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6 Disney World Tips 2024–Visiting with a Four-Year-Old

Everything we learned taking our four-year-old to Disney World for the first time.

By Megan Sweeney
6 Disney World Tips 2024–Visiting with a Four-Year-Old

Megan Sweeney

Recently, I took my first family trip to Disney World with my husband and four-year-old daughter. While we were only there for three days, we still managed to visit all four parks and Disney Springs.

Disney World truly has something for everyone at every age, but visiting Disney World with a four-year-old for the first time was pretty magical. We loved everything about the trip but also learned a lot. Here are our top Disney World tips when visiting with a four-year-old.

6 Disney World tips when visiting with a four-year-old

Be prepared for security checkpoints before entering the parks

Before entering any of the parks or Disney Springs, you must go through a security checkpoint—even for early theme park entry. Be prepared to remove all bags and your child from your stroller so the attendants can inspect it.

You must push your stroller beside the metal detector, and you’ll then bring your bags and child through them. You’ll either be able to leave or need to stay for a bag check.

Security checked our bags many times, and it was always a painless process. So how I organized our backpack with smaller mesh bags made emptying and packing back up easier, and items in the bag were more accessible throughout the day.

Bring or rent a stroller, trust me

author megan's daughter sleeping in a stroller Megan Sweeney

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This is one of our best tips for Walt Disney World. Even though our daughter does not regularly sit in a stroller anymore, it was a necessity in the parks and moving throughout Disney World. The days are long, and the parks are big. We would have all been miserable if she had to walk or ask us to carry her the whole time.

We chose to bring our stroller from home to have something for her to sit in at the airport. You can bring an umbrella stroller or even a double travel stroller, but remember wagons and wagon strollers are not permitted in any of the Disney parks.

There are many rental options if you decide to leave yours at home. For example, you can rent Disney strollers at the parks for about $15 per day, but you can’t leave the parks with them. Alternatively, companies like ScooterBug will deliver and pick up the stroller rental from your hotel.

Strollers are available as soon as the park opens, or at your Disney resort pretty much 24-7.

Although size limits exist, all the parks and different transportation options within Disney World are stroller friendly. There are designated stroller parking areas everywhere, and I never felt nervous that someone would steal it.

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Bring your backpack and any valuables with you on rides or into restaurants, and do not leave them in the stroller parking. Close the cover if the stroller parking area is sunny so the seat isn’t too hot when you return.

Get familiar with the My Disney Experience app ahead of time

Photo of the my disney experience app open on a phone My Disney Experience App

The My Disney Experience App will be your home base throughout your Disney trip. The app is well-designed and holds all your hotel, park and dining reservations in one place. It is also where you will buy Genie+, book your lightning lanes and plan your day.

We stayed at the Disney Contemporary Resort, a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, which connects to the app just like every other Disney resort hotel. If you are parking at the Disney Contemporary Resort, the app explains the different parking options, costs and accessibility services.

The app offers walking directions throughout the parks as you’re learning where everything is and tells you how long it will take to get there. It displays current wait times for different rides and shows for you to plan your day. Looking up opening and closing times is a breeze as well.

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The app is connected to the Memory Maker plan if you purchase it. As soon as a cast member takes your photos through the park, they will appear in the app.

Genie+ is worth the investment

Disney World’s paid service, Genie+, allows you to book Lightning Lanes and skip ahead of the regular standby lanes for rides, shows and meet and greets. Prices for Genie+ vary depending on the time of year, and you must purchase it on the day you plan to use it. When we visited in April, it cost $20 per person for the day, but I’ve seen the price as high as $35.

Genie+ takes some time to figure out, but once you understand how it works, it is easy to use. Starting at 7 am, after you’ve purchased Genie+ for the day, you can log on and book your first Lightening Lane.

You can only book for the park you have a reservation for that day, not one you plan to park hop to later in the afternoon if you have park hopper passes. It’s best to plan out which rides you want to go on first and try to get that booked as early in the day as possible. Then, when you check in for your first Lightning Lane, you can go on the My Disney Experience app and book another one.

Skipping ahead and significantly shortening wait times made the days at the parks so much easier with a four-year-old. She didn’t lose interest as fast, and we could move through the parks more efficiently.

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Flipping through the My Disney app to book Genie+ also helped us discover attractions we didn’t know about. If you change your mind, you can easily modify or cancel your reservation and choose something different.

Your lightning lane is good for one hour from the time you choose, and you can check in up to 5 minutes before. For some rides, we walked right on in the lightning lane; for others, we still needed to wait 10 to 20 minutes (some people claim it can go up to 30 minutes), but it was always faster than going in the standby lane.

MagicBands (or DisneyBands) are fun and convenient but not essential

author megan's daughter using a magic band to open the disney hotel room door Megan Sweeney

MagicBands (or DisneyBands) are another paid item not included in your hotel or park reservation. They look like a watch, come in dozens of different designs and hold all your reservation information in one place.

You enter the parks, check into lightning lanes and even open your hotel room by scanning the band. We decided to pre-purchase our MagicBands+ before arriving at Disney World, which added an extra element of specialness when we checked into our hotel.

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The bands had our names engraved and all our information programmed. We all chose our designs and could put them on right away. You can peel off part of the strap to fit small wrists but cannot make it longer again once you do.

While having the bands made getting in anywhere very easy, and the novelty of having them was neat, we could’ve easily gotten by without them. The park pass cards work the same way, and our four-year-old took off the bracelet almost immediately. I was then nervous that we would lose it for the rest of the trip (because we removed half the strap so it would only fit her wrist).

We also never figured out the extra features of the MagicBand+, so we didn’t need that upgraded version.

