what is the best age for disney world - girl with mickey

We get asked this question by parents all the time: “what is the best age for disney?” “What is the best age to take your child to Disney?” After all, we are Disney by Age.

This is a tricky question. It’s tempting to answer that there is no one ideal age for Disney. Or, that it depends on the child and the family.

Sure, those things are true. But, that’s not really what people want to hear. So, we are going to give you the best age to take kids to Disney, definitively.

If you want, you can skip to the end of the article to find out. But you’ll miss us “showing our work” on how we arrived at the answer.

First, we need to look at each of the age groups, and their respective pros and cons. Then we can directly compare each of these core age groups, to arrive at the best age group for Disney.

Overview of Age Groups

To start, let’s define the core age groups. These are generally recognized childhood developmental stages, and they are also how we organize Disney by Age.

Just skip ahead if this is boring or obvious to you.

  • Babies
    Also known as infants, babies are children aged 0 – 12 months. There is a range of awareness of their own surroundings, depending on how old they are.

    • The term baby is not to be confused with newborn, which is a subcategory of babies aged 0-1 month.  Newborns have no immune system, and thus should not be exposed to public places like Disney World.
  • Toddlers
    Toddlers are children aged 12 – 36 months.  They can walk and speak, but have not yet mastered either. The age group encompasses a broad range of developmental milestones, with huge differences between at 13 month old and a 34 month old.
  • Preschoolers
    Preschoolers are children aged 3 – 5 years.
  • School Age Children
    This has a number of synonyms including elementary schoolers, prepubescent, middle childhood, or simply school kids.  School age children are 5-10 years old.
  • Tweens
    Also known as preadolescents, tweens are generally considered 10-13 years old, although there is some variability to definitions.
  • Teenagers
    Teens are 14-17 years old and need no further introduction.

Ok, now let’s look at each age group and it’s pros and cons for Disney World.

Pros and Cons of Age Groups

 

Disney World planning information for Babies

Babies

This category is pretty straight forward.   Babies are not on anyone’s short short list for the best age group for Disney World, including ours.

However, it is worth noting that babies can and do have fun at Disney World.

We can tell you from personal experience, you can have a great time with your baby.  Related: best Disney World resort for a baby.

Pros

  • Enjoy bright colors, contrast and music
  • Equally entertained in and out of the parks

Cons

  • Too young to form memories (but the parents aren’t)
  • Need frequent naps
  • Require lots of gear to travel
  • Can easily overheat
  • Too young to know Disney characters or stories
  • Stroller required [related: best stroller and stroller tips for Disney World]

what is the ideal age for disney world - toddler and grandpa

Disney World planning information for Toddlers including itineraries, hacks and packing lists.Toddlers

This is another age group that might seem self-evident to be out of the running.

However, the developmental diversity of this age group complicates things. 14 month olds are very similar to babies, while 34 month olds are very similar to preschoolers.

Regardless, toddlers are a great age group for Disney World.  Here’s a packing list, the best resort, and play areas for toddlers. And, here are our tips for taking a toddler to Disney World.

Pros

  • Enjoy bright colors, contrast and music
  • Enjoy character meets
  • Older toddlers know Disney characters and stories
  • Equally entertained in and out of the parks

Cons

  • Too young to form long term memories (again, parents aren’t)
  • Prone to melt downs
  • Still need at least daily naps
  • Require lots of gear to travel
  • Can easily overheat
  • Stroller required [related: best stroller and stroller tips for Disney World]

Disney World for PreschoolersPreschoolers

Preschoolers have an absolute blast at Disney World, and this age group is in serious contention for the ideal Disney World age.

Preschoolers are just beginning to form their first memories, and are fully into the Disney World characters, princesses and stories.

Related: packing list and best resort for preschoolers.

Pros

  • Know Disney characters and stories
  • Girls are totally into the princesses
  • Love character meets
  • Enjoy the parks
  • Enjoy the theming
  • Beginning to form long term memories (Disney World could be their first!)

Cons

  • May be overwhelmed
  • Prone to melt downs
  • May not retain long term memories (videos and photos will reinforce Disney World memories)
  • Too young/small for many rides
  • Have learned how to whine
  • Probably still need a stroller in theme parks

best age to go to disney world - school kids

Disney World planning information for School Age Kids (elementary school) including hacks, itineraries, plans, gear, and packing listsSchool Age Kids

There is a range of development here, too.  5 year olds are quite different from 9 year olds, but both love Disney World.

