We get this question a lot - which is quite understandable since a vacation to Disney World is not cheap. Wanting to go when your kids are likely to enjoy it the most is a totally reasonable goal.
So, what is the best age for Disney World?
My gut reaction is to say ALL AGES but I know that isn't the most helpful.
There is no one "perfect" age, though.
Instead, here are some things you might want to consider when deciding:
Disney divides their tickets into 3 different price categories:
- 0-2 free
- 3-9 child
- 10+ adult
As long as your first day in the parks is before your little one turns 3, they are free for your entire trip.
Same thing if they turn 10 during your vacation - as long as they are 9 when your vacation starts, they are still considered a "child" price-wise for your entire trip.
So, depending on the age breakdown of your child(ren), it may make sense to plan trips just before the 3rd and/or 10th birthday cutoffs.
(If you are planning a birthday trip, we have some fantastic ideas to help you celebrate it at Disney World!)
When it comes to personality it all boils down to one thing: you knowing your child best.
Have a little one that is in a stage where they hate crowds? Maybe wait a bit to go.
Toddler that hates riding in a stroller? Might be worth it to wait until their little legs can handle more walking.
If you've never "tested the waters" at similar experiences to Disney World with your child, maybe give that a try.
True, there is nothing that is exactly like a day at a Walt Disney World park but you can do things like visit a local zoo, or theme park, fair, etc.
See how they do. You may be surprised!
And, keep in mind that it isn't unusual for you to find that your kid that totally adored everything about Disney World last year suddenly hates everything this trip. (This is especially true with kids and characters).
Even if you know your child is ready to tackle all that is Walt Disney World, you may want to adjust how you tour.
We have some great ideas in our Trip plan for doing Disney World with a Toddler post. Lots of the suggestions there are great for kids all ages!
If you have a child that you know is a thrill-seeker and you worry that they may be heartbroken that they can't ride an attraction, you may want to wait until they reach a certain height.
If this sounds like your kiddo, make sure you know which Disney World attractions have height requirements before you make any final decisions.
Believing in the magic
Just thinking about this one makes my eyes get all misty.
Lots of parents want to make the first journey to Disney World while their child still believes in the magic.
And, for a lot of families, this is the driving factor for many trips.
You may find your little one suddenly fascinated with all things Mickey or Star Wars or Toy Story or pirates or princesses and you want to let them experience those things first-hand while they still believe all the way to their little toes that what they see is REAL.
It is true that many adults that love Disney World still believe in the "magic" but there is just something extra-special about seeing that magic through the eyes of a child.
Being able to remember it
Finally, one thing we often hear is that people want to make their first trip when their child is "old enough to remember it."
Again, this is totally understandable. It may feel like you are "wasting" your money if you take a trip when your tot is too young to recall it.
But you know who will remember it? YOU.
When I was in the 3rd grade I know that we drove from Oklahoma all the way to Florida to visit family. It was our first big vacation.
And I remember bits and pieces but the thing that helps me remember any of it at all are the photographs and stories my parents and grandparents told me about that trip.
The same is true for my kids' first trips to Disney World. They were older (1st and 3rd grade) and while they remember a lot, what they remember the most are the memories captured in the photographs and our favorite stories that we have repeatedly shared from that trip.
So while I absolutely understand wanting to wait for a first trip until the child is old enough to remember it, it is important to keep in mind that more often than not the memories that "stick" for kids (and adults!) will be the things that become part of your family's shared narrative.
If your have a child that is on the young age, use those precious pictures from the trip to make a photo book and include your favorite stories from the trip in it. Add it into the rotation of bedtime stories. Kids love "remember when..." conversations.
All of that will help kids of all ages latch on and remember those favorite memories for years and years to come!