How to get the most of out of Disney World with toddlers and little kids

Last updated on May 24, 2024

Magic Kingdom Castle.

Planning a trip to Disney World is an operation! But I’ve done a huge amount of the legwork for you, so this post is here to help you get the most out of your Disney World trip, especially if you’re travelling with toddlers or little kids.

While there’s no doubt Disney World is one of the most quintessential childhood dreams, and one that I think lives up to the hype, there’s also no doubt you might be left disappointed if you don’t prepare properly. It’s a big investment, so you want to get it right. 

In this post, I cover all the details of planning a Disney World trip with kids, especially those under 11. It includes guides to what tickets to choose, how to save money, avoid lines, choose accommodation and more. 

I’ve also written individual guides to each Disney World park (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT), which go into more detail about those parks, their individual rides and attractions, and how suitable they are for kids.

If you’re heading to Universal too, we also have guides to Universal Studios Florida with little kids. 

And if California is an option you’re thinking about, see our guides to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood.

What is Walt Disney World?

First thing you need to know is that Disney World is HUGE! The main thing it’s known for is the theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. But Disney’s estate near Orlando extends to 25,000 acres (around half of which has been developed). The map below shows the extent of the current built-on Disney property – it’s epic!

As well as the theme parks, the Disney property also includes 19 Disney hotels, two water parks, four golf courses and the Disney Springs shopping complex. And there are also many non-Disney hotels on the land. 

Disney World started as a follow-on from the original Disneyland in California and Walt Disney’s dream to create a place where kids and adults could have fun together. The scope of his dream for Disney World was even bigger, but Walt Disney sadly died before it all came to fruition. However, his brother took the mantle and ensured Disney World was built and it’s been growing ever since.

Is it worth visiting Disney World with little kids?

Disney World is an amazing place to take little kids, but whether or not it’s worth it will depend on you individually. If you’re worried about the parks living up to the hype, I’d say they really do. There’s nowhere on earth quite like Disney World, and the theming, attention to detail and level of service is impressive. 

That said, if none of your family are familiar with Disney films and characters, then a lot of the excitement will be lost on you. You could consider Universal Studios instead if you’re more into Dreamworks characters. Or if you categorically hate theme parks, then perhaps consider a different vacation! I have a section below about visiting Disney with family members who don’t want to – as sometimes you have to do it for the rest of the group, and there are ways to make the most of that.

The other big thing is cost. There’s no doubt a Disney trip is expensive, so there’s a lot of pressure to make it worth it. This post will help with the planning side of things. But if you think you’ll only be visiting Disney World once then you’ll need to decide what age you’d most like to go, which brings me to the next question…

What’s the perfect age for Disney World?

Meeting Winnie the Pooh at Disney.

Lots of people have strong opinions on the best age for visiting Disney World, but I think it really depends on the individual – and also on how many times you plan on visiting.

In a nutshell, little kids will likely get the most out of meeting all their favourite characters and generally being enchanted by the theming and magic of Disney World. Whereas older kids will get more out of all the rides and the theming of areas like Galaxy’s Edge.

That said, as with everything, there are shades of grey, and some little kids will love all the rides, and there are adults who love the character meet and greets.

Consider two trips at different ages

Personally, I think that the ideal situation would be to visit Disney World twice – once when the kids are little (under 10), and again when they’re older and can experience the more grown-up attractions and rides.

So far, we’ve been to Disney with our kids at ages 2, 3, 5 and 6, and this was a perfect age for them to be fully captivated by the characters and magic of Disney. But I definitely want to take them when they’re older and can enjoy more of the rides. I went at age 11 and 18 and that was great for going on all the rides (plus at 11, I was still pretty captivated by the magic too).

Kids asleep in double stroller Disney World.

Bear in mind your energy levels

Another thing to consider is that younger kids generally have less stamina, so it’s hard to truly get the most out of all the parks at that age. For example, getting to a park for rope drop around 7am and then staying up until 9pm for fireworks is a really long day for anyone. And, while you can take breaks back at the hotel, or even nap, it’s still tiring and will be unrealistic for some kids.

On top of that, theme parks are generally pretty exhausting places and a big sensory overload. It’s a good idea to build in rest days between park visits. And, if you can, half day visits can be useful. But your capacity for this will depend on your budget and the ticket you bought. For example, our ticket gave us 14 days for the price of 7, so I felt comfortable doing half days occasionally. If I’d paid full price for a 2-day ticket, I’d likely want to make full use of those 2 days.

