Right Amount of Time for 3 and 4 Yo at Disney

Updated on January 16, 2012
K.R. asks from New Hill, NC
14 answers

We are going in the fall and I wanted some input regarding how long to stay. We are skippping a couple of the parks due to my children's younger ages and we also want to keep a slower pace (as opposed to Manic Disney) and allow for rest and pool time. Our thinking right now is 7 days- 2 days for travel, 2 days at Magic Kingdom, 2 days at Animal Kingdom and one day for a water park or just open time to fill-in as we get a better feel down there.

Any thoughts would be really helpful!

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answers from Lakeland on

That sounds like a good plan, but I would skip Animal Kingdom and go to Hollywood Studios. I have found more for my daughter to see at Hollywood Studios then at Animal Kingdom. I have not been to either of Disney's water parks and I don't plan to take my daughter until she is older (she is 5). I worry that the older kids there will just run her over.
I would recommend taking a day off in the middle of the week and using the hotel pool, if you are staying on site the resorts have very nice accommodations (and so do a lot of the outside hotels).

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answers from Charlotte on

Your plan sounds good. Just make sure you stop enough and get them out of their car seats to get pressure off their legs - once in a while there's a child on the news with nerve damage from a long drive from not stopping enough (usually a kid in diapers.)

I would get the kind of ticket that #1, will let you in early before the general crowd. #2 - I would not get the option to hop parks within the day because it's hard on the kids and it costs extra (unless that's the only way to get option #1.)

The earlier you can get in, the better. Feed the kids breakfast in your room rather than buying at Disney - food is SO expensive there, even a carton of milk! I would not buy their meal tickets. It's not worth it. There is a super Walmart nearby where you can buy stuff to make sandwiches and fruit as well as the breakfast stuff. Put together sandwiches and all that and put water bottles in the little freezer the night before. Put your soft insulated bag with the frozen water bottles and sandwiches on your umbrella stroller and that will take care of water and lunch. (The park water in the fountains tastes terrible!) In the heat of the afternoon around 2:00 or even earlier, go back to the room and put them down for naps. After they wake, maybe that would be a good time to use the hotel pool. Then go back to the park, and eat dinner there. Get back to the room by 8:00 for bath and bed.

Animal Kingdom is HARD for little kids. The terrain is hard for strollers - I was actually in a wheelchair there after surgery and I couldn't walk any of the parks for long, and if I couldn't have walked some, I would have had to just sit and wait for everyone. The open humvee type vehicles for going on the "safari" are very jarring. Thank GOD I had a donut with me to sit on, or I would have been in a lot of trouble (I had stitches "down there" and didn't realize how much my butt would be going up and down on that vehicle's seats!) So think about that for your kids. (You know your kids - I don't.)

Take a bag of dry clothes and ponchos that fit them. It rains a lot for short periods of time. (Ponchos for you too!) There is a place that little kids love, love, love that has water that shoots up out of holes. My sons were SO happy that they spent more time than I care to say letting water squirt in their faces, and my younger son was still in diapers. His diaper was so full of water that it nearly hung on the ground! LOL! I took off his clothes so that they wouldn't get wet, but according to when you go, if it isn't real hot, you might want to leave clothes on him so he won't get too chilled.

Take small toys or lovey's and little books to enjoy in the lines. Make use of the option of getting a later ticket to a ride to go through the express line. And it's okay to go through the same ride over and over, like It's A Small World and Buzz Lightyear, if YOU can stand it!

Have a wonderful time! My boys STILL love Disney and they are older teens.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Your plan sounds great. Don't forget to get a hotel on site so you can go back after lunch for a break. They could rest/swim, change for dinner, go back to the park to eat, then play hard til 8 or so...bedtime. Have a wonderful time!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Just an added note: If you are gonna eat in the park, not walk up service, but to actually sit down and have a meal, you will have to look at the choices the night before and make reservations. And they were always running behind schedule...so be prepared to wait. And make sure that you give yourself enough time to allow for the wait and time to eat without missing the parade they have everynight. Actually, be prepared to wait for everything. The bat exhibit was awesome in Animal Kingdom, but of all the parks that was my least favorite. Disney wore me plum out...but it was the greatest!



answers from Washington DC on

That sounds about right.



answers from Detroit on

That sounds just fine. We did Disney last year with our 3.5 year old and were there longer (about 10 days, including travel days) and did 3 days on (at a park) and 1 day off (hung out by the pool). It ended up being 2 days each at MK and AK, and 1 day each at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We also made sure we got there each morning for when the park opened and hit the most popular things first, before the lines got crazy. Fast Pass really helped a lot too. We took time off in the afternoon so we could catch a break and rest up, then went back some in the evening. Loved the Main St. Electric Parade and fireworks show at MK!

