Travel Tips for Children Ages 5-11
Every Disney guidebook seems to have a section for babies/toddlers or teenagers. There are even entire books written for teenagers going to Disney! However, where are the packing lists for children that are from 5-11 years old. What do you do when they no longer want to go to Character Meals? How do you keep them entertained on the plane?
I've been taking my two daughters to Disney World every year since the youngest was 18 months old. She is now 5. So I have a few tips to pass along to other parents bound for Disney.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Once we know that we have another WDW trip in the works the kids start earning Disney Dollars for their chores instead of their regular allowances. This becomes their spending money while down at WDW. They, then can decide to spend their money however they choose and they know that once their money is spent, it's all gone! This gives the kids to spend their money wisely and it's amazing to watch them decide that the $15 toy is sometimes not worth it! Also, they have the ability to earn extra Disney Dollars for doing chores not on their normal routine list. It's amazing how many extra items I can get done around the house when we have a trip to WDW planned! (Kelly David)
I find that my children must be extremely dirty or typical children. They would go through two sets of clothes a day. So I recommend you bring the following:
Bring more underwear and socks than you think since these go the fastest! Unless you are going to do laundry.
At least two swimsuits for each child. One can be drying out while they wear the other one.
A pair of slip on sandals to go to the pool area.
A first aid kit with tweezers. On some of the wooden playgrounds, the wood can be very dry and the children get splinters.
Tootsie Pops for their ears on the plane. My youngest always swallows the gum!
Bring a very small flashlight for the younger children. I have one that is the size of a large credit card which is activated by pressing one corner of it. The little one was always frightened when the ride was pitch black. I noticed that many of the rides have a little segment of darkness at the beginning before the actual entertainment of the ride begins. For example, pirates of the Caribbean, the Peter Pan ride, the spaceship Earth to give a few examples. She would just put it on at the very beginning and once the ride started it had to go off. The cast members repeated these instructions to us when they saw us with it.
I've found the best method is to have each child have a pilot's type suitcase with wheels and a backpack. We pack in assembly line fashion. Everyone gets out their suitcase and we go down my list – so many pairs of socks, swimsuits, etc with everyone fetching and packing items at once. That way everyone gets to have the fun of packing and I'm sure that everything is packed. The backpacks are for cd players, books, coloring books, crayons, hand held games, homework, playdoh or other things to play with on the plane and in the car. The backpacks are for cd players, books, coloring books, crayons, hand held games, homework, playdoh or other things to play with on the plane and in the car. (Cheryl Dionne)
When we took our 7 and 10 year olds, we bought each a suitcase with a
handle and wheels which they could pull. (they were carry-on size, but we
checked them) This was very helpful in the airport and getting to our
rooms at the All Star Music. They were also able to strap additonal items
on the top. (Eric Lamer)
If going during the school year, try to get the kids to get as much homework done before arriving at WDW. If math book is necessary, photocopy relevant pages rather than bring the book. Journals should be worked on daily, rather than at the end of a trip! I made worksheets (approved by teacher) that had to do with WDW for working on the skills he was learning at the time. For example, record what was eaten daily for lunch – graphed the results in two ways (circle and bar graph). Worked out what kind of admission media was the most economical for the trip as planned. Converted arrival times (in local time) back to our original time zone. Worked out flight times. Using departure/arrival times of our flights and the distance, worked out average speed. (Audrey Ishizaki)
I always pack baby wipes in the small packs even though I no longer have
babies. They are great for sticky tables, icecream, coke spills. You name
it I always use all that I bring. (Melinda Jones)
First, if you have to take a plane (which I must do since we come from north of Boston) there are a few things to consider. At all costs try to get a non-stop! I took a one stop once and was glad I didn't have one on the way back. It is just one more trip off the plane and then line up for boarding and back on the plane.
Realize that airports entail alot of walking. I consider it the warm-up for your feet before you get to Disney. Don't try to put the new shoes on the kids, don't put on clothes that are difficult for the children to unbutton, unzip or untie themselves in the bathroom.
If you have a child five and under, I highly recommend bringing a carriage. If your plane is delayed getting into the airport you don't have to carry the child – how will you anyways? It can also carry your carry-on luggage. My oldest has also used the carriage at times when she has been too tired.
