When you have a Disney vacation planned, one of the things you immediately imagine is how your children (or you) will be when you see those famous Disney characters for the first time! If you have very small children, you may worry about whether or not your little sweeties will be scared or how to properly make that initial introduction. I have a little experience with this and here’s my best advice:
Babies and Toddlers: They won’t remember it, so it’s YOU who will be most disappointed if the character meeting doesn’t go well.
- Everyone wants pictures, so my best advice is easy does it. Small doses work best. Let your toddler look at the characters from far away first before getting them up close and personal. It helps if there’s an older sibling to lead the way, but if that’s not the case – let them see other children having fun with the characters so they know it’s a good thing.
- Worse case – take pictures of your little one with the character in the background if face-to-face is a no-go.
- Unless there are older siblings to consider, don’t waste your money on a character meal just yet. It’s worth every penny, though, when the time is right.
Which brings me to…. Children between four and ten:
- Now’s the time to dish out some dough. Character meals, character meet-and-greets, autograph books, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I promise – you’ll spend less money when they’re tweens and teens at Disney World than you will during this stage. Why spend the money (and the time waiting in line)? They’re only this age for a very little while – the age where they still believe in magic, still get a kick out of playing dress-up, and still think those characters are royal-celebrity-rock-stars!
- Character Dining – you have several choices at all four theme parks and many different resorts. Our favorite has always been Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort because of the classic characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy). There is character dining available with a wide variety of characters in every park and many resorts. For more details and information on selecting the right dining experience for you (or your child), check out this article at The Disney Food Blog.
- Character Meet and Greets + Autograph Collecting: ALL character interaction opportunities are covered here by a great source of Disney World info, Intercot.com. Sudden opportunities do present themselves and should be taken advantage of whenever possible (saves time). Bring along an autograph book, a tee shirt, a wide picture mat, or pillowcase for the characters to sign – these make great souvenirs! Bring large markers in different colors that are easy for the characters to grip and hand them open and ready to write to each character when the time comes.
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – Warning: You may experience sticker shock! This magical salon turns your little princess into her favorite Disney princess (or character). Why you should do it: After their transformation is complete, just take them to see an afternoon parade in the Magic Kingdom. The parade characters salute, bow, blow kisses, bestow royal waves – you name it- especially for the Disney princesses among the parades’ spectators. I must confess – I purposely find a place near one of these princesses in the crowd so I can watch her reaction (and her parents’) as the parade goes by and all those very priceless interactions take place – makes me misty-eyed every time.
- If your child is shy: Our own Megan was very timid as a little girl and didn’t want to speak to strangers – even Disney characters. We found that the silent, happy (no villains), non-speaking characters were her favorites since there was no chance they would ask her a question or require her to speak to them at any time.
Tweens, Teens, and Adults:
- Best to look for those sudden moments that pop up when the characters are available and the line is short or non-existent. These are some of my most favorite vacation pictures EVER! Mostly because running into the characters was a surprise (in an out-of-the way place) and the characters are more inclined to be playful or tease in unexpected ways. Villains are perfect for older children and adults.
- Character meals can still be fun. Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s is still one of our favorite things to do. Also, 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian offers a character dinner that features Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the Stepsisters, Drizella and Anastasia…they are perfect for character interaction with teens and adults as they are extremely funny (and the sisters may be a bit much for little ones).
- Disney Cruise Line – Characters abound on the high seas! With older children especially, watch for those unexpected opportunities. In port, there are usually characters waiting on the pier to welcome you back to the ship – depending on the time of day, the line for pictures is usually very short (or nonexistent).
Hopefully, some of these tips will come in handy on your next (or first) Disney vacation. If you have character pictures you’d like to share, I’d love to see them.