The Unofficial Guide to Disney World is a really great resource - they come out with a new edition every year and there are "touring plans" that help you figure out the best way to max out doing rides and attractions and minimize waiting in line. The Disney Photo Pass service is really cool too. Good luck and have fun!



answers from Hartford on

We went to Disney with a 2 yr and 4 yr old and also another couple. I actually found that one day at Magic Kingdom was enough time, if you are there during the slower season (FYI it still fills up in the afternoon!). We did one day at Hollywood studios. I have mixed feelings about if we would do that again. There are some fun adult rides and if your kids LOVE toy story than you should definetly make that a stop. However, if I had known that we could see Buzz and Woody in Tomorrow Land at the magic kingdom I would have used my day to go to epcot.
I whole heartedly agreethat the water parks are not great for the little ones, and not worth the price of the ticket, but if you go on a timeshare tour and get a free ticket, the tyhpoon lagoon has a nice splashing pool Definetly sign up for MOUSESAVERS email newsletter so that you can take advantage of any deals that are going on.



answers from Boston on

We went to Disney the week after Thanksgiving. The crowds were low, weather was nice and it was also wonderful because they were all done up for Christmas! We have two young children with a lot of special needs so we kept it very easy and slow. Two days at Magic Kingdom(make sure you catch the 3:00 parade!) and then we did a day at Sea world! Seaworld was a wonderful surprise! It was all set up for christmas! Special shows - a light show over the water, a sesame street show, playing with the dolfins!,street preformers - wonderful! It was not crowded or overwhelming at all. we were able to spend the whole day/evening there! have a wonderful trip!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hey...just a thought...I would suggest you look into swapping day at Animal Kingdom for Hollywoode Studios. It is where a lot of the pixar and playhouse disney things are... so it was my son's (4 at the time) favorite park for meeting characters. they also had some really cool playgrounds there which he loved....


answers from Hartford on

I have been to Disney multiple times with kids of all ages and I am going to echo some of the comments that you have already received. I would opt for the hotel pool rather than the water park for young kids. The money and time would be better spent doing another activity. Definately two days at the Magic Kingdom! This is all the Disney magic for young kids. The worse thing you can do is tire out too soon and push the kids when they are tired to see more. It is sooooo expensive, but don't make the mistake of trying to "get your money's worth" by pushing too much. If you are staying at a Disney property make use of the "bonus hours" and plan your days according to that schedule. When I stayed at Disney, we would go for a few hours in the morning, rest at the hotel for lunch and return in the late afternoon. If you go in the morning, take the train to the back of the park (Mickey's house) and work forward (opposite of what most people will do). If you are staying off site, I always found the magic kingdom to be less crowded later in the day, so I would have a relaxing breakfast and then head out (sometimes even after lunch). I also agree that the studios will be much more fun than Animal Kingdom. As I recall, both of those close early. I like the park hopper, so we could do Animal kingdom or Hollywood Studios in the morning and Epcot in the evening for dinner (make reservations if you go) and the light show. I love the 3d movies at Epcot and there are other nice things for young kids. Disney Downtown is also a good place (free) to relax for the day. Have a great time!



answers from Boston on

We just went in September with my 6 yr old and 3 yr old. I am not sure when in the fall you are going but end of Sept/early Oct the parks are very slow. We were able to walk onto rides with no waits. I would recommend staying on site. If you stay at the resorts on Disney there is free bus transportation between the resorts and all the parks. Plus you get in early and can stay late for Extra Magic Hours for certain parks on certain days and every day my husband and I took turns taking my 3 year old back to the hotel for nap time, this kept him from getting overwhelmed/cranky/tired. Plus if you stay on site you can get the Dining Plan (check and see if they are offering for free, they offer the Dining Plan for free usually in Sept because they are trying to bring people into the parks). We went in 2006 and 2011 and had the free dining both times. Even if you have to pay for the Dining Plan it is SO worth it. You really want to try and get a few Character Meals - the kids can meet the characters and have them sign autographs, get pictures taken all while you sit at your table. We love Chef Mickey's and the Princess Breakfast at Akershaus in Norway (Epcot). I would not recommend the water parks, they are very expensive and your kids would not be able to go on 1/2 the water rides. My son was even terrified of the wave pool because it makes a huge booming sound and then you can see the wave coming even if you are standing at the edge of the water. He cried the entire time and I eventually took him back to the hotel with me after trying to stick it out for an hour. Huge waste of money. I would recommend you do one day at Animal Kingdom and one day at Hollywood Studios and then the 2 days at Magic Kingdom. You can really see everything at Animal Kingdom in 1 day and Hollywood Studios has some great attractions centered around Cars, Toy Story, Little Einsteins, and most of the characters from the Disney Channel. For some great resources sign up for emails from allears.net and get access to the disboards www.disboards.com. Everything you could possibly want to know about planning a trip is on the disboards (just beware it is very addicting). Overall as long as you plan a few things in advance (you want to reserve meals ahead of time, usually 180 days out) and then just take it easy you can see a bunch of attractions and have a great time. Enjoy and you can always email me if you want any info. :)



