Walt Disney World With Tweens, Teens, and Grown-up Kids

As a mother of "grown-up" kids, I am frequently confronted with parents of teenagers asking me how I raised my kids to still love Disney when it's like pulling teeth to get theirs to go. The answer to that is actually pretty easy, I've always worked hard to make sure that my kids thought of Disney as "their place," too.

Family Dinner at Hoop-Dee-DooFamily Dinner at Hoop-Dee-Doo

Family vacations can be kind of stressful and have a good chunk of cash on the line, so parents can tend to feel under pressure to make every moment the best it can be. This means that vacations become regimented with forced togetherness and a serious plan. Not only does that put pressure on the parents, but it can also be a pretty big drag for the kids. Many times, kids just follow along on the trip without getting to have much input into what they want to do on vacation. Stuck in a trip only doing things that Mom or Dad wants to, young adults never develop the chance to make the Disney Parks their own. To foster that love of Disney and a sense of ownership in their experience, young adults need to spread their wings and adventure a bit on their own. In Disney, they can be the "grown-up" while you're just an Adventureland away.

Katie, Tori, and Kirk Head Off On Their OwnKatie, Tori, and Kirk Head Off On Their Own

In 2013 Disney established an official policy on youth Guests. The Company line is that children under the age of 14 are not able to enter the parks unless someone aged 14 or older accompanies them. In addition, to board an attraction, children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by a person age 14 or older. And while you should still supervise your children when they're at Disney World, these age guidelines offer parents some room for the kids to establish their own sense of adventure and fantasy while exploring the lands.

Tweens and teens can learn great life-skills while on vacation at Disney World. We used vacation travel skills to teach our kids money handling, map reading, punctuality, public transportation use, and so much more. From the time the were about 10 they slowly received more and more freedoms and responsibility in the Parks and as part of the planning. Each opportunity we gave them not only allowed them to explore more of what they loved, but gave them the chance to earn more of our trust by showing us they could do it right.

Jumping In On Katie's Peter Pan MeetJumping In On Katie's Peter Pan Meet

Our family vacations have changed a lot as my kids have grown older, and honestly, I love the trips just as much now that we split up as I did when they were little. Knowing the kids are off enjoying some Park time has allowed me and my husband to try new restaurants, take tours or seminars, and spend time with friends that we would never have done with the kids around them. We all get to have time doing the things that we enjoy the most then, at the end of the day, we always come back together, sit around a table and reconnect. We take time to look at pictures the others took and listen to the stories of what the kids did out on their own. It's a time that we grow stronger as a family because everyone has been having fun.

I Still Make Them Go On Rides With MeI Still Make Them Go On Rides With Me

I'll be honest, I still drag the kids on a rides they don't really want to go on (Note my oldest daughter holding on for dear life in the image above), try to marry off my son to a Princess, and I insist on them paying a "mommy tax" on all Dole Whips, Mickey Bars, and churros. I still find it fun to kid around with my kids on vacation, and we have a great time - but it's their vacation too, so we always make sure to have time apart as well.

Do you travel with tweens, teens, or grown-up kids? Leave a comment and share how your family has grown up with Disney.

elaine wrote on Wed, 04/01/2015 - 22:56:

elaine's picture

I really enjoyed your article. I have a 13-yr-old son and we are "bringing him up Disney". We have really been going a lot since he was 10; his first time at age 8. We feel this brings us closer together as a family. The two of us even feel safe to stay longer than my husband. I really liked your thoughts on letting them have more responsibility and independence. I struggle with that.

Andrea wrote on Thu, 04/02/2015 - 04:45:

Andrea's picture

We loved taking our young children to the Disney parks, but now that they are older (19 and 16) it is even better. They are taller with longer legs and more stamina. My son carries the heavy backpack that I used to have to lug around. No tears and no whining! I love this new found freedom and dearly love visiting the parks with my young adult children. They have a new outlook and enjoy all the wonders that disney has to offer. They are also more appreciative now that they have a better understanding of the cost involved in these vacations.

Kristen K. wrote on Thu, 04/02/2015 - 17:04:

Kristen K.'s picture

Thanks so much for your thoughts on the subject Elaine and Andrea! I'm glad that you enjoyed the article.

Elaine, I know that letting your kids have more more responsibility and independence can be difficult. But you'll never know what they can handle until you let them try. My youngest enjoys the freedoms that we give her there because she's had the chance to prove herself capable in ways that she doesn't have the chance to do at home in our local area. Watching her grow-up at Disney in the same way I did is a joy to my heart.

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