Ask Suzanne: What's the Best Age for a First Trip to Disney World?

Truth is, the first time can be magical at any age

Disney World with Little Kids
••• Walt Disney Parks

Do you have a question about planning a family vacation? Ask Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, the family vacations expert at About.com.

Question: We're planning our son's first Disney World trip and would like to spend two days in the Magic Kingdom. We can do it at age 9 with lots of credit card debt or wait until he is 10 and we can afford it. Will he miss out on much magic if we wait until he is 10? Would that be too old for a child's first trip to the Magic Kingdom?

 Thanks so much! —Adam S. from Annapolis, MD

Suzanne says: First things first. I would never recommend taking a vacation if you don't feel you can comfortably afford it, so waiting a year is definitely the way to go.

Next, don't worry at all about your son being too old for Disney World. My 'tween and teen children still love going. They may no longer be interested in riding old favorites such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Mad Tea Party, but that just leaves more time for the many cool attractions aimed at older kids.

Parents often stress about when to introduce their kids to Disney World, but there is no perfect age. The perfect age is simply whenever you can make it happen. Certainly one year won't make much difference in your son's experience, and there is a lot to be said for taking your son when he's old enough to truly remember the experience and also meet the height requirement for all the rides and attractions.

 

If you are thinking of opting for a two-day Magic Your Way ticket without the park hopper, I would suggest that you visit the Magic Kingdom on the first day and a different park on the second day. While the Magic Kingdom has many wonderful attractions for all ages, the new Fantasyland is almost entirely aimed at preschoolers and younger kids.

After researching the Magic Kingdom attractions you may find that almost everything a 10-year-old boy would want to see can be covered in a day.

As my kids have grown, they've come to love the other parks as much or even more than the Magic Kingdom. Their favorite attractions at Epcot are Mission: Space, Soarin', and Test Track, not to mention the fabulous international dining options in the World Showcase. When we visit Animal Kingdom, they must ride Avatar Flight of PassageExpedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, and at Hollywood Studios, they make a beeline for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. At age 9 or 10, your son will enjoy helping you research the other parks and perhaps you might even let him decide which one he'd most like to visit. 

Here's how to do Disney World right at any age:

Do your homework. At twice the size of Manhattan, Disney World is a vast place comprising four theme parks, two water parks, over two dozen resorts, and an entertainment and shopping district. You're not going to be able to do and see everything in a few days, but if you research wisely, you will be able to prioritize your must-do experiences and have a fabulous vacation with no regrets.

Before your trip, be sure to spend some time getting to know MyMagic+, the innovative planning system Disney rolled out earlier this year that makes it easy to guarantee ride times with FastPass+, make dining reservations, find out about entertainment and events, and customize your experience exactly the way you want it. I've outlined many other tips in the Smart Parent's Guide to Disney World.

Time it right. While Disney World ticket prices remain the same year round, hotel rates rise and fall throughout the year, as do crowds and temperatures. The best times to visit Disney World are when all three are tolerable at the same time. And, of course, keep an eye out for deals.

Consider a travel agent. Did you know that it doesn't cost anything extra to book your trip through a Disney travel specialist?

And if you book through a specialist, he or she can help you pick the perfect hotel, plan your itinerary, secure dining reservations, obtain tickets to shows and attractions, and even help you make the most of FastPass+. I can recommend Susan Kelly of Travel Magic, who offered these expert tips for getting the most out of a Disney vacation.

I hope you and your son have fun planning and looking forward to your trip. I'm sure it's going to be a wonderful vacation.

Looking for family vacation advice? Here’s how to ask Suzanne your question.