Disney Theme Park

Kids in Control – 3 ways to let the kids take charge of planning your Disney vacation



By Leah Zanolla

Are your children Disney travel agents in the making?  Our kids love to help us plan for our trips and to make our daily itineraries.  Yes, we’re those people who have a spreadsheet with park hours, Extra Magic Hours and our dining reservations listed...

We’ve been to Walt Disney World many times as a family, so sometimes it’s neat to put those itineraries aside, switch things up and put the kids in control of our plans! Here are 3 ways that we’ve put our kids in charge of our vacation:

1) Let them each plan a day

This will take your child knowing a little about the theme parks.  If you’re up for an adventure, give them free reign and let them completely pick everything that you do for the day.  They choose the park that you visit, the transportation you’ll use to get there, the attractions you’ll experience and the restaurants you’ll eat in.  Now, chances are you might end up on the same ride over and over again (Our middle son chose to ride Barnstormer 6 times in a row…), but those are memories you’ll never forget! He still talks about it: “Remember when we just kept running through the line and getting back on over and over again?!”

Tip – You could always suggest which park to go to and give them a little control once you get there.


2) Choose one attraction each day

If giving up control of a whole day is not feasible, let each child choose one attraction for the day that is their “must-do.”  No matter where else circumstances may take you that day, make sure that everyone gets their chosen attraction in.  If they know up front what they can expect for the day and that they can count on that one attraction, chances are that any disappointments for missing another ride will be lessened or non-existent.

Tip – Make sure to talk this over in advance.  This will give you the chance to secure FP+ reservations if necessary and to make sure these attractions work for your family (dining reservation times, height requirements, etc.)


3) Choose the restaurants

This one may take a little guidance from you, unless the kiddos have saved up enough allowance money to splurge on Chef Mickey’s.  If you know you’ll be doing some table-service restaurants, talk about them with the kids.  Let them tell you where they would and would not like to dine.  Chances are that they would prefer Whispering Canyon's broom races to a quiet dinner at California Grill.  And that’s ok.  This is their time to choose; save California Grill for an adults-only night and you’ll probably enjoy it all the more.  You can certainly guide their choices by telling them, “We will be at the Magic Kingdom on the second day of our trip.  Which sit-down restaurant would you like to eat at?” and give them a list of their options.  As far as quick-service goes, discuss the various options ahead of time so they have an idea of what they might like, but let them make the final decision once you get to the park.  Kids’ appetites tend to change daily, so the quick-service restaurant they were so excited about at home may not sound so great after a long hot day in the parks.  And don’t worry if you end up eating Mickey bars for breakfast.  It’s Disney!

Tip - For help in meal planning, check out our Dining section on the DIS.  We have every menu from across property!  Also, if you don't want your kids to choose the food for a whole day/trip, consider giving them control of the snack choices.  They'll still feel like they're helping, but without so much financial impact to your budget.

Mickey bar for breakfast

I hope these ideas will add some spontaneity and adventure to your trips! Next time, I’ll talk about how to hand over some control once you’re already in the parks.  Have fun!