This summer, we took a trip back to Walt Disney World. It had been 10 years since we last went to Disney. We LOVED our last trip. Our son was 9 and our daughter was 4. Everything was exciting to them and to us! It was the PERFECT time to take a week long Disney trip, but we had no idea how to have a no drama trip to Disney with teens.
Well, the opportunity to visit again fell into our laps and while we were excited to visit WDW again, we truly wondered if it would be fun for our teens. To be more specific, two 14 year old girls! Our daughter and our niece, just months apart, would be our traveling companions for this trip. Now, if you have teenage girls, you know that the one thing you can count on with them is that you can’t count on anything. Once girls reach 13, all bets are off. Parents can’t keep up with what they like, don’t like, their moods, or anything else that changes on a day-by-day or minute-by-minute basis. So, we had NO idea if they would actually like anything WDW had to offer.
Knowing this, we took some extra steps with planning that enabled us, and our girls, to have an AMAZING Disney trip. We are going to share all of our tips to help you LOVE your next teen trip to Disney or anywhere else for that matter. Many of the tips will carry over to other amusement parks and some tips will carry over to any trip you are taking with teens. We are going to give you some strategies and ideas that will help you have a no drama trip to Disney with teens and truly enjoy your vacation.
Plan, plan, plan
Schedule out everything you want to do on your trip day by day BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME. Be sure to use the Disney app. Involve the kids in the planning process at home so that they have a voice and feel invested, but don’t feel put on the spot in the moment. This will avoid a lot of IDK conversations. Every time we asked the girls, what do you want to eat or “would you rather” questions we were quickly met with the “teenage slump”. You know the one, shoulder shrug and blank stare that all of you parents of teens know all too well.
Bring comfort items
Just like traveling with toddlers, teens respond well to comfort items. Our girls love to have a blanket with them. While it's definitely not a “blankey” like toddlers need, many teens like the idea of comfort (it's why so many think wearing pajamas in public is socially acceptable). Check out World's Best Cozy-Soft Microfleece Travel Blanket that we love to travel with!
Wear comfortable shoes
Our daughter found this out the hard way. I have back issues so I knew this was an item I was willing to spend some extra bucks on. I spoke with my chiropractor and she told me the best thing for my back and the 46 miles we ended up walking during our week at Disney. She suggested I visit a local running store where the sales man quickly brought out what he called the “Disney Shoe”. Ha! He was spot on with his description! I ended up with the Hoka One One Bondi. These shoes were originally created for trail runners so they have extra cushion that makes ALL the difference.
Our daughter, on the other hand, felt that slip on shoes with no socks would be the way to go. She quickly found out this was a mistake. A few dozen bandaids later, some coushioned socks, and a pair of lace-up tennis shoes later and she was feeling MUCH better. I stashed these in my suitcase and pulled them out to help us have a no drama Disney trip with teens.
Let them pick a souvenir
Give them a budget or tell them they can have one item. Let them peruse the shops and find something they love. It’s a nice break from the heat, can be lots of fun, and makes them feel grown up. While they are perusing the shops in Epcot, be sure to stop into the shops in China and grab one of these amazing cotton candy creations.
Keep them hydrated and well fed
At WDW you can get free ice water at any quick service location with a soda machine. Be sure to encourage your teens to drink often! The heat can have them feeling badly quickly and teens who don’t feel well are the worst! To go along with that, teens have different food needs. While some are hungry all the time, others have very sporadic eating patterns. For instance, our two girls never wanted breakfast, but needed a good mid-morning snack. We were sure to ask them REGULARLY if they were hungry and needed anything. If we felt it had been too long, we would encourage them to eat a little something even if they didn’t feel hungry. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t be a great idea, however when you are very hot sometimes it takes away your appetite and you don’t realize that you need food until it is too late.
Another great location for free ice water is inside Starbucks in Hollywood Studios. They have a self-serve water pitcher set up by the straws and napkins and the shop is air conditioned.
