One of the things we always hear is “we are waiting until the kids are old enough to remember “. While I understand why you might feel that way, Disneyland is great at every age! We think little kids and Disney is the perfect combination. Let us break down our experiences at each stage.
The first time my husband and I went with kids our oldest daughter Ava was 5 months. We opted to fly because we only had a week so we wanted to make the most of our time. We were meeting friends who had a 5 and 8 yr old. Even though Ava doesn’t remember this trip, she loves looking back at the pictures.
And let me just say, so, so many people say to wait til the kids are older to go, but we just went with friends for the first time last year (their youngest was 3 and a half) and they LOVED watching him experience Disney that young. And ALSO! KIDS UNDER 3 ARE FREE!!!! We loved only having to pay for the two of us, and have two kids under 3. It was THE BEST. And even the babies love it! We have gone with kids now from as young as 5 months to 10 (*insert cry face) and each age is special.
I was 9 months the first time I went to Disneyland, and though I have literally no memories of it, it wasn’t about me! Having 3 older sisters meant that the experience was for them, and the group we went with. With Erica being almost 10 years older than me, if we had waited until I was “old enough to enjoy it” she would have no longer been a kid. And Disney is honestly so special when seen through the eyes of a child (even if you’re living vicariously through your children/nieces/nephews/grandchildren/etc. )
Riders aged >1 to 2 :
Babies are the easiest. You get to bring a stroller (hooray for not paying for a locker and having all your stuff with you) and before they walk, you can literally strap them onto you and go on nearly EVERY SINGLE RIDE in Disneyland. They can enjoy the rides even as little as 5 months. They really respond to the music and the lights. That’s right… nearly every ride! The only ones off limits for littles in ALL of Disneyland is the mountains, autopia and Indiana Jones. If you are breastfeeding, you can even do it on rides! (We really liked both Pirates and Small world for this… think 15+ minutes air conditioning, fairly dark and other kids/adults occupied and safe).
Bring a muslin blanket to cover your babe in the stroller, but then to also use as a cover when feeding. When my babe needed to feed, rather than sit off the ride and miss out, I would grab the blanket (find them/ideas for them here, wrap it around my neck, and feed while in line. If you’re a little nervous, practice before you go. Baby food pouches come in super handy in the park. You can bring any baby food into the park, as long as it doesn’t have glass.
There are also mesh covers for strollers that I found at Walmart that help give a little shade (and UV protection!) while allowing airflow in case anyone is concerned about “tenting” in their baby and creating a Greenhouse effect (if you’re heads up this isn’t a problem, but if you want the peace of mind they are great). This is the one I bought in my local Walmart, but I’m sure there’s many other places and kinds you can buy. I liked that this one has the UV protection/Bug net as well as a small stow bag for when it isn’t in use)
Just because you’re BFing doesn’t mean you have to miss out! On the left is me feeding while our husbands were grabbing a fastpass. On the right is my friend and her 5 month old while we waiting for the train.
When it comes to nap time, we have one simple rule. Never wake a sleeping baby! Don’t even worry about scheduled nap time! I do know of people who like to put their baby down for naps back at the hotel but we never did. When they need to sleep, trust me, they sleep. One year Ava (one) and Audrey (almost two) passed out after dinner for 45 minutes and then were good to go and HAPPY ’til after 11!
Every baby is different but in all of the years traveling at all different stages of infancy we have found having an adaptable schedule in Disney works for us. Plus most strollers can recline to make them a little more comfortable for a sleeping baby (then you don’t have to be so concerned about their Necks as well).
Riders Aged 2 to 3 :
This is such a wonderful age. They are still so little that they don’t have that much of an opinion of what they want to do, and yet they are still happy to be in a stroller and experience tons of things. Pro Tip: Have TONS of snacks for the line ups. We’re talking a LOT. Apples. Popcorn. Gummies. Apple Sauce pouches. Granola bars. Cheesesticks. Load em up. There’s lots to look at, but they also want to be stimulated. If snacks won’t keep your toddler busy, we found the bubble wand to be super handy. I’ve even thrown a dollar store bubble wand in the diaper bag and that works great too.
I found a large jump between 1 and 2. At one, our son wasn’t super in to the characters. However was very stimulated by everything he saw, and enjoyed observing what was happening around him. At 2, he started engaging with the characters, and requesting rides. We got home six months ago, and he still asks to go back to Disneyland almost every day.
If you have a potty training toddler this might make you nervous. My son actually decided to potty train IN Disneyland (he was 2 1/2). My plan was to wait until we got home. But he asked if he could go on the potty and the transition was awesome! That’s the magic of Disney I guess. We kept him in pull ups to relieve our stress but he did amazing. There is no shortage of washrooms in Disneyland, which is helpful as well.
Riders Age 4 to 6 :
This age can be tricky because of the height factor. Some kids REALLY want to try the mountains ( 40″ or 42″ restrictions) and they love it. Others have to be cooerced or bribed… and love it. Others it’s just not their cup of tea. And that’s okay! One thing we LOVE about Disney is the fact that all of the major height-restricted rides have a family ride next to, or right near.
If you have shorter or sensitive children in your party, this is a great time to get a rider switch pass and go on another ride nearby (read more about the rider switch pass in our post ‘Everything you need to know about Disney passes. More about that here.) My favorite memories are my grandma, aka my “Disneyland buddy” taking me on gentle rides while the rest of the family went on the big ones. For me it wasn’t the ride motions that got me, but the content, so here’s our suggestions of alternatives for some of the bigger rides. The “big” rides are on the left, and the “all ages welcome” rides are on the right:
- Big Thunder: Pirates, Haunted Mansion or any ride in Fantasyland
- Indiana Jones: Jungle cruise or Tarzan’s Treehouse
- Splash Down: Winnie the Pooh (don’t knock it ’til you try it… it’s actually super cute)
- Matterhorn: Tea cups, Finding Nemo or It’s a Small World
- Autopia: Tea cups, Astro Blasters or Finding Nemo
- Space Mountain: Astro Blasters
Riders Age 7+
7 is the magic number in Disneyland… they can ride alone or with another kid over 7. If you have more than two children under 7, it may be worth it to go to the parks with family or friends. A single adult will not be permitted to ride with three children if they are all under the age of seven.
This is where the rider switch pass comes into play. If the ride seats 2 and you have 1 parent who is riding but more than 1 kid who wants to ride, you have to trade off. You cannot leave a child unattended on the ride platform so leave 1 of the kids with the other adult who is waiting off with the smaller children. At that point you can either trade off adults so both can ride or the same adult can ride again with a different child. Talk to the Cast Members at the beginning of the ride. They will let you know your options so that you aren’t disappointed before you get on the ride.
What it comes down to is if you wait for the “perfect time” to go, you may wait forever to find it. One of the reasons we consistently return to Disneyland over other vacation spots is because it can be enjoyed by all ages. When we were little, our grandparents came with us. One of my favorite memories of my grandfather is sitting next to him on Space Mountain, dead-panned face, hands resting on the safety bars, jerking left and right. In that moment, you wouldn’t know he loved the ride.
But he always had a sparkle. What I wouldn’t give to have just one more ride. So get out there. Whether you have young kids, teenagers, or just a group of friends that want to hang out together. It is truly magical.
Do you take your kids to Disney? At what age? We’d love to hear from you!
Have a magical day,
Heidi, Erica, Elisia and Danielle