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15 Tips for an Awesome Trip to Disney World with Teens

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Disney World with teens and tweens? Absolutely! If you think Walt Disney World is just for little kids, then think again. A Disney vacation with teens, however, is a completely different experience than when visiting with young children. In fact, in many ways, a Disney World trip is better with big kids. They don't need naps, they can stay up later to watch fireworks, and they're tall enough to ride all the attractions. Follow these 15 tips to maximize fun and minimize stress at Disney World with teenagers and older kids!

Find Orlando deals, including discount Disney World tickets, at Get Away Today. Scroll down to learn how to save!

Teen and tween at Walt Disney World
My teen and tween goofing around at Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Ask teens to rank their top Disney World rides.

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. Plus, the more kids get involved, the more ownership they'll take in your Disney trip, and the less complaining you'll hear later!

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. Most importantly, encourage teens to write a ranked wish list of rides and shows at each theme park.

Even though your teen probably meets every height requirement in the four Disney World theme parks, it's impossible to squeeze in every single desired attraction during your Disney World vacation. Read on to learn hacks for squeezing in your family's favorite rides!

Star Wars Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Star Wars Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Avoid long lines with Genie+.

Replacing MaxPass and FastPass, Genie+ is an optional upgrade at Walt Disney World. It offers electronic access via smartphones to make shortened queue wait-time requests.

For example, use Genie+ for popular attractions like Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney Magic Kingdom Park. This add-on purchase allows your family to skip the standby line. Then your tweens or teens gain better access to their favorite thrill rides via the Lightning Lane.

Reserve your spot in line upon daily entry to the theme park. Note: you can reserve each Genie+ ride or attraction just once per day. Typically, you can squeeze in three to four rides per day using Genie+ if you arrive early enough.

Favorite thrill ride, Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom
A favorite thrill ride at Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain (Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, Disney)

3. Purchase individual Lightning Lane for the best rides.

You can also reserve single rides and experiences using an individual Lightning Lane purchase for the newest and most popular attractions, sure to have long lines all the time. Individual Lightning Lane upgrades can be used in conjunction with Disney Genie+ or separately.

Purchase this à la carte option for the newest and most popular attractions, like Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at Epcot, Rise of Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom.

Pandora - The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom
Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Cut wait times with the Single Rider line.

Thrill seekers will especially appreciate Disney World's Single Rider option. Tweens and teens not afraid of riding on their own will cut wait times significantly by standing in the Single Ride line instead of the stand ride line.

You can wait with family and friends during long lines, but then will be slotted into empty spots when it comes time to ride.

Teen at Walt Disney World
Teen posing at Walt Disney World (Photo credit: Tami Mittan, Colorado Mountain Mom)

5. Broaden your Disney World dining horizons with teens.

Ask bigger kids for suggestions for Disney World dining preferences. 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 teens would like to try.

Visiting Disney World with teens 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, for example.

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

Teens and tweens are capable of sitting still for longer than younger kids 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, like Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion or Citrico's at the Grand Floridian Resort.

Citrico's restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, redesigned in 2021
Citrico's restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort (Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, Disney)

6. Spring for spacious accommodations.

Choosing the right accommodations can be the key to a successful trip to Disney World with teens. Generally speaking, the more space you have, the better…especially with this age group.

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. Plus, everyone will have more privacy and better sleep. Lodging with more than one bathroom and a kitchen makes getting out the door faster in the morning, too.

When looking for extra space for your family vacation, choose to stay off-property or onsite at Walt Disney World Resort.

Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht Club and Beach Club
Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht Club and Beach Club (Photo credit: Todd Anderson, Disney)

Disney Resort Hotels

Disney properties include benefits like Disney-provided transportation and amazing on-site themed dining options and pools with exciting water features. We named Disney's Beach Club Resort, for example, one of the world's best hotels with lazy rivers.

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.

