Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

They’re too old to walk around the park in princess costumes – but they’re too young to walk around by themselves.

Visiting Walt Disney World with tweens can be a challenge, and I’ve come up with 5 tips that helped my family during a recent visit. But first, I want to share a story parents of tweens can relate to.

I have an 11-year-old daughter who recently entered the, “Mom, you’re so embarrassing!” phase (which lasts another 7-8 years, right?). While visiting the Magic Kingdom, we got caught in the crowds of one of their massive character parades. Rather than try to navigate around it, I suggested we stop to watch. My tween rolled her eyes and exhaled loudly. Princesses? NOT cool.

But she is not the boss. So we watched the parade, which was outstanding — full of colorful costumes, elaborate floats, and lots of familiar characters and songs from DestinationReviewDisney movies.

When I excitedly pointed out Cinderella and Prince Charming, my daughter moaned, “Mooooom, STOP!” I also was accused of “laughing weird” and “acting too happy.”

What. Ever.

Then I had an idea. I dug into my backpack and handed my annoyed tween her iPod. She started to make Instagram videos and Vines to post, transforming her pout into a smile. She even started waving to some of her favorite Disney characters (the “Frozen” princesses, Elsa and Anna, among them).

Now that she was the photographer, she was transforming from whiny tween into excited little girl. I think that’s what they mean by Disney magic. She, of course, ended up loving the parade.

5 Tips for Visiting Disney with Tweens

Based on my recent visit, here are a few tips I’d share for families visiting Disney with tweens:

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

1. Let them be the photographers. Whether that means selfies, snapping pictures of all the cool Disney character topiaries, finding hidden Mickey Mouse shapes (he’s EVERYWHERE), this age group loves taking photos. Let them.

2. Don’t push the big rollercoasters. They might not want to ride Dumbo or go to character breakfasts, but they also might be a little scared by super-fast rollercoasters like Rock & Roller Coaster or Expedition Everest. That’s OK. Fortunately, rollercoasters are a small part of the Disney fun, so you don’t need to go on those rides. My tween’s favorite rides were Splash Mountain, Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, and Big Thunder Mountain, a gentle rollercoaster.

Opening May 28, Mine Train – the new Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ride in the renovated Fantasy Land – is also very tween friendly.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom

3.  The pool makes everything better. So does a Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream sandwich, or a Frozen-themed rice krispie treat.

4. Try to tolerate the whining for a little while. It comes with the package. It’s like a nagging mother, or humidity in Florida. You don’t have to subject yourself to constant exposure to it, but be prepared to tolerate it.

5. Let them help plan the day. The super easy-to-use and very helpful My Disney Experience app explains every ride in detail, with a map, and provides menus (with prices) at every restaurant. They’ll like doing it. And if they help design the itinerary, they can’t whine about the plans. Or can they?!