Disney with a 3 Year Old? - Waterford,MI

Updated on October 02, 2010
K.U. asks from Detroit, MI
19 answers

Looking again for your thoughts and opinions...

Hubs and I want to take a vacation this winter someplace warm with our 3 year old daughter - we were considering a family-friendly all-inclusive Caribbean resort (i.e. Beaches) but are now leaning toward Disney World combined with a 3-day Disney cruise. We took my stepsons to Disney 10 years ago when they were 6 and 7 and my husband has been bugging me to go back ever since (he's a major Disney fanatic - every time we talk about taking a vacation somewhere, he brings up Disney. It's like no place else exists). I am wondering if anyone has taken kids this young to Disney, what your experiences were like, and what advice you would give.

I am also wondering about the best times to go, in terms of crowds. We are debating on taking his sons along, because they are now 16 and 17 and I'm not sure how thrilled they will be with Disney (though I could be wrong - I think they might enjoy the cruise more). If we take them, it will have to be over their winter vacation (mid-Feb) and I'm wondering if it will be way more crowded. If we don't, we can go whenever (probably late Jan to early Feb). They live with their mom out-of-state, which is why them going vs. not going is an option. I told hubby he really should talk to their mom and to them to find out if they would be interested.

I did tell hubby, you realize DD is probably too young to remember any of it, don't you? His response was, but we will remember it. Plus, we'll probably be going back in 5 to 6 years anyway when DD will be more apt to remember it and get more out of it. I think it could be a lot of fun, because our daughter is pretty bubbly and outgoing, and pretty much is always open to new places and experiences. And I admit that it is a little emotional for me as well. We had talked about doing this before and including my mother, but then she became sick with leukemia last year, and she passed away in July. So there is a part of me that wants to do these things while we can and not always be saying, "Some other day..." (I did tell him though that we better do the Caribbean all-inclusive in another 1 to 2 years though!).

Thank you in advance! :)

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So What Happened?

Hubs is in the process of figuring out plans for Disney...and we asked his sons, and they want to come too. Which will be great for them to have some more one-on-one time with their dad. And I have to confess, it will also be good to have them along because they are great at helping out and babysitting their little sister too! Our expectations are realistic in knowing that our daughter will probably have fun and love it, but will also need breaks, will get tired easily, and may freak out with the characters. Which is fine. Like I said, we will probably go back again at some point when she is older, and WDW ain't going anywhere. And I made it clear that I am getting my Beaches vacation in Jamaica next year! :) Thanks everyone!

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answers from St. Cloud on

We've been there with a 6 month old and 2 1/2 year old and again when they were 2 1/2 and almost 5. GO!!! It was a blast.

We went at the beginning of December and then the middle of Jan. It was great. 10 minute ride waits! Read the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for tips on when it's best to go. They were right!



answers from Washington DC on

I went to Disney this past June with my 3y and she LOVED it!! There is a tent where you can meet all of the princesses. She remembers ALL of it.

If you take the boys, they will probably like Universal Studios or Hollywood studios better than Magic Kingdom.


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answers from Washington DC on

My kids were 6, 4, and 2 when we went last Christmas. It was AMAZING. All I have heard about in since then, is when are we going back?? So we are going next October for Halloween. I will NEVER go at Christmas again because it was SO packed, but I have friends who have gone at Halloween and they say it is fine. My brother and his gf just got back and they said it was great too. But 3 is NOT too young! I saw so many people there with just babies! Your 3 year old will rememberthe visit without you having to say anything- and while they might be weary of the characters, they will not be afraid!! Go and have a GREAT time!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We just took our three year old daughter to Disneyland last April (along with my four year old son) and had a blast. Some things I wish I had done differently? For one, I decided to pass on bringing our stroller or renting one because I assumed it would be more hassle than it was worth. But when my daughter fell deeply asleep from sheer exhaustion at 7pm, I was sure wishing I had someplace to put her. One of us was forced to carry her limp little form around the park until it closed at nine...we had to get our money's worth, after all. ;-)

I would suggest renting one ($15 for the day) as opposed to bringing your own so you won't worry so much about it getting damaged or stolen.

