Disney vacation with a 4-and-a-half year old

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There were 2 phone (android) apps we used in Disney last October - the Unofficial Guide/Touringplans app (included in website subscription), and the official Disney Magic app (free). At the time, you could only get the Disney Magic app if you were a Verizon subscriber, I don’t know if that’s still true.

The touring plans app was better for wait times. Even though you’d expect the Disney one to be more accurate, it wasn’t. It was often way off what the signs at the rides themselves said. Se because/in-spite of the touring plans app being self reported, it worked very well. It would also let you select one of the website touring plans and check rides off as you go. The official app also will only give you wait times for a park that you’re physically located in, and it often couldn’t locate me, and refused to believe I was actually in Orlando at the time. The biggest advantage of the Disney app was that it would identify character appearances (they’re all scheduled these days), so we could see that Goofy would be showing up at the Haunted Mansion in exactly 6 minutes, and be first in line.

Fastpass - learn it, live it, love it. You just need one person to go to the machines (with all your tickets), so you and the kid can stroll around while your husband runs across the park. Also, the near-continuous Mickey/Minnie character appearance at Town Square offers Fastpass as well, which no one else seemed to know - we walked right past an hour long line with our fastpasses that we had gotten 20 minutes beforehand.

No such policy exists. You can bring in whatever food you like.

With a 4-1/2 year old about the only park I’d take them to is the Magick Kingdom.
They’ll love it.
I don’t think they’d quite enjoy Epcot or Disney Studios. And if you already have a decent zoo near your hometown you could skip Animal Kingdom.
I heard the new Legoland is pretty nice and the rides look very much geared toward the 4-5 year old crowd.

No way, Hampshire. My four year old loved Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom was her favorite, sure, but if you’re there more than one day, spending the whole time in one park is a big mistake.

I take Dangerosa’s advice not to tell the kids of the things they’re missing (of which there are plenty – the place is huge). But kids talk – before we went, our kid already knew several friends who’d met the princesses at breakfast. She would have been pretty disappointed if she hadn’t gotten the same opportunity.


True that, so make sure you ask what she knows she wants to do.

And mine always loved Epcot and Animal Kingdom as well. We always have hoppers, and a stroller (even at five or six) and if you want to keep going, Epcot is a great place to hop over to, pop the kids in the stroller, and go. And the trails at Animal Kingdom are similarly stroller friendly for a more down day.

LOTS of water. LOTS of sunscreen. Hats. Comfortable shoes. Plenty of rest. Don’t rush just for the sake of seeing everything.

Sometimes it pays not to take the character appearances too seriously. Our five-year daughter met Winnie the Pooh at the Magic Kingdom, and promptly declared him a fake. We asked her why, and she said “You can see the zipper!” After that, meeting the characters wasn’t quite so important to us.

She’s now 25, and we can hardly wait for her to take her own children…

Just did the trip with a 4 year old a couple months ago. Did it 6 years ago with a 3 year old. I will say what someone else did. Even if your kid has not been using a stroller, bring one or rent one. It will be used.

I also had great experiences with the iPhone app. I only had the official Disney one. It worked great.

Skip Snow White. I took my son when he was 5 and a half and I was 25 and I still freaked out a little bit. :slight_smile:

Kids love Disney. Just plan the day like you’d plan something closer to home - figure out food and potty breaks and don’t try to overdo yourself. Stay at the park if you can, or, if it’s a cost issue, at least find a hotel with very close transportation.

I also went when my son was two and he had so much fun. It was seriously one of the best memories of my life.

edit: My son loved seeing the characters and kept giggling over “Pooh with no PANTS!” like any typical kindergarten boy. At five, I wasn’t putting him in a stroller. He tired out at the end but that’s okay. We still have the hat.

I’m surprised to see so many people recommending staying in the parks.

I’m planning a trip taking a four and a half year old to Disney. I know several people who go regularly, some every year. The overwhelming advice that I got was to stay offsite.

The advice was that it’s a hassle getting around either way. Offsite, you take a car into the parking lot and take the bus in. Onsite, you wait for a shuttle. The price difference is obviously huge. Plus, offsite you can get multiple rooms with a suite or a condo option.

For instance, the Liki Tiki resort has two bedroom, two bathroom units for $100 a night. You can’t get that in Disney without paying a fortune. That way when the little one goes to bed you can stay up and have a kitchen and living room all to yourself, rather than being crammed into a hotel room.

Can people elaborate on why staying onsite is better?

For adults, it’s a cost-benefit thing sure. But for kids, they get the “Disney Magic” 24 hours a day.

We have done both and resort is better and more convienent. We stayed at the Carribean Beach resort, which is mid-level, for about $100 a day. Off season.

Ah, that makes sense.

I agree that onsite isn’t that much of a benefit if you’re not directly connected to main transportation by ferry or monorail*. Because if you have to wait for a shuttle it is more convenient to drive and the shuttle isn’t really “magic” since it’s just a bus.

But if you’re at one of the resorts that are right on the monorail or ferry, then not only do you get a unique form of transportation to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, but you don’t have to wait at the bus stop for almost half an hour, the transportation comes regularly. A lot more convenient than driving, especially since these resort are already physically close to the Magic Kingdom in the first place.

But yes, these resorts are even more expensive than the further-away “on-site” resorts, but are the only way to go IMO if you want the advantages of an on-site stay.

*or if you’re only going to MGM or Animal Kingdom, because MGM and Animal Kingdom can only be gotten to from shuttles.

There is also the magic hours benefit if you’re staying on site. An extra hour at one park in the morning with only onsite visitors and an hour at night in a different park. This works best with a park hopper pass obviously.

It’s also good with young children since they are generally up early and raring to go.

Princess Lunch was TOTALLY worth it. Seriously. It’s all she talks about now and she’s 9.

Because on site actually is a lot more convenient. Just parking at Disney is a hassle, you still take a shuttle in from the parkingand it’s expensive too, but on site guests park for free, so a lot of people drive, but stay on site, best of both worlds. During very busy times of year, Disney will close the parks, first to offsite guests…on site guests will have access longer. Disney, while not holding the highest standards (I like Hilton hotels myself), are pretty dependable for quality and cleanliness. (the Liki Tiki is a you get what you pay for)

But offsite IS going to be cheaper, particularly if you want a condo or timeshare. Which are available for disney (and the Disney timeshare rental market), but won’t be cheap.

Apparently, when I was little my family went to WDW and stayed off site. My mom vowed never again, so after that we stayed on property. “Never” lasted until I was an adult. The vow of never driving to WDW again is still in effect.

Which one did you do? There are lunches for $50 or so where there are a few princesses that will come by your table. There’s another lunch for more like $250 where it’s just 8 girls and two princesses where you do a princess tea. It’s a lot of money, but I’ve been told the individual attention is worth it.

We’re also doing the salon where they get their hair done like a princess for $40.