Another tip – from one of Oprah's shows – be wary of the security line. This is the best place to have your purse or bag stolen. It is always busy, people are pushing in line etc. I make sure I take all coats, keys etc. off and out before I get in line. I usually stop before the line and do all this. If I need to let others go through the line until there is a break I do.
I give the security people my carriage first. I then have my oldest go next. Then push my youngest through and finally myself. I am usually holding people off to let my children go through. Before I go through I put my purse on the belt. After getting through, I get my purse first. Then I take my time and settle my children, the carriage and my things.
I don't let people get to me. If they are piling up – so what. I find that when I am rushed, things get misplaced and I am short with the children. Why go through that?
The planes can have extreme temperatures from very warm while waiting for the plane to push back from the gate or in line to take off, to very cold when you get up to 35,000 feet.
Be smart and bring a sweater or sweatshirt for the children and no bare feet in sandals! How I have shuddered to see little girls wearing a cute summer dress with nothing on their legs and sandals on their feet.
The plane's blankets and pillows, unless encased in plastic that you have to break don't touch my children's bodies. I always bring a small blanket for them and I always bring my travel pillow from The Company store (t comes in down or fiber for about $28.00) that ties closed. It has come in handy numerous times!!
On the plane, be sure to bring snacks with you and juice-boxs. There can be quite a wait either in the gate area or while you get on the plane waiting for it to fill up.
Hint: I know that they allow families with small children to board first. I rarely do this, unless it is with an airline like Southwest that has no seat assignment so the sooner you get on the better the selection of seats.
The reason why? It is that much more time for your children to spend confined in their seats. Think about how long it takes to fill up a plane. I would say the average is at least 20 minutes. So I let the children walk around, run , take a last trip to the toilet, until we have to get on. With pre-assigned seats, our seats will still be there. I bring only one piece of carry-on luggage for each of us either a back -pack or a rolling suitcase for the 5 year old. They easily fit under the seat. I am the only one that brings a large carry-on.
In my carry-on, I will pack the pillow, all of our toiletries, which fit in a small case, a first aid kit, the portable telephone, and an extra set of clothes for each of us.
I didn't take an extra set of clothes once and my daughter spilled her milk all over her pants. She had to sit in them all the way until we could get our luggage. I usually also carry a surprise gift that they don't know about in case all else fails and I need something to distract them with. It is usually a sticker book for the youngest and a book for the oldest.
On the plane, we play cards, or the magnetic checkers game, the game-boys with the nightlights or play Disney Trivia Pursuit. Cassette players with headsets can be bought from Wal-Mart for $5.00!
You can rent books on tape from your local library. There are a wide range of books on tape from Cat in the Hat with the accompanying books for the children to read along to Harry Potter books on tape that are up to 11 hours long.
I bring my suitcase and a totebag with tickets, guidebooks, cell phone, snacks and have my waist pack that I wear in the parks with all the other essentials tucked inside. We have everything with us on the plane so that if calamity strikes and a child gets sick or we miss a connection we don't need to worry about finding new clothes or where our luggage may be. If the overhead compartments are full, our suitcases actually fit underneath the seat in front of us and I've never had a problem getting all our carryons stowed. (Cheryl Dionne)
We go through the airports like ducks all in a row with our pull along suitcases. The kids can strap their backpacks piggyback onto the suitcases so they are not all weighed down and we travel very quickly this way. I do not need to leave the children alone even for a moment to ferry luggage out to a shuttle bus or rental car. (Cheryl Dionne)
When we get to escalators (which I've found to be the biggest obstacle for small children) I help each child to step onto the step and place their suitcase beside them so they are all set to step off at the bottom. I go last so I can retrieve any bags not successfully handled and because once I didn't go last and one of the kids panicked and got off and I had to jog up the down escalator to fetch her. The older two didn't get the escalator down pat to where they didn't need assistance until about age 10.(Cheryl Dionne)
One of my best tips is ….Earplanes….which cost approximately $4.00 at a
drugstore. My daughter always cried, no screamed on the plane…gum, pops nothing worked until I came upon these. They are hollow screw type inserts that go in the ear when you get on the plane….each pair lasts for a round trip. It was like magic…they keep the ear open no popping or pain.
Earplanes are also made for adults who have similar problems….so be sure to get the childrens earplanes. I believe they are good for children 2 to 9!
