“What is the best age to bring your child to the Disney Parks?” This seems to be a common question among parents who are thinking of taking their child(ren) to Disney for the very first time.
Understanding that not everyone has the budget for multiple Disney Trips, families want to make their possibly once-in-a-lifetime vacation perfect.
There’s nothing cuter than seeing a baby light up at the sight of Mickey Mouse or the toddlers who run up to their favorite characters to get a giant hug.
But, traveling with older kids means you have a ride buddy, later nights in the Parks, and not having to deal with the fiasco called Stroller Parking.
So, what is the “best age” to take your child to Disney?
Unfortunately this isn’t something that you’re likely going to find the answer to.
Because, there’s no right or wrong age. Like mostly everything else in life, what is perfect for one family isn’t necessarily perfect for another. But, if you’d like to know if your child is at the best age to bring them to Disney, there are some things to think about before booking that trip.
Strictly talking budget, the best age to take your child to Disney is when they are under 3 years old.
Children under 3 do not need a ticket to enter the Parks, which mean they get to enjoy themselves without paying for a ticket. And because they don’t need a ticket, they also don’t need a Park Reservation or Lightning Lane reservation.
As long as they meet the height requirement for that ride, they’re welcome to ride with the family they’re traveling with.
Once your child turns 3, they are no longer free. But, you still get a little bit of price break, until that child turns 10.
If your child is approaching 10 years old, you may want to visit before their next birthday. You’ll still need to make Park Reservations, as well as have a Lightning Lane reservation to bypass the standby queue at attractions. But, you get to take advantage of the price savings, both on tickets and buffet restaurants, who charge based on age.
What happens if your child turns 3 or 10 while on vacation?
Much like the children in Neverland, children don’t age at Disney.
This means that even if your child turns 3 or 10 during your vacation, you don’t pay more once their birthday passes. However old they were on check-in day is the age they remain for the entirety of their trip, at least pricewise.
Many families don’t want to go to the Disney Parks until their child is old enough to remember the trip, especially if it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
However, this is tricky, since memories are different for each person.
Friends will talk about things we did in High School that I have no memory of. Yet, I can tell you the exact feeling I had the first time I rode Pirates of the Caribbean or “the Dinosaur ride” in Epcot, when I was 6 years old.
Had I been any younger, I probably wouldn’t remember anything. While I don’t remember every detail, I do have some very vivid memories riding the Peoplemover with my Grandpa. I also remember hopping back and forth between Peter Pan and It’s a Small World. This was back in the ’80’s when there were no lines at Peter Pan and it was possible to ride it over and over again.
Being just 3 1/2 years old at the time, my sister remembers none of this. She’s seen the pictures that were taken. But, as far as memories go, she has none.
Some children can go on for awhile before they need to give their little legs a break. Others want to picked up after just a few steps into the Parks.
Either way, a stroller is a good option for parents taking young children to Disney. Not only does it save you from having to carry your child everywhere, it can carry all of your souvenirs (if you don’t send it back to your Resort)!
But, as great as they are, parking them, finding them, and folding them up whenever you need to travel between destinations can be a big pain, even if you rent a smaller stroller, like we did.
If you don’t want your memories tarnished by stroller issues, you may want to consider holding off until you know your child can handle larger amounts of walking.
Meet and Greets
As I said before, there’s nothing more adorable than seeing a little one meet the characters for the first time. I may or may not have teared up when our youngest smiled at Mickey this past summer. Ok, I definitely did.
Meeting characters is great at any age. No one is ever “too old” to meet Mickey!
But, taking your kids to Disney before they realize “the truth” about who those characters really are is something special and magical. My teens still humor me and will take pictures with the characters. But, given the choice, they’d rather do something else.
Believe it or not, but Disney was not made just for kids. This means that parents look forward to the rides just as much as their kids do.
That’s why Rider Switch exists in Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Going when children are too young means that families can’t always ride together. A child may not meet the height requirement. If they are tall enough, they may be too scared to ride.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for the youngest members of your family to do. Even at 8 months old, my son loved everything, including Toy Story Mania and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
As much as I love classic Disney dark rides, I’m a roller coaster girl at heart. So, having one son who will ride Expedition Everest and Rock n Roller Coaster with me makes the ride so much more fun.
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