Thursday, December 10, 2009

Does Disney Have An Age Minimum?

Even posthumously, Walt Disney conceived places where children and adults can have fun together, but despite your offspring's frequent viewings of moving image media, readings of books, or any crafts or activities pertaining to or made by the magic of his company, you (and of course many adults and travel experts) raise the eternal question: how young is too young for Walt Disney World?

I borrowed an exceptional book, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, recently, and even with Universal Orlando and other Central Florida flotsam thrown in it, it's a joy to read as it is to cite! They have a special section dedicated to the youngest members of your party on a Disney vacation. Most parents were offset and upset that the only thing appealing to their kids are their hotels, resorts, condos, and vacation homes' pools or that open space where they can play freely. The Unofficial Guide recommends that children reach the age of at least 7 to fully immerse themselves in the great-temp waters of the Disney pond, but most parents complain that many still start Disney young. My parents did - Muetti and the late Vatti had took me and did Disney and I didn't appreciate it as much as them, due to cloudy memories and my age (2, to be exact). I fully underwent the first real budding stages of becoming a Disneyphile on my next vacation at five. I met more characters, was able to ride most rides, and fully appreciated it. It was that age of five that I truly became a Disneyphile.

In my own opinion, the age of five is ideal for starting to appreciate the Mouse, but I agree with The Unofficial Guide that 7 is the ideal age for full pleasure - that's the age when I got a knack out of riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Tower of Terror, respectively in the MK and DHS (then named Disney-MGM Studios at the time), for the first time. If you do have children before that age, let me give you a great piece of advice - vacations are all about the planning!  

  • The Unofficial Guide recommends that four to six weeks before your dream vacay with Mickey you do daily family walks - as a member of a health club, I cannot stress that enough. Walking is a do-anywhere exercise, and with an hour per day of family walks, you and your child(ren)'s stamina would more than suffice to cover at least a half day at Epcot.
  • Choose age-appropriate rides - there are plenty of rides to choose from in the World, and it is best for you to forgo rides that look intimidating on the exterior or have intimidating names, like Expedition Everest and Splash Mountain, unless they meet or transcend above height requirements and find it fun at first sight. 
  • Although some parents advise them to skip character meets because they malign touring plans, I beg to differ with this piece of advice. If your children are into characters, I recommend sticking your children to solely face characters. I was not really bugged or intimidated by fur characters as a kid - I liked them as much as the face ones. (I will further explain character types in a future post.) 
  • Prepare for tantrums and meltdowns. Many children want this or want that in the shops or just cannot bear the long lines for their favorite rides or characters. (My fellow Triond writer has tips on the tantrum-taming.) Simply yelling at them or spanking them silly on their, er, buldets just wouldn't do, and that leads to the next tip.
  • Take a breather - do a park half-a-day and return back to your hotel, resort, condo, or vacation home to stretch out and nap before another half-day of walking. I can't agree enough with those travel agents and Disney vacay experts who stress the importance of this tip! This is so especially true with autistics, since the parks are overstimulating venues - just add in the turismos who chant profusely into the usual noise and other sensory overload and it will be the meltdown perfect storm.
  • Finally, speaking about turismos, please pick a cooler, less crowded time to hit the parks. Ask your child(ren)'s school administrators if they have a flexible school calendar. (I recommend November, especially for you New Jersey people!) You can learn more on annual and monthly crowds in my Hubpage, The Many Months of Disney Crowds.
With the right planning and how you do it, your children will get the kick out of Disney as much as you do - happy planning and touring, all you Disneyphiles!

Walt Disney World has a page on infant and toddler travel - visit it at


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