The only other thing I can think of (and possibly the biggest mistake we made in regards to my daughter) was not taking her to meet all of the Disney princesses FIRST THING when the park opened. I'm not sure if they have something similar at Disneyworld, but there is basically this setup where the kids wait in line to meet (and hug) four or five female Disney characters in full costume and have pictures taken. It was the one thing that I was SURE my three year old might possibly have a chance of remembering later on in life.

But apparently it's also one of the most popular "attractions" in the park and the waiting time during the rest of the day is fairly prohibitive...over an hour at least. And there's no "fast pass" for it, either.

So for your daughter's sake, if there is such an attraction at DW, please make a beeline for it right when the gates open.

Oh, and as for the time of year, I've always heard that winter was their slow season. So a Jan/Feb trip should be pretty ideal.

EDIT: I just noticed someone else had mentioned that one parent would be forced to wait with your daughter and miss the good rides, but that's not true at all. Not anymore. They have something now called Child Swap which is basically a means for all three of you (mom, dad, child) to wait in line for a ride together. Then, when it's your turn, one of you goes on the ride while the other one is escorted to another area where people exit the ride. There, your spouse will meet you, take the child, and you will be allowed to enter the ride immediately through the exit side.

It's especially great if you're in a group, that way you can split up to where you and hubby can ride together and then your boys can ride after. Or however you want to work it....

More info at: http://www.orlandofuntickets.com/Child-Swap-at-Disney.php

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Dear Kristen

You should go to Disney with 3 year old. I took my 3 year old in April and still yesterday she was so a happy to talk about the mickey popsicle she had. She said "Can you take me again". Disney has everything for all ages. Family time is great. If your step kids are interested you should take them. Cruise and Disney I feel gets too much for 3 year old . We were so tired but still cherish it. As you said your husband likes to go so go for it. Book a princess dinner for your kid and you all will enjoy it.

Have a great time!

C. Sengupta

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answers from Los Angeles on

My wife and I took 8 kids to Disneyland and Disney World. I am amazed at how much our youngest kids remember about it and how much fun they tell us they had when they reminice. Your three year old will remember lots more than you'd think she would.

The best time for us to have gone and got the most out of it was when we went the first week of November. Yes the park closed early, but we were not having any lines. We waited less than 5 minutes for Space Mountain. When we got off we (our kids) decided to ride it again. We walked down the exit ramp and walked right up the entrance ramp and only stopped walking rapidly when the Disney employee, finished putting the people in front of us in the cart. The next cart pulled up and we got in. I'm guessing it took less than 30 seconds of "wait" time.

It was like that almost all over the park. I think our longest wait time was around 10 minutes.

For your resort stay . . . Cheapcaribbean.com is having a 10th anniversary sale. 5 nights at an all inclusive resort for $399, INCLUDING airfare. If my wife hadn't run out of vacation time, we'd be going.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Detroit on

I took my daughter for her first trip at 18 months in late February a couple years ago. My husband and I then took her at just over 2 years during October. And we went back this past April when she was 3.5 and our son was 9 months. All were great times of year to go to Disney. And our daughter definitely remembers this past trip. She "remembers" the first two trips based on me talking about them and looking at pictures (those trips were admittedly more for me than her but she did enjoy them none the less).

As for timing, January and early February aren't typically good pool weather in Orlando (often only highs in the lower 70's). But it IS nice "walking around" weather for the parks (not too hot). When I went in late Feb/early March a few years ago, it was nice (highs around 80). Mid April was nice this year (highs around 85). October was probably the best weather. A good rule of thumb is that Disney is going to be the most crowded during kids' school breaks (mid winter break, spring break, etc) so avoid those times if you want to avoid the crowds (those are the times when hotels and airfare are also most expensive).