You need to carefully consider what you think your kids can cope with, and what your expectations/hopes are. If you’re doing a once-in-a-lifetime Disney trip and your heart is set on doing ALL of it then perhaps wait until the kids are a bit older and will have the stamina for it. Or, if you’re going to do multiple trips, accept that Disney World with little kids will need a bit more flexibility when it comes to expectations – and enjoy all the bits you can do.

And if you don’t want to go to Florida twice, you could perhaps do Disneyland in California or Paris when the kids are little, and Disney World when they’re older.

Is Disney World or Disneyland better for toddlers and little kids?

Meeting Lightening McQueen at Disney California Adevnture
Meeting Lightening McQueen at Disney California Adventure

We’ve been to both Disneyland and Disney World with toddlers and little kids. Both parks have loads for little children and you won’t be disappointed by either. If you have the capacity, do both! But that’s unrealistic for most people, so these are the things to bear in mind when making your choice.

Disneyland is much smaller, with just two theme parks – Disneyland and Disney California Adventure – right next to each other. You can stay in hotels, even budget ones, that are walkable to the parks. It’s overall a much easier place to visit, and for that reason I’d say it’s a better choice for toddlers and little kids. 

On the other hand, Disney World is massive and has far more attractions. If you’re only going to do one Disney park in your lifetime, you might want to choose Disney World to get the full experience.

In an ideal situation, I’d suggest going to Disneyland when the kids are really young, and Disney World when they’re a bit older. 

Which is the best Disney World park for toddlers and little kids?

We’ve talked about how to choose Disneyland vs Disney World, but then, once you choose Disney World, you have to choose which of the four parks you want to go to.

Choosing the best Disney World park for toddlers and little kids is a tricky question as all the parks have different strengths and the best one for you will depend on your family’s interests. I’ve written a guide to all four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios), so I’d suggest reading each of those and seeing which ones you like the sound of most. 

In summary, Magic Kingdom definitely has the most rides and attractions for little kids. It’s also the most iconic of the theme parks and what you’re likely expecting when you think of Disney World – it’s where the Disney castle is and where you’ll see the famous parade. If you’re only going to Disney once with little kids then I’d prioritise this one unless one of the others has attractions that are an absolute must for your family.

Animal Kingdom is fantastic for little kids. While it has the fewest rides of all the Disney parks, it’s as much about the animals and shows as the rides. It’s also the most peaceful of the parks, so makes for a slower paced day.

EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are often recommended for older kids and adults, but they also have a lot to offer for little kids too. Hollywood Studios has Toy Story Land, which our kids adored, and they also loved Galaxy’s Edge. And EPCOT has some great rides for little kids, including the very popular Frozen Ever After ride.

How to visit Disney World when the kids want to but the parents don’t!

I know many families where the kids and one parent are keen on Disney but the other parent hates the idea. Or families where the kids are desperate to go and the adults aren’t. In these cases, I’d first of all say that even if you hate Disney, you’ll likely appreciate the kids’ enchantment. You do have to lean in though. Don’t go to Disney committed to the idea of hating it – there’s just no point.

Another way to make it more palatable to the naysayers is to build a wider Florida trip that satisfies their interests too. For example, our Florida itinerary also included Miami, the Everglades and the Florida Keys, which are ideal for a city break and time in nature.

How to buy Disney World tickets 

Epcot flower and garden festival

It can be a bit mind boggling trying to work out the best way to buy tickets for Disney World. There are lots of options to choose from, both in terms of the types of ticket and where to buy them. Here are a few things to consider…

Things to consider before buying a Disney World ticket

1. How many parks are you planning to visit?

You can buy individual day tickets for each of the four Disney World parks, multi-day tickets that allow entry to one of the four parks each day, or park hopper tickets where you can visit more than one park per day. Some tickets also allow entry to the waterparks and mini golf courses. 

2. How many days will you be there?

Generally, the more days you’re at Disney World, the bigger your saving will be per day. For example, our ticket ended up working out as around $46 per day, whereas a single-day ticket is around $170.

With the multi-day tickets, you don’t have to visit on consecutive days. For example, our 14-day ticket allowed us to enter the parks on any 14 days over an 18-day period. And a 7-day ticket can be used over 15 days. Be sure to check the terms and conditions.

Do I need a park hopper ticket for Disney World?

Epcot sphere

A park hopper ticket allows you to visit multiple parks in a single day – but it comes with a fairly hefty price hike. You don’t necessarily need a park hopper ticket as you could focus on one park per day and certainly have enough to do. But they are useful if you only have a limited amount of time and want to see more parks. For example, you could do half a day each at EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, which are really easy to travel between.  

