I have a talent: I can bring up Disney World in almost any conversation. When talking with parents of young children, this statement inevitably comes up, “We’re waiting until our kids get older to take them to Disney.” If you have ever uttered these words, my question to you is, why?
Let me preface this by saying that only you know what is best for your family. We all have different situations and circumstances. This is intended to shine a light on viewpoints you may not have thought about; not to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. To be honest, I (and other parents) have had these thoughts too: we’re only ever going once; they are too young to appreciate it; the kids won’t remember the trip.
This is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip
Okay, I understand the logic behind this one. If you truly are going only once, waiting until the kids remember the trip makes sense. But, judging by the crazy crowds that can be seen ALL YEAR, this may not be the case. My family is a prime example!
They Are Too Young to Appreciate It
Disney is incredibly expensive (I know, understatement of the year!). It’s also one of those vacations that can wear you out! The need many of us feel to see-it-all, do-it-all, and get-it-all-done is REAL! If you push kids past their limits, then yes, it may appear as if they don’t appreciate, or worse, aren’t enjoying the experience. Truth be told, the same can be said of me. I’m not a park open to close kind of person. I also have to make sure I’m fed and hydrated. As adults, we can lose “it” (strength, patience, composure, respect for other humans…) due to hunger, dehydration, or fatigue. If this happens to adults, young children will hit their breaking point even faster.
But, if their needs are met, even the youngest of children can be seen engaging, laughing, dancing, and taking in all the magic that is Disney.
The Kids Won’t Remember the Trip
Kids remember more than you may think they do. But, let’s say they don’t, here’s the secret — we don’t go just for them! We go to Disney for ALL of us. Watching my kids — or any kids for that matter — play in the parks is just plain magical! Seeing them interact with the characters; dancing their hearts out during dance parties, parades and cavalcades; pointing out the castle with wonder in their eyes evoke a different appreciation for the parks. It brings back childlike joy and reminds me to take a step back and live in the moment.
During our first Disney vacation, each morning was spent in a frenzy. I was in a hurry getting my kids dressed in the pre-planned, park-appropriate costumes or outfits (this was our once-in-a-lifetime trip) and trying to make it out the door to catch the bus. It was stressful, I’m not going to lie. But, they loved it, especially when they met the character they had dressed up as or was pictured on their shirts. When those characters referenced themselves, my kids lit up! My (just turned five-year-old) daughter was chosen as the Rebel Spy when she went on Star Tours in Hollywood Studios dressed as Rey. The excitement that ensued from the entire family was electric! Those are the moments that make it all worth it.
Bonus Perk #1
Date flexibility! Once you have school-aged children, your time is not your own. Taking advantage of date-specific deals, or scheduling a trip during the less crowded time of year, may not be possible after factoring in school schedules. Spontaneity need not apply.
Bonus Perk #2
Children two and under get into the parks for FREE! Oh, and they eat for free as well. Disney understands that toddlers typically eat next to nothing, so they’re allowed to snack from their parents’ plates.
To be sure, a trip to Disney is very different with young children than it is with older kids or adults. You may spend a little more time on “it’s a small world” than you ever thought you would. Seeing your children light up, point out things that have caught their eye, and try to tell you what they are experiencing will make your parental cup runneth over. They will ask to ride it again, and you will; at least, I did.
If I could go back and talk to my younger self with two small children, I would say, “Take the trip! Make the memories! Oh, also stock up on toilet paper and invest in Amazon — don’t ask why just do it.”
At the end of the day, I love spending time with my kids doing things we all enjoy. After all, this was Walt’s vision and purpose for creating Disneyland; to have a place where adults and children can have fun together. Whether my kids remember the trip or not, my husband and I will. Those are the cherished moments that will be placed in the family memory box forever!