The parks are great for little ones, in my opinion. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are probably better for bigger kids - not a ton for 3 year olds in those parks (although Animal Kingdom is better than Hollywood Studios for little ones). But Magic Kingdom is DEFINITELY great for even 3 year olds as is EPCOT.

I've always taken my own stroller. The only problem with renting a stroller is that you have to give it back before you leave the park (you can't transfer them park to park or take them back to your hotel). My recommendation would be to use either an umbrella stroller or a more substantial lightweight stroller (the kind that is a bit bigger than an umbrella stroller but still is lighter weight than like a Graco travel system stroller).

A good place to go for deals is mousesavers.com. I've also found wdwinfo.com to be a great source of information as well.

The best advice is to have realistic expectations. If your kid is hungry, just stop and eat. Or if she needs a nap, let her have one. Also set expectations for your daughter on souveniers/treats, etc ahead of time. We had told my daughter that she could choose one souvenier from the parks and then it was easy to say no to all others without her throwing a fit. We kind of made it a game. If she'd see something she thought she wanted, we would say "Are you sure? Or do you want to look in another store? We can always come back here if you look in other stores and still want this."

Have fun!

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answers from Atlanta on

I know lots of people who do Disney with 3 year olds and have a great time. I would do it! Actually, we are doing it next year with a 5 year old and a 2.5 year old. Like he said, YOU will remember it and as long as you know you're going back someday when she'll remember it -it could be lots of fun (although I would really push for the Beaches resort ;-)

I hear you about your mom. My mother LOVED Disney and dreamed of the day we would all take my little boys. She died last year w/ a brain tumor, and it IS emotional, but you know their spirits are out there urging us on and happy to see us do those things. I fully feel my mother's presence when we do something she loved or wanted to do with my boys.

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answers from Dallas on

Disney cruises are terrific and there are lots of things to do on board for all ages. Your daughter is not too young to go to Disney, although there will be some rides that she won't be able to go on. There are always lots of little kids at Disney parks and resorts and many activities and events are planned just for them. There used to be a brochure about visiting Disney "under 5" and everything was geared for the little ones. You will be surprised how much they remember about the trip and will be able to remember more with prompting from pictures. Go and have fun! it is a great family vacation! I would ask his sons if they would like to go with you and then I would try to accommodate their schedules.

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answers from Detroit on

We went to WDW early last year (April) when DD was 3.5, she is still talking about it and we are going again this year at Thanksgiving. Get an umbrella stroller and a backpack. Buy rain ponchos from the dollar store before you go. Buy an autograph book that has a page for photos - my daughter loves to look back at the autographs and see the corresponding picture of her with the character. I also bought glo-sticks from Michaels (made 12 glow in the dark bracelets) for $1 - this was a great money saver for the nighttimes. You can also buy paper bracelets (the ones that are almost impossible to get off) from a party store, I wrote our phone numbers on them before ensuring one was always atached to my daughter (just in case). Go to the WDW site and research what rides/attractions you want to do - we geared everything around our daughter and we all had a blast - it's not just kid stuff. I recommend... the safari, Lion King show and parade at Animal Kingdom (skip the bugs life 3D - too scarey), Figment in Epcot, and most everything at Magic Kingdom that's geared for kids under 40". My daughter wants to go back and see the parades and the fireworks.

Have fun!

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answers from Johnstown on

We've been doing WDW for years now. We started our kids off when they were all 3 and all 3 of them remember their very first visits without any cues from us. You will NOT go wrong by going now. Please don't put it off. Also, Oct-Mid. Dec. are the best times to go as far heat AND crowds are concerned, with Nov-Dec being the prettiest since they have the Christmas decos up then. Have fun!

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answers from Dover on

Go to Disney. I took my daughter when she was just over 2 and had a blast. My then 17yd son went too and enjoyed himself too. Take the boys and let them do their own thing some of the time (and some with Dad). You and your hubby do things with your daughter, and then also have family time.

Definately have breakfast or lunch w/ the Princesses but you will need to make a reservation. They were all booked when we tried.