Keep them cool
While hot toddlers cry and throw tantrums, hot teenagers get moody. While visiting WDW in the summer heat is unavoidable, there are ways to stay cool. We highly recommend them all to have a no drama Disney trip with teens.
- Take shopping breaks – even if you aren't buying anything this is a great way to spend some time in the air conditioned shops
- Eat meals inside whenever possible– there are plenty of fast service options that are inside in each of the parks. Just ask one of the guest experience teammates located around the park
- Take a shade break- there are plenty of shady areas around if you look closely. Grab a spot under a tree, awning, or anywhere else you can find to give everyone a five minute break from the sun's rays.
- Bring a Cooling Towel– These were LIVE SAVERS for us! You can run them under the water in a sink and then wring them dry. Give them a good shake and place them on your skin. They are instant relief! We found that the more you move them (shake, shake) the cooler they got! While you can buy these in the park, the cost $17 for ONE at WDW. We purchased ours from Amazon before we left home and bought 2 for $6.99!
- Carry a Fan- Don't wait and buy this at Disney! We brought 2 hand-held, rechargeable misting fans with us. They last for hours. are light-weight, and foldable. We carried them in our string bags and pulled them out while waiting in long lines. Grab a few on Amazon before you go and save a TON of money! We took the Opolar Handheld Misting Fan and loved it! We recharged it each night and it lasted for hours each day.
- Wear a hat– Again, buy it on Amazon and save a ton! Here are the three hats Di and the girls wore. The teens wanted to wear Disney hats, but wanted something more subdued than they wore as young kids.
Let them use their cell phones
While we often ask our kids to stay off of their phones during family time, there are also times when it can be beneficial for them to have their phones. Just set parameters. Do’s: use the app for map, fast pass times, and research; can take photos with characters and so don’t have to pay; can go off on their own and we can reach them easily. Don’t: get on social media (for safety and to stay present); text with friends at home.
Let the Sleep
Don’t push them too hard. We were go, go, go for the first two days and it really took a toll on the girls. Our advice is, don’t get up too early every day. Give them a little time to sleep in. Even if it is only until 9:00am. This will allow you to do some fun things at night, when they are at their best. After letting our girls sleep a little later, they really perked up in the evenings. We booked later dinner which enabled us to dine with fewer young kids and there were a lot more reservations available for the hot restaurants that we wanted to visit.
Give them Down Time
We also found that the girls really enjoyed having some down time. When they were little, we could just toss them in the stroller and power through. They would nap in the stroller or we would go back to the hotel for an afternoon nap. Our teens really enjoyed the pool at our hotel. We stayed at the Boardwalk Inn and they have a fun slide, poolside bar/restaurant, and lots of pool games going on throughout the day. We also spent one morning at the water park, Blizard Beach. They LOVED this and we were sure to let them wander around on their own while we kicked back in the lazy river, Cross Country Creek. We also let our girls explore the grounds around the hotel. Because we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn, there were cute shops, restaurants, and snack shops like Ample Hills Creamery. The girls were able to safely wander the Boardwalk and check out all of the fun.
Give them Some Freedom
Let them ride some rides by themselves. Our girls wanted to ride Space Mountain for the sixth time so we headed over to The People Mover and got a great breeze while they rode. We also let them make some of the choices. Again, to avoid “teenage slump”, it is best to give them 2 options rather than an open-ended question. Plus, if you get a free “any ride” fast passes let them choose which ride you will use it on. This will happen if the ride you were planning to ride is shut down unexpectedly, which happens nearly daily. The app will notify you that your ride is down and then tell you that you can use your fast pass for any ride you want at any time you want that day. We were always super excited when this happened! The girls looked at it as an added bonus!
Vacation is supposed to be fun! By following some of these simple and practical tips, you can ensure that your next teen trip is a huge success and you will have a no drama Disney trip with your teens. We had a TON of fun, wore ourselves out every day, and made memories that will last a lifetime.
If you are interested in hearing more top travel tips, be sure to check out our podcast, Fly with Chris and Di that airs weekly. Hear all of our previous episode and subscribe to hear new shows each week.
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