Teen Enthusiasm Injection! Stat!

You’ve announced to your family that your vacation destination is Disney World! The 5-year-old won’t shut-up about meeting Mickey Mouse, the 9-year-old is psyched about the roller coasters, and grandma is already planning a character breakfast. And in the corner, your teenager is rolling his/her eyes, moaning about how Disney is full of “kid stuff.”

How are you going to get a moody adolescent excited about Cinderella Castle and TriceraTop Spin? Below are some tips on how to get teenagers in the Disney spirit.

1. Stress to your teen that s/he won’t be stuck riding the kiddie attractions. When most people think of Walt Disney World, they think of rides aimed at young children. Remind your teenager that Disney has thrills and (for girls) plenty of shopping. If an adult in your party isn’t willing to join in on the plummets, the inversions, and the disc-rupturing Mountains, give your teen some freedom to roam the parks alone. Disney is very safe, after all, and cell-phones can keep everybody in touch.

2. Let teens help plan. Studies show that kids who help buy the food at the grocery are more likely to eat it. The same logic goes for a Disney vacation. When you’re making decisions about your itinerary, consult your teenagers. If you give them influence over the budget, they’ll be especially responsive (i.e. should we spend more money on a nicer resort or on food?).

3. Give your teenager charging privileges. If you’re staying at an on-site hotel, put charging privileges on your teen’s resort ID. Charging privileges are like having a credit card in Disney and this is sure to excite any adolescent on a low budget. If you’re terrified about your teen running up huge bills on their ID, let them know that a charging privilege is a privilege – which can be revoked at any point on vacation. Furthermore, any dollar amount over a decided-upon number must be paid off by the teen.

4. Teenagers make great photographers. Of course, you’re teen will have to be with the rest of your group some of the time. But nothing will humiliate a teenager more than being forced to meet a character, especially a face character that they have to talk to (I’m having France Pavilion 2006 flashbacks). And since most teens know how to work the camera better than their parents anyway, let them be in charge of pictures.

5. What happens in Disney stays in Disney. Teenagers have constant “pull out the baby pictures” fear. In other words, they’re afraid that what they do with their family will come back to haunt them. Assure them that the fun, silly things they do with their family in Disney World will not be brought up in front of their friends or mentors. This is the most important tip that I can give you. Doing this for your teens is like giving them permission to be in the Disney spirit.

Of course, I can’t make any promises. There are some teens who just refuse to enjoy a Disney trip – or any trip, for that matter. If your teenager falls in this category, don’t try to accommodate them by letting them doing whatever they want. Simply let them be Grumpy dwarves. If your adolescent is acting like this, the message s/he is trying to send is: “leave me alone!” If you do that, s/he might actually be tolerable.

That’s all I’ve got for now! If any readers have questions about teens, feel free to post them as comments; they’ll most likely be the source of my next post.


I'm born-and-raised in Indiana, but I'll be off to college soon. I'm 16 and a major Disney dork. If you want teen advice on touring WDW, I'm your girl!

12 thoughts on “Teen Enthusiasm Injection! Stat!

  • April 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Some great advice and tips. I don’t have this problem, but I’ve certainly seen other family’s airing this issue out in between Peter Pan and Small World.

  • April 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Are you kidding? My 2 teenagers LOVE Disney and wish every vacation was there. We will be back in August and they CAN’T wait. They have watched the Disney DVD over and over and sneak away my Unofficial Guide to read. And it’s not like we don’t go often enough. My son has been 16 times and my daughter has been 11 times!

    • April 28, 2009 at 7:38 pm

      Hi, Sherri Tarr! I’m in the same category as your teens; I adore Disney (though that’s probably obvious since I’m writing in a Disney blog). When I wrote this post, I was thinking more about teens who’ve never been to WDW or who haven’t been in a long time. Luckily for your kids and me, we already know that Disney rocks!!

      • April 29, 2009 at 12:49 am

        I don’t know JillAnn. The teens who are my kids’ friends all want to go to Disney, even if they’ve never been (my son will be going back in November with his high school athletic club and the trip sold out in one day). However, we live in a fun Southern city that likes to party, so maybe the kids around here are different! I grew up in Orlando and actually worked at Disney as a teen, so probably my love for all things Disney has rubbed off on my kids.

        • April 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm


          I live in NJ (the 2nd most fun place on earth 😉 and my 4 daughters are 11, 12, 17 and 19 and I have the same problems. Every vacation they want to go to Disney! And all there friends want to go with us! We just got back Monday from a quick 3 day trip for my youngest daughters 11th birthday, we are going back in late August (with one of my 17 year olds friends) for two weeks. In the airport going to Orlando my 12 year old asked if she could go down in 2010 for her 14th birthday. I’m a sucker so I said yes.

  • April 29, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    While I am no longer a teen (rapidly approaching 21), I take offense at this. I know that may seem to be an exaggeration or too dramatic, but it is true nonetheless. I cannot stand this type of age profiling. I have been going to WDW virtually every year since I was 3 and have absolutely loved every second of it. When we are there, I find myself planning our next trip! Even my friends (some of whom have never been to WDW) would kill to go to WDW every chance they got. “How are you going to get a moody adolescent excited about Cinderella Castle and TriceraTop Spin?” Well, for starters you might not want to call them mood adolescents. Would you or anyone you know like it if I called you or them hormonal nags or grumpy old people? NO. So, I would appreciate it if you would perhaps rethink your views of us younger folk. Just because they are teens and yes, they can be hormonal at times, that doesn’t give you the right to brand teens as “moody adolescents” and especially “moody adolescents” that don’t want to go to WDW.

    “Remind your teenager that Disney has thrills and (for girls) plenty of shopping.” Seriously? You actually wrote this? Two things: One, males can enjoy shopping just as much (and in some cases more than)females. Two, females can enjoy the thrills just as much (and in the case of one of my friends, more than) males. I myself for example, would much rather head over to Tatooine Traders than ride Tower of Terror.

    Please don’t take offense at what I’m trying to say. If I seem too harsh, I apologize. I’ve just had to put up with that mindset for a long time. Basically, what I’m trying to say is show teens that you respect them and chances are they will return that respect. Don’t call them “moody adolescents” or ” Grumpy dwarves”. Go ahead, call my 6′ 14 y/o brother a grumpy dwarf and see what happens 😉 Overall, I would say good tips, esspecially the photo one. I’ve never been a big character fan even when I was little. My mom on the other hand is forever 4 years old in that respect.

  • April 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Moody adolescent is a perfect word for my teenager. We have been to WDW twice and I am planning my 3rd trip this year . My teenager loved Disney her 1st two trips,but she was a young child at the time. Now she is teenager and the only way that I could convince her to go is by taking a friend because it would be have been completely beneath her to spend some time with her parents and younger sibling.
    My trip planning has yo yo’d up and down based on whether or not she was angry with me or not. There have been days that I have just wanted to cancel. But I love Disney and feel once we get there all will be good. I also don’t want to disappoint my younger child who is so looking forward to this trip. So moody adolescent, in my mind is a mild term for my sweet teenager. But I love her no matter what, and I know this moodiness will pass.

  • April 30, 2009 at 11:09 am

    My daughter never was a ‘moody teen’ and she has always been even more excited than me about a trip to WDW. Her response to anyone (including me) whenever a stereotype was thrust upon her was that she chose to not take offense simply because it wasn’t her…even though she tolerated (barely) the eye rolls from many of her ‘moody teenager’ friends about how much fun she had getting Mickey’s autograph or taking the Family Magic Tour and getting to sit next to Peter Pan (when she was 16). The truth is, some teens choose to major in faux angst…and as Robert noted, that’s still no reason to paint with a broad brush. I won’t hold JillAnn to a politically correct standard–I think her blogging is quite informative and in a spirit of fun. I thought her advice was geared toward parents who, quite possibly, are misreading their teens and probably still treating them as if they were 6 instead of 16. I found the tips she shared were helpful across a wide range of ages.
    I’d just add one: Talk with your teens about expectations you each have of a family vacation; be willing to find ways to give and take. Even though my daughter and I enjoy each other’s company, WDW is a reasonably safe place (especially within the parks) to split up and to use technology to keep in touch.

  • May 1, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Hello, everyone. I see that my writing has caused a stir. I’d like to apologize if this post offended anyone. I’ll be more careful with my choice of language in the future.

    I couldn’t tell by some comments, but just so there’s no confusion, I’m 16. That’s why I felt that I could be critical of teens — I was thinking of it as self-deprication. I’ll be more clear about this in later posts and, like I said, more careful. Thanks to everyone for your feedback!

    • May 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

      I thought your column was excellent. I encourage you to continue writing. My comments were actually directed more towards thin-skinned people; my point was if a remark such as ‘moody teenager’ doesn’t apply to you, then I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. 🙂

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