Memory Maker is a great way to get family pictures

author megan with daughter and husband in front of the castle at magic kingdom. tinkerbell appears in her daughters hand Megan Sweeney

Photographers will be ready to take your picture around Disney World at the best spots. So, if you purchase Memory Maker, which can be done right in the My Disney app, you will get the photos instantly uploaded to your phone.

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I loved this service. It took a lot of pressure off me to take photos constantly (although that happened), and I also ensured I was in lots of pictures. As the one who’s usually behind the lens, it was lovely to have someone else take that responsibility off my hands.

You'll even notice a few surprises pop up when you check out the photos afterwards. We had appearances from Mickey, Tinkerbell and pre-recorded videos of the Kilimanjaro Safari.

Character meet, and greet events often had stationary cameras that snap photos every few seconds. Again, this lets me enjoy the moments more and not worry I was missing a photo opportunity. Scan your MagicBand or park pass before you leave the meet and greets to get the photos.

Memory Maker is purchased in advance (three or more days before your trip) for $169 or during or after your trip for $199 and is active for your entire stay. If you just want a single day, the cost is $69. Photos stay in the app for up to 60 days and can be downloaded one by one or in bulk.

What is the best Disney World park for a 4 Year Old?

Magic Kingdom

author Megan with her daughter sitting in front of the castle at magic kingdom looking at it Megan Sweeney

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Magic Kingdom was by far our favourite park to take our four-year-old. Although it has something for every age, this park is excellent for little kids. You can feel the magic as soon as you approach the front gates, and it stays with you the whole time. There are many rides with no height restrictions, and they aren't too scary.

There are many character meet and greets, character dining and shows to keep kids entertained. We were able to catch the performance at the castle a few times and loved just walking through the park and taking it all in.

For lunch we ate at a quick service restaurant, these will save you time and money, but the food is equally as good as the sit down restaurants. At some quick service places you can place a mobile order as well. It was recently announced that Disney dining plans will return for the first time in 2024 since the pandemic.

We had a character dinner at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and his friends, experienced the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and stayed late for the fireworks. All three were highlights of our first family trip to Disney World.

If we return to Disney World soon, we will definitely go back to Magic Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom

author megan's daughter talking to mickey mouse at the tusker house at animal kingdom Megan Sweeney
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After spending the morning at Magic Kingdom, we park-hopped over to Animal Kingdom.

We started with the Kilimanjaro Safari. We used our Genie+ to move quicker through the line, but getting to the front still took a while. Thankfully, most of the line is shaded and well-ventilated.

The safari itself is spectacular. You get a great view of the different animals and the drivers are very knowledgeable.

Although the ride was amazing, I found it stressful with a four-year-old. Since you are so close to the animals and driving through their homes, you need to be very quiet, especially around a few of them.

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As you can imagine, a four-year-old would be very excited to see so many animals up close. So when the driver came on the speaker to the whole car and told her to be quiet, it put a damper on the rest of the ride. I wish we had known about the noise restrictions before going in to prepare her better.

After the safari, we saw the 'Festival of the Lion King.' It was a spectacular show with incredible music, Cirque-du-Soleil style acrobatics and a mix of live actors and singers and animatronic characters.

We ate dinner at the Tusker House, another character dinner with a buffet. The food was great, and the characters, Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Daisy came to the table multiple times for extra visits and hugs.

EPCOT

photo of the large silver ball at epcot Megan Sweeney

EPCOT was a big hit for our Frozen-loving four-year-old, the only place you can meet Elsa and Anna in Norway, which is part of the World Showcase.

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If you're unfamiliar with EPCOT, the World Showcase is organized by country. You can travel the world all in one day, trying different food, drinks and meeting characters.

If your four-year-old also loves Frozen and wants to meet the famous sisters from Arendelle, remember that you can't use your Genie+ to book a lightning lane, and it will likely be a long wait. We got there right when it opened, and the line was over an hour. Thankfully the line goes through their summer cottage with lots to look at and explore.

We used our Genie+ for the Frozen Ever After ride, which sees lines as long as two hours or more for standby. Our daughter is not a big fan of rides, but we enjoyed this one. It's an impressive ride with great music and animatronic characters.

Our morning at EPCOT finished with a character lunch at the Garden Grill, a table service restaurant. Here you meet Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale. The food was great, and the restaurant spun while you ate, so your view constantly changed.

The restaurant entertained our four-year-old during this lunch, but she didn't eat a lot. We weren't able to order from the kid's menu because the menu style is all-you-can-eat from their fixed items. We loved the food though and would go back.

Hollywood Studios

author megan's daughter posing with woody and jessie from toy story at hollywood studios Megan Sweeney
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After our morning at EPCOT, we park-hopped over to Hollywood Studios via the Skyliner, one of the many Disney World transportation options. Our main reasons for going to Hollywood Studios were for my husband to build a lightsaber at Savy's workshop in Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and to have dinner at the new restaurant in Toy Story Land, Woody's BBQ Roundup.

Like every other park, there is a ton to see and do (and if you love Snow White, hit the Dwarf Mine Train). When we arrived, my husband left and went to build a lightsaber, and I took our four-year-old to meet some Disney Jr. characters. There was a designated area with multiple characters in a row that we could quickly jump from one to the next.

We spent the rest of our time in Toy Story Land. We met Woody and Jessie and had dinner at Woody's Roundup BBQ. The meal was delicious family-style, the decor was unreal, and the staff was so much fun. Although this is not a character dinner, I recommend making advanced dining reservations.

We finished the day off with a viewing of Fantasmic. It is a live-action, musical fireworks show with a combination of actors, large animatronic characters and visual effects. Everything about this show is spectacular. You see all the Disney princesses, Mickey Mouse and a number of other characters all together.

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The music is nostalgic and the effects are beyond impressive. It was the perfect way to end our trip to Disney World.

This article was originally published on May 12, 2023

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