Teen and mom in horse-drawn carriage at Disney's Fort Wilderness
Riding in a horse-drawn carriage with my teen at Disney's Fort Wilderness (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Families of up to six people who would like to “rough it” in comfort can choose the cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness. Guests enjoy a pool with a waterslide, carriage rides, and the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dining spectacular.

Disney's overnight guests also take advantage of extended early mornings or evening hours at Disney theme parks. Learn how to save money on Disney Resort hotels now.

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

Vacation Rentals Near Disney World

Staying off-site means a wider selection of options including suite hotels as well as apartments, condominiums, 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. Still, vacation rental properties may also offer provided shuttles, amazing swimming pools, restaurants, and onsite family activities.

Trying to determine which accommodation option is best for your family? Read more about Disney World vacation homes vs. Disney hotels and decide for yourself!

Mickey-themed bedroom at a Kissimmee vacation rental home
Mickey-themed bedroom at a Kissimmee vacation rental home

7. Sleep in and stay late.

If there's one thing most tweens and teens have in common, then it's a penchant for sleeping in. A lot of big kids are difficult to get out of bed in the morning, both at home and on vacation.

Rather than fighting your teen's natural sleep patterns, embrace them. If you also have a late dozer, then you probably won't be able to get up at the crack of dawn for the rope drop. You can, however, compensate by staying up late.

Late nights may be the best time to enjoy Disney World with teens. Stick around for fireworks shows and other nighttime events. You may also enjoy shorter wait times for popular attractions like Avatar Flight of the Passage after families with young kids have departed for the day.

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)

8. Split up from younger siblings.

Be prepared to divide and conquer when exploring Disney World with teens, especially when also traveling with younger children. Let's face it, older siblings like different things than little kids.

Spend time together enjoying activities that appeal to the whole family, like riding Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios or watching a parade at Magic Kingdom. Then split up so big kids can enjoy thrill rides like Test Track at Epcot, the fastest ride at any Disney Park in the world.

Teens watching a parade at Magic Kingdom
Teens watching a parade at Magic Kingdom (Photo credit: Olga Thompson, Disney)

9. Give teens some freedom to explore.

Disney World is a reasonably safe, closed environment that teens and tweens 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.

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)

10. Use smartphones at Disney World with teens.

Even if you don't purchase Genie+, you can still scope out theme park options like wait times, dining options, and Disney Park hotel reservations via your smartphone with Disneyland's Genie app.

Plus, smartphones enable parents and teens to stay in touch when separated. You'll have peace of mind knowing you can get a hold one another by text or phone call. So, make sure those smartphone batteries stay charged up at Disney!

Additionally, since Genie+ includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads, your tech-savvy kid will love having access to professional photos during their time in the parks. Selfies are great, but PhotoPass pics are even better. Parents who want lots of photos, even when exploring parks apart, will especially appreciate this option.

Minnie Mouse with smartphone
Smartphones make visiting Disney World with teens easier (Photo credit: quackersnaps, Depositphotos.com)

11. Bring along a friend to Disney World.

To give older kids some freedom at Disney World, bring along a friend. This is especially beneficial for single children or teens with much younger siblings.

It's not that they don't love you. (They do!) But teens will probably have a lot more fun if they have someone their own age to share in Disney's magic.

Discuss finances with the friend's parents before leaving home. Typically, if bringing along just one friend, the host family would be in charge of hotel costs and meals while the guest would pay for their own airfare and any entrance tickets.

You might also choose to travel with another family with children of similar ages. Then parents and kids can explore the parks separately and meet up for meals or special rides together.

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

12. Schedule downtime at Disney World with older kids.

Don't make the mistake of spending long hours in the amusement parks every day of your vacation in Orlando with teens. Running from roller coaster to roller coaster is not the only way to have a great time at Disney World during the teen years.

Even big kids need downtime. Pause to eat ice cream and people-watch on a park bench along Main Street. Or head back to your resort to relax in the pool or watch a movie in your hotel room to relax. Heck, your teens may even appreciate an afternoon nap before heading back in the evening to tackle their favorite rides.

