Disney with Teens

Looking for any advice on how to approach Disney with teens. My kids are 17, 14, 9, and 7 and we will be heading to Disney for 9 park days and a travel day on either side so 11 days of togetherness :hugs: We’ve been on 6 trips as a family over the years (last trip was 2017). We all really love Disney and can’t wait to go, but I was wondering how those of you with less-than-cheerful (for lack of a better phrase) teens fare at Disney.

I made ADRs and FPP to hit each person’s top 5 attractions and top requested restaurant. We have a mix of RDs (4 with 1 in each park and no EMH) and late nights (3) with sleep-in days after for at least the teens (1 of those days the rest of us will RD MK for 2nd time). I am willing to buy them copious amounts of food to ward off the hangries and have suggested, especially to my oldest, that when he’s had too much family time, he is welcome to catch a bus back to the resort at any time. I have also included one special thing of each child’s choosing in our plans.

Not really looking for tips on parenting teens, more just how to give them space on a long family vacation and get them to just enjoy Disney. Or will I have better luck getting blood from a turnip? Do any teen-visit survivors have any advice, tips, or good stories? TIA

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This past summer we went to Disneyland with our six kids, ages 17, 15, 13, 12, eight, and five. The oldest two, and occasionally the oldest three or four, which branch off on their own for periods of two hours or so. Typically they were looking for us again before we were thinking about them.

Although they had never been to Disneyland before, they visit Disney World, and other amusement parks, frequently enough that I knew they were mature enough to handle it.

They ate meals with us, but I would’ve been fine if they chose to eat some on their own.

My kids enjoy Disney and rides, but by park day four the oldest two were not excited about me extending our tickets to a fifth day. So we did not.
I was very disappointed. In retrospect I should’ve went ahead and got the fifth day for the rest of us and let them stay at the rental. :thinking:

I would let the oldest two get some time on their own. If they get on OK, then you could tour together for a while, then let them go off and do their own thing. Either meet you later in the park or back at the resort.

Sounds like you already have plans for a sleep-in for them on a couple of days. At 14 my eldest slept in some days and met us at the Park later. Sure he missed some things but it was better all round than having a grumpy teen with us all day!

So if possible play it by ear, be flexible. You could give them charging privileges but set a limit. So they can get lunch but not go on a shopping spree. As they spend money you can increase (or decrease) the limit as necessary. Front desk can do this.

I did not know you could set a limit. I had planned to let them charge whatever food they want but have a gift card for souvenirs but this is really good to know.

Last summer my two were 15 and almost 13. Surprisingly Mr 15 was pretty easy to get along with the whole time. Mr 13 had his moments (more than I care to think about).

We really took into consideration what everyone wanted to do and explained ahead of time that sometimes we do things that others want to do more than us just because we are a team of 4. We didn’t send ours off on their own but that is something we might consider when they are a bit older.

Honestly though I find that my kids get along better on vacation than they do at home.

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My kids (DD19, DS17, DD16) also get along well during vacation… something about them being away from their friends and being stuck with us I guess. I love our time together because we all bond and enjoy each others company without distractions. We pile in 1room (usually EP resort) and it works just fine, but we have traveled together as a family a lot so they are used to it and very easy going.

I do give them charging privileges, and if they want to go off on their own, that’s fine.They rarely actually do it because they know I plan well and it is easier to stick with me.
Before I make FP, I have them go through the list of rides (insert teenagers rolling their eyes at me) and tell me their preferences. They were very clear that they have no interest in certain shows ( like Little Mermaid and Beauty and Beast Show in HS), so we skip them. They do not like to RD every day so I plan 1RD for each park, the other mornings we have a later start. I also think it helps if they know ahead of time what our schedule for the day is ( what time do we get up, when do we swim, where do we eat etc.).
For us is more about creating memories than making sure we hit all the rides so our pace is definitely slower now.

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That is key I think! My two teens are not buddies but they don’t really fight or anything, they just do their own thing usually. I’d be surprised if they went off together, but fingers crossed it goes as well as possible. My younger two on the other hand are lost without the other, even though they do squabble a bit.

My teens agreed to RD once per park too and then I have scheduled things they aren’t all that into (carousel, meet Ariel, ETWB) on our other MK RD day so they won’t miss much if they sleep in and meet us at lunch time. Getting them out the door for RD may be a whole other story. :laughing:

I will give them the daily plan ahead of time so they can judge what they want to do. They have in the past just followed me as our plans have worked well and they have friends who went and rode like 3 things in one afternoon at MK so they at least know that my planning is :100:

Hope we have some easy to get along with kids too. It’s Disney, how can you not be happy!