It’s also handy if you’re not sure which park you’ll like the most or how much you’ll be able to achieve each day. For example, if you have 4 days, you might want to do all the parks, but only half a day at EPCOT, and 1.5 at Magic Kingdom. Plus, if any rides are closed on the day you visit, you could pop back another day just to do that ride.

We had park hopper tickets for our entire 14 days at Disney World (it was part of the amazing deal we found!) and it was definitely nice to have the freedom to move between the parks. But if your budget is limited, I don’t think it’s 100% necessary. Bear in mind the parks aren’t right next to each other, so it isn’t super quick to travel between them all (see the section on how to navigate Disney World below).  

Do you need to make park reservations at Disney World?

When you buy your Disney World ticket, you buy it to begin on a specific day. If it’s a multi-day ticket, it can be used over a defined period (e.g 18 days for a 14-day ticket). But, unlike at Disneyland in California, you don’t need to make specific park reservations as well as buying your ticket. You can choose which park you go to on the day. 

Where to buy Disney World tickets

We bought our tickets directly through the UK’s Disney World website. I had originally planned to buy a 4-day park hopper ticket, spending roughly one day in each park, but with the freedom to hop between if we needed to. 

In the end, we found an incredible deal, which gave us 14 days for the price of 7. It included park hopper and memory maker, plus access to the waterparks and mini golf. 

Our ticket worked out at around $650 each (or $46 per day). We would have paid around the same for a four-day park hopper ticket. We only had 10 days in Orlando, so didn’t use all the days, but it still saved us money. I viewed all the days above 4 as a bonus, and this meant we could take a more relaxed approach to our time at Disney World. This offer runs often, so I’d recommend seeking it out.

Of course, 14 days, or even 4, is a big investment of both money and time, so you might want to go for one of the shorter options. For these types of tickets, Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today offer really good deals. We bought our California Disneyland tickets through Undercover Tourist and it was an easy process. We also booked our accommodation at Disney through Undercover Tourist. 

You can sometimes get good deals by booking tickets and accommodation as a package. See the latest prices at Undercover Tourist or Get Away Today.

How to get to and around Disney World

I’ve probably said it enough by now, but Disney World is huge! Don’t go there thinking you can just walk between all the parks and hotels like you can in California.

Luckily, there are loads of transport options that make getting around easy, and you certainly don’t need a car (although that is an option too). Most of the official Disney transport (monorail, skyliner, boats and buses) is free for Disney World Resort guests, but you need to pay extra for private transfers like the Minnie-vans, and of course taxis/rideshares.

In my individual posts on each park, I’ve given more details on how to get to and around those parks, but here are some general tips and info on what transport is available, plus a note on strollers.

Think about transport when choosing accommodation

I have a section on accommodation below, but it’s also worth mentioning here that one of the key things to think about when choosing accommodation is how easy it is to get to and from the parks. Also think about what parks you’re visiting as they’re not all close together so you might want to choose a hotel closer to the one/s you’re visiting.

For example, some of the premium Disney resorts are connected directly to Magic Kingdom by monorail, and others are connected directly to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios by the Skyliner. And there are even some resorts in the Disney Boardwalk area where you can walk to some of the parks. I go into more detail on this in the posts on individual parks.

Types of transport available at Disney World

Riding the Skyliner.


There are three monorail lines that connect Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and some of the premium Disney Hotels. All the monorail lines originate at the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center), so you can change lines to travel between all the monorail destinations.

These are the routes:

TTC – Magic Kingdom
TTC – Polynesian Village Resort – Grand Floridian Resort – Contemporary Resort

Riding the monorail from the premium hotels directly to Magic Kingdom is the easiest route to get there, which contributes to the high prices at those resorts.


The skyliner is a gondola system that connects Hollywood Studios and EPCOT to four of the Disney hotels (Art of Animation, Pop Century and Riviera Resort). The skyliner entrance at EPCOT is also just a short walk from the Disney BoardWalk area where you’ll find lots of entertainment and more hotels (Yacht Club, Beach Club and BoardWalk Inn). 

Our kids loved the skyliner – in fact it was one of our 3-year-old’s favourite rides! The gondola carriages are decorated with Disney characters, so it’s fun trying to choose a favourite. We stayed at Art of Animation for 3 nights and it was so convenient getting from there to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. 

Note that queues for the Skyliner can get pretty long at park closing time.


