, if your kids are anything like ours, they will snack all day! 

  • Insulated water bottle for each member of the family 

  • Extra Clothes

  • Portable Charges 

  • Fans/Cooling Towels or Sweatshirts depending on the weather 

  • Diapers, Pull-Ups & Wipes (if needed) 

  • Any medications 

  • Accessories - is it really a trip to Disney without Mickey/Minnie ears?


What to Look Forward To 

There are a number of things in each park to look forward to for the whole family. From rides for everyone like It’s a Small World or Dumbo to thrill rides such as Tower of Terror and Flight of Passage there is something for everyone to enjoy. Some of our most cherished memories from our Christmas trip are from character meet and greets and specialty character dining experiences. As mentioned before, Disney provides resources such as Rider Swap to ensure you don’t have to miss your favorite attractions if your littles are too small or nervous to jump on the ride. They also have a program called Kids Night Out in which you can “hire a nanny” to watch your kids while you go into the park together or simply if you just need an extra hand.


Magic Kingdom

In Magic Kingdom, most of the rides do not have a height requirement, meaning even an infant can ride. There are also many entertainment options, characters to meet, and a variety of parades and shows offered throughout the day. Some of our favorites in Magic Kingdom: 

  • Tomorrowland Speedway - our kids LOVED being at the wheel and driving everyone around. I mean everyone. Each of us went on with at least one of the kids during our day in the Magic Kingdom. 

  • Mad Tea Party - what kid doesn't like this ride!?

  • Breakfast in Cinderella’s Castle - the kids felt SO special eating in the castle to start off our trip, and the adults were able to enjoy a mimosa or two before starting the day with 2 young kids and an infant!

Rides that include a height requirement:

  • Tomorrowland Speedway - must be 32” to ride

  • The Barnstormer - must be 35” to ride

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - must be 38” to ride

  • Big Thunder Mountain - must be 40” to ride

  • Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (opening Jun 28, 2024) - must be 40” to ride

  • Space Mountain - must be 44” to ride

  • TRON Lightcycle/Run - must be 48” to ride 

Entertainment:


EPCOT

EPCOT is full of adventure and immersive cultural experiences with rides, entertainment, and so many character experiences along World Showcase and other areas of the park.  Some of our favorites in EPCOT: 

  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

  • Frozen Ever After

  • The aquarium experience after The Seas with Nemo and Friends 

Rides that include a height requirement:

  • Test Track - must be 40” to ride

  • Mission Space - must be 40” to ride

  • Soarin’ - must be 44” to ride

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind - must be 42” to ride

Entertainment:


Hollywood Studios:

Hollywood Studios offers tons of entertainment and a few rides suitable for the whole family to enjoy, while most will have a height requirement. Some of our favorites in Hollywood Studios included: 

  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad 

  • Slinky Dog Dash - even my stepdaughter who was not keen to the roller coaster type rides loved this one!

  • Toy Story Mania - always a fun ride seeing who can get the highest score and it’s in the air conditioning!

Rides that include a height requirement:

  • Alien Swirling Saucers - must be 32” to ride

  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run - must be 38” to ride

  • Slinky Dog Dash - must be 38” to ride

  • Star Tours - must be 40” to ride

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance - must be 40” to ride

  • Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror - must be 40” to ride

  • Rockin’ Roller Coaster - must be 48” to ride (closed for refurbishment)

Entertainment:


Animal Kingdom: 

Animal Kingdom has a ton of entertainment suitable for your littles! All of the kids loved the many animal experiences that this park had to offer from the Safari to animals placed throughout the park. The older kids loved some of the thrill rides. We unfortunately did not get a full day in this park with everyone as this was the start of our VIP Tour. If you are looking for a different experience within the park, behind the scenes insiders, snacks and little to no wait times at all, the VIP Tour Guide was certainly a unique experience! Some of our favorites in Animal Kingdom: 

  • Kilimanjaro Safari

  • Flight of Passage

  • Expedition Everest

Rides that include a height requirement:

  • Kali River Rapids - must be 38” to ride

  • DINOSAUR - must be 40” to ride

  • Avatar: Flight of Passage - must be 44” to ride

  • Expedition Everest - The Legend of the Forbidden Mountain - must be 44” to ride

Entertainment:


Tips 

1. Plan Ahead for Success:

Before setting foot in the theme parks, take the time to plan your itinerary carefully. Consider the interests and preferences of all children whether they are infant, pre-school, elementary aged, or a mixture. Look into child swap options for rides that may not be suitable for your youngest family member and make dining reservations in advance to avoid long waits.


2. Utilize Rider Switch and Child Care Services:

Disney offers a convenient Rider Switch service, allowing one parent to wait with the infant or those not tall enough while the other enjoys the ride with the older children, then swapping without waiting in line again. Additionally, take advantage of the Baby Care Centers located in each park, offering quiet spaces for nursing, changing tables, and supplies for purchase.


3. Opt for Family-Friendly Attractions:

While older kids may be eager to tackle thrill rides, it's essential to include attractions that cater to the entire family. Explore classic favorites like "It's a Small World," "Peter Pan's Flight," and "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," which are suitable for guests of all ages. Don't forget to catch character meet-and-greets, parades, and shows that entertain both young and old alike.


4. Take Breaks and Stay Flexible:

With the excitement of Disney World, it's easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activities. However, it's crucial to schedule regular breaks throughout the day to rest, recharge, and tend to the needs of your little one(s). This can be returning to the room, a sit-down dining experience, or jumping into a show, parade, or the shade with a snack to relax. Keep in mind that flexibility is key and be prepared to adjust your plans based on your children's energy levels and preferences.


5. Capture the Memories:

Don't forget to document your family's Disney adventure with plenty of photos and videos. Capture the joy on your children's faces as they meet their favorite characters, experience thrilling attractions, and immerse themselves in the magic of Disney. These memories will be treasured for years to come and serve as a reminder of the special bond shared between your family members.


Visiting Walt Disney World with young kids, a variety of ages, is a unique and rewarding experience that offers something for everyone in the family. We have so many memories from taking the kids through the parks, decorated for the holidays, and getting to experience the magic through their eyes for the very first time. By planning ahead, utilizing Disney's services, opting for family-friendly attractions, taking breaks, and capturing the magic, you can create lasting memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. So, pack your bags, gather your loved ones, and get ready for an unforgettable Disney adventure that caters to all ages!


Nicole Mangum, Digital Marketing Manager

 

Ready to plan a trip your kids have dreamed of and leave with a multitude of core memories that will last a lifetime? Connect with our travel advisors and kickstart planning your next trip!



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