Here’s the best Disney vacation to take with kids at every age

Walt Disney World
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

Think of a Disney vacation and the theme parks probably pop into your mind. But beyond the iconic Space Mountain roller coaster and the Dole Whip cones, did you know that there are dozens of unique ways to travel with Disney? 

Adventures by Disney provides several guided group family trips around the world — from exploring the national parks in Utah and Arizona to jet-setting to Australia so you can snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. Plus, Disney’s cruise ships travel around the world, with itineraries that breeze down to the Caribbean or offer a European sampler.

Here are some of the best Disney trips for every age group that you can take outside of the parks.

Ages 3 – 7: Disney Aulani

This resort is where Mickey and his friends vacation, so you’ll spot them here wearing their Hawaiian best: floral shirts and leis. Scenic and quieter than nearby Waikiki, the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa is on the leeward coast of O’ahu and you’ll want at least one sunset family photo with the cove, palm trees and sherbert skies in the background. 

Included in your stay is access to Aunty’s Beach House, a spectacular kids’ club for children ages 3 to 12. Here, vacationing kiddos can do Hawaiian arts and crafts, access a closet full of dress-up clothes, learn about the culture of the island through storytelling and hula hoop and play games in the backyard. Lilo and Stitch make appearances, too! (Parents, trust us: Use this time to slip away to Laniwai, the resort’s spa where you can enjoy a traditional Hawaiian massage that incorporates lomilomi sticks and warm river stones). 

When they’re not hanging out in Aunty’s Beach House or building sandcastles on the beach, kids will also love the resort’s water slides, splash pad and Rainbow Reef, a private 3,800-square-foot snorkeling lagoon that’s teeming with tropical fish. Mickey-shaped shaved ice is the perfect afternoon treat.

Disney | Matt Stroshane

Ages 7 – 9: Alaskan Cruise

With rugged wildernesses, dramatic snow-capped peaks, and icy blue glaciers, Alaska lives up to its moniker of “The Last Frontier.” A cruise will give you a highlight reel of the state’s geographic diversity.

Excursions available on Disney’s 7-Night Alaskan Cruise itinerary include train rides and panning for gold in Skagway, Alaska, whale watching in Juneau, an up-close look at the Mendenhall Glacier and ziplining through the forest in Ketchikan.

While at sea, kids aboard the Disney Wonder ship can interact with costumed characters, attend MARVEL Super Hero Academy and see a live musical rendition of “Frozen.” While the minimum age for the cruise is 4, Disney’s suggested age is 6 and up. 

Disney | Matt Stroshane

Ages 9 – 11: Costa Rica Vacation

This 7-day itinerary is packed with fun surprises for curious, outdoors-loving kids. Some of the experiences on this Costa Rica vacation include a whitewater rafting trip along the Sarapiquí River (you can choose rapids ranging from mild to a little more wild), a boat tour in a forest where monkeys and sloths are known to make cameos and a soak in natural hot springs that are heated by the Arenal volcano.

The Adventures by Disney trips are led by knowledgeable guides, and the trips are known for taking travelers to bucket-list destinations and curating family-friendly itineraries, often with behind-the-scenes experiences. (Translated: You’re entirely relieved from your logistic-planning duties!) Disney recommends that children be at least 8 years of age for this Costa Rica trip. 

Disney | Gary Bogdon

Ages 11 – 13: Danube River Cruise Exploring Christmas Markets

If you love the magic of Disney parks during the holidays, you’ll appreciate the merry theme of this river cruise: Christmas markets of Europe. The cruise is a fun introduction to Europe with pre-teens, with stops in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

In addition to the glittering lights, gift stalls, and sweet treats at the traditional, fairytale-like Christmas markets, the trip includes a marzipan-making class, “The Sound of Music” karaoke and ice skating under holiday lights in Vienna. While children ages 4 and up are allowed on the River Cruise trip, Disney recommends children be at least 8 years of age. 

Disney | Kent Phillips

Age 13 – 15: Japan Vacation

Tour a bamboo forest in a rickshaw, watch a sumo wrestling demonstration, try out taiko drumming and visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples during this 11-day tour that covers Osaka, Kyota, Takayama, Hakone, Tokyo and other destinations.

The Adventures by Disney Japan trip is great for young teens because the cultural immersion will help them connect the dots of their history books. Plus, as a grand finale to the trip, you can add on a visit to Tokyo Disneyland, which has a mix of classic Disney attractions like “Splash Mountain” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” but also some unique rides and an extra emphasis on parades.

Disney | Chloe Rice

Age 15 – 17: Disneyland And Southern California

You’ll get plenty of time in the park during this Adventures by Disney trip to Disneyland and Southern California. But guests also get VIP access, including a private tour of Walt Disney Imagineering, which is perfect for teens who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) and how those fields meld with creativity. Disney Imagineering is the creative engine that designs and builds the theme parks and attractions.

While on the insider circuit, guests will have dinner at a Scottish-themed restaurant and see Walt Disney’s favorite booth there and get a private tour of Walt’s apartment overlooking Disneyland.

Disney | Jimmy DeFlippo

Who is ready for a magical vacation?

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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Visit Scripps News to see more of Brittany's work.

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