There are a few different boats connecting Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, and some of the Disney hotels. Most run every 15-30 minutes. Resorts that connect by boat to Magic Kingdom are: Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge.

There’s also a ferry boat from the TTC to Magic Kingdom, which is a really fun way to arrive. The sun was rising as we sailed across the water!

There are also water taxis between Contemporary, Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge.

The FriendShip boat connects EPCOT and Hollywood Studios to the BoardWalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Yacht Club, and the Swan and Dolphin hotels.

And there is one final boat service – the Sassagoula River Cruise– between Disney Springs and the following hotels: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Port Orleans (both the Riverside and French Quarter).


There are complimentary buses between all the resorts and theme parks/TTC. This feels like the least exciting of all the options, and is often the slowest due to traffic, but they do run fairly regularly, so it’s a good option to have. 

Many non-Disney hotels also offer complimentary shuttles between their hotels and the Disney parks. For example, when we stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel, we caught the bus to both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, which took about 30 minutes and was pretty packed!

Minnie Van Service

The official Disney Minnie Van service offers rides around the resort in a red and white spotty 5-person van. They also include a complimentary car seat for children, and 2 spaces for wheelchairs/mobility devices (bringing the capacity up to 7 people). Minnie Vans aren’t free to use – you pay through your mobile or the Lyft app.

Uber / Lyft / Taxis

We sometimes used Uber to get around the Disney World property, especially between hotels. It’s a good option to have in your back pocket if the bus is taking a long time to arrive or you need a quick option when the kids are tired. These don’t come with car seats, so you need to bring your own if desired. 


If you have your own car/rental, you can drive directly to the theme parks, and park in their parking lots for free. For the Magic Kingdom, you park at the TTC and get the boat/monorail from there.

Strollers and mobility devices

Because of the size of the Disney parks and the amount of walking you’ll do, even kids as old as 6 or 7 might benefit from a stroller at Disney World. It’ll give them a comfortable place to rest and save you from carrying tired little ones.

You can either bring your own or hire one at the main entrance. They have single and double strollers available for around $15/30 per day. You get a discount if you book for more than one day.

Be aware that the strollers available for hire have no cushioning like a normal stroller, so you could bring something like a cushion/blanket to make it more cosy.

Also note that stroller wagons are not permitted in Disney World, which is a pity as they’d be super useful!

When we went to Disneyland, we brought our own stroller instead of hiring one, and managed to fit both boys in there, side by side. By the time they were 3 and 6, they were too big to fit.

Wear comfy shoes

Prepare for a lot of walking and standing at Disney World. My legs were always aching by the end of the day. In fact, Steve and I said they’d make a fortune if they offered foot massages at the hotels at the end of the day! 

Because of all the walking, I’d say that trainers/sneakers are a must. Don’t wear any shoes you haven’t already walked in and know are comfy in advance. Also see our guidance above on using strollers, even for slightly older kids.

Don’t lose your kids!

Disney World is crowded and an easy place to get separated from your group. Make sure your kids know what to do if they get lost. Point out what cast members are wearing or suggest approaching another mother and child. We also recommend writing your phone number on your kids’ arm. And for extra peace of mind, we bought Apple air tags and put one inside an air tag bracelet for each of the kids. This meant we culd track them in real time through our phones.

How to plan your time at Disney World with kids

Hollywood Studios.

The magic formula for a successful time at Disney World with kids is all about identifying priorities, reducing wait times, and planning out a well paced day that doesn’t leave everyone feeling completely exhausted, but still packs a lot in! Easy right?!

There’s loads of info about this online and people have different approaches, but essentially there’s no one-size-fits all answer as it really depends on your priorities and abilities. But here are some general guidelines that should help you plan things out. 

I’ve also included more details of the plans I made for each Disney theme park within the individual post for each park.

1. Make a priority list of your key things to do

For each park, you’ll be visiting, it’s helpful to create a list of must-visit attractions, so you don’t miss out on your family’s favourites. I’d suggest ranking them into two categories: “must-sees” and “nice to haves”. We always do this for Disney theme parks and helps with both the prior planning, plus making on-the-fly decisions on the day.

I also recommend not telling your children too much about the rides, especially the ‘nice-to-haves’ as that will help to avoid disappointment. Conversely, it can be helpful to show YouTube videos of the rides in advance to help quell nerves/build excitement. It will depend on the child, so is up to you.

2. Make a flexible plan

It’s good to have a rough itinerary for your day, but you also need to keep things flexible. Wait times vary throughout the day, so it might be useful to juggle things around. Plus, there are also unexpected events, like bad weather, ride closures, or things you stumble upon, like characters, shows and other entertainment. And that’s not to mention your kids’ moods.

There’s no need to stick rigidly to your original plan – allow for some magic along the way. It’s also a recipe for disappointment if you really expect to stick to your original plan. I tried so hard to make the perfect itinerary, but sometimes the kids just wouldn’t play ball, insisting on certain rides even though it wasn’t the best time to do them. Wothcha gonna do?!

3. Pace yourself

Remember that Disney can be overwhelming for young kids (and adults!), so take breaks, find shady spots, and enjoy leisurely moments to recharge. There’s always something to look at and be entertained by, so even sitting still at Disney is fun. A good way to break things up is by watching one of the shows. Playgrounds are also a great place to have a break. We have details about these in all the individual theme park posts.

4. Choose your first ride wisely

There are lots of different theories for which ride to go on first at every Disney World theme park, but it’s always going to be a gamble as you can’t predict for sure what the wait times will be on any given day. I go into much more detail on this in the individual theme park posts.

5. Think about naps

If your child is at an age where they nap, think about when would be the best time. This is especially important if you have older children who don’t nap. For example, this likely isn’t the ideal time for the adults to ride the bigger rides by themselves as then the other adult would be left with two children, one napping, limiting what they could do. So, if you’re booking lightening lanes for adult-only rides, try not to do it for nap time. Instead, if there are two adults, perhaps choose this time for one of them to ride something that the older kid can but the little one can’t.

Also, if your child doesn’t nap in a stroller, you’ll need to plan in a time to return to your hotel.

How to reduce your wait times at Disney World with kids

Queue for Remys Rattouille at rope drop

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people about Disney World is the length of the lines for some attractions. And it’s a fair point – sometimes the lines reach upwards of 90 minutes, which is an especially long wait with kids. But with a bit of planning, you can avoid being in line all day. And you definitely shouldn’t be waiting all day if you invest in Genie+. Here are some key tips…

1. Get Genie+

You can upgrade your Disney World ticket by getting Genie+, a paid service that grants you access to the fast lane (lightening lane) on a handful of attractions. The price varies day by day and is different for each park, but generally ranges from around $15-30 per person.

We bought Genie+ for our first visit to all the parks and it definitely helped save us time, especially at the Magic Kingdom. However, if you can’t afford Genie+, I still think it’s possible, with good planning, to do a lot of the rides, especially at Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. I’ve included more details on Genie+ and the individual parks in my specific posts on each one.

How to use Genie+ at Disney World

Here’s a quick quide to how to use Genie+ at Disney World

How to buy Genie+

You buy and use Genie+ through the Disney World app. It’s available to buy from 00:01am the day you visit. You can buy the service for one park or for multiple parks if you’re park hopping that day.

How to book Genie+ lightening lanes

You can make your first Genie+ lightening lane reservation from 7am if you’re staying at a Disney World hotel, or at park opening if you’re not.

You can only use the lightening lane once for each attraction. And you can only make a new reservation once you’ve used the one you’ve booked, or when two hours has passed since you made that reservation.

The exception to this is the first bonus booking for Disney resort guests at 7am. You cannot make another one at 9am and instead have to wait until two hours after the park opens (unless you use the 7am one before then). It’s because that first booking is counted as happening at the park opening hours – you’re just given a head start of 2 hours to make it, ahead of normal guests.

What time can you book a lightening lane for?

You make the Genie+ lightening lane reservations through the app. In the list of rides, it tells you when the next lightening lane spot is available. For some rides, this will be immediately, while for more popular ones, you may have to wait much longer.

For example, I booked a Jungle Cruise reservation for Magic Kingdom at about 7:03am in Spring Break and the next slot available was 5pm! It shows that on busy days, every second counts for making those reservations! On another, much quieter day, I was able to get one for 10:30am, so it does differ a lot depending on the crowds. 

How to redeem your Genie+ reservation

You have one hour from the start time of your slot to redeem the pass. To do this, you simply tap your phone/magic band at the entrance to the lightening lane for that ride. As soon as you tap in, you can book a new lightening lane.

Choosing a Genie+ strategy

Choosing your Genie+ strategy really depends on your priorities and the wait times on the day. I recommend keeping an eye on the app and seeing which rides look like they’re selling out. If any of your priorities are filling up, book those immediately and then try and fit in some of less popular rides or shows, or perhaps eat, while waiting the two hours for your next selection.

You can see my Genie+ strategy for each park in the individual theme park posts.

2. Buy individual lightening lanes

There are some rides at Disney World that aren’t part of Genie+, but that you can buy individual lightening lanes for. For example, you can do this for Tron Lightcycle Run at EPCOT and Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom.

These passes vary in price depending on the day, but can be quite expensive, especially for groups. For example, we found individual lightening lane passes to cost around $25, which soon adds up for a party of four!

Not that you can book an individual lightening lane at the same time as a Genie+ reservation. 

3. Use rider switch

If you’re in a group where not everyone wants to/can ride a certain attraction, you can sometimes use the rider switch service. This is only available on a handful of rides at each park (not like at Disneyland where it’s available for all rides). 

The rider switch service means that once one part of the party has finished riding the ride, the second part can jump directly to the lightening lane rather than waiting in the normal queue. You have to register for rider switch at the entrance to the ride, swiping everyone’s passes so they know who to let on next.

4. Use the app

The Disney World app is updated with live wait times for all the attractions throughout the day. This allows you to check that your next planned ride has a reasonable wait time, or if something else has an unusually short queue. It’s not always 100% accurate so it’s a good idea to ask the cast member at the entrance to the ride too.

5. Use the single rider line

If, like us, you’re in a group where not everyone can ride all the rides and one person will have to ride alone when doing rider switch, the single rider lane is a useful timesaver. By waiting in this line, you can fill empty seats left by other groups and get to the front quicker.

6. Get there for rope drop

Rope drop crowds at Test Track

One of the best and easiest ways to get the most out of a trip to Disney World is to get there for ‘rope drop’ when the park opens. The parks all have different opening times, which vary day by day, so do check in advance.

Guests staying in the official Disney hotels (plus some other affiliated hotels) are allowed to enter 30 minutes earlier than everyone else, which gives them a head start.

Even so, it’s still often worth doing rope drop at the official opening time if you’re staying offsite. We did this at Animal Kingdom, and it still meant we were some of the first on the safari.

7. Take advantage of your rider pass if an attraction breaks

If a ride breaks or closes for whatever reason while you’re in the queue, you get a lightening pass for a whole list of rides, including those that don’t normally have lightening lanes.

If you’re doing multiple days in one park, this can be a good opportunity to forego the original reservation and hop on something else. You can then try for that original ride on a different day.

8. Virtual queues

Some rides at Disney World have virtual queues instead of normal lines. Generally there are two chances to book yourself onto a virtual queue – at 7am and again around lunchtime.

You book yourself onto the queue and are then given a one-hour slot where you can join the line. On busy days, these slots sell out super fast, within minutes, and I failed to get one for Tron on our first day in Magic Kingdom. On our second day, I bought an individual lightening lane instead.

Bear in mind that virtual queues aren’t lightening lanes so you might still have a long wait in the line for the ride. For example, my wait for Tron in the lightening lane was about 15 minutes, but it would have been over an hour in the standby lane (the lane you join if you booked via virtual queue).

When we visited, only Tron and Cosmic Rewind had virtual queues, but do check the app/website for the current selection as it’s subject to change.

The best rides for little kids at Disney World

We have detailed posts on all four Disney World theme parks that detail the best rides and attractions for kids at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. 

How to meet Disney characters at Disney World

One of the things our kids loved most at Disney World was meeting some of their favourite characters like Winnie the Pooh and the Little Mermaid. But do be warned that the wait times can be super long, so children can be disappointed. Also bear in mind that not all Disney characters are at the parks, so don’t promise your kids a specific meeting.

There are a few ways to avoid queues and ensure you meet your favourite characters, but these options tend to cost more.

These are my top tips for meeting characters at Disney World:

  • There are some character meet and greets that can be reserved via Genie+. So if meeting certain characters is one of your priorities, be sure to take advantage of this. We used it for meeting the Little Mermaid and Mickey Mouse. I’ve included details of all the characters you can meet via Genie+ in the individual posts on each park.
  • On the app, there’s a map that has a list of characters and where you can find them in the park. It’s updated throughout the day and is a handy way to find them. It also lists the times that they will be appearing in each place. 
  • Some of the characters are in multiple parks – for example you can meet Winnie the Pooh at both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. On the day, we went to Magic Kingdom, the line to meet him was around 45 minutes, whereas we only waited around 10 minutes at EPCOT. Try to prioritise based on how busy a park is forecast to be that day. 
  • The parade at Magic Kingdom is a perfect place to see a whole bunch of characters at once. You don’t get to meet them or ask for autographs, but our kids loved seeing lots of their favourites even if from afar. 
  • You can also book character dining experiences where you’re guaranteed to meet certain characters who wander around the restaurant and stop at individual tables. You need to book these in advance. We had breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort and the kids really loved getting to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. It was expensive, but also a really special experience. 

