Walt Disney World (FL)

The 10 Year Old Adult at Walt Disney World

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Ice cream at the Plaza fits this growing boy's appetite

Before I even start typing this post, I bet there are many of you out there who know exactly what I’m talking about. My son just turned 10 years old this past December, and all of a sudden, Disney considers him an adult. It poses a lot of difficulties for us, considering that he still behaves like at 10 year old. I’d love it if he could go out and find work to help pay for these new found adult bills; but sadly, that’s frowned upon. So, what are these challenges and how do we deal with them?

Dining – This is where it hits us the worst. Under the 3-9 year old plan, my son could join us for meals at Crystal Palace or ‘Ohana for a child’s price, between $13.99-$17.99 depending on the meal or time of year. Sure, that’s unreasonable by normal standards, but for a fine buffet meal at Walt Disney World, it’s not terrible. As I’ve written before, when you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and only paying that amount for the Table Service meal and getting a “free” Counter Service meal, it’s a great bargain.

Now, however, taking my son to buffets is expensive, and it’s hard for him to get enough to eat off the kids’ menus at other Table Service restaurants. That takes our dining costs up significantly, if you figure in one Table Service and two Counter Service meals per day. It comes out to an average increase in price of $30 per day. That adds up over the course of a vacation.

The way we’ve so far managed to get around it is twofold: finding less expensive restaurants and sharing portions. Places like Trail’s End charge lower prices than other buffets but still allow the growing boy to eat whatever he’d like. Our favorite new Table Service meal is the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, where we can get him a sandwich, drink, and side item for under $15. Also, with three of us now eating off the adult menu, the portions are usually large enough where my wife and I can order full size meals, then share with him. If we order a lesser priced appetizer to share, there’s more than enough food to go around.

Tickets – With recent price increases, there is less of a discrepancy between adult and child tickets, but it is still there. Magic Your Way tickets cost between $10-$20 more for 10 year old adults than they do for 3-9 year old children. Again, in the grand scheme of things with a Walt Disney World vacation, that’s not a ton. But add it to the dining difference and you’re talking about a significant price increase.

Which one's enjoying himself more? This 10 year old...

There’s really no way around this one except to try and look very carefully at how you plan your trips. We have long been advocates of the Least Expensive Ticket Calculator on TouringPlans.com, even before I started writing for the site. It helps you figure out how to get the most amount of days for the least amount of money. I won’t lie, we have created spreadsheets and color coded charts to figure out the maximum number of days we could afford. You have to do things like that with the new ticket system. The burden is now on the consumer to figure out the best ways to save money, unless you have a good travel agent who is willing to walk through it with you.

...or this 6 year old? Disney says the 10 year old.

Hotel Rooms – What’s the problem? I can hear you asking now. You just get a normal Value resort room, put the 10 year old with his younger sister in a bed and life is good, right? If you think this, you don’t have a persnickety 10 year old or an equally persnickety 6 year old girl. While both are excellent children, if we put them in a bed together at this age, neither of them sleep well, which leads to some rather long and interesting days in the parks. The biggest issue is finding a hotel room where they can sleep in separate beds without breaking the bank.

On Disney property, this task is nearly impossible. For a family used to spending our days at Pop Century, the price of two rooms at Pop just for the kids to have separate beds is pretty unthinkable. That is the cheapest option, however. Look at the family suites at the new Art of Animation Resort: these rooms range from $248-$435 for a night. $248 isn’t terrible, but at that same time, two rooms at Pop would cost $188. Is it worth the extra $60? Maybe, if there’s no way to get two connecting rooms.

Port Orleans Riverside has not only these two queen beds..

Other options don’t fare much better. Look at the Fort Wilderness Cabins. They will run from $285-450 a night depending on the season. They have a great deal of room and the ability to save on food if you prepare your own meals, so it’s possible the cabins are worth it if you plan to fix meals at your room.

The best option we’ve found? Port Orleans Riverside has rooms with a trundle bed, which slides out from under one of the other beds. That way you can sleep the kids in separate beds for between $159-239 a night. On the low end of that spectrum, it’s definitely a great deal, and the amenities of the resort make up for it.

...but also this hidden trundle bed, making it great for splitting the kids.

