Should I Bring My Kids On My Disney World Vacation?

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Should I bring my kids on my Walt Disney World vacation? That’s a joke, right?

Disney is the place for kids. If I want to go to Disney World, I have to bring them. Um, don’t I?

Well, no, you don’t have to bring them. And, depending on your needs, you may not want to. Here are some things to think about to decide whether bringing the kids on your Disney vacation is right for you.

Meetings and parties are just a few of the reasons to leave your kids at home when you visit Walt Disney World.
Meetings and parties are just a few of the reasons to leave your kids at home when you visit Walt Disney World.

Is there an easy place to leave your kids at home?

This won’t work for everyone, but many families have a relatively (Get it? Relatively. Oy, sorry.) easy place to leave the kiddos — grandparents or a favorite aunt may be thrilled to step in for a few days. Or you and a best buddy could trade babysitting duties over a few long weekends. For some children, particularly younger kids, getting indulged by grandma might be more appealing than getting schlepped around in the hot sun. Or perhaps you and your spouse/partner could trade childcare duties, giving each some getaway time.

Will your kids complain if they know you went to Disney World without them?

Many elementary age kids or older will know about the wonderful world of Disney from hearing stories of their friends’ travel or from television advertisements. This may make it more challenging to ditch them at home. However, a preschooler may have no idea what they’re missing if you say you’re off at Disney World (or just Florida) for a few days. The reaction from the peanut gallery could color your decision.

What’s your budget?

Let’s face it. Kids are expensive. Depending on the ages of your kids and how many you have, bringing them can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a trip in park ticket fees, food bills, transportation rates, and possibly larger accommodations — not to mention all the extra souvenirs they “must have, pleeeeeeazze.” On the other hand, an adult or two in budget mode can often get by with a fairly frugal parks visit. Leaving the kids at home is a great way to save money.

Will your kids slow you down?

Related to the money issue … Adults on their own are often able to cover significantly more territory at Disney World than adults accompanied by children. You might be able get as much accomplished in two days at the parks alone as you would in four days in the parks with your kids. A shorter stay could mean significant cost savings.

Do your kids bother you on vacation?

Everyone’s family dynamic changes while you’re on vacation and out of your routine. Sometimes we become better versions of ourselves when we’re away from home. And sometimes, well, not. Your child may be a delight when she’s home in her usual routine with her usual food and usual bedtime, but become a royal terror (or just a big annoyance) when she’s out of her comfort zone. Frankly, sometimes traveling with your kids just isn’t much fun. If you’re in fun mode, then maybe leaving them at home is better for everyone.

Do your kids get along with each other?

If your kids spend most of the time squabbling with each other when you’re on vacation, maybe going on vacation can wait until they’re older or more mature.

Do your kids like Disney?

There are some people who simply don’t like Disney theme parks. Shocking, I know. Some of those people might even be kids. If they don’t like the parks, then not bringing them there might make them, and you, more happy than having them tag along.

What are your child’s school issues?

Many school districts have strict policies against removing children from class for travel. And some children may struggle academically if they miss even a day or two of school. If you’re considering a trip during the school year (for a runDisney race or the opening of a new attraction, for example), it may not be prudent to bring your kids with you.

Do you need a mental health break away from your kids?

My first post-parenthood trip to Disney World without my children happened when my youngest (twins) were six years old. I had a difficult pregnancy followed immediately by years of attention to the twins’ many health problems. I was basically in a constant state of worry and stress for half a decade. Once we finally got the situation under control, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I knew I needed to get away and was ready to just go sleep in a Holiday Inn in the next town. My husband, knowing I was a huge Disney fan, suggested a solo trip to Disney World. I slept. I ate. I went only on the rides I liked. I sat by the pool. And when I came home four days later I was a new woman, ready to face the next set of challenges.

There’s a caveat here — Of course if you go to Disney World you won’t be getting away from ALL kids, just your own. For some people, this will prove counterproductive. However, I have never had a problem being around other people’s kids, even if they’re rambunctious or crying. It’s just my own kids acting up that makes me nuts.

Similarly, if being away from your kids makes you feel guilty, then hanging out near lots of other people’s children could exacerbate the issue.

Do you need time to reconnect with your spouse/partner?