Other ways to have fun at Disney World with kids

Disney World isn’t just about the rides. Here are a few of the other ways to have fun at Disney World with kids. We go into more detail about what’s available in our post on all the individual Disney World theme parks.


Lion King Show Animal Kingdom.

There are shows at all the Disney theme parks, ranging from the epic Broadway-style Lion King at Animal Kingdom to street entertainers on Main Street in Magic Kingdom. These are a great way to have a change of pace and a break from rides and waiting in line. For many people, these are one of the highlights of a Disney trip.


Magic Kingdom Parade.

The Disney parade at Magic Kingdom is a quintessential Disney experience and one that’s unmissable in my opinion. Watch as spectacular floats pass by with favourite characters and songs from Disney shows. We loved seeing the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Frozen and more.

You can reserve a prime parade viewing spot via Genie+, but we decided to take our chances, and still got a front row seat on the kerbside around 30 minutes before it began. We timed this with lunch, which we bought from the restaurant beside us. The parade usually happens twice a day. 

Firework and light shows

There are firework and light shows at all the Disney Parks aside from Animal Kingdom. These are spectacular events with different themes throughout the year, and the one over the castle at Magic Kingdom is particularly iconic.

The only problem with these nighttime shows when travelling with young kids is that they start really late, around 9pm. This is particularly late if you’re planning to do rope drop the following day. 

An alternative can be to book a hotel with a firework view so you can at least get the kids in bed as soon as it’s finished. We watched the EPCOT fireworks from our balcony at the Dolphin resort and the view was amazing!

The shows and their timings vary, so be sure to check the entertainment schedule before you go. 


There are play areas in all of the Disney World theme parks, some better than others. The most extensive one is the boneyard in Animal Kingdom, which has big slides and a huge play structure to explore. Moana’s Journey of Water at EPCOT is also a great water play area. I have details of all the play areas in the individual theme park posts.

Games at Disney World

There are some classic fairground games throughout Disney World, but you do have to pay extra to play these, so we tried to avoid them.

Other shows at Disney

Disney also puts on special events at different times of year, including Halloween spectaculars and light shows. Check the website/app to see what’s happening when you visit. 

How to save money at Disney World

Disney World is always going to be an expensive trip, but there are ways to do it on a tighter budget. Here are some top tips:

1. Remember kids under 3 are free!

Kids under 3 don’t have to pay for Disney tickets, so make sure to take advantage of that! We went to Disneyland when Arlo was just shy of 3, saving us lots of money. Sadly, he was already 3 when we went to Florida.

2. Look out for ticket deals

As we said earlier, there are often deals on Disney World tickets. Be sure to shop around, checking the official Disney site as well as reputable third-party sellers like Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today.

3. Buy costumes and ears in advance

On my first trip to Disneyland, I made the mistake of promising my kids a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, only to arrive to the park and find they cost $35 each. I could have got them for much cheaper elsewhere. That said, the ones on sale in Disney World are pretty cool as they have all sorts of different themes. I would have really liked the donut ones!

Likewise, with costumes and Disney-themed clothes, you could buy these in advance. And I recommend wearing them as it all adds to the excitement of a day at Disney. You’ve got to lean in to it all when doing Disney! You can get some really good deals at the goodwill stores in Orlando – they’re filled with secondhand Disney goods!

4. Bring a packed lunch

Food at Disney is generally pretty expensive, so you’ll save money by bringing a packed lunch and water bottles that you can re-fill at water stations in the parks. We ordered food from Amazon to our hotel and took daily snacks into the parks.

5. Let the kids buy their own souvenirs

We have the kids some Disney pocket money that they earned in advance of our trip. They were then free to spend this however they liked in the Disney parks. By giving them the power, it meant they were more careful about what they bought. That said, they did take a long time to choose something and we spent more time in the shops than I’d have liked! You can even buy Disney gift cards to use in the parks if you’d like to give them something physical.

Tech that helps make Disney better

Use the app

I recommend making good use of Disney’s official app. It provides real-time information on wait times, show schedules, character appearances, and interactive maps to help you navigate the park efficiently.

While we found it wasn’t always 100% accurate, for example, with wait times, it gave a good general idea and really helped us to make the most of our time.

