A vacation to Disney World is certainly an investment, and many families want to make sure their kids are getting the most out of the experience. When trying to determine the best age for Disney World, there are several factors to take into consideration. This includes everything from the cost to your child’s interest in Disney characters and how well they can handle being busy all day. Disney can be great at every age though, as long as you have an idea of what to expect!
Below are several tips and considerations when trying to determine the best age for Disney and for your kids specifically. (And if you’re trying to figure out the best age for Disneyland, these tips should help you as well!)
Cost of Disney World Park Tickets
Between the high cost of staying at a Disney resort, the price of park tickets and food, it can quickly add up! If you want to go to Disney World without paying for your kids, children under 3 get into Disney World and Disneyland for FREE. From that perspective, going to Disney just before age 3 (or to celebrate a 3rd birthday at Disney) is a great idea.
We often did one day Disney trips when our son was younger and we added it on to family visits to Orlando. Since having our daughter, she’s been to Disney before the age of 2 more than once, and Disney with a 1 year old has been so fun with her. She loves the characters, is obsessed with Disney movies and seems to enjoy every ride she goes on. (This isn’t always the case for 1 year olds at Disney, but the Disney loving genes must have worn off!) That said, if you ever ask us if Disney with a baby or 1 year old is worth it, our answer will always be a resounding “yes.”
While kids under 3 are free, the Disney World “child ticket” age is 3-9 years old. That means going to Disney before your child is 10 is another way to save money on the price of Disney World tickets. At age 9, children are usually an average of 52 inches or more. That makes them tall enough for every ride at Disney, while still paying child ticket rates. That said, the discount on children’s tickets at Disney World is minimal at about $5 per day. For that reason, I wouldn’t base an entire trip around it.
Once children reach the age of 10, there’s no additional discount for Disney tickets. Something to keep in mind as your kids get older!
Dining Discounts for Children at Disney
If you’re planning to do any character meals or table service restaurants at Disney, the prices can quickly add up. Generally, kids must be 9 or younger to order from kids’ menus at Disney. While quick service restaurants are not as strict about who orders from the kids’ menu, table service restaurants require anyone over age 9 to purchase an adult meal. That means for any family-style, character meal or other set price options, a 10-year-old will be charged adult prices. This makes another good case for getting to Disney before your kids turn 10!
For children ages 3-9, you can enjoy a pretty significant discount at all-you-can-eat and character meals. (About 40% off.) And when it comes to character meals for kids under 3 years old, you do not have to pay. Most restaurants expect that children under 3 will share with their family. Some restaurants like Be Our Guest, however, will provide a small side dish and dessert for kids under 3. There is also no charge for kids under 3 at buffets and family-style restaurants at Disney. (Another reason why we love going to Disney with toddlers!)
Best Age for the Magic of Disney
This will differ for each kid, but children who are elementary age and younger tend to be the most into Disney shows and characters. That makes 9 and under great for experiencing the magic of Disney for the first time. Watching their faces light up when the parades go by or when they hug their favorite character is really what makes Disney worth it.
That doesn’t mean older children can’t enjoy Disney too! There are so many amazing shows and rides at Disney for older kids and adults as well. (Plus, they’re out of strollers by then- making everything a little bit easier!) Older kids can usually stay up later, making the most out of your ticket from open to close.
Disney also has some amazing Enchanting Extras that you need to be older to experience. For example, the Starlight Safari requires kids to be 8+ as well as several other Animal Kingdom experiences. Older kids also love experiences like building lightsabers or droids at Galaxies Edge in Hollywood Studios.
Best Age for Rides at Disney World
Want to make sure your kids can do most of the rides at Disney World when you visit? Once kids are 40 inches tall, the number of rides they can do at Disney drastically increases. So there are a ton of rides for 5-year olds as they get a little taller. This includes Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain, plus some of our favorite toddler rides at Magic Kingdom. There are also a ton of rides for toddlers at Epcot without height requirements. And then some Epcot favorites like Soarin’ or Test Track require you to be 40 inches or taller. At Hollywood Studios, the “big kids” also enjoy rides like Tower of Terror, Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog.
The only rides at Disney World that have a height requirement over 40 includes include:
- Animal Kingdom: & Flight of Passage (44 inches)
- Epcot: Guardians of the Galaxy (42 inches)
- Hollywood Studios: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (48 inches)
- Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain (44 inches)
Even if your children aren’t 40 inches, Disney places a huge emphasis on the experience of younger kids. That means there are tons of rides without height requirements at Disney World that babies and toddlers can ride. The shows at Disney World are also amazing for every age. They shouldn’t be discounted when planning attractions for kids at Disney!
Keep in mind that you can also use child rider switch for the “big kid rides” if you have children of multiple age ranges.
Easiest Age to Travel with Kids in General
We’re obviously huge proponents of traveling with toddlers and babies to get them started young. It teaches kids to be more adaptable, flexible and open to new experiences. And everything is extra magical when experiencing it through little eyes. (Children under 2 can also fly as lap infants for free, making this another case for a “cheaper” Disney trip.)
It’s no surprise, however, that older kids can be easier to travel with in general. Kids are typically less prone to meltdowns as they grow out of the toddler phase. And schedules become easier to manage as they’re no longer napping. Traveling with older kids also means less stuff and more independence to take care of themselves. If the idea traveling with younger babies and/or toddlers overwhelms you, however, it may be worth it to wait until your kids are out of the toddler stage to go to Disney.
Regardless of your kids ages, you know them best! Take breaks and try to stick closer to sleep schedules if they do better with more structure and/or downtime. Alternatively, if they can stay up late and tend to be more flexible, by all means, take advantage of it! We always recommend building in a rest day or two as well, so that you can really make the most of the days you have in the parks.
So What Do We Think Is the Best Age for Disney World?
Personally, we think they’re all great! If you’re trying to get the most out of your money, taking your children just before age 3 is one of the best ages for a child to go to Disney World. Babies are free at Disney as well as toddlers 2 and younger. While I often hear the comment that they won’t remember it, you certainly will! Plus, you have pictures and videos to look back on with them.
Alternatively, if Disney will be a one time trip for you, consider waiting until your kids are in the 4-9 age range. They’ll have more memories of the trip and be able to do most rides. (Plus you won’t have to pay adult prices for their food and tickets!)
Planning a Disney World Vacation?
Any age can be great for Disney with a little planning! I’m a travel agent specializing in Disney, and I’d love to help you plan the perfect Disney World or Disneyland vacation. Contact me here to get started planning a Disney vacation with kids of any age.
What do you think is a good age for Disney World? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments!