6 Ways to Take Your Teen to Orlando Without Killing Each Other

by Jenny Block

I consider myself very lucky. I have a 14-year-old daughter who is great to travel with. Granted, I have taken her on trips since she was tiny. On a Cruise West cruise to Baja, on a Princess Cruise to the Caribbean, on a birthday pilgrimage to Paris and London, on family vacations to Puerta Vallarta and Costa Rica, on trips down memory lane to an old family favourite, Nags Head, North Carolina… you get the idea.

But somehow, the prospect of taking her to the place known for little more than a mouse with giant ears felt very daunting. Still, it seemed like there was so much to do and see besides the Magic Kingdom, it had to work. And it did. Here are the six ways I made taking my teen to Orlando a blast.

We stayed at a non-Disney resort

One way to stay out of the fray is to stay at a non-Disney property. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek, which boasts a beautiful lagoon-style pool. Guests can also use the four additional pools and the two lazy rivers just steps from the hotel in the Bonnet Creek complex.

There were still plenty of kids there and you can buy Mickey souvenirs in the gift shop. But it’s nowhere near as overwhelming as the on-property resorts. There’s also a gorgeous Waldorf Astoria Orlando property right across from it where I’ve stayed in the past if you’re looking for something even more upscale.

Credit: Wyndham Grand Collection

Credit: Wyndham Grand Collection

We ate at real restaurants

We had dinner at both of the Wyndham Grand’s restaurants, deep blu and Tesoro Cove, which were both excellent, as well as at their Back Bay Pool Bar, which had awesome appetizers, salads, and burgers. One night, we ventured out to Eleven at Reunion Resort, a rooftop restaurant with a sunset view I’ve never seen the likes of. The staff was excellent and so was the food and nothing was shaped like Mickey. Nothing.

We spent one day at Disney

When your kids are little, you need multiple days to do it all. But my daughter and I spent one full day at the Magic Kingdom and it was perfect. We arrived at the Park just before it opened via the Wyndham’s free shuttle. We stayed until 5 p.m. when we returned to the hotel for dinner. Then we went back to the park from 10 p.m. to midnight, which was so much fun. We got to go on Space Mountain without a huge wait and Splash Mountain in a car all to ourselves!

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

We went for the wildlife

I now understand why swimming with dolphins is on so many people’s bucket lists. We swam with the dolphins at Discovery Cove and it was unforgettable. The dolphins are sweet and the trainers were incredibly knowledgeable, as well as super nice.  I don’t know who was smiling more, me or my daughter.

We also went to Sea World Orlando, which has some pretty spectacular things to do. The new Antarctica ride whirls you around and lets you out in an area where you can check out a variety of penguin species with no net or wall in your way. My daughter stood inches away from them as they swam, waddled and played. The Kraken is loop after loop of upside-down terror. But it was totally worth it when my daughter high-fived me on the way out. Turtle Trek is a 360-degree, 3D movie that I simply could not take my eyes off. I can’t imagine anyone of any age not being enthralled by it.

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

We spent a night on the town

I recommend spending an evening hanging out at Downtown Disney. The area is filled with shops, restaurants and live music. There’s even a Cirque du Soleil show in residence year round. We spent the evening wandering and shopping and, most importantly, talking in the way that only seems to happen when we’re both relaxed and happy with nothing but time on our hands. The Wyndham Grand Orlando has a shuttle to take you there and back. But it’s also cheap and easy to catch a cab.

We weren’t afraid to relax

When you go to Orlando with little ones intent on “doing Disney” it’s hard not to get swept up in “do it all” mode. But when you go with your teen with no intentions other than having fun, you can afford to lounge around at the pool, take a few turns on the lazy river, even watch a movie in your room. The best part about travelling with my daughter has become getting the chance to spend real time with her and this trip definitely allowed us to do just that.