EDITED: Disclaimer… I think it should be noted that I change my mind on this subject about every other day. For the stage of life we are in (strollers!), LAND is a great choice BUT my next trip will likely be WORLD with just Beckett. So please don’t quote me on anything below. ;)
I’m taking a very unpopular stance and going with LAND on this one. Don’t get me wrong- we LOVED Disney World. It was the most amazing week and we had an awesome experience there… but there are just a lot of little things Disneyland does better that make it a better trip for our family with young kids. A lot of people were surprised we went with World this time anyway after our confessed love for Land but flights were way cheaper to Florida this summer and it made for a more affordable option of the two. That said, I enjoyed getting to compare the two and Land still has my heart… here are a few reasons why.
The biggest difference we noticed was the people. We only encountered one cast member at Disneyland that wasn’t cheerful. That’s insane when you think about it. Everyone else we encountered was smiling, greeted us, wanted to know how they could help make our day more magical. It was the best guest service of anywhere I’ve ever been. I’m wondering if this has anything to do with the next point… (hold on a sec). I talked to several happy cast members at World and asked why they thought that might be. They said most of the parks at World have standards they need to meet (i.e. getting a certain number of people on a ride each hour) and they obviously encounter more people/more problems. They suggested Animal Kingdom was the happiest park to work at at World and from my observations I would agree. Even so, Disney (World, Land, Etc) still has better customer service than ANYWHERE else so don’t let this make you think it’s not great service. Now that next point…
The weather. Sure, if you’re fortunate to take a Disney trip while it’s winter in the midwest, Florida weather will win out but for those of us on a teacher/coach schedule, June is where it’s at. It’s also rain season in Florida so we got hit by a downpour pretty much every afternoon we were there. Temps were comparatively cool for June- around 85 but cast members were still sweating and soaked which could have affected their moods (and other guest members’ too). That said, if Rusty gives up basketball someday we’ll be heading to WORLD in the winter!
Size/location/transportation. For families with older kids (out of the stroller stage), World will win this one but Disneyland wins here for me. Sure, World has more parks, more rides, more to see and do but for me quality beats quantity here and for young kids Land offers plenty to make for a great experience. The bus service at world is free if you’re staying at a Disney resort but you have to fold up your stroller every time you ride (for us this was generally 2-4 times a day). At Disneyland you can stay at a good neighbor (read cheaper) hotel right across the street and walk over with your stroller leaving it packed from the day before. This was super convenient! From many of the resorts we saw your walk to your bus stop at World was just as long as the walk from the hotel to parks at land. Another bonus- not having to wait on a bus. Sometimes these waits could be 30-40 minutes depending on your stop/destination. Also, many of the rides that were the same at both parks I felt like land did it better. It’s a Small World at Disney World seems like one of those side of the road tourist traps when you’re comparing it to the one at Land. (I know that’s going to be a super unpopular opinion but visit the one at Land and you might agree!)
Character Meals. The breakfast with Minnie and friends cannot be beat when it comes to the number of characters you’ll get to meet and the choice of food offerings (and for that matter, price!). Also, something little I didn’t even realize made a difference at land until it was missing at world- photo pass photographers! At land they follow the characters around and take ALL the photos. At World, they don’t so you are caught wrangling three kids, making trips to the buffet, mingling with characters and oh, Karen at the table next to you wants 20 shots of her and her kids with Pluto. Obviously I obliged but it was a small difference that made a big impact for me. BONUS- your reservation time is your reservation time at Land. We would be stuck waiting around 20-30 minutes or more for each reservation at World. Something to keep in mind if you have fastpass times around your meal. That said, WORLD offers a lot more character dining experiences so there’s something for everyone here (reluctantly I have to admit most people will say World wins this one). ;)
Speaking of reservations. You can usually make them the day of at Land. Six months out at World. If you’re a laid back traveler and like to let people sleep in if they want, it’s hard to do this at World. Fast pass times are made 60 days before your trip so you have to do your research and have a good idea of what you want to do and when you want to do it several months in advance to make the most of your time at World. For Land you could literally read a couple blog posts a couple weeks out and have the time of your life. I enjoyed the planning process for both but planning for World can definitely be overwhelming for most.
Other differences. Trash cans were easier to find/access at land. Lines shorter. Crowds smaller. Just overall I felt like Disneyland is a better experience than World for a family with young children.
That said- we would definitely go back to Disney World again! Especially when our kids are older. It does have a lot to offer that you won’t find at Land- Flight of Passage would be the top of B’s list there. And it’s definitely an amazing place to go. But comparing the two side by side I feel like there are some definite reasons that Disneyland is known as the HAPPIEST place on earth while World is known as the most MAGICAL. If you’re wanting to take young kids and trying to decide between the two, my vote would be for land.
Disclaimer: We had a fairy godfather at our hotel that took GOOD care of us. He set us up with everything we could need to have the most amazing week ever. Because of that, we would likely choose World again as long as he is still working there.