Friday, August 8, 2014

When Should We Go to Disney World?

This question can have two different meanings.  When should we go to Disney World, as in at what age should we take our kids?  Or it could mean:  when should we go to Disney World, as in at what time of year should we plan our trip?  I will attempt to answer both of those questions in this post.

At What Age Should We Take our Kids to Disney?

Our previous trips to Disney have been with little kids.  Audrey was 2 1/2 on our first trip, and on the second trip Audrey was 3 1/2 while Isla was 9 months.  It's hard for me to give a good answer to this question because I have never been to Disney when my kids are older.  I also really think this question is going to differ between families and kids, as all kids have different personalities and interests.

Many people have asked me, since I am planning this once in a lifetime trip while my kids are (almost) 6 and 3, if it would be better to wait until they are older, so that they can remember the trip.  Maybe it would be better to wait?  But I don't think this trip is a complete waste of time and money just because they may not remember it.

I am a big proponent of preserving memories through pictures.  Audrey remembers almost everything we did on the trips we took when she was 2 and 3, and she still talks about it all the time.  I don't know how much she remembers from actually what we did and how much she remembers from looking at pictures of what we did, but my guess is the latter.  Does it matter whether she remembers doing it or she just remembers doing it because she saw a picture of herself doing it?  I don't think so.  It's one reason why I take so many pictures, so we can remember everything!!  We have photo books printed from our previous trips, and the girls love to look through them still.

Another problem people point out with taking little kids to Disney is that they can't ride on all the rides  This is true.  We will skip many of the big headliners either because the girls are too short or they are too scared.  If we went 3-4 years from now, the girls would probably both be tall enough to ride everything.  But my hunch is that they would still be too scared.  I would like to be wrong about this, and I want to encourage them to try new things and be brave.  But I think it's highly possible that I could be right.  I just don't see either one of them growing up to be the thrill seeking type.  So even if we went when the girls were bigger, there is still a chance we would still be riding the same little kid rides we will ride this year!!  (As a grown up, that is STILL what I prefer, even though I am plenty tall enough to ride everything).  (Also if they do grow brave enough to ride thrill rides, we will be planning a trip to Universal and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!)

There is a lot of "magic" at Disney World that is really cool for the 2-5 year old crowd.   The characters, the parades, the silly/cheesy shows...all of it is so much fun for a preschooler.  I know there are plenty of older kids and adults who still love all those things as well.  I just feel like a big part of Disney's appeal is geared at the preschool age group.   So I think taking your kids at ages 2-5 is a great idea!  They will have so much fun, and if you take pictures and show them the pictures in years to come, they will remember it too.

On the flip side, Disney is known for doing everything over the top.  It is a pretty intense place in terms of stimulating all of your senses, and that can be overwhelming to a younger child (or any child).   It's definitely smart to take into consideration your child's personality and what will be best for them at Disney.  But this doesn't mean you don't have to go.  You just have to use common sense when planning your day! I'm already thinking through what we can do to help Isla enjoy the experience, as she doesn't always do well in large crowds of people.  And Audrey does not like loud noises or fireworks, so we will most likely be avoiding all the fireworks shows each night.

If your kids are school age, then you also have to take into consideration whether you want to take them out of school or visit during the busier summer and winter breaks (see next section for more on this).  I really wanted to go last spring, before Isla turned three (because she would have been free!) and while Audrey was still in preschool.  But that didn't work for us.  I feel a little guilty because Audrey will miss four days of kindergarten on our upcoming trip.  I feel like we can do this in kindergarten since she doesn't have daily homework or as much responsibility at school.  But as the girls gets older, I don't think I will want to pull them out of school for a Disney trip. So that's another reason why we think it is a good idea to take our trip when the kids are still fairly young.

Overall though, I think Disney does a good job at appealing to a wide age group, so there really is something for most everyone no matter what their age.

What Time of Year to Visit Disney

In recent years, I think it is safe to say that Disney World is crowded year round.  No matter when you go, you will always find crowds.  However, those crowd levels are relative, and there are definitely times of the year where the crowds are higher than others.  Taking into consideration how crowded it will be is probably the number one factor in how I determine when we will go.  I just don't like crowds and prefer to go during the least busy times.

We have only taken our trips in February.  In both 2011 and 2012, we went during the second week of February before President's Day weekend.  I thought it was crowded while we were there.  However, I know that February (with the exception of President's Day weekend which is very crowded) is one of the less busy months at Disney.  So I would hate to ever be there when they are really busy!

Another thing to take into consideration is the weather.  It will be really hot in the summer months.  Weather in the winter months is more unpredictable, and it can be especially rainy during August and September.  We had lovely weather during our trips in February, with highs around 80 and sunshine for every day we were there, but that may not always be the case.  I've had friends take trips in December/January where they were wearing winter coats and gloves one day and shorts/t-shirts the next day.

There are a lot of resources available to help decide the best time of year to go, so I don't feel like I need to go into much detail here.  Generally the busiest times are around Easter during spring breaks, June and July (especially the week of the 4th of July), and the week of Christmas.  This chart is helpful in picking when you want to go based on the crowd levels and weather.

I'm looking forward to our upcoming trip in September as the crowd levels are supposed to be fairly low.  I know the weather is supposed to be pretty hot, and I am a little worried that we will be stuck in a lot of rain or even worse, a hurricane!  But we will buy rain ponchos and be prepared for the downpours!!

Up Next:  Restaurants and Advance Dining Reservations


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