I think as long as you’re flexible about them joining you or not, that things will be fine!

If they decide one morning, or the evening before, they don’t want to get up for rope drop, then I would be saying “fine, you can see what FPs I’ve booked. We are eating at Sci Fi at 12:30, see you there. Text me to tell me when you’re leaving. Remember your magic bands!”. Rather than trying to force them to get up at 7:00am.

However, I get that for some people, they would not be happy doing that. My kids had been using buses in the city on their own since they were around 11 or 12, so I had no qualms about them being able to catch a bus or boat or walk to a park on their own at 14.


Been going to WDW with my girls for many years (they are now 19,17,17). They all love Disney and so really look forward to the trips. Have found over the years that they want a mix of family time, time on their own and some good meals - the mix will change each trip. Generally we do the mornings as a family and have family signature meals on some of the evenings. Outside of that we are flexible and often split into different groups depending on who want to do what (e.g. Two go to see characters, 2 go to a park for a show and 1 lounges in the pool). I’ve given my girls charging privileges for many years - really makes my (and their) life’s easier. Overall, the trios with teenagers are different from when they were young, but still encredibly enjoyable and a source of some great family memories


We went last year with DS16 and DD14. Short trip so they stayed with us the whole time and were downright pleasant. Disney bubble brings out the smiles. Only issue was when DS got hangry at Universal. Refused to snack because he didn’t want to ruin dinner (insert mom of teen eye roll). This year will be longer trip and both insist we are going RD to FW everyday (“there is no rest at Disney”). My plan is to try to rally the troops for RD and leave without them if it doesn’t work. During the day I have told them they can wander off by themselves but I bet they won’t. I have awesome TP!


I have two teens as well (DD16 and DS13) and we regularly travel to Disney parks annually, generally alternating between WDW and DL. My kids have come to understand how touring plans and ADRs make everything easier, so they are happy to defer to my plans.

My wife and I let them venture on their own when they want to, typically if we have a dessert party or something planned, I tend to check in early or precisely on time being and “A type” person, the kids will then go hit a bunch of E ticket rides while we hold down a good viewing spot.

What also is interesting, is that both of them typically like to sleep late at home, but at Disney they are all about the RD. In fact, at our last trip to DL I had some sleep in days built into the plan, but my DD insisted we wake up so we ended up RDing the entire trip! My wife had more sense - she would meet us at lunch at our ADR.

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You all are giving me hope that life will be a bit easier with teens at Disney. I am really looking forward to spending time with them on our trip as at home we run to sports, work, friends, etc. more than ever now that they are older.


Yes, time is short and life outside the bubble is too busy. DS leaves for college this Fall. This is likely our last family Disney trip for awhile as we really hated our one mid-Summer trip and it’s not really acceptable to miss a week of class in college to see Mickey. Of course, I used the same excuse last February as I thought we wouldn’t be able to get away this year.

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Sounds like you have some good advice. Haven’t read it all, so I might be repeating. But here is what we do/have done.

Since we weren’t staying on property, we wanted the kids to be able to spend what they wanted when they wanted within reason. So, we had bought a bunch of gift cards before the trip and divided them up among the kids. I don’t remember exactly, but we had pre-figured out what they’d likely want/need, including snacks, and so handed out their “next gift card” each day as appropriate. Then, they could decide when/where to spend it. If they were tight with their food spending, they could use whatever was left over for souvenirs, etc. We always covered one main meal and breakfast separate from their gift card spending.

We also set up expectations of “family time” in the parks, versus “free time” in the parks. They knew that part of each day we’d be doing things together, but other times we would allow them to go off and do their own thing. Establishing this up front was helpful in keeping them from just wanting to be on their own the whole time, but gave them the freedom they wanted as well. Generally, the “family time” would involve the pre-scheduled Fast Passes, and the “free time” would start around lunch or early afternoon. (Sometimes, they would just CHOOSE to stay together with us the whole time!)


I think you’ve done the best that you can in planning. It seems that the key factor with teens is that they need some time away from everyone else sometimes and they tend to want to sleep more than any other human in the world would need to! :smile: I used to get upset if I thought someone in my party was “missing something”. Let’s face it, after you have spent as much time planning as we all do, it’s disappointing when people don’t want to get out of bed for your plans. But…I have determined that we all have a better time when I let everyone go at their own pace. Grant it, there have been entire days that I have been in the park by myself while everyone else hung out at the resort and we met back up for dinner but when we met back up for dinner, everyone was happy and I came to realize that I love those solo park days! :slight_smile: If your family loves Disney and enjoys being together, it sounds like you’ve got it going on with the planning and, with a little give and take, everyone should have fun!!