Best Things to Do at Disney World with School Age Children
Disney World is fun at any age, but planning a trip with your school age kids is practically a rite of passage. We planned a special adventure for Corinne and Elliot, ages 5 and 7, and you can too. Here’s what you need to know. Also, check out our story on best things to do with toddlers at Disney World.
Visit with a VIP Guide
The VIP experience at Disney is not just for celebrities anymore. A private guide creates a custom itinerary and efficiently ushers you through the park via back doors, behind the scenes and more. Your guide acts as your family’s personal fast pass and, if your five-year-old is like ours, her new best friend.
To give you an idea of how the VIP experience works, we met our guide Kate in the morning at our hotel. First, we ventured to Animal Kingdom Park, where we started with the Kilimanjaro Safari. After watching lions roar in unison (sometimes you get lucky) and seeing many cool giraffes, hippos and other animals, we went to Pandora-The World of Avatar. Kate led us through the fast pass line, as we got on popular rides like Avatar Flight of Passage (a three hour wait otherwise). Kate was also great throughout the day at keeping our five-year-old entertained on rides that were too scary for her.
After exploring Animal Kingdom, we hopped in the car and headed over to Hollywood Studios. When we arrived at the park, Disney provided water and snacks for us before we headed in. It was just the pick-up we needed. The new Toy Story Land, a must-see attraction for families, was crowded, so having our guide made the experience more enjoyable. We loved all the cool, new rides like our favorite the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster. After a fun day, our guide drove us back home to our hotel. Private tours vary between $425-$625 per hour by season and run for a minimum of 7 hours. The tours include up to 10 guests, so splitting with another family can be a great option.
Additional Special Experiences for Your Trip
Book a character dining or dessert experience and show. I recommend the Fantasmic Dining Experience at Hollywood Studios. The Fantasmic show is best for kids a little bit older who are good with watching the scary parts of a Disney movie. The water, fire, and movie effects are amazing.
Book a character dining experience. We enjoyed Tuskar House at Animal Kingdom Lodge where all the Mickey characters dress in Safari gear. Our five year old was the perfect age for the breakfast meet and greet. She loved taking pictures and collecting signatures. It’s nice not to wait in line as characters come to your table. Plus, it’s a fun way to start your day at Animal Kingdom.
Visit the park during one of their special holiday themed evenings: Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are Disney’s two biggest celebrations. These two parties include special themed parades, treats, fireworks, rides decorated for the occasion and more. Trick or treating and dressing up in family costumes is an extra perk of the Halloween celebration. Plus, 2019 is the 90th anniversary of Mickey’s birthday, so look out for surprises announced all year long.
Free and Cheap Fun on Your Trip
Before we embarked on our trip, I spoke with Lindsey P. a local Disney Moms Panelist and blogger at Redhead Baby Mama for trip suggestions. We focused on free and cheap fun, because we all like to save and have fun!
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a free, interactive card game that you can play throughout the Magic Kingdom Park. Open magical windows and find the keys to go onto the next steps. Cast spells to defeat Disney villains. Guests can receive a new pack every time they walk into the park. Visit the firehouse near the entrance for a free starter pack and a training session.
Transform into a pirate, mermaid or empress at the Pirate League Experience. The pirate masters are friendly and fun; they help the kids pick their pirate or mermaid name, spend a few minutes making them look scary and sweet, swear them in as pirates to find a few additional treasures to take home. The package starts at $44.95; you can bring your own costume from home to help keep it budget-friendly.
Star Wars fans ages 4-12, don’t miss free Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios. Kids get to take part in an interactive 25-minute show, where they borrow robes and lightsabers for their training to help defeat Darth Vader. It’s best to arrive at the park when they open and register in advance to secure a spot.
We enjoyed coin pressing throughout the parks. Lindsey recommends bagging up your coins at home in separate zip lock bags to easily be prepared for this activity. It’s 51 cents per machine to press your pennies. At Disneyworld.disney.go.com, find an interactive, online map to find the hundreds of machines throughout the parks.
Insider Tips for Planning the Best Trip
- Book your trip to Disney well in advance of when you want to go. Booking in advance can help with pricing and availability. Have you heard about Disney’s new pricing system? It offers date-based pricing. This means pricing is lower in off times. If you take a couple days off school or go during a quieter time, you will save.
- Use undercovertourist.com to determine the best time to visit time to visit. Their crowd report ranks on a sliding scale 1 to 10 on what crowd size to expect.
- Download the Disney app at home and book your fast passes up to 60 days in advance. The app is amazing. You can view wait times for rides, schedule fast passes and more. Bring a battery back up to keep your phone going through the day.
- Resist the urge to do too much. Step back and don’t overdo it, and save a few things for your next trip to Disney.
Where to Stay
Grand Floridian Resort is one of Disney’s classic, elegant resorts, but it’s Disney, so don’t let that deter your family from staying there. It’s family-friendly and our kids loved the two pools and the Beauty and the Beast splash play area.
Stay club level at a Disney resort for additional conveniences, including food and drink offerings throughout the day. We devoured the snacks that amounted to a light breakfast, lunch, or dinner and happy hour –with those beloved mini Mickey waffles on weekend mornings.