An even better option? Stay off property. Yes, that’s a sacrilege to some, especially our family that has become accustomed to the Disney property lifestyle. But two years ago, we rented a vacation rental for only $89 a night, and were able to house our family of four and my parents with both kids having separate beds. That included a hot tub in our rental as well as access to a pool. This was a great deal, and there are many of them off property.

Those are the main things we have had to deal with at Walt Disney World just because our son has turned 10. There are other issues, such as souvenirs, but that’s only because the 10 year old adult has bigger dreams than the 6 year old girl. All told, the extra cost comes up to about $120 a day, when you combine the hotel, food, and ticket price issues. We try to get around it, but it’s definitely tough.

What about you? Have any of you had to deal with this problem? How did you tackle it?

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37 thoughts on “The 10 Year Old Adult at Walt Disney World

  • My twins are turning 9 on July 25th, so this fall will be our last trip with “children.

    Another room option for everyone getting a bed for themselves would be to rent DVC points, and get a 1 bedroom that has a pullout chair. We’re DVC owners, and I did that one trip so my 12 yr old son would have the chair bed, my twins had the pullout couch and I had the bed.

  • K in Philly

    why not put a cot on the floor at Pop? or blow up mattress??

  • GeorgeInNePa

    Hotel rooms are a joke. Rent a TimeShare suite or rent a house. We’ve rented a TS (or used a family TS bought long ago) for our last 4 trips. We’ll never go back to a tiny hotel room again.

    We rent a car when we go to Orlando, so trying to use the Disney transportation doesn’t matter to us.

  • We are close behind you. Are first child was 9 for this last visit. We are going to stay off site, the price difference is no longer worth it.

  • The Port Orleans Riverside rooms for 5 (Alligator Bayou) are almost done being refurbished — the trundle bed is being swapped with a Princess and the Frog-themed Murphy bed. We look forward to staying in them this fall (our son and daughter will have to flip a coin for the Murphy bed)! Your son is adorable, BTW.

    • RB, we got to stay in one of the new Alligator Bayou rooms back in May. The Murphy bed worked great for our family. Definitely the best option if you want to stay on property.

  • I never dreamed of having my 12 and 8 year olds sleep in separate beds for a week at WDW. My brother and I slept in the same full size bed on every vacation until he got married and moved out–even when he was 20 and I was 12. What I’d be more likely to pay extra for is an extra bathroom!

  • If they won’t sleep with each other, can you split them up and each sleep with a parent? We did this at CBR this spring, our 8yo daughter was in my bed, and our 6yo son was in my husband’s. No issues!

  • Yep, our oldest turns 10, 3 weeks after our next trip. (Yes, we planned it especially for that reason!) We actually have 3 kids so our cost keeps going up and up. Last time our youngest was 2, so we were fine with one value room and she was free. This time she needs a ticket, but my Mom is tagging along, so we were able to put one of our kids in her room so we still are only paying for one value room. Next summer we’re looking at 3 adults, 2 kiddos, and Port Orleans Riverside, here we come. Talk about at price hike, yikes!

  • The price of the tickets no longer effect me since now there is no longer a “child” annual pass (which I think is ridiculous) anyway, I went with my daughter last year and had her stand in line for the Toy Story ride when the park opened so I could get fastpasses for us to be able to ride again. I didn’t anticipate the line moving so fast and the cast member would not let me go inside the building to join her in line. I told him she was a child and I was informed that she had to be 12 yrs old to stand in line by herself (she was 11 yrs). He would not let me go get her and would not hsve a cast member tell her I was outside. My question is, if they are adults at the age of 10 why do you have to be 12 to stand in line by yourself?

    • Just some guy

      Why do you think saving a spot in line is an acceptable practice, regardless of your child’s age? It’s unfair to everyone in line behind you. I’d rather be with my children sharing the experience than trying to game the system while leaving them alone.

      • Thank you “Just some guy”. Those are my thoughts exactly and it is nice to know someone else thinks that saving spots in line is wrong.

      • Not to pile on here, but ditto.

      • Trust me, do NOT do this with me in the line, or you’ll be having a visit to security.

    • I agree. And by doing those types of things, you’re telling your kids that it’s ok to cheat the system. Better to just stand in line like everyone else.

      • Meredith McCutcheon

        Yeah, I totally agree. I know we’re getting totally OT here, but it really bothers me when people think they can push ahead just because a family member is in front. It’s cutting, plain and simple. Then my kids would ask, “how come those people get to cut in front, but we can’t”? Not a good example.

