Tweens and Toddlers at Disney – What You Need to Make Everyone Happy

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Disney parks are a wonderful place for everyone, from babies to grandparents. Children especially will delight in everything from the shows, Character meet n’ greets and rides. But what happens if you have children in your group in a wide range of ages? The toddlers can’t ride the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror and the tweens are anxious to escape Fantasyland and get back to the thrill rides. Traveling with both tweens and toddlers at Disney can be a challenge but there are ways to make everyone happy! Our Day Trips TravelingMom has been visiting Disneyland with children for nearly 18 years and has tons of tips to guide your family towards a magical and memorable day in the Parks that will make everyone happy.

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
We can’t all ride on California Screamin’ but there are fun photo ops through the Park we could all take part in! – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Tweens and Toddlers at DisneyTMOM-disclosure-graphic

My most recent visit to Disneyland was with my four year old son and my two 12 year-olds, but we’ve been visiting together since the little one was 8 months old. There are things that my 12-year old boy and girl can do that their little brother can’t, like braving the loop on the California Screamin’ roller coaster. And there are things that the little guy wants to do that the tweens would rather pass on, like all the sweet and gentle rides in bug’s land. So how do you make everyone happy? Keep reading for my top tested tips!

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
Wide range of ages, from 4 to 12. Disneyland pleases them all! – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

On the Clock

Are you on a time-constraint (one or two day ticket) or do you have a bit more flexibility in your schedule and will be in the Parks for several days?

If you have all the time in the world to take the Parks at a leisurely pace, then you should be able to cover everything you want to without concern of missing anything. However, if time is restricting you from being able to see and do it all, then these next two tips will help keep everyone in your group happy.

Be sure to save time in line by pre-purchasing your tickets (TravelingMom recommends Get Away Today).


Make a List of Priorities

Perhaps all your toddler wants to do is meet Mickey Mouse. And your tween is insistent on riding Space Mountain. Before your trip, plan ahead and write down the top three items that each family member wants to accomplish. Make sure you order your Disney Vacation Planning DVD and take notes. This way you’ll have a game plan and nobody’s wishes get left behind once you enter the gates! You could even make a checklist that you bring with you into the park and cross activities off as you go.

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
Ride together or have little ones watch as tweens ride – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Split Up

Your tweens want to visit Star Wars Launch Bay but your toddler is terrified of Darth Vader? Using your park map, determine ahead of the trip what attractions everyone wants to do together inside of each “Land” and what you’ll need to split up for.

Be sure to note height restrictions so that there aren’t any unhappy surprises in the Park when someone doesn’t quite measure up.

When splitting up your group, choose a very specific location to meet back together and a rough timeline. Naturally, line waits may cause delay getting back to the “home base” so keep in touch via text.

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
Silly Symphony Swings are fun for preschoolers & tweens – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Single Rider Line

At 12-years old we haven’t let our kids go off on their own (they’ll visit attractions with one parent while the other parent stays with the preschooler) but we have let them use the single rider line by themselves.

Certain attractions (like Indiana Jones Adventure and Grizzly River Run) allow guests admittance to a single rider line, knowing that you likely won’t be seated next to each other but will be used to “fill space” inside ride vehicles.

The wait times are usually minimal. Our kids are okay riding next to a stranger but if your kid isn’t comfortable with that, you might want to skip this option.

Rider Switch (aka: Child Swap)Affiliate dislosure

Let’s say everyone wants to (or is tall enough) to ride a certain attraction, except for one child. One adult can wait with the child while everyone else goes on the ride. Then when that ride is over, the adults switch places and can ride without getting back at the end of the line! Cast members at the entrance can direct you where to go and supply you with a Rider Switch pass. Keep in mind that the Rider Switch pass only allows that second adult to bring one other person with them back onto the ride.

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
Everyone loves the Disneyland Resort Pools – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Universal Favorites

There are plenty of rides in the Parks that everyone of all ages can enjoy together, including Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Pirates of the Caribbean and Toy Story Midway Mania. None of these rides have a height restriction so all ages may ride.

Shows are also designed to appeal to a wide audience and everyone in my group enjoyed Mickey and the Magical Map and the Paint the Night parade. And of course there is always one of the Disneyland Resort pools to splash in!

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy
Battling it out on Toy Story Midway Mania – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Suck it Up

Okay, so your toddler wants to ride it’s a small world three times in a row and the tweens are rolling their eyes. It’s a great idea to discuss expectations ahead of your trip and let everyone know what to plan on and help keep the tween attitudes at bay.

Tweens can certainly understand that as long as their needs are being met that it’s important to allow each family member their own amusements without sarcasm or sass.

Fortunately we’ve never had to deal with any tween attitude on our Disney trips because my older two love to see the delight on their little brother’s face when he experiences new adventures for the first time! Disneyland is a place for everyone to embrace the child inside…even your tween!

Tweens and Toddlers at Disney - What You Need to Make Everyone Happy

What are your tips for taking kids of different ages to Disney Parks? Share with us in the comments!

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About The Author

Julie Bigboy is a Southern California native who loves exploring sunny San Diego with her husband and four children. With much to see and do in SoCal, Julie and her family are day trip experts, returning home after a day of fun. Julie writes parenting tips, family travel and little changes that make a big difference on her blog, Mom Rewritten. She also shares parenting tips and Disney travel advice on the DisneyBaby blog.

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