'Sup? Tad here, the family videographer, photographer and social media expert. I also happen to be a tween on the verge of being a full-blown teen. Mommy Frog wanted to provide tips for going to Walt Disney World with teens and tweens, and, well, as the expert on this subject, I’ve canceled her efforts. I’m hacking this post and taking over (with some hopful tips from my teen cousins we like to travel with too). Let's jump in!
Tips for Going to Walt Disney World with Teens and Tweens
Disney World is becoming more and more appealing to teens and tweens all the time. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Avatar Flight of Passage, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, or the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind? Heck yeah! Here’s how to take your teens and tweens to Disney World and not only not embarrass them, but also have a toadally rad time together.
Involve Your Teens in the Decision-Making
I may do a lot of generalizing here, but each teen or tween is different, so find out what your kid actually wants to do. Some older kids love meeting characters. Others only want to focus on rides. Some really only care about thrill rides. Others are into classic Disney attractions and shows. I know a lot of teens who love to eat all the yummy Disney treats they can find! I mean, who doesn't? One thing Mommy Frog does right is find out the must-do experiences for each member of the family. Then, she makes sure we get it in. Sometimes we have to break up to fit it all in. If we have different meal preferences, we use Mobile Order to quickly acquire our favorite dishes and meet back up to share a meal.
Expect to Get a Later Start
Mommy Frog and my dad, Leap, are always trying to be the early frogs. They say, "the early frog gets the flies,” but waking up early is not my favorite part of a Disney World vacation. Now that we can attempt to join a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance before we get to the park, the pressure is off. I can catch some zzz’s while my parents secure our ride, at least for Disney's Hollywood Studios days. (That is, unless they require my technical support.)
Bring a Friend or Travel with Another Family
Some of my favorite Disney trips are when we meet our frog cousins for an extended family trip. It’s so much fun to pilot the Millennium Falcon with an older cousin and have someone to vibe with and also have someone who can roll their eyes with me over our parents when they point out the obvious. If your teen does not have any siblings or cousins close in age, you might consider bringing a friend. It’s especially fun when our parents let us break off for a ride or two!
Give Them Freedom … But Make a Solid Meetup Plan
Disney is a safe and enclosed space. So give your teens some room to explore on their own or take off with a friend, especially if you have younger siblings with different height requirements and interests. Just make a solid meetup plan with a time and place just in case the phone goes dead or gets wet. Hey, it hoppens. You may even let your teens use the park transportation to get around the resort. Your teens will love the freedom and responsibility. And admit it, you might appreciate having a break from the teen 'tude. Here's a little secret: If you make meal time or snack time a meetup, your teens' rumbling bellies and empty wallets will lead them right back to you.
If your teen or tween has no friends, cousins or similar-aged siblings on the trip to break off with, divide and conquer. One parent can take the older kids, while the other parent can take the younger kids. This makes it easy to meet everyone’s needs (and hear less whining).
Since my dad and I love thrills that can make Mommy Frog a little greener than usual, she’s pretty hoppy to entertain my little sister, Lily, on gentler attractions or in a show while my dad and I get our kicks. And if Mommy Frog wants to ride, too, but Lily’s too short, we use Rider Switch so Mommy Frog can watch Lily and then ride once Dad and I return. I get to ride twice because Mommy Frog is allowed to bring a guest or two when she rides! It’s a win-win!! Maybe not so much for Lily, who is feeling a little swampy about being the shortest frog in the pond.
Bring External Phone Chargers
Mobile Order, taking photos, playing in the app and other functions can wear down your battery. Stay fully powered just in case you separate. It’s always smart to have a solid meetup plan in the works in case of technology failure.
Provide Some Unstructured Downtime or Recreation
It’s tough to go, go, go for days on end. Teens have such busy schedules with school and sports, so they really just want to slow down and relax. Plan some kick-back time at the hotel pools or arcades or make a shopping stop at Disney Springs. Experience a sporting event at ESPN Wide World of Sports, surf at Typhoon Lagoon, chill out at Blizzard Beach, play golf (or mini-golf) or even explore Fort Wilderness, which offers horseback riding, archery and more. Other fun things to do outside the theme parks include the NBA Experience for hands-on thrills and excitement or bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. (Note that some of these experiences are modified or currently unavailable.)
Play with the Disney Parks App
Is your teen or tween attached to his or her phone? Trick question. Of course they are! Here’s a way to use their phone to get more out of their Disney World experience. I’m always hoppy to take some time to play with the Play Disney Parks app and Data Pad in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Teens get bored in lines, so make it fun. Download phone games before your trip. Heads Up! is a fun game for the family. Mommy Frog and Leap love playing 20 Questions, but all the items get a Disney twist.
A Word About Disney Attire
Your teen may flex the Minnie ears or cool headwear, but matching family Disney shirts is so extra. (Sorry, Mommy Frog! I'm not wearing it!). I can't speak for all teens and tweens tho'. If your DisneyBounding teen has a special outfit planned for each day, just roll with it and all the selfies that accompany it.