I prepare a gift bag for each child for the plane ride. I put in it markers, activity books, stampers, playing cards, treats, etc. I purchase most all at a dollar store. I make sure that all the items are quiet activities so not to disturb any other travelers. (Debra Dubord)
I flew with my kids (then 8 and 4) on a nonstop flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Orlando (MC0). This was just a little too long a flight for them (between 5-6 hours)! They were mightily tired of sitting at the end of this flight. Neither napped, which would have helped. We flew with a stopover in Denver on our way home and this was more manageable – the stop in Denver was long enough for us to get a bite to eat and walk around the airport. We were even delayed an hour on the flight, but the kids managed the in-jet times much better. Now, I look for flights with a stopover that will break up the trip into reasonable chunks. Also, the kids like the idea of
stopping in (yet) another state! (Audrey Ishizaki)
Make sure you tell your children to stay where they are if you get split up. I flew to Orlando with my 9, 7 and 1 year old. My 2 oldest children got out of the elevator to go to pick up our rental car and the doors closed before I could get out with the luggage and baby. Of course I panicked but I had explained to them many times that they should stay put if we ever got split up. By the time the elevator got back to the right floor, the girls were a tad nervous but I explained how proud I was that they had followed my instructions. My heart is racing a little bit right now just thinking about the incident. (kkwash2c)
We usually travel to WDW by car and find that giving the kids a special surprise each of the travel mornings helps us get there easier. On the way to Disney, it is usually a Disney themed surprise, like a Disney coloring book or activity book. On the way home, it is usually a game for the car. These surprises bring hours of happiness and can be a blessing for the adults in the car. (c)
Second area of advice is regarding the hotel! The pool is one of the main draws in this age group.
Remember to bring goggles for the children if you have them. If you are staying at one of the hotels that has a beach with sand such as the Carribbean Beach remember to bring some sand toys. A shovel, a sieve and a small pail don't take up much room and will keep you from having to buy some while there.
We went to the pool so often that I now bring one bag which is waterproof and collapsible. This is our "pool" bag. Everything that we would need for the pool always went in this so it was a snap to get ready for the pool.
All WDW resort hotel pools allow parents to borrow life vests for their children (I believe with resort ID). These are much, much safer than blow up water wings and give the same amount of independence to a small child who wants to use the "big pool." (Kevin Faherty)
Many of the hotel pools (Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge I know
first hand) let you use life vests at the pools for free. (Louis Lupin)
The third key area is the hotel keys. If you decide to give your children each a key for the room, make sure that they get into the habit of always keeping it in one place. We have fanny packs for each child so it had to go into this every time.
If one of you loses your room key, you have to turn in the remainder and get issued new keys for everyone. One year we each lost our key, entailing us to go to the reception area three separate times! Put me in a rubber room!
Another idea for the hotel is to use a walki-talkie. I am used to getting up early and since I couldn't put on the light, I would leave the walkie talkie on the night table between the two beds and leave the room to go get breakfast. The children knew that if they woke up they were to signal for me and I could come right back to the room.
It also helped when the oldest did not want to go to the food court with us but stay in the room watching TV. I was ok with leaving her as long as the walkie talkie was on.