    • I’m not for cutting, but it was still a dink move on that cast member’s part not to try and notify the child where the parent was at.

  • laribrook

    Don’t forget about the Bunk Beds available at AKL and Wilderness Lodge. The rooms themselves are small but provide that extra bed space for the kids! And if you aren’t eating on the DDP to save that 10yo ‘adult’ money, then you can use a hefty room discount. We got the bunk bed wilderness lodge room for about $160 last year in November.

  • My 11 yr old has not eaten off of the kids menu at any restaurant in 2 years. We usually get the dining plan whether we have to pay for it or not (you inevitably pay for it one way or the other). It’s all in the planning. You can check out menus and prices online. Eat where you love to eat. Who cares if you hit the same place twice in one trip. It’s your vacation! The price of food is up everywhere so I’m not surprised that Disney has raised their prices. As far as hotels go, we prefer to stay on property for the transportation and EMH (even if it’s only 2 hours at night starting next year). We like the Pop. I’m only in my room to sleep so size is not always my first concern. The price of EVERYTHING is going up and we all have to do what works for our budgets and everyones budget is different. But that is why I love these pages and posts and blogs because you can learn new things to help you save money and give tips that may help others. Keep posting!

  • I’ve had this problem ever since my eldest turned 10. Honestly, we’ve been to Disneyworld once and Disneyland twice during that time, and she has always been able to order off of the kids’ menu at a table service. No one has blinked an eye when we asked for it. Often this is necessary, because the foods she wants to eat are the ones on the kids’ menus, not the adult menus. However you’re right that in a buffet, she’d have to pay the adult price. Solution: switch to table service meals that are not buffets.

    Also, at counter service places, you can still order child meals NO MATTER THE AGES OF YOUR PARTY. If you’re not too hungry, an adult can order from a counter service child meal and get it, so this shouldn’t be stopping your 10 year old.

    My kids have gotten antsy enough sharing a bed that we find it more peaceful to have one with Mom and one with Dad. Yeah, Mom and Dad are no longer sharing a bed, but in a hotel room was there really going to be any ‘romance’ anyhow? 😉 Also, our favorite resort at WDW is the Beach Club, which has a daybed in every room, in addition to the 2 doubles. Hence you can separate children more easily!

    With the new price increases for tickets, the difference between a child ticket and adult ticket is negligible and hardly worth considering.

    • princessa

      I totally order off the kids menu sometimes (counter service and table service) and I’m 27. But that’s usually if I’m not hungry enough for a full meal but too hungry for just a snack – or if a kid meal just seems more interesting to me.

      Ok, and maybe just maybe a few times last summer so I could get the pail that the kids meal came in – we were going to the beach for a few days after Disney and I needed some sandpails for building castles 😉

    • What if u have an 11yr old who eats only fries and fruit. can i just purchase him a childrens ticket instead? this would save on the dining plan $.

    • Hi
      I have a daughter who just turns 10 prior to our holiday. She is only small and does not eat much. So my question is could I not just say she is 9 when we go to the Buffett places.

      She has an adult ticket to the park.

      Any advice much appreciated

      • Personally, if Disney asks me directly how old my kids are, I don’t lie, as it makes me uncomfortable to do so. And when you book at a restaurant they do ask. So it’s on the reservation. This means that at a buffet you will be paying the adult price for your 10 year old.

        However, at both Disneyland and Disneyworld, I have gone into regular (a la carte) restaurants and simply asked for a kids’ menu. Then I give it to my 10 year old and they order off of it when the waiter comes. No one has ever denied me this. Since the portions on the kids’ menus are smaller, I feel this is fair. Last year my 11 year old would regularly order form the kids’ menus at Disney restaurants (at both DL and WDW) but also share in our adult appetizers and desserts. I wasn’t really saving any money on this, but she was often more comfortable with the foods on the kids menus, and preferred to do this rather than simply have an entire adult entree.


      • Hi thanks for your reply.

        I have recently booked 2 character meals and 2 other restaurants online, but I wasn’t asked their ages only the number of guests. Do you think this has changed from when you went?

        When I came to book a dinner show the ages of the children was asked.

        I wouldn’t mind but my daughter who will be 10 when we go, eats next to nothing. Hence my reluctance to pay such prices.