Take Those Pics
You'll need to find a healthy balance between capturing the family memories making your teen pose for too many pics. Your teen may want you to be like the paparazzi to take their posed pics for Instagram, yet balk when you ask for a family selfie. That's our prerogative. Welcome to the teen years! Definitely take those pics and PhotoPass shots because your kids will love having them later, as long as you know when it’s really time to back off. Mommy Frog loves those PhotoPass shots because then she gets to be in the family pictures too! She says you can save money by purchasing a Memory Maker package in advance.
Plan the Timing of the Trip Wisely
Teens have a lot of responsibilities these days with school, sports, jobs and social groups. Plan a trip to Disney World with teens and tweens during a time that is easy to break away. Good times to visit include just after exams, the end of a grading period or during the off-season from sports. We know, we know ... family time is important. Just understand that your teens will be much less stressed and more relaxed and cheerful if they aren't worried about required reading, upcoming tests or getting benched for the game because they did not show up to practice.
While it can be fun to surprise younger children with a Disney trip, do not do this with older kids. Your teens need plenty of notice to get their schoolwork, job and extracurriculars in order.
We teens know we can be a pain sometimes, or even sensitive or seemingly too cool for the family. But deep down we want to have fun and struggle wanting to be your little kids and grown-ups at the same time. Don't get on the emotional roller coaster with your teen, and save the "ride" for the real roller coasters. You're going to have to pick your battles (clothing may not be worth the fight) and ultimately find the right balance so you can create lasting Disney memories and make your teens want to spend more time with you and even look forward to the next family vacay.
Top Rides at Disney World for Teens and Tweens
Here are a few rides that may excite your teen or tween. Be sure to add them to you itinerary!
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Tomorrowland Speedway (especially for for kids who can't drive yet)
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track
- Mission: SPACE (I’m team orange, which is more thrilling, but younger tweens or ones who get motion sick may stick to the mellow green mission)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (coming soon ... but not soon enough for me!)
- Remy's Ratatouille Adventure (opening in 2021!)
Disney's Hollywood Studios
This park is *fire emoji* with the tween and teen set due to thrills, Star Wars and Toy Story. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has two rides. Be sure to read my post on how to acquire a Boarding Group for the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney World. While you are in Galaxy's Edge, you can build a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop or play with the Data Pad.
- Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Star Tours
- Slinky Dog Dash (great for tweens)
- Toy Story Mania! (good for competitive gamers)
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rock ‘n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (you'll flip, literally, for this one)
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Best Disney World Hotels for Teens
Your kids are growing up, and they need their own space. And trust me, when your teens and tweens are hoppy, you’ll be hoppy too. As kids reach middle school, their bodies naturally stay up later and wake up later. So getting some additional lodging space allows everyone to have some privacy and set their own sleep schedule. It may cost a little more, but my parents find it's worth it. If you have a bathroom hog in your family (there’s always one), you’ll thank me when the whole family is trying to get ready at the same time. While larger accommodations may cost more, you may save on food costs and time with a kitchen. It’s much faster to eat a quick breakfast in the room than go to a restaurant.
These hotels are great for teens and tweens because they either are located within walking distance of parks or entertainment, or they have larger accommodations:
- Disney's Yacht Club — Located right on Disney's BoardWalk entertainment district, guests can walk or take a boat to EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The resort also offers an amazing feature pool, Stormalong Bay, complete with a sandy bottom and a looooooong waterslide! Plus it offers villas for larger groups.
- Disney's Beach Club — This sister resort to Disney's Yacht Club shares the awesome feature pool. The Beach Club Villas offer more room, and the close proximity to two of the theme parks makes it super convenient. Did we mention that some of our favorite ice cream on-property comes from Beach Club's Beaches and Cream Soda Shop? A family favorite treat is the Kitchen Sink, which is a HUGE, Mickey-themed sundae (but toadally fun for families to share!).
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa — Only a 20-minute walk to Disney Springs, these villas offer extra bedroom(s) and kitchen, plus an on-site pool with a waterslide.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas — Jambo House or Kidani Village — Ready to wake up with a wild view of the savanna? Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge lets you do just that! With convenient villas to house larger parties, it's a natural pick for animal-lovers.
- Disney's Riviera Resort — This elegant European escape features 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas with separate bedrooms, a kitchen and a washer/dryer. Disney's newest resort sits on the Skyliner route and has a water slide.
- Disney's Art of Animation Resort — This whimsical resort offers Family Suites themed to "The Lion King," "Finding Nemo" or "Cars" — complete with matching pools and the largest feature pool on-site that rocks underwater speakers! Plus there are oversized photo stops all around the property, allowing guests to step into iconic moments from Disney movies. ("Hakuna Matata," anyone?) Art of Animation shares a Skyliner stop with Disney's Pop Century Resort.
- Disney's Pop Century Resort — With newly refurbished rooms, Pop is a fan-favorite that takes guests on a nostalgic walk through the past ... and offers queen beds! If you have older teens and are OK with adjoining (or adjacent rooms), this value resort is a great option.
Have you traveled to Disney World with teens and tweens? Have any toadally cool tips to share with other readers? Please share them in the comments section below. And be sure to check out our hoppin' deals on discount Disney World Resort tickets and hotel stays. Ribbit!