I’m a dad to two kids who are 3 and 6.
My family just returned from a trip to Disney World. I don’t think it’s great for little kids.
My 3-year-old was overwhelmed by everything, and my 6-year-old was afraid of the wrinkles.
My kids are 3 and 6, and we just came back from Disney World. Though it’s often billed as a top family destination, and while I’m a huge Disney fan and think the parks are amazing, I would not recommend it to parents of little kids.
Earlier this summer, my family vacationed at a mediocre Club Med in Florida. While the resort felt run-down, my wife and I wanted to return because the childcare was amazing. We left feeling like the resort would be great for other parents.
But when it comes to Disney, I have mixed feelings.
Disney is magical — but it can also be a lot
Orlando, home to dozens of world-class resorts, is a large and expensive destination. There are crowds to navigate, lines to wait on, and money to shovel straight from your pockets into Mickey Mouse’s eager hands.
Still, it truly is magical. As an adult, I’d taken two trips to Disney World, and both were absolute joys. Both times we went with our then-infant son. Disney, it turns out, is amazing with babies.
With a baby, there’s built-in downtime while they nap, wonderful child centers in each park, and no pressure for the kid to really do much other than get shuttled from photo op to photo op.
We returned expecting the same type of trip. This vacation, delayed and rescheduled over two years of the pandemic, was among our most anticipated trips. We’d spent hours preparing the kids with YouTube videos of the parades and rides. They knew what to expect and had been begging to see Disney in person. We arrived at the theme parks with wide smiles.
My kids were afraid of rides
YouTube is a far cry from reality. My son quickly discovered he was frightened of 3D. Any show or presentation incorporating 3D effects was out of the picture. We even left Pixar short films and the Muppet ride early because he’d been scared.
He was also frightened of nearly every ride he’d been excited about. We didn’t try roller coasters, and we eventually stopped trying most of the other rides.
Harder still, my daughter hated anything inside. Rides, shows, anything at all in a building was almost impossible with her screaming. She became completely overwhelmed by the parks and the extreme environment. Not even the carousel interested her. This is a girl who grew up in the pandemic and had never been to an amusement park or even a fair, so we had no idea what to expect.
That was the problem. For all its magic, Disney is a gamble.
At 3 and 6, my kids understood the ride-swapping concept and hated it. My wife and I each took a turn on Rise of the Resistance, a new “Star Wars” ride we’d longed to try. It was the one opportunity we took for ourselves. And the kids were miserable when we did that. We ended up leaving the park early, immediately after.
I still love Disney. I’d go back in a heartbeat when the kids are older. But I recommend parents with toddlers and little kids skip it.
Christopher Mannino is an at-home dad, author, and freelance writer. He writes fantasy books for children and adults and lives in Delaware.
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