Guided bicycle tour with my teen and tween in Celebration, Florida
Guided bicycle tour with my teen and tween in Celebration, Florida (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

13. Plan activities beyond theme parks.

Be sure to plan a couple of days away from the four main Walt Disney World amusement parks. Wander through Disney Springs and Disney's Boardwalk for all sorts of interesting shopping and dining adventures. Splash at one of Disney's water parks, Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon. Challenge kids of all ages to a round of miniature golf at Winter Summerland Miniature Golf or go bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. Or, go for a bike ride in Celebration, the town Disney built.

From viewing alligators to beach time and astronaut training, explore many other exciting things to do in Orlando.

Plan a day at Typhoon Lagoon with teens and tweens ~ Disney World with Teens & Tweens
Typhoon Lagoon with teens and tweens (Photo credit: Disney)

Disney World Resort offers an array of interesting options beyond rides and shows, too. From guided tours and behind-the-scenes access to interesting classes your kids will long remember, take a look at the interesting option big kids can enjoy.

Disney World Tours and Classes for Teens and Tweens

  • Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour (age 16+)
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Back Trail Adventure on Segway (age 16+)
  • Colors of Coronado Painting Experience (age 12+)
  • Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains (age 10+)
  • Epcot Seas Adventures SCUBA DiveQuest (age 10+)
  • Surfing Lesson at Typhoon Lagoon (age 8+)
  • Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom (age 8+)
  • Savor the Savanna Food Tour at Animal Kingdom (age 8+)
  • Meet Dolphins at EPCOT (44″+ height requirement, typically age 8+)
  • Starlight Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (age 8+ and 48″+)

Review a listing of special events and tours on the Disney website to make reservations before leaving home.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Magic Kingdom
Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Magic Kingdom (Photo credit: Disney)

14. Ride kiddie rides.

Teens 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.

Don't assume that older children will just want to ride all the headliner thrill rides like Test Track and Expedition Everest. Some might not like roller coasters, and they need not feel bad about it.

There are plenty of other rides at Disney World. They may want to ride Fantasyland rides like It's a Small World or Peter Pan's Flight. And that's okay.

Teens meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World
Teens meeting Disney characters like Mickey Mouse (Photo credit: Dave Parfitt, Adventures By Daddy)

15. Meet Disney characters.

The same goes for characters. You might just be surprised that your teens are not only willing but also excited about posing with Mickey Mouse or Cinderella, particularly if this is their first time at Disney World.

Disney character meals provide a great way to see a bunch of characters at once without waiting in long lines. So if this sounds like a good time to your kids, then book Cinderella's Royal Table or Chef Mickey's in advance!

Disney World is the best place for all ages to experience the joys of being a kid, especially teens!

Teen with balloons at Disney World
Let kids be kids at Disney World (Photo credit: Courtney Kiefer, Disney)

Save Money on Your Disney World Family Vacation

Do you want to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation with teens? Of course, you do!

Get discounted Disney World tickets and packages when you book through Get Away Today. Make sure to let them know that Travel Mamas sent you!

Explore More of Florida

Take a look at the best Florida family vacations that all ages love.

Discover how to swim with manatees in Florida.

Learn about all the things to do in Miami with kids and teens.

Relax at the beach with these 21 things to do at Hawk's Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

All great Florida family vacations include beach time, like at this sandy spot in Key West
All great Florida family vacations include beach time, like at this sandy spot in Key West (Photo credit: fotoZapad, Depositphotos.com)

Keep These Tips for a Disney World Vacation with Teens

Planning to visit Disney World with teens or tweens? Be sure to save these top tips! Just save the image below to Pinterest. We hope you'll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it.

Tips for Disney World with Teens

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

A Note from The Travel Mama: Some of my family's expenses were hosted Visit Kissimmee and Walt Disney World in 2019. This story is regularly updated to reflect current offerings at Disney theme parks. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  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

    Thanks
    Kris

    • 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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