No matter how old your kids are, planning a trip to Walt Disney World is always a fun-filled experience. However, as your kids get older, how you organize your trip and plot out your Disney days will naturally be different than it was when they were little. To help you plan the perfect getaway for your teen or tween here’s 8 of our planning tips for families visiting with slightly older children.
1. Get your kids involved in the planning. As your children get older, let them share in the planning process with you. A great way to do this is to get a Disney guidebook or visit disneyworld.com and have a dialogue about what resort is best, what theme parks are worth visiting and what optional extras your children are interested in. Once you’re all booked, you can make logging on to My Disney Experience a family affair, where your kids can customize their MagicBands, help you pick out those all-important Fastpasses and make a wish-list of cool places they’d like to dine! When they’re little it’s up to you to do all the planning but now you have a Disney planning partner.
2. Go for a resort with a great pool. For many kids, you haven’t fully arrived on vacation until you’ve had a dip in the pool. Though each of Disney’s resorts features a large central pool area, when it comes to finding that perfect water playground for your older kids, not all of them are created equal. Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club is a great option because it’s more than just a standard resort pool. It features a large sand-bottomed pool, shipwreck waterslide and tons of space for lounging, making it a teenage dream. Handy poolside offerings like the neighboring Beaches and Cream soda shop make it a great place to spend the afternoon. The pool at Coronado Springs featuring a giant pyramid as well the all-new Boulder Ridge Cove at Wilderness Lodge are other solid choices. For a list of our favorite Disney pools check out this article.
3. Go on a culinary adventure. If you made a trip to Disney World with your kids when they were younger, you know that dining usually consisted of safe kids meals with items like chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and hot dogs. However, as your kids get older, Disney can serve as the perfect place to start to experiment with different cuisines. Pick a country at Epcot with a cuisine that you’ve never tried before and make a dinner reservation. Head out to Animal Kingdom Lodge for some amazing African-inspired dishes at restaurants like Sanaa or Boma. Or, why not give them a taste of fine dining with a Signature Dining restaurant like the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort or Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge. Part of the fun of a Disney vacation is trying new things!
4. Sleep in and stay at the theme park until it closes. I generally advise guests visiting Disney World to get up bright and early and enjoy the parks before they get too crowded. However, when you travel with teens and tweens. it is important to remember this is their vacation too! If your kids rarely rise before noon on the weekends, then take a day out and adjust your plans accordingly. Figure out what park is doing extra magic hours in the evening and make that the spot you visit that day. Arriving at the parks later in the day means you’ll have the stamina to stay right until close. You’ll watch the parks transform into all their evening splendor, can enjoy shorter lines (as most families with small children can’t tough it out that long) and you can take in the amazing evening fireworks displays.
5. Set a day aside to do the Water Parks – Disney’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach can be perfect for teens and tweens who want a bit of autonomy. Whether it’s meandering along on the lazy river, swimming against the tide in the Surf Pool or tackling the big hills with the Summit Plummet or Humunga Kowabunga there’s a ton of amazing ways to cool off and enjoy a thrill or two. It’s also the perfect location for mom and dad to relax in a beach chair while those slightly older kids take some time for themselves. The water parks are great at any age, but the older the children are the more important they become to a Disney visit.
6. Go on an adventure – Disney has an incredible array of tours for those looking to add that extra little bit of adventure to your Walt Disney World vacation. Most of these offerings have age restrictions that exclude smaller children which means that visiting Disney with your tweens or teens is the perfect time to try one out. Where else can you cross treacherous rope bridges, go on a Segway Tour through amazing Cyprus forests, spend a day learning some behind the scenes Disney World secrets, or embark on a Star Wars themed adventure? For more information on some of our favorite tours check out this article.
7. Take time to do all the Mountains – Thrill rides are definitely the big draw for teens and tweens visiting Disney and the theme parks have them in abundance. Be sure to make time for each of Disney’s amazing mountain coasters: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Expedition Everest. Other attractions like Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Roller Coaster are also wildly popular with older kids. Have your teen or tween help plan out your park days so that you’re sure to add all those important thrill rides to your plans!
8. Disney Springs is a must. Though smaller children may not have the stamina to truly enjoy Disney’s downtown shopping district, it’s a place that teens and tweens absolutely love. There’s so much to see do and explore. With amazing retail shops your kids may not find at home, its the perfect place to pick out that new outfit for school. You can bond over pizza and bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes or enough a decadent milkshake and check out the amazing movie memorabilia at Planet Hollywood Observatory. A bustling activity calendar also means that there’s usually live music, DJs or some other type of amazing entertainment around every corner. I’d recommend you set aside at least one evening to enjoy all that Disney Springs has to offer.
If you’re planning a trip to Disney with older children, be sure to give some of the tips on our list a try. Disney World is a truly amazing experience for all ages, it just means a slightly different approach to planning!
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