Walt Disney World is full of fun for people of all ages, but what do you do when you’re stuck trying to keep your teen looking for thrills happy while also juggling a school-aged child who is more interested in the Disney Junior attractions? Well, the answer revolves around how much planning you do in advance and who else you have with you.
Know this: you really shouldn’t try this alone. That’s because you can’t leave your younger child waiting outside a ride that you tackle with the teen (something the younger child either can’t ride because of height requirements or doesn’t want to ride out of sheer fear). And you really don’t want to send your teen on these rides by himself, right? So either bring along another adult willing to wait with one kid or the other, or bring along another teen who you know will be responsible enough to behave with your teen while they tackle a ride or two on their own.
Disney is safe enough to send two responsible teenagers off on their own for a bit, as long as you have a way to reach them later (think walkie talkies if you don’t have cell phones), along with an agreed-upon meeting place and time every hour or so. This won’t work if your teens are the type to go looking for trouble (odds are you know the type, and hopefully know if your child is among them). In that case, you stick it out with the teen and have another adult your younger child adores come along on the trip to ride with them.
Of course, you should agree to ride certain attractions together as a family. This is where the planning in advance comes into play. Before the trip happens, you should pop open the Disney web site to plan each child’s MUST NOT MISS rides. Let each child pick two or three that the entire family will enjoy together. Everyone can handle things like Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, It’s a Small World and Winnie the Pooh (go ahead and laugh—but it’s not as babyish as some would think and my 19 year considers it one of his favorites). Even the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster ride is built to be family friendly. It’ll thrill the teens but is mild enough for your younger kiddos (who meet the height requirement). And everyone can enjoy the shows, if they can last through the day.
Disney can be exhausting, so take that into account, too, and make sure everyone can handle the long hours and thousands of steps (no kidding—when you add it all up at the end of the day, you’ll walk miles through the parks). Comfortable shoes are a must. Lots of water is important. And throw a raincoat or two into your backpack for those afternoon showers that happen regularly in Florida.