Disney World with Tweens, Unexpected Magic


Photo Source Dana Rebmann

My husband and I are not the biggest Disney fans. When it comes to a vacation, there are a lot of other places we’d rather take the family. That said, we understand why it would rank high on our kids’ list of places to go.

Our story goes like this. We were headed to Southwest Florida to visit family. My girls had seen Disney’s “Give a day. Get a Disney Day.” advertisement. Basically, anyone who volunteered for a day, got a free ticket to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. My computer savvy 11-year-old took the initiative, got online and found a great local volunteer opportunity. The whole family volunteered, (It was fabulous!) and Disney emailed us our ticket vouchers. The problem, due to all the restrictions and blackout dates, we couldn’t use them.

My girls’ disappointment was obvious. So we did what most parents would do, told them we’d take them to Disney anyway. And long before we knew the reward tickets wouldn’t be useable, we’d made hotel reservations and contacted friends. There was no backing out. When it comes down to it, the only difference was the extra $400 we had hoped not to pay at the gate.

Tips for Visiting Disney World with Tweens


Rise and Shine

When the day finally arrived, we were ready. My girls had their fanny packs loaded with snacks, water and sunscreen. No one had trouble getting up early. The kids were so excited; I’ll admit it was contagious. The park opened and we poured in with thousands of others. We met up with friends (who have similar aged children) and we were off!

I knew my 9-year-old would love everything about the park. She has no fear and loves rides, even the ones I won’t go on. She still has that special place in her heart for princesses. Though the Cinderella backpack may be gone, she squealed when she saw the castle.

It was my older daughter I was concerned about. At 11, she’s a full-fledged tween. She likes rides, but is a little pickier with her choices. Princesses are no longer part of her daily vocabulary. And having been lucky enough to see things like the Matterhorn and the Eiffel Tower, I didn’t think Cinderella’s castle would take her breathe away.

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Tween Control

With a smidgen of suggestions, we let the two tweens pretty much lead the way. We started in Tomorrowland, and much to our surprise, did a lot of riding with very little waiting. We had just come off the Carousel of Progress when we realized the Parade of Characters was about to begin.

We had just enough time to get to the Castle, figuring we’d hoist the little ones up over the crowds to watch and let the older girls relax or have some time to themselves. Incredibly, we snagged front- row, parade-watching real estate. Everyone sat down, and by the time we had re-applied sunscreen, every kid (and adult) had ice cream in their hand. As I took a bite of a chocolate Mickey ear, it hit me. The older girls were just as excited as the younger kids, asking when the parade would start and who would be in it. Everyone was smiling. It was a travel moment that will be forever etched in my motherly mind. I had greatly under-estimated the magic of Disney.

At school, tweens don’t talk about princesses. They don’t talk about how cute Pooh is. It’s too embarrassing. But at Disney, it was ok to like princesses and balloons. It was fun to yell when Snow White and Cinderella came strolling down Main Street. It was fun to be a kid, and fun to be a parent. I realized my daughter isn’t as “old” as I think she is.

The parade set the tone for the entire day. (Entire trip actually.) The tweens continued to lead as we worked our way through the happiest place on Earth.

Keeping the Peace

Ride selection was much easier than anticipated. A good week before our arrival at the Magic Kingdom, everyone in our group singled out four “must do” items. There were eight in our group, so that meant 32 must do’s as the day went on. If “it” was on the list, there wasn’t any debate. Turns out, pretty much everything was on the list. The only get out of going on this ride pass given was when someone was scared. And interestingly enough, even though we had as old as 11 and as young as 7, that only happened once, when we reached Pirates of the Carribean. By the end of the evening, hours of persuasion reigned supreme and the Pirates were overtaken!

The Rules

*There were some parent rules, but they were the type of things no one seemed to mind.

*Lunch required sitting down. No eating in line or on the move. Everyone ate something. Protein was encouraged.

*Drinking water, juice, lemonade – whatever was the hydration of choice – was strictly enforced.

*Sugar consumption was also encouraged. After exploring Tom Sawyer Island, everyone was required to sit a spell in the shade. One thing lead to another and before we knew it a new guessing game of sorts had been created. Lacking poker chips, M&M’s were thrown into the pot. Once the pot was eaten, we were ready to move again.

*Who says it’s time to leave

Another fabulous parade, fireworks and a fluke no wait on the log flume finished off the day. The park had officially been closed for almost an hour as we made our way down Main Street to the park exit. Shopping, singing, dancing. There is a reason they call it the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The energy finally disappeared the second the kids hit the backseat of the rental car, but the magic is still going strong.

Relevant Links:

Disney Cruise Line tips

Disney Cruise Line vacation review

Cruises for kids, the Bahamas with Disney Cruise Line

Walt Disney World vacation tips, enjoying the park without rides

Walk Disney World tips for all ages

Choosing between Disneyland hotels

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