A few weeks after my college graduation, I took my multigenerational family to Disney World. What was I thinking? How on earth would we keep young and old entertained and everyone together for a full week? We learned a lot on this trip. . .
Even though I first hit the Disney Parks as an infant, this was my first time on the planning side. That first trip had a bit of a learning curve. Six of us: my two grandparents, my mom, the kids and me in one room at the Polynesian. Enough said.
Get Park (and Resort) Wise: For families of five or more, consider a family suite or even two separate but adjoining rooms. This will give everyone enough space to live but still keep close quarters. Be aware that adjoining rooms can be requested but aren’t guaranteed.
I wouldn’t trade that trip to the World for the world, though. Watching everyone’s eyes light up when the kids walked through Town Square for the first time and laid eyes on Cinderella Castle was priceless. Cliche, maybe, but that moment is etched on my heart. Magic around every corner. Character hugs and that impeccable service Disney is known for rounded out the week.
But I knew it would be like that. The commercials say it. Your friends tell you stories. It’s just how it is. What I didn’t realize, however, is that there truly is something for everyone at Disney World. I knew we’d love experiencing everything through the eyes of the kiddos, taking everything in for the first time, breathing in the magic. I didn’t know that gramma would leave us in the dust for the gift shops every time we stopped so “gramma could rest.” Or that grampa would become a Disney foodie. Or that my mom would conquer her fear of falling elevators.
Yes, we all know that Disney Parks are known for amazing attractions, but beyond the mountains and 3D experiences are seemingly endless options for everyone. We spent a lot of time on those headliners, but almost five years and ten trips later, we’ve experienced so much that Walt Disney World has to offer for all ages and tastes.
Let’s start with the grandparents. Mine are in their seventies, and we definitely had lots of breaks in mind for them. I think the rest of us needed them more than they did! Like I said, we often got left on benches for gift shops, especially in Epcot. Grampa did take a few breathers during the day but he was ready to roll after a little break.
Get Park Wise: Stake out a few shady seats or air-conditioned areas for those times that anyone needs to admire the magic from a bench. Innoventions in Epcot is great for this, and there are several similar areas throughout the parks.
While they weren’t resting or shopping, both grandparents really enjoyed all the delicious dining options Disney had to offer. In fact, we started a tradition of sending the grandparents out for a “grown-ups only” meal. They’ve enjoyed Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, The Coral Reef at Epcot and Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort just to name a few.
My mom, a decidedly young 50-something, enjoyed a lot of the same things I did while at Disney World, as well as a little lounging around the resorts. A bit of a thrill ride junkie, I couldn’t wait to make the rounds to the Magic Kingdom mountain range and check in at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Mom breezed through the mountains but walked up to the Tower with trepidation. After a little coaxing and seeing a grey-haired grandma saunter into the line, we were soon careening down the elevator shaft four times in a row. So, encourage the adults to try new things just like you would the kids. They may just find a new favorite!
It’s no secret that my favorite thing is experiencing Disney with the kiddos. I gladly hop in line to ride the Mad Tea Party and Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel over and over and over again. I make dining reservations 180 days in advance so we can chow down with Mickey and friends. I live for a great character encounter. All that said, I like some grown-up time, too. It’s a given that Disney is a place where people go-go-go to catch the next ride or snag a seat for a Broadway-caliber show, but not everyone may know that Walt Disney World property offers some fantastic spas when mommy needs a little time to wind down after the parks. I enjoyed a wonderful (and decently priced) spa day at the Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin last year, and I can’t wait to experience the new spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa!
The little ones, of course, are completely content almost anywhere on Disney property. They love the parks, the pools, the playgrounds. You name it, they love it. With so much to do, though, it’s easy for the younger set to get over stimulated or tire out quickly. We always plan at least one down day mid-trip so everyone can recollect themselves and recharge. My kiddos could spend hours swaying in the hammocks at the Polynesian or watching the zebras graze at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Get Park Wise: Take some time out of the parks to just relax. All ages can benefit from a leisurely afternoon around the resort.
While we try to do something new every trip, we’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the experiences to be had at Walt Disney World. World-class golf courses, fishing expeditions, Downtown Disney, water parks, tours; the list goes on and includes something for everyone. That fateful May trip started a yearly (at least!) tradition of a week at the Mouse House to ride, revel and, yes, even relax.
Have you done Disney with a multigenerational family? What worked best for you with grandparents or grandkids in tow? Would you do it again?