There’s a reason why Disney World is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world — great hotels, wonderful restaurants, terrific entertainment, and so on. If at-home child care duties have caused tension or drift in your relationship, Disney is a fabulous place to relax and unwind together (you don’t even have to set foot in the parks) and make some couple-centered memories.

Brown Derby (20)Is there a preponderance of things you want to do at the parks that aren’t child friendly?

Maybe you’ve had a bucket-list goal of riding every WDW roller coaster in a single day. That might be a great thing to do with your teens, but if you’ve got a preschooler, it’s more than a little challenging to make that happen. Sure, you could hire a sitter to watch your kids at the hotel, or to accompany you in the parks, but that’s a significant added expense, as well as a significant time drag. Perhaps it would be easier to leave your kids at home for this type of trip.

Are you participating in an event that makes even child care challenging?

Many runDisney races require you to be ready to go at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Sure, you could get Kids Nite Out to send you a sitter at three a.m., but do you want to? Will you be worried about them showing up on time? Will you want them around while you’re getting dressed for the race? Will you want them waking up with a stranger in the room? Perhaps this is the trip to leave them at home with your sister so you can fully enjoy the fruits of your training.

In addition to runDisney events, there may be business conferences, Food & Wine events, or other situations that present childcare puzzles.

Disney World is certainly a great place to bring kids, but it’s also a great place to enjoy children. If you’re a parent, have you visited the parks without your children? Do you want to? Would this be a difficult decision for your? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

21 thoughts on “Should I Bring My Kids On My Disney World Vacation?

  • January 20, 2016 at 10:42 am
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    Wow. Great article – and you really went there. You make a lot of interesting points, and I also think one thing to consider is being at Disney, but not being there together as a family – for the ENTIRE trip. I believe that with adult children, that’s an easier pill to swallow than with younger children. We once entertained the idea of bringing our 6 and 8 year-olds to Disney and leaving the 2 and 3 year-olds at home, but I couldn’t get past the idea of being at such a family place without my entire young family. Great article – thanks for posting!

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  • January 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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    I have a friend with two Autistic who just can’t handle the parks. While they’ve never done a childless trip they have taken a few trips with just their daughter leaving the boys with grandma where they do have a better time than they would at Disney.

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  • January 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm
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    Leaving the children’s other parent at home to care for them solves all these problems.
    Just a thought…..
    😉

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  • January 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm
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    Leaving the children’s other parent at home to care for them solves all these problems.
    Just a thought…..
    ;-)û

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  • January 20, 2016 at 1:22 pm
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    Leaving the children’s other parent at home to care for them solves all these problems.
    Just a thought…..
    ;-

    Reply
  • January 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm
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    An interesting follow-up to this would be “Getting Away From Your Kids at WDW.” I can see a lot of parents who don’t want to go this far, but who do want to find a way to, say, have a romantic kid-free date night at a signature restaurant. Some obvious ideas that spring to mind are going in groups to hand off child wrangling (e.g., two families with kids go together, one group of parents takes all the kids one night, the other on a different night), the Disney day care centers, and aren’t there some special programs that kids can do without parents? I thought I remembered a pirate-themed boat thing for the 6-10 year old set, but I may be imagining things.

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    • January 21, 2016 at 4:38 pm
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      Actually, I would really love to see an article covering some of the logistics of separating from your kids of varying ages. For instance, we went last summer with three kids ages 7,11,15. We were perfectly comfortable letting them get themselves dinner on the Boardwalk while we ate at the Yachtsman, or even allowing them to partake of the quick service in the World Showcase. But when the 15 yo asked if they could do a sit-down by themselves in WS, we panicked. We were sure they would be well-enough behaved, that was not a concern. But we didn’t even know if it would be allowed! Similarly, clearly our 7 yo was too young to take the bus back to resort by himself if he wanted to leave earlier than the rest of the group, and the 15 yo was a definite go. But what about the 11 yo? Does Disney have an age limit for this? Obviously, all parents have to judge the capabilities of their children, but I’m sure we are not the only parents to judge our kids capable of solo activities that we weren’t sure Disney would be happy with.

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  • January 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm
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    The grammatically correct title for this article should be, “Should I TAKE My Kids On My Disney World Vacation?”

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  • January 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    I highly recommend leaving teenagers at home (or send them on a different vacation with a friend) if they are in that angsty “I can’t stand you people” phase. We did this when my daughter was 14 and now at 19 she’s SOOOOOOO excited to join the family on our upcoming Disney trip.