Use the PhotoPass and Memory Maker service

Photo by Memory Maker

There are loads of opportunities throughout Disney World to have your photo taken by a professional photographer – either at key photo spots or with Disney characters. Whenever you have one taken, scan your ticket and they’ll automatically be linked to your account and appear in the app. You can then buy your photos from there. 

Even better, if you purchase Memory Maker, you can download unlimited photos for free. We were lucky because Memory Maker was automatically included in the price of our ticket. This was a great deal as downloading photos a la carte can be around $20 for two images. Memory Maker costs $75 for a day, or $185 for the full duration of your Disney vacation.

Where to eat in Disney World with kids

The Disney restaurants and snack stands are all part of the Disney World experience. We go into more detail about the specific restaurants in our individual posts on each theme park, but here are some general tips…

Order food in advance on the Disney World app

At some restaurants, you can order through the app to avoid having to queue. We found this super convenient as it meant we could maximise our time elsewhere.

You simply order online for a specific window of time. And then when you arrive at the restaurant during that window, you press a button saying you’ve arrived and they prepare your order. It’s a pretty efficient system.

Character dining

You can also make dining reservations for character dining experiences or themed restaurants. This is pretty expensive, but it’s also one of the things our kids loved most.

We went to Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort for breakfast and the kids got to meet all the main Mickey and friends characters. If your kid is into a particular character, this would be an amazing treat.

Table-service restaurants at Disneyland 

If you want something a bit more formal, there are some Disney World restaurants that you can book in advance for a sit-down dining experience. Here’s a list of places that accept reservations, including at Disney Springs.

Some of these restaurants have amazing theming, like Space 220 at EPCOT where it feels like dining in space. And we loved eating at the Sci-fi Dine-In Theatre at Hollywood Studios, which is set up like a drive-in movie theatre – diners sit in classic cars while watching old sci-fi movies!

Despite how cool these restaurants are, they’re also expensive. And I think, with kids, it’s easier to take a more casual approach and go to the quick service restaurants as then you have more flexibility. You never know when hunger might strike!

The best food for kids in Disney World

As you’d expect, Disney World is well set up for kid-friendly menus and we were pleased to see some healthy options too (the “Disney Check” meals). That said, our kids are vegetarian and the healthy options for them were more limited. They ate a lot of pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese!

Disney snacks

There are some excellent Disney snacks you can treat yourself and the kids to. Some of the classics include the famous pineapple dole whip, Mickey-shaped beignets and Jack Jack cookies.

Where to stay in Disney World with kids

Art of Animation Little Mermaid hotel.

This is a topic that needs it’s own post, so here’s our full guide to where to stay when visiting Disney World with kids, including our reviews of official Disney Hotels, Disney affiliated hotels and off-site hotels.

Disney World with a baby

A trip to Disney with a baby tends to be more about the adults and elder siblings than the baby – there are some things they might enjoy, but they won’t be getting the most out of it.

We went to Universal Studios with Otis when he was a baby and we still had a great time by using things like rider switch. You can do the same at Disney. And they also have handy baby centers, which have space for nursing and nappy changing, as well as facilities to sterilise bottles and warm up food. Find them on the map for each park.

Buy your Disney World tickets now

Check the Disney website (USA and UK), as well as Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today for the latest deals on Disney tickets.

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Creative family travel guides

We don’t think you have to sacrifice creativity and style when travelling with kids. Browse our guides for creative family travel around the world. We also have a whole section on cool places to stay with kids in destinations worldwide.

Family travel tips: Tips for travelling with a baby | Baby packing list | Flying with a baby survival guide | Where to stay with a baby | Ultimate guide to Home Exchange | Bucket list family vacation ideas

UKBirmingham with kids | Bristol with kids | Cornwall with kids |London with toddlers Edinburgh with kids | Manchester with kids UK family Christmas trips

Europe: Barcelona with kids Barcelona with a baby | Majorca (Puerto Pollensa) family holiday | Croatia (Sibenik) family holiday

USA: Boston with kids | California with kids | Charleston with kids | Chicago with kids | Florida with kids | Florida Keys with kids | Hawaii with kids |  Los Angeles with kids | Miami with kids | New York with a baby | Orlando with kidsPortland with kids | Sacramento with kids | San Diego with kids | San Francisco with kids | Savannah with kids | Tuolumne County with kids

Asia: Koh Lanta with kids | Phuket with kids | Thailand family holidays

Family road trip itineraries: Boston to Maine |California road trip |Florida Keys road trip |New England road tripPacific Coast Highway road trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip Southern USA road trip | Portugal road trip

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