The younger end of the spectrum is easily immersed in the Disney magic, while the older end of the spectrum travels better and can better withstand the overwhelming nature of the parks.

Here are the best rides for school age kids at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot.  Related: packing list and best resort for school aged kids.

Pros

  • Forming permanent memories
  • Still into Disney characters and stories, especially younger end
  • Old / tall enough for most rides.
  • Able to navigate the parks with minimal guidance
  • Love the parks
  • Love the theming
  • No need to lug a stroller around
  • Easy to get on and off boats, busses and other Disney transportation

Cons

  • Some older school age kids may be less interested in the Disney magic
  • Younger school kids still too small / short for a few rides

best age for disney world - tweens

Disney World planning information for Tweens (young adolescents) including hacks, itineraries, plans, gear, and packing listsTweens

This is frequently an awkward period of transition, as kids go from being kids to young adults.A desire to express independence can (but don’t always) create conflict with family vacations.

A desire to be treated as adults can also be in conflict with letting themselves become fully immersed in the Disney magic.

However, all of these observations are highly variable, and may not apply to your tween.  We know many tweens that very much love Disney World, and have a blast there.

In fact, Disney World can be an opportunity for parents to reconnect with that “inner child” in their tween (or teen).

Pros

  • Forming permanent memories (obviously)
  • Easier to travel with
  • Easier to get on and off Disney transportation
  • Able to get self around theme parks with less intervention
  • Old enough / tall enough for all rides
  • No stroller needed

Cons

  • May feel too “old” to permit themselves to be immersed in Disney magic
  • May prefer being with friends to being with family

 

Disney World planning information for Teens (Teenagers) including hacks, itineraries, plans, gear, and packing listsTeens

Teens are generally less enthusiastic about family vacations, and more interested in hanging out with friends. (Tip: bring a friend to Disney World. Here are more tips for teens at Disney World).

Teens are also generally too old* to permit themselves full immersion in the Disney magic. (*Yes, we know you are never too old for Disney magic, but teens can and often do feel otherwise.)

Nevertheless, as with tweens, Disney World can offer lots of opportunities to connect with your teen.

Here is our list of the best rides and attractions for teens at Disney World.

Pros

  • Forming permanent memories (obviously)
  • Can travel independently
  • Can navigate theme parks independently
  • Easy to bring on Disney transportation
  • No stroller needed

Teens

  • “Too old” for some of the Disney magic
  • May prefer being with friends to being with family

Don’t forget the Parents

Parents are really the x-factor here.  As a parent, before you take your kids to Disney World, it’s important that you are ready. If you aren’t, you won’t enjoy it as much as you could.

What does it mean to be ready, you ask?

Well, it means a few things:

  • You are comfortable spending the money
  • You are comfortable traveling with your child
  • You are comfortable taking your child in busy, crowded public spaces
  • How important is it to you that your child have primary, permanent memories?
  • How old are other children in the family, and how does that affect your readiness?

We can’t decide these things for you, but you should consider them.

The Ideal Age for Disney World

Having gone through the pros and cons exercise for each age group, we feel very confident in declaring the best age to take your kids to Disney World.

Before we do, it’s worth emphasizing that kids of any age can and do have fun at Disney World.  We can personally attest to this, as we’ve been taking our kids since they were 6 months old.

There is no wrong age for Disney World!

Let’s repeat that:

There is no wrong age for Disney World! Click To Tweet

Ok, drumroll please.

The perfect age for Disney World is: Young School Age (6-7 years old).
The ideal age for #Disney World is school age, especially 6-7. Click To Tweet

We arrived at this conclusion based on the pros and cons above.  We narrowed down school age even further to 6-7 years, because at this age kids definitely won’t need strollers, are easier to get around the parks and transportation, and are tall enough for almost all rides. But, they are also still young enough to easily become fully immersed in the Disney magic.

Runners Up

This was a close contest, and our pick for best age group only narrowly edged out our runners up.

The runner up best age group for Disney World is: Preschoolers.
And the second runner up best age group for Disney World is: Older school age.

Another good answer, suggested by several of our readers and followers is: whatever age you (or your kids) are!  And really, we couldn’t agree more.  Disney World is for everyone!

Ok, over to you. How did we do? What do you think the perfect age for Disney World is?

[All photos credit: Disney]

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