Kristina Hernandez: Disney trip -- What's the best age to take your kids to Magic Kingdom?

My fondest memories of visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida are during Christmas Break when I was maybe 16 or 17.

The weather was dreary and we somehow lucked out with thin crowds at the Magic Kingdom.

It was just my parents and two younger brothers who went that day and we rode all our favorite rides multiple times, took photos with characters and made memories that last to this day.

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I vaguely remember the times I went before that, when I was younger and tired and cranky.

As a parent of two little girls, I’ve thought about when the right age is to take them to the Happiest Place on Earth. But really, the question I should be asking is what kind of experience I want for them and my husband and myself.

Decisions about a Disney trip for a family comes down to these questions:

  1. Are we going there to experience the magic?
  2. Are we going there to ride all the rides and have an adventurous time?
  3. Or are we going there to have a memorable trip as a family without worrying about naps, diapers, and tantrums?

Disney has pretty much patented the creation of an unforgettable experience for their guests through a world of princesses and fairies and happiness. Should you take your kids before they stop believing in all that magic?

As a parent, watching the faces of my children, currently ages 9 and 5, light up when they see their favorite princess just melts my heart.

FILE- In this Jan. 31, 2017, file photo, cars travel one of the roads leading to Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

FILE- In this Jan. 31, 2017, file photo, cars travel one of the roads leading to Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Seeing the innocent excitement of your children, who truly believe in that magical world, is the sweetest thing and totally understandable as a reason to take children to Disney before they realize characters are just people dressed in costumes.

This age is a wonderful time to enjoy the theme park, take photos, and revel in the Disney magic.

Sure, you’ll have to deal with tired kids and possibly diaper changes if they are still little, but if your goal is to come home satisfied that you’ve given your child the ultimate Disney experience, then go when the kids are young.

And what about the ability of little kids to remember their trips to Disney? A 3-year-old likely won’t remember all the fun she had at the theme park - her parents will though, and that’s a valid reason for some people to take their kids.

Popular Science termed this lack of long term memory as “childhood amnesia,” where little kids can make memories of events that are all but lost by age seven. After that age, kids have a better chance of creating long-term memories.

Also by age 7, some kids may be tall enough to enjoy all the rides at the Magic Kingdom. For families who love Disney but also enjoy the thrill of Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you should wait till the kids are tall enough to get on those attractions.

If you love being stuck on Dumbo and It’s a Small World, then it doesn’t matter – but if enjoying the rides that require kids to be at least forty-four inches in height, take that into consideration when planning out your ideal vacation.

There are few things that will calm a kid who traveled all the way to Disney to ride Space Mountain only to find out he isn’t tall enough.

Depending on the age and height of a child, and the years between siblings, it’s entirely possible to go to Disney when they are both tall enough to go on all the rides and still believe in that special magic.

Lastly, if you’re looking for that last hurrah as a family before your kids go off to college, Disney is a really fun place to enjoy time together.

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There are no diapers to be changed, no tantrums (hopefully), and no worries about height requirements.

The kids will remember the trip and probably document it on whatever social media apps they are on. And for families with teens going to Disney, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Who doesn’t love a cool parade, fireworks, or eating as many turkey legs as possible?

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Even as a teenager who knew what was behind the masks and that the princesses wouldn’t be sleeping in a castle with their prince, I still enjoyed the Disney magic of seeing characters I grew up with in some aspect, as most little girls do.

I’m pretty sure there’s a photo somewhere of my brothers and I with Mickey Mouse stashed away in a photo album from that trip.

And ask any one of us today and we’ll tell you how we must have ridden on Splash Mountain at least 8 times because the lines were so short.

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There are advantages to choosing a Disney trip at any age; it really depends on the kind of adventure parents are hoping to achieve for their kids – or themselves.

Parents can have just as much fun as their children as they gift them that special experience.

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