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9 Tips for Visiting Disney World with Teens and Tweens

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If you think Walt Disney World is just for little kids, then think again! A Disney vacation with tweens and teens, however, is a completely different experience than when visiting Disney World with young children. In many ways, a Disney trip is better with older children. They don't need naps, they can stay up later to watch fireworks, and they're tall enough to ride all of the attractions. Follow these nine tips to make the most of Disney World with teens and tweens.

Teens may want some time to explore on their own and experience attractions not appropriate for younger siblings ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens

Exploring Disney World with teens and tweens (Photo credit: Disney)

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1. Involve teens and tweens in planning your Disney trip.

Teens and tweens will definitely have opinions about what they want to see and do at Disney World. By all means let them help with planning and take some of the burden off yourself. Get older kids involved as soon as the decision has been made to travel to Disney. They can do some online research, read a guidebook or talk to friends who have visited. Encourage them to write a ranked wish list of attractions and activities. Ask teenagers and bigger kids for suggestions for Disney World dining venues, too. Many of the restaurants at the Disney World theme parks and hotels accept dining reservations up to 180 days before your visit so it's a good idea to plan ahead if there are specific restaurants your kids would like to try.

Teenager at Epcot

Teenager at Epcot (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Spring for spacious accommodations.

Choosing the right accommodations can be the key to a successful trip to Disney World with teens and tweens. Generally speaking, the more space you have, the better. Sure you might be able to fit a family of four or five into a standard hotel room, but if it results in squabbling then it might be worth spending more for additional space. Family members won't be tripping over each other and everyone will have more privacy and better sleep. Lodging with more than one bathroom and a kitchen make getting out the door faster in the morning, too.

Modern kitchen at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, FL

Modern full kitchen at the Magic Village Vacation Rental Homes in Kissimmee, FL (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

You can choose to stay off-property or on-property at Disney World. Staying off-site means a wider selection of options including suite hotels as well as apartment, condominium or home rentals near Disney World. Choosing non-Disney lodging is often much less expensive. But it also means foregoing many of the benefits associated with staying on Disney property, like Disney-provided transportation, on-site themed dining options and pools, and Extra Magic Hours to gain early theme park entrance.

Carriage ride at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge

Carriage ride at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Disney provides several options for families seeking more space, too. Some of Disney's Deluxe Villas, like those at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney's Wilderness Lodge, can sleep up to eight or nine guests. Other Disney properties, such as the Art of Animation Resort, offer family suites with a living room, kitchenette and two bathrooms. Although many Disney hotels have connecting rooms available, they cannot be guaranteed at booking. Families of up to six people who would like to “rough it” in comfort can choose the cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness, home to a pool with waterslide, carriage rides, and the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dining spectacular.

A tween posing at Disney Springs ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens

Explore Disney Springs with your tween or teen (Photo credit: Jodi Grundig, Family Travel Magazine)

3. Broaden your dining horizons.

Visiting Disney World with teens and tweens means you can get more adventurous with dining choices. Most older kids will be open to trying new foods with flavors from around the world in the Epcot World Showcase restaurants.

Snacks at Nomad Lounge at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Teens and tweens may be more open to different foods, like these snacks at Nomad Lounge at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Teens and tweens are capable of sitting still for longer than little ones and minding their manners during a fine-dining experience, too. Take a break from the parks to get dressed up for a night out at one of the fancier Disney restaurants. My family enjoyed a delicious and relaxing Mediterranean-inspired dinner at the Grand Floridian's Citricos Lounge on our last trip to Disney World, something that would have been more stressful and less enjoyable when my kids were younger.

Teen eating dumplings in the China Pavilion at Epcot

Teen eating dumplings in the China Pavilion at Epcot (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Sleep in and stay late.

If there's one thing nearly all tweens and teens have in common, it's a penchant for sleeping in. Most are difficult to get out of bed in the morning whether at home or on vacation. After years of fighting my older daughter's sleep patterns, I finally realized it was a losing battle and I might as well plan around it. If you also have a late dozer, you might not be able to get an early start most days but you can compensate by staying up late for fireworks shows and other nighttime events.

Stay late to watch fireworks at Disney World with teens and tweens

Stay late to watch fireworks at Disney World with teens and tweens (Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, Disney)

5. Split up if traveling with younger siblings.

Be prepared to divide and conquer when exploring Disney World with teens or tweens plus younger children. There is a seven-year age gap between our two daughters and I know all too well that a teenager does not want to visit the same attractions as her much younger sibling. Spend time together as a family seeing the shows and enjoying the activities that appeal to all ages. Then split up so that everyone can enjoy rides and shows without listening to sibling complaints.

Teens exploring Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens

Bigger kids exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Photo credit: David Roark, Disney)

6. Give teens and tweens some freedom to explore.

To give older kids some freedom at Disney World, pair them up with a friend or sibling of a similar age. Disney World is a reasonably safe, closed environment that older kids can navigate with ease if they stay within one park. Some parents may even be willing to let older teens travel by themselves between parks using the Disney transportation system. Be sure to establish rules for keeping in contact and staying safe. Set specific times and locations for meeting up again, too. And make sure those smart phone batteries stay charged up at Disney!

Tween playing putt putt at Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf

Tween playing putt putt at Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Schedule down time at Disney World with teens and tweens.

Don't make the mistake of spending long hours in the amusement parks every day of your vacation in Orlando with teens. Even big kids need down time. Head back to your resort to relax in the pool or watch a movie in your hotel room. Be sure to plan a day or two away from the parks wandering through Disney Springs and Disney's Boardwalk, splashing at one of Disney's water parks, or exploring the Orlando/Kissimmee area.

