(WDW is a place for families and so is my blog. I write with my brother and father and posed this question to my team to get you several perspectives.)
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: 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 an 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.
• 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: 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: 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?
Contributed by: Amy E (NDM#242). Amy is our resident baby expert and creator of Growing Up Disney.