What age is too young to take a child to Disney? I see this question come up in forums and discussion groups, and many of the responses seem to have wildly different opinions. I thought today we might chat about the answer to this question in a bigger-picture sense that might help some families trying to decide on the right time to visit.
The short answer is there is no answer in terms of a rule or a guideline. However, as with all things Disney, in my experience, a successful Disney vacation comes solely from realistic expectations. Now, depending on the type of vacation you are hoping for, the answer for your family might vary completely.
Suppose the vacation you are hoping for is the once-in-a-lifetime version, where you hope to cherish every memory and have the experience your children remember forever. In that case, you might find it better to wait until your children are at least elementary school-aged before leaping Disney. It is true that the older they are, the more they will get out of the experience, both in that moment and long after. On the other hand, traveling with younger children and seeing that wonder on their faces as each Disney first comes to life can be, well, priceless.
If the trip you are dreaming of is one less focused on attractions and more on capturing the moments with video and photos that you can keep for a lifetime, then the age-appropriateness can be scaled right down to just about any age that you feel is manageable.
When the topic arises, there is always the token cynical response from someone taking the unwavering standpoint of do-not-bring-babies-to-theme-parks. While I completely agree that no one enjoys the ambiance of a baby screaming the whole way through Pirates of the Caribbean; though, I’ve also been visiting in a group where there was one very young baby within a group of older children, and with a bit of sharing between the adults, it can be totally manageable without anyone missing out. If you are planning on using the rider swap system, just keep in mind that this does take considerably longer at each stop and also changes the experience you have when not all together.
Expectations and planning are the keys to making your trip fun and easy while you stay at Disney. Adjust the length of time you plan to stay in the parks around the ages and personalities of your family, remembering that even children of the same age can have a completely different tolerance for the stimulation of a theme park. When my children were younger, I was faced a few times with the question: Why are you taking them when they won’t even remember it? To which I always replied, because I will never forget it.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.