Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.
Since we’ll be going on vacation to Disney World soon, and it happens to be one of my all time favorite vacation destinations, I want to do a series of posts about Disney World.
My daughter, Kayla, will be turning 3-years-old in November. The week before she turns 3, we are taking her to Disney World. This was my decision, and my husband has gone along with it. I don’t think it mattered to him if we went now, or two years from now. He said it was completely up to me when we go since I was going to be the one planning it, I’m the one primarily paying for it with some money I had set aside, and because Disney World means so much to me.
Ever since I made the decision a year ago that I was not going to wait until Kayla was older to go, I’ve been bombarded with questions from family and friends about why I am going when she is so young. Everyone has their own opinions about it. These opinions range from, “you should wait until she’s old enough to remember it,” to “you should go when she’s older so she’s easier to travel with,” to finally “you should go when she’s old enough to understand where you’re going.” The last one is almost laughable to me because Kayla completely understands where we’re going and is super excited. She talks about our trip all the time.
Kayla in front of our countdown to Disney chart.
I figured I would make a list for everyone to explain my top 10 reasons for going to Disney World with young kids. Maybe this will end up being helpful to those of you out there who are going through the same questioning by your family, friends, and co-workers. And maybe it will help all the negative people out there understand a little better why some of us want to take our young kids to Disney World.
So here we go:
10. If you talk to your youngster about the trip, show them pictures, show them videos, and get them involved, they can completely understand that you are going on vacation to Disney World. My daughter has known for a few months now, and she is totally and completely excited about it. We talk about it every single day. We have a countdown to Disney chart. We watch You Tube videos of the rides and of the parks in general so she knows what to expect. And we read Disney travel books together. She has her on Disney World for Kids travel book that she loves. My husband is blown away by how much Kayla knows about Disney World. She knows way more than him, and he’s 36. Kids can understand a lot more than we give them credit for, so don’t underestimate your child.
Celebrating my 3rd birthday in Florida at my grandparents’ house. This was in 1983. We always stayed at their house because it was a great way to save money, and we’d get to spend time with my grandparents on our “resting” days.
9. It can be a wonderful learning experience. Your child can start learning long before you even go on the trip by teaching them about going to the airport, flying on airplanes, staying in a hotel, and the concept of going on vacation. (It helps if you’ve taken a mini trip before where they already have an understanding of vacations and trips.) You can have your child get involved with planning by showing him/her pictures and videos of various things and getting their input on what they like and don’t like. Then once you get to Disney World, there are so many learning opportunities there. Take your child to Animal Kingdom where they will get to see all types of animals, go on a safari ride, and learn about helping animals. Then take them to Epcot where they can go around the World Showcase and taste foods from all around the world. Epcot has some great educational rides, like Universe of Energy where you can learn about the history of energy, how energy is produced, and searching for new energy resources. The best part of the Universe of Energy ride is when you’re seated watching a video, your seat turns into a moving vehicle, and all of a sudden you are on a ride with animated dinosaurs. I remember loving this ride from a very young age. There are several other educational rides at Epcot that are fine for young kids to go on. New experiences are essential to a child’s development. So why not give them some new experiences that the whole family can enjoy?
8. My parents took me to Disney World for the first time when I was 2-years-old. I was turning 3 that summer while we were on vacation. My family used to go down to Florida twice a year to visit relatives. When I was younger, they would leave me with my grandparents while they took my older sister to the theme parks. I believe they wanted to be able to focus on enjoying all the rides with my sister for another year or two before having to take me along and focus on me.
Despite what most people think, I do have memories from my first trip to Disney World. No, they aren’t completely clear memories, but they are vague memories that I have carried around with me all my life. I can remember the feeling of excitement. I can remember sitting on my grandpa’s shoulders to watch the parade. I remember loving the parade, even though I can’t tell you anything about the parade now. I remember resting in my stroller while people in my family took potty breaks. I remember that my grandpa never went to the bathroom the entire time we were there and my mom kept telling him he was going to have bladder problems. I remember wanting a big pinwheel sucker and my mom saying no. The sucker was so colorful. I remember feeling a sense of awe when I went on rides. I remember that my favorite ride was It’s a Small World, and I loved singing the song. I remember being very tired at the end of the day and my dad carrying me to the tram. I also remember the smells. The smell of sweets and popcorn.
These memories may be vague and I may not remember a lot of details, but they are still memories. These are not memories that came from pictures, or even from family stories. They are things I have asked my mom about over the years and she has confirmed as being real memories from my first trip there. Now that my dad and grandpa are gone, I cherish every memory I have of them, even the vague ones. For the things that I don’t remember about my first trip, I can see in pictures in our family photo albums. I love looking at our old vacation photos. And lets face it, we never know how long any of us has on this planet, so why put off the opportunity for great memories?
My mom, my dad, and me standing on the steps of the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot.
Me with Tweedledee or Tweedledum.