      • It’s possible the system has changed since we went last year. If they simply ask you how many children and then charge you the children’s price, then I’d say you would be fine.

        In any case, I hope it works out for you!

  • Maybe I’m just old school, but my parents did not care if I wanted to share a bed. They were paying for the vacation, they made the rules. We always did me and mom in one bed and older brother and dad in the other. Hotel room problem solved. Or you could tell your son that he can split the bed with his sister or sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag and let him make the decision. I certainly wouldn’t pay extra for a room for my own kids to have separate beds.

    • Meredith McCutcheon

      I think this post was intended for families who don’t want to (or can’t) have their kids share a bed. For some families, telling the kids that they have to share a bed might work; for others, it doesn’t (for one reason or another). This is great information for families who need the extra sleeping space. I’m glad that sharing beds works for you family. For us (and families like us), it’s great just to have the info.

  • Our B/G twins turned 10 just before our last trip. My son picked Chef Mickey’s for his birthday meal and paying for just that meal with 4 “adults” was cringe inducing. I buy a week’s worth of groceries at home for less money than we paid that night. We’ve already told the kids that instead of TS every day of our trip this year, we’ll pick one TS and the rest of our meals will be CS or eaten off-site.

    We mostly stay off-site (the kids being able to sleep in separate beds is only one reason), but we’ve also stayed at the Poly and Riverside where there were a daybed and trundle, respectively. My ds is a mover at night and no one else gets any sleep if they have to sleep in the same bed with him!

    Going to Disney once your kids are 10 is definitely more expensive, but we’ll find ways to make it work. Luckily, the kids are old enough to understand that there are trade-offs to be made and staying off-site and eating cheaper mean we can still go to Disney once a year.

  • Just some guy

    When our children got older, as children tend to do, we realized the additional expense of a Disney vacation was one of those things to celebrate and not complain about. They get a little older and soon could eat enough for 3 people at a buffet. They get a little older and they’re able to enjoy more of what a Disney vacation has to offer. We could rent the wheeled bed and still stay at Pop Century; they took turns sleeping in the rollaway bed. And finally, we were grateful to have a “problem” that simply meant we had to save a little more to enjoy another family vacation at Walt Disney World. If we can afford to enjoy a family vacation at Walt Disney World, we really don’t have too much to complain about, do we?

    • I agree Just Some Guy!

  • Our boys do not want to sleep together – ages 9 and 12. We have tried one parent with one kid and that was miserable! They roll and thrash and kick and shove — like sleeping in a cage with a baby giraffe! Our solution has been to bring a twin sized air mattress and let the kids take turns between the bed and the mattress. It’s worked quite well.
    As for the age/food/meal thing…. we have a couple of those picky, non-eaters. They live on hot dogs, nuggets from only McDonald’s or Chik-fil-A, pasta, and air.

  • I’ll admit that the extra charges bothered me the year my child turned ten. At that time, he didn’t eat like an adult and he was leary of some of the thrill rides so I felt like we were paying extra for nothing. However, this year he turned twelve and it will be a totally different experience. He eats more than most adults I know and if the ride has the possibility of making me sick it is on our to-do list. So I definitely feel like we will be getting more for our money this year. I think maybe ten is a year or two too young to be considered an adult, or maybe it just depends on the child.

  • Disney really needs to up the “adult” age to 12; 10 is much too young.

    • Not at all. It’s their place, their rules.

  • Christy Brady

    Oh Pleeeease! Paul C! Yes their place their rules but really??!! a 10 year old is considered an adult?! Ridiculous!

  • Noodle

    Paul C clearly works for Disney j/k lol … I agree that 12 is more reasonable! I didn’t know about the age thing and cancelled upon entry to a reserved restaurant as they asked age at the door and I was shocked a just turned 10yr old would be charged adult price. I’m not paying £40 each for us to not each much… I don’t mind paying £40 for me, I’m an adult, but not my son! If we come back in a few years, it might be a different story. And yes, it’s their rules, but that’s fine with me and money out of their pocket due to all the people eating off site, using a la carte or bringing their food on site with them instead (I did all of these things for the whole trip, but gladly splurged on drinks and treats in the parks – I would have eaten at least one dinner at each of the 4 parks had my son not been adult price… I cancelled all other reservations after that one.) Just as it’s their choice to charge what they want, it’s mine not to pay it.


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