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When my family was planning our first trip to WDW, our boys were 2- and 4-years-old. I read several travel books to help me prepare myself and my children for our trip. I was struck by one commonality in all the books I read. They all stressed the importance of preparing your children for Disney World (or Disneyland, as the case may be).
At first I was surprised by the encouragement to “dispel the magic” by telling children that the characters are actually people in costume or explaining how different attractions create certain illusions. But I quickly became a believer when I showed the free Disney travel DVD to my boys. Some parts of it were exciting to them and some a bit scary. They actually had a lot of questions, and the DVD spurred great conversations about what Disney World is like.
Depending on the ages of your children, you may not want to (or be able to) watch the entire DVD in one sitting. Instead you may want to just watch 5 or 10 minutes at a time. While the free DVD offers a lot of visual information about the parks, every attraction is not included. Don’t be afraid to look outside the box and search utube or other web sites for videos of various attractions. Talk the children through what you are seeing. It’s okay to tell them that the boats in Peter Pan’s Flight, won’t fall out of the sky because they are actually attached to a track and not really flying through the sky. Tell them that the characters are actually people dressed in costumes. We explained many technical issues with the phrase, “It’s just Disney magic.” A great tip I read about attractions that may have scary parts is to explain to your child that it might have some scary parts but Mickey means it to be a fun type of scary, and Mickey wouldn’t do anything that would hurt anybody.
Not only is it important to prepare your children for what they will be seeing in WDW. It is important to prepare them for what they will (or won’t) be able to do. Certain attractions have height restrictions. You can find out which rides have such restrictions and what those restrictions are in various travel books or with a quick online search. In our family, the youngest son is more adventurous than his older brother, and it was important for us to prepare our youngest for which attractions he would not be allowed to try. As a result, he was not disappointed in the parks as we approached the rides that he was too short to ride.
Even if your child, or children, are unable to ride, that doesn’t mean mom and dad can’t enjoy the attraction anyway. The baby swap option that Disney offers is wonderful! To baby swap, tell the CM at the beginning of the queue that you want to baby swap. The riding adult will enter the queue while the waiting adult waits with the child. When the riding adult is finished, that person will wait with the child while the 2nd adult rides. The 2nd adult is admitted to the Fastpass line or taken straight to the loading area. If you happen have one child who does want to ride and one who doesn’t the riding child can ride with each of the adults.
For older children and teens, prepare them that WDW is not a thrill ride amusement park. People expecting WDW to be like Six Flags might be disappointed. Help them appreciate what Disney does best—magical entertainment.
A final tip for preparing your children for WDW is start walking! If you have young children and plan to use a stroller, put them in a stroller and walk them often, so that you get your stamina built up before your trip. If you are not planning on using a stroller, walk with your children—a little more each week—to prepare their legs for the workout they will get in WDW. You will walk several miles a day at the parks, so start getting the whole gang into shape a few months before your trip.
Whether it’s walking together, watching videos or internet clips about Disney attractions, or talking about what you will see and do in WDW, enjoy planning and preparing your children for your trip. Let the preparation and excitement become a part of the magic.