7. Young kids can eat, stay, and fly for free. If you get the Disney Dining plan with your Disney resort package, you don’t have to pay for kids under 3. They can just eat from a parent’s plate. They don’t even offer the dining plan to kids under 3. You have to pay for the dining plan for kids 3 and older. Even most off-site hotels allow kids to eat for free. Kids also stay for free at hotels/resorts. And If your kid is really young, you may opt not to buy a seat for them on the airplane and just have them ride on your lap. You can always make the choice to pay for a seat for them and bring their car seat for safety reasons, but it’s not required when they are under a certain age. (Beware of bad turbulence.) I believe if they are under 2, they can ride on your lap. These three things alone are huge money savers.
6. Disney World is the perfect place to expand a child’s imagination and offer plenty of stimulating experiences. Having a good imagination is important for kids. It’s good for kids to be able to dream, learn to make wishes, and to gain an appreciation for great storytelling. Disney World has live shows, play areas for kids, splash zones, and kid activities. Do some research. There are a number of things for young kids to do that will help them use their imaginations and be creative.
5. The Magic Kingdom caters to families and young kids. Out of all the rides and attractions in the park, there are only four that my daughter will not be able to go on. There are 30 something rides/attractions at the Magic Kingdom. Not being able to do four things is hardly a reason not to go. Granted, my daughter is tall for her age (38 inches), so the majority of the rides she can’t go on are the roller coasters at the theme parks. Luckily, Disney World isn’t a big thrill ride place, so most of the rides can still be enjoyed by kids who are 3 and under. A good portion of the rides are slow moving rides, which is perfect for young kids.
4. The hotel/resort is as much of an attraction as the theme parks at this age. They enjoy exploring the hotel, playing in the pools, checking out the gift shop, and hanging out in the hotel room. With a young kid, you can easily spend a whole day at your hotel/resort and they’ll still be happy. Older kids usually don’t enjoy “resting” days as much as younger kids.
This is me on one of our “resting” days when I was little.
3. The photo memories you can capture are priceless. Have you seen the beautiful pictures of a baby being held by Mickey Mouse, or a toddler walking up to her favorite Disney character for the first time? What about the pictures of 1, 2, and 3 year old little girls wearing a princess dress and getting their very first hug from a Disney Princess? I’ve also seen some wonderful family photos taken around Disney World. I am hoping to get a nice picture of Kayla, my husband, and myself for our Christmas card this year. Those photos capture moments that your child may not be able to remember, but will be able to look back at later. They are pictures that parents, grandparents, and friends can enjoy. You can show your child the pictures over the years and discuss the trip often to help secure the memories in their mind. The pictures are once in a lifetime photo opportunities that may not be quite the same when your child is older and more aware of what is really going on. Part of the beauty of some of the best Disney pictures I’ve seen is the pure innocence of the children in the pictures.
Me eating my Mickey Mouse ice cream.
I loved seeing Chip and Dale in person for the first time.
2. When you wait until your kids are older, some of the magic may already be gone. The older your kids get, they start to understand that all the characters are just people dressed up in costumes. They may not be as excited about half the rides there because they may want more advanced rides. They may not even be impressed by fireworks and parades anymore if they’ve seen them at other places, like at home on 4th of July. As much as this Disney Lover hates to admit it, I have known quite a few people over the years who went to Disney World when they were older (or have taken their older kids to Disney World), and they weren’t as impressed. Especially if they are older kids who enjoy going on really fast roller coasters. Kids who have already experienced going on numerous thrill rides tend to be less impressed by Disney’s slow moving dark rides.
I’ve also noticed that boys tend to grow out of Disney World faster than girls if they don’t obtain an appreciation for it when they are younger. When I was little, three of my male friends went on a trip to Disneyland in California. I was so excited for them, and I couldn’t wait to hear about their trip when they got home. To my horror, they came home very disappointed by the whole experience. They thought it was boring, and that the rides were too kiddie. At first, I wanted to believe this dislike was due to the fact they went to Disneyland instead of my beloved Disney World. I was wrong. They didn’t realize before they went that there wouldn’t be lots of roller coasters and thrill rides like at Six Flags theme parks. They didn’t enjoy the traditional Disney rides at all. They had no interest in meeting the characters. They also thought the shows and parades were cheesy. I was horrified. I’ve gone through life telling myself that I have to take my kids to Disney World for the first time while they are still fairly young so they will appreciate the magic.
Show in front of the Castle.
1. Kids under 3 are free at all four theme parks and the two water parks. Yes, FREE! You can save hundreds of dollars on admission tickets by going to Disney World when they are under 3. Once they turn 3, you have to pay for admission to everything.
Ok, so those are my top 10 reasons for taking kids 3 and under to Disney World. Sure, there are reasons for waiting until they are a little older (4, 5, 6, etc), but I think there are plenty of reasons for families to consider going while they are younger.
Please feel free to share your reasons for taking your young kids to Disney World, or on other vacations. I would love to hear about your experiences with taking your kids for the first time. What was their favorite part? Do they have any memories of it? Do you think it was worth the trip? How did you prepare your kids for their first Disney vacation?