answers from Boston on

We just got back from 7 days with my 3 year old just before Christmas. This was our 3rd visit in the past 2 years - we are not Disney freaks it just worked out that way with business trips. But I feel like an expert at this point ha, ha. Anytime after Thanksgiving and before Christmas is by far the best time to go! Go with the park hopper tickets (let's you into Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios whenever you want) and if you look a 4 day park hopper and 7 day park hopper is not that big of a price difference so it's definitely worth it to get the longer ticket so you can change gears if you like something better and believe me you will. If you can stay at a Disney Hotel - it's much easier to get anywhere with free bus, monorail and boat service. We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter (highly recommend with a family) and the Wilderness Lodge which is considered a deluxe hotel but we almost preferred the Port Orelans over the Wilderness Lodge for a lot of reasons. Definitely get the dining plan and not just the quick service dining plan as a nice meal every day was a plus and it includes dinner shows if you want to plan it that way. For us the deluxe plan would be way too much food with 3 sit downs a day you'd spend more time eating than enjoying the parks. You want to make dining reservations as soon as you can as some restaurants fill up fast. Best restaurant - Le Cellier Canadian Steak House in Epcot - go for lunch it will only be 1 point on the dinning plan. Best show - Hoop Dee Doo review, Luaua was pretty cool too. I would not recommend Mickey BBQ.

My son loved Magic Kingdom which of all the parks is more geared for younger children. Get your kids hair cut at the Harmony Barbershop on Main Street in Disneyland - it was the best haircut my son ever got and they do some really cute things with pirate or fairy dust to finish off the hair. If you do it as a first hair cut they will get Mickey Ears that say "First Haircut" on the back for less than the ears would cost you at the gift shop. Don't miss the night parade and fire work dreams show. We did one day at each park and usually ended the day at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot (both my son's favorites.) I'd say our least favorite of all parks was Hollywood Studio's as far offerings for younger kids. They only have 3 rides which were age appropriate. It's worth going for a day but that's it. Animal Kingdom offers a lot more to see for small kids but is also just a day trip. To be honest your better off doing all 4 at a leisurely pace. We would sleep in a little bit - head to the parks around 9:30 - go back for a nap around 1:30 and return for the night shows and dinner reservations at 4:30 or so. That way you can see what you like and what you want to explore more of. Don't waste your money on the water park - your kids are too young to enjoy it. Most Disney pools are like water parks for kids our age with fun slides and games.

Anyway, hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.



answers from Hartford on

That sounds about right. A couple shorter days at a park will be more enjoyable than one marathon day of trying to cram everything in. Our daughter was an early riser so when she was 2 or 3, we'd get to the park early (better parking too) and leave before dinner. We didn't stay for the fireworks until she was a little older. We rented a 3-br condo just a few minutes outside Magic Kingdom, which was very reasonable ($850 for a week) and much better than staying in a hotel room. It even had it's own splash pool. If you have a smart phone, I'd highly recommend an app that gives you "live" wait times on the rides. The one we used for the iphone is called "Disney World Wait Times Free" and it's free. It was great to be able to see which rides had the shortest wait times. Enjoy!!



answers from Boston on

My family went to DisneyWorld a few weeks ago. We spent one day at each park. I wish we would have done two days at Magic Kingdom as we missed a lot. Definately spend two days there. I would skip the water parks with young kids. They have lots of big slides for older kids but younger kids would probably do well just playing in the hotel pool. Most of the hotels have pool areas for younger kids. I would do a day at Hollywood Studios. My daughter is 5 and loves that park. There are lots of fun shows to see - Muppets, Fantasmic, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid.

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