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answers from Scranton on

Some things you need to realize if you go to Disney with a three yr old. Strollers will be a must and they are a pitb with the crowd sizes there. You will also be limited to more of the smaller rides. Also be aware that while your child's favorite characters on T.V. are usually smaller than your child they may be put off or very scared by the life size Disney characters. I would try to make sure that your child isn't going to be scared and screaming when you walk them up to a character for a picture.
Don't go in March during spring break!



answers from Denver on

Depends on when you go. We went during a busy winter time with a two and four year old and it was NOT fun. :( The lines were super long, it was so busy it was claustrophobic, and we were afraid if we didn't have a death grip we would lose them. I vowed I would never go back. I mean you look at the pics of the princesses walking around and then get there and have to wait in line for an hour to see them!

Whatever, you decide, have fun. I hate to be a downer but it was really tough for us. Maybe one kid would be easier?



answers from Philadelphia on

We LOVE Disney. We took our girls several times when they were younger. Do not go when it is busy, I loved going in May over Mother's Day. Epcot does free family pics and it's really nice. My kinds remember going, it does help if you take video so they can enjoy it as they get older. I don't have teenagers so I can talk about that but don't not go because your child is 3. It's a kids park and she will enjoy it more than you realize!



answers from Sarasota on

Let me start off by saying I am NOT the Disney fan in our family; in fact, I get tired of it pretty quickly. And we live nearby, so it's not a huge investment to do. BUT...

I think three is a fine age to start going. (I'm not a huge fan of younger, because the kids always look so comatose!) My daughter remembers her first trip around that age, my son is that age and we're planning to go next weekend.

There are some tricks! I personally don't like strollers, so I take a sling. It fits in our backpack until the little guy wears out. But umbrella strollers are much better than bigger ones (getting on and off transportation, etc). The backpack always has disposable sippy cups, snacks I packed, change of clothes, etc. AND we go in the morning. We get there when the park opens (cooler, less crowded, kids' best time of day) and we leave after lunch, usually, to swim and nap before a fun dinner or evening event. Leaving in the afternoon is key!

The autograph books are great because it gives children a way to interact with the characters. And yes, my son was scared of Piglet last time--he covered his face, but Piglet started playing Peekaboo with him and he LOVED it! Moments like that are why I go :-)

And there are plenty of rides for little ones. Don't be surprised if they want to do the same ones over and over!

It's really up to you whether you want to or not, but I wouldn't say three is too young!



answers from New York on

I personally think 3 yo is too young. Many are very frightened by the
characters. It can be hot and depending when you go, crowded. I think
an all inclusive vacation at Beaches would be a better choice. You will
all enjoy that. Disney can be stressful with a 3yo and then no one enjoys
themselves. Also it depends on your financial situation. If money is
no object, then go and if it does not work out not a big deal. However, if
you are on a budget, think again. Remember at 3yo you have to buy
park pass for your daughter. Have fun wherever you decide to go.



answers from Boise on

For me personally I wouldnt put myself through that ordeal with a 3 yr old- they get so cranky and they get so tired. Someone always has to stay with the child/ stroller while the other adult goes on an adult ride. Unless you want to spend the entire day at the tiny tots area. (I would just as soon go to a local park at home if I was going to do that and not spend the money.)

My youngest was 5 and walking when we went, that worked out fine for us. We did take a stroller, but she was tall enough to go on a good precentage of the rides.

We went to Disneyland in southern California (it was either the week BEFORE the thanksgiving week or the week after thanksgiving week)- on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday was AWESOME- there were virtually no lines to wait in! you could get right on so many rides! And the weather was still doable in the upper 70's! worked out great. They also had the park decorated for xmas, and did snow (soap snow) on main street in the evening. Do not go the week ofThanksgiving though, everyone goes during that time and they get so many people they have to shut down the entrance.



answers from New York on

I have not been to Disney but 3 seems young. We flew to see family this summer with a 4.5 year old and an 18 month old and it was a major ordeal.

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