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  • January 20, 2016 at 3:58 pm
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    This is something that my boyfriend and I have gotten judged for quite a bit. I have been going to Disney 2-3x a year for years. Then, 2 years ago I started dating my boyfriend, who has a (now) 6 year old son. His son is simply too immature to go on a trip…and he also cannot be apart from his mother for more than a day or two without it really affecting his behavior. So why should I spend my hard earned money and vacation time on a trip with a kid that isn’t even mine? We fully intend on taking him when he has grown up a bit and will really enjoy it. Until then, we just don’t tell him and we go on short trips on the days he is regularly scheduled to be with his mother.

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  • January 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm
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    My mom has been taking my daughter to Disney World and Disneyland (we live in So Cal) since she was 4. Many trips I have gone as well. Last year my now 14 year old daughter complained through both parks at different times of the year so we have made plans without her since. For me, taking the time off of a stressful job to unwind is critical. I have also let my daughter know that I could see how much she did not like the trips but if she should feel differently in the future, we can resume going together. I know very soon she will get over this hump and go with a better attitude.

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  • January 20, 2016 at 7:30 pm
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    The answer is yes. Just four words – tequila flight at Epcot.

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  • January 21, 2016 at 8:43 am
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    My wife and I had the pleasure of going to Disney World twice since our daughter was born. The first time, she was only 10 months old, the second time was a year later at almost 2 years old.

    As parents, we were very fortunate to get a break from the daily grind – and we’re very fortunate that we have two sets of loving, retired grandparents who were more than happy to have the little one while we were gone.

    Sure, you naturally feel a bit bad making “selfish” decisions like that as a parent, but as mentioned above these getaways helped us recharge, renew and refocus. We weren’t just Mom and Dad, we were Husband and Wife again for a little while. I’m very thankful we had the chance to do it.

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  • January 21, 2016 at 11:15 am
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    After my original comment, I really thought about it and recognize that as much as we think our kids will love going on a trip like this, reality is that is not always true. If they are too young or in the midst of teenage angst, they may actually really not like pretty much anything about the trip. There are other stages where they do, so I think it is all about gauging that and taking them when it will be more fun for everyone.

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  • January 22, 2016 at 12:10 am
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    It’s interesting to note that Disney used to be far more Adult friendly for it’s deluxe resorts. In the early 70’s kids could basically roam free on the monorail loops. I remember watching movies in the basement of the contemporary while the parents were up stairs at “Top of the World” watching Don Rickles do a Vegas style stand up act and a Broadway/Vegas show girl type show that were Adults Only.
    I know that would be out of question now-for a 10 year old and their brother to free range. But it was pretty common then.

    I was a big Haunted Mansion fan..and I remember being disappointed not being allowed into a store in the Contemporary Lobby called “The Spirit World”.
    Which I now know was a liquor store.

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  • January 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm
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    So I leave to go back to Disney in eight days. However, since we purchased the trip, I got pregnant. So at thirteen weeks, I’m going to have a very different trip than I normally had.

    The husband and I will still have fun, we always do in our yearly trips, but now I’m not sure how long it will be until we can go back. Any ideas? I’m thinking we will have to wait at least two years, but I don’t know if at eighteen months the child will be old enough to even have fun. Does anyone have any tips?

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    • January 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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      I have been to WDW and DL with my then almost 1.5 year old son. He LOVED it and we loved seeing it through his eyes. He is now almost 2.5 and talks about it almost everyday, so we are taking him again in April before he turns 3!

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  • January 23, 2016 at 7:16 am
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    We’ve taken to alternating trips with our two young children, one trip with the whole family, one trip just mom and dad. The best part about spacing out the kids trips is that it’s a totally different experience every time as their interests change, and we’re free to focus more on them because we know “our trip” will be down the road. Although we never miss a trip to one of their favorite attractions, the childcare services at Lilo’s playhouse at the Polynesian. It’s a vacation saver every time.

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  • January 24, 2016 at 11:08 pm
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    My kids are grown now, but I was too poor when they were little to take them on vacations. So, I kinda still feel guilty about not bringing them. But only a little. They got jobs now, they can work 20 more years to afford their trips to Disney, too. :p

    Reply

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