Whether or not to take a toddler (or baby) to Disney World is a question raised continuously on Disney vacation message boards and blogs.
Unfortunately the parents asking the question tend to have a bias issue. If they are considering taking such a young child into the hot Florida weather and dense crowds, then it is safe to assume the parents are huge Disney fans. A common situation arises with new or recent parents. Maybe they spent vacations prior to the baby’s arrival at Disney and fell in love with the parks and resorts.
When baby arrived, those vacations had to stop for logistical reasons. A theme park is rarely a good idea for a baby. Beyond the weather elements, babies are highly susceptible to contagious illnesses, and are far more prone to RSV and pneumonia than they will be several years later.
Don’t Project Ourselves on our Babies
At some point the parents begin to miss Disney so much, that they rationalize reasons for taking their toddler (or yikes, baby) to Disney World.
“Just wait until he gets to meet Mickey Mouse!”
“She is going to love riding Dumbo!”
“I can’t wait to see his face when he sees the castle!”
But the reality is toddlers are commonly frightened by huge headed mice, err characters. The sun and heat during the bulk of spring, summer, and fall in Florida is extremely taxing on young children. Crowds make it difficult to keep track of young children, and are an unfortunate breeding ground for colds, flus, and worse.
We took our children to Disney World for the first time when they were a few months shy of three years old. There are some wonderful memories from that trip. Our twins loved Cinderella’s Carousel. And they had a good time meeting the characters. Nobody was afraid of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too.
Reality Sets In
But there were definite issues. The twins were often very tired and in need of frequent naps, which meant leaving the parks for the hotel or dealing with increasing unruliness. Both were genuinely frightened of many rides, including the seemingly tame Tomorrow Land Transit Authority. Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin was too intimidating for my son to try.
Even The Land boat ride raised some hairs. It is hard to convince a child that “the boat is just going to show us some plants.” My son Joey fell outside of The Contemporary Resort, landed on his nose, and dealt with a heck of a bloody nose as we rushed back to the room. My daughter went into “Terrible Two’s” mode more times than I care to remember. Indeed touring Disney World with toddlers is not the same as touring with kids, per Bob Sehlinger’s excellent book.
I don’t regret the trip. We had fun. But it was not easy on any of us, and it hardly met the magical expectations we had envisioned.
I would advise that under no circumstance should you take a child younger than two years old to any theme park. The health risks far outweigh the potential rewards. And yes, I know countless parents have taken their very young children to Disney World without incident. It isn’t worth the risk. They are going to be kids for a long time, and there will be plenty of vacation opportunities a year or two down the road.
Between two and four years, it becomes a judgment call. Are the children outgoing? How will they handle meeting the characters? Are there any rides that they will go on? Because I guarantee there are plenty they won’t go on.
As much as Disney fans prefer to spend as many vacations in Disney World as they can afford, we have to use our heads instead of our hearts on some decisions. This is one of them. Be very realistic about the implications of taking a very young child to Disney. Waiting just a few more years can make for a much safer, and more enjoyable trip for everyone.