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A Whole New World: Disney with Teens

We started going to Disney World before we even had children. Back in the day, we'd ride everything we wanted and at night we'd hang out in Pleasure Island, club hopping and sampling cocktails and Jell-O Shots. Then we had our two beautiful daughters and headed back to share the magic with them when they were just 4 and 1.5 years old. It was a very different way of experiencing Disney, but, oh so special!!

When our girls were little, they'd wake before sunrise, anxious to get the day going. Making Rope Drop at each park was a piece of cake! Our plans often included a Pre Park Opening breakfast, at Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom or Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, touring until lunchtime. We'd head out for a swim or a nap and then back to the parks for the evening. When the kids were really little, they'd often be in bed by 8:00, so we missed a lot of fireworks and evening shows.

Years have passed, however and we now have one teenager and one almost-teenager. While they still LOVE Disney, our touring has definitely changed. Here are a few tips I have learned:

1. Don't plan anything too early in the day.

It's just so hard for teens to get up and go early in the morning, we find our girls are much happier if they can sleep in a bit. Our touring plan usually alternates early days with sleep in days. What I love about Walt Disney World is that I can plan our Fast Passes for a but later in the day, so we don't have to be in a rush in the morning. We know that we will be able to ride our top 3 rides even if we arrive later.

Our pre park opening breakfasts have changed into later breakfast reservations. We still love to eat at Crystal Palace and Tusker House (there are other great ones too!!), but I reserve them for 10:30 or so. That way, if we arrive around park opening, we can tour a bit and then eat a late breakfast. I still get my Pooh's Puffed French Toast (yes, it's on the kids buffet, don't judge) and we all get an easier start to the day.

TIP: Disney resorts offer free Wi-Fi! So, when your teens want some down time, make sure they are using the Wi-Fi and not their data!! Kids who can keep up with their friends at home will be much happier too!!

2. Older kids will be able to ride anything. And characters aren't as important.

There are height restrictions on many attractions at Walt Disney World. These are designed with safety in mind. Older kids, however, can ride EVERY SINGLE RIDE!! No need to use Rider Swap or plan around the big attractions.

We no longer wait in lines to meet special characters. They still enjoy the character meals, but we don't HAVE to meet a particular princess anymore. This frees up time to do other things.

TIP: If your kids are really into thrill rides (or Harry Potter), you may wish to combine your Disney trip with a day or two at Universal Studios.

3. Variety is the spice of life

My girls used to really like plain food: pasta with butter, strawberries and bread. Disney World offers lots of great choices for children's palates. The buffets are really helpful so kids can make their own plates and almost always find something to their liking.

Now, however, my girls love to explore new flavors and cuisines. Disney World has added some amazing new restaurants in recent years. We tried Morimoto Asia recently and my girls LOVED it!! Others to try include Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge; Spice Road Table in EPCOT; and Tiffin's at Animal Kingdom. All have been wonderful experiences for us.

In addition to the variety at Disney World, our girls are excited to try other Disney destinations as well! We have a Disney Cruise booked for next year and hope to do an Adventures by Disney trip in 2019.

4. Taking teens out of school is really stressful

When they were in grade school, we would miss a week of school for vacation and they could just make it up. No big deal! i even got days excused because our trips were educational.

Once they started Middle School and, especially High School, they really cannot miss school for vacations. This means we are traveling during school breaks, along with everyone else! Disney World attracts so many visitors from around the world, it's bound to be busy any time. The moral of the story is to plan carefully. So many first timers want to just 'wing it' at Disney World, but it just isn't a good idea. With a good plan, you can have fun and create those special memories to last a lifetime. So, use a Travel Agent who specializes in Disney or do your homework!!

5. The Parks are BEAUTIFUL at night!

Needless to say, those 8:00 bedtimes are long gone! We usually are able to enjoy all the nighttime shows at the Disney Parks and they are spectacular! There are new shows on the way this year and we are excited to see those too!! On our last trip to Disney World, we were lucky enough to see the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show at EPCOT with the special Christmas ending. The show didn't start until 10:00! But, my kids were great and watched the whole show! I am so happy we did because it is spectacular.

6. Everyone is BIGGER and they have more stuff!! And, the stuff is bigger too!!

I remember when my daughter could bring a week's worth of clothes in a tiny suitcase. No more! They each take a suitcase and we still have some overflow. I recommend that you look at staying in the largest room you can afford. We stay in rooms for five, even though we are only four, so each person can have a bed. Some of these include Port Orleans - Riverside Preferred rooms, Beach Club, or a deluxe villa.

Needless to say, those 8:00 bedtimes are long gone! We usually are able to enjoy all the nighttime shows at the Disney Parks and they are spectacle

7. Teens can EAT their WEIGHT in food!

If you have teenagers, especially boys, then I have one word for you - buffet! Disney food can get expensive. At a buffet, your teen can eat as much as they care to, which is a real bonus. And, there are plenty of good ones to choose like BOMA, Tusker House, or the classic Chef Mickey. You could also consider O'hana, which is served family style, but is also 'as much as you care to enjoy.' Another idea is to pack or order snacks, saving you lots of money trying to fill them up in the parks.

Mary Graham is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters and Castles Travel. She loves taking her family to Disney World, especially for Christmas!! She has turned a vacation planning hobby into a business with Coasters and Castles. Her favorite ride is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and her favorite character is Dumbo! She lives in North Carolina.

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