I have a 5 yr old and we wanted to save $, so I carried a backpack with me to all of the parks. In the pack I stashed juice pouches and snack foods (along with all of the other goodies like: autographbook, camera, rain ponchos. We could stretch a meal and didn't have to pay park prices for snack items. Also, we rented a fridge for our hotel room ($10/night) and would freeze water bottles at night. They would melt during the day, so you had cold water available for several hours. We also found that for a family of 3 it was almost the same price to have a town car pick us up at the airport as it was to take the shuttle. We didn't have to share the ride, or the time it takes to make multiple stops and our ride included a 30 minute grocery stop! Talk about a money saver! Sue and Steve Breske
Before going, I purchased several small Disney related items at discount stores and put them in my backpack in the morning. During different times I would bring them out for the kids, such as Monsters candy dispenser waiting to meet Mike and Sulley. They were a huge hit, and the kids weren't always asking for something. I also made the kids canvas pouches that went around their necks, I painted mouse ears and their names on them. They held their disney dollars, pennies and quarters for press and pen and cards for autographs. Their hands were free and they got alot of compliments on them. (Zolman Family)
We noticed that when it got hot our 5, 7, and 9 yr olds did not want to be outside and got cranky. We reccomend going to a park in the morning when it first opens, eating lunch there, and then coming home after lunch. Take a "rest time" for a few hours during the hottest part of the day before hitting the parks again after about 4 o'clock. (DaddysAngel)
When it comes to themepark touring, I bring just my waist pack to strap on. That leaves two hands free to hold hands and I have the third child grasp my shirt if it is really crowded and dark (leaving Fantasmic!) so I know where they all are. I've never "lost" a child and don't want to ever experience that unique terror! I can carry autograph books, annual passes, credit cards, disneyclub card, money, my little digital elph camera, two flat fold up umbrellas, the trashbags we use as ponchos and snacks in the waist pack. (Cheryl Dionne)
One of the best (and cheapest) ways my wife and I have found to entertain our kids at the world is bubbles. We buy several small bottles before leaving and keep them with us in the parks. They are perfect for kids that are tired of waiting in line for attractions or buses. Another cheap and inexpensive way to keep kids this age busy- hidden mickeys. We will usually visit the hidden mickeys web site before a trip and print several pages worth and then go over these with the kids while waiting on or riding buses. Have a contest to see who spots the most HM's in a day. Nothing gets our 5 year old more excited than being the first one to spot a HM. (Scott and Deb Allen)
My son was 6 when we went to WDW and he was terrified of thunder. Many of the Disney rides and shows have lightning and thunder, so we were concerned about him. We also wanted to enjoy the fireworks and laser shows. We brought along (and carried everywhere) a pair of hearing protectors that my husband uses when he operates noisy equipment. We also tried to ask whoever was operating the ride if it was loud. This made the trip much more enjoyable for him and everyone in the family. (hoffmann)
My six-year-old daughter enjoys using her own camera, so I buy a couple of inexpensive "disposable" cameras from Wal-Mart for her to use on our Disney trips. She is quite accustomed to being photographed with the characters, so she finds it amusing to take pictures of Mom for a change! (Michelle Green Jimmerson)
Bring an extra pair of tennis shoes. In the past we have found that when
going on the water rides their tennis shoes would get wet and stay wet all
day. We now plan on doing the wet rides when we can take a break and go back to the room and change into a pair of dry tennis shoes and then let the wet pair dry for the next day. Although sandels are great, most of the time the kids ended up with blisters which everybody knows will quickly spoil a trip! (Tsjkjbcbbrumley)
After taking our eight year old daughter and two nieces (5 & 11) I offer the following tips.
Give your child the map and let them chose the attractions they want to see. Then help them plan a route so you aren't running from one place to another. More than one kid in the group, they can take turns being the "tour guide".
Have a meeting place in case you get lost but in case panic sets in, we always place a business card with our cell number and hotel info in our daughter's sock, that way she can have a cast member assist her in locating us even if she panics. I thought it would be more difficult to lose a little one but they tend to be in strollers and its the older ones who seem to get easily distracted. My husband dubbed our daughter , Drifty – the other dwarf, because she wandered away.
Have candy or snacks for long lines stashed and we found a game boy to be great not only for lines but for the bus and also waiting on our meals in restaurants.
Lastly, I would reccommend that you don't assume that an
older child 4 or 5 is too old for a stroller, there is alot of walking
and usually alot of heat plus it helps to keep track of them, We were able to keep up a pretty good pace in the parks even to late at night by taking a break in the afternoon and putting the 5 year old in a stroller.
We also gave our daughter her own money to spend. There are endless gift shops as everyone knows and when the inevitable "can I have this" and "can I have that" begins, we would say if you want it, you have money. It's amazing how some things no longer some important. (marsee)
Pin lanyards can get heavy for kids to wear and we worry about lost
pin backs that lead to lost pins. So, I tend to carry the kids' lanyards (with pins) in my bag and bring it out when the kids find a CM with pins they want! Additionally, we only go out with pins the kids are sure they want to trade. The kids save the "keeper" pins back at the hotel, where they won't get lost. This helps minimize how much they (well, *I*) carry. (Audrey Ishizaki)
Many thanks to Claire Reppucci for writing the original article!
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