Plan a day at Typhoon Lagoon with teens and tweens ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens

Typhoon Lagoon with teens and tweens (Photo credit: Disney)

8. Let kids be kids.

Don't assume that older kids will just want to go on all the headliner thrill rides. Some might not like roller coasters and they need not fee bad about it. There are plenty of other things to do at Disney World. Teens and tweens should be allowed to act like kids at Disney World. It's one of the only places where they can let their guard down and stop worrying about being cool. They may want to ride It's a Small World or Peter Pan's Flight and that's okay. The same goes for characters. You might just be surprised that your teen or tween is not only willing, but also excited about posing with Mickey Mouse or Cinderella, particularly if this is a first-ever Disney visit.

Many teens and tweens like meeting characters like Mickey Mouse ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens

Many teens and tweens like meeting characters like Mickey Mouse (Photo credit: Dave Parfitt, Adventures By Daddy)

9. Explore Disney activities just for older kids.

At Disney World with tweens or teens, your family has more opportunities to experience Disney fun beyond rides and shows. For example, you could experience a sporting event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports or sign your kids up for a surfing lesson at Typhoon Lagoon.

Archery lesson with tweens and teens at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge

Archery lessons at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge are for those aged 7+ (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Many of the behind-the-scenes tours at Disney World, such as Disney's Keys to the Kingdom, are restricted to guests aged 16 and older. Others, such as Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains, are for ages 10 and up. Your family can also meet dolphins at EPCOT (age 13+), or explore Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort on a Segway all-terrain vehicle on the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure (ages 16+). You can find a listing of special events and tours on the Disney website to make reservations before leaving home.

Disney World with teens and tweens can be just as much fun as visiting with young children

Disney World with teens and tweens can be just as much fun as visiting with young children (Photo credit: Tami Mittan, Colorado Mountain Mom)

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Keep these Tips for a Disney World Vacation with Teens and Tweens

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Tips for Visiting Disney World with Teens and Tweens

To make the most of your trip to Florida, take a look at Disney World vacation planning guide and our tips for exploring Epcot as a family.

Have you ever visited Disney World with a teen or tween? Let us know your questions and tips in the comments below!

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

  1. I’m a huge fan of taking kids to Disney at any age. My husband and I only took our kids older as we know ourselves and whining in line would drive us crazy. Our 10 and 14 year old were amazing at handling line ups. We had fun playing the game “heads up” on the phone in the occasional long line. We had marathon days with loads of walking. They really enjoyed the fun food. And what a delight to have fun together at an age where kids tend to want to be mainly with friends. We’re now thinking of Disneyworld as we went to Disneyland last time. We will use your tips!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      We saw people playing Heads Up in line at Disneyland on our last visit! What a fun distraction while waiting in line. Just be sure to pack your mobile phone battery charger because that will drain your battery for sure. Have a great time at Disney World!

  2. Toni | Boulder Locavore says

    These are really awesome tips! We’ve been planning a trip to Disney! We could use these tips. Thanks for sharing!

  3. travel blogger says

    We are actually going with my niece who just turned 16, and this is so helpful! I didn’t think about her being a late sleeper, but we should just plan around it instead of fighting that losing battle. I also need to check out Fort Wilderness. That sounds like it would be a lot of fun!

  4. Vera Sweeney says

    I’ve always felt there’s a little bit of everything for everyone when it comes to going to Disney. This post really helps, as a couple of our kids are in that tween age.

  5. Melissa Chapman says

    These are some great tips and I happen to have a teen and tween. I was not sure if I wanted to go back to Disney with older kids but you make it seem like it is the place to go with them.

  6. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    We always involve our kids in planning our trips – Disney or otherwise. They’re at an age now where helping to plan the trip is part of the fun for them.

  7. Great list! Having been a teen across multiple family trips I can say that this type of planning can improve the quality of the trip for everyone! Thankfully my family did many of these things but it is great advice for all.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Sydney – Thank you for your comment! Love your MouseTeens site – what a great idea!

  8. For this year’s trip I asked my 14 and almost 10 yr old what was important to them and think it will really help our summer trip. They didn’t care about the room – they love trying the different restaurants – this is one time when I let them order and try whatever they want on the dining plan. I was told that freedom was their favorite part of the vacation. They love the rides too 🙂 So I booked the Value Hotel with nice dining and reservations for everywhere they wanted to try. Don’t know how we will eat that all, but they are so excited to try new things.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Lsouth – What a smart mom you are! I love that you’ve figured out what’s most important for your family’s vacation and budget. I hope you have an incredible time at Disney World!

  9. Kris Lanzarote says

    Hi there!
    Nice blog 🙂

    I liked your article. I live in Spain but next year I would like to go to Disnayland in USA. I have already visited disnayland in Paris with my family but still want to do to USA to compare 🙂 I hope we will have lots of fun


    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Kris – All of the Disney parks are so magical – I am sure you will have a wonderful time!

  10. Great tips Lisa. Going to share this article to my friend who is going to Disneyland.

  11. We are getting close to this phase in our family. Glad to have it confirmed that nobody is too old for Disney!

  12. Wandering Educators says

    What great tips! Our daughter (almost 13) SOOOO wants to go to Disney. I’ll show her this and get her involved! 🙂

  13. This is a terrific post and I really agree that Disney can be a wonderful place to visit when the kids don’t need to be ferried around, when they have more staying power and when they are at an age to really remember it. We went when ours were 7 and 11, but I’d go again in shot, now they are 9 and 13!

    • Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says

      Thanks, Sarah! We have been to Disney at a lot of different ages and it’s certainly easier and we get to see and do more now that they are older!

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