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The magic rises to a multigenerational level when you visit Disney with grandparents. From toddlers to teens, sharing special moments in any of the Disney parks provides priceless memories to last a lifetime for all family members. The home of Mickey and Minnie delivers delights to an entire spectrum of generations. Why not take advantage? If you’re considering a Disney World trip for your next family vacation with the grandparents, these planning tips will keep everyone entertained and happy.
Disney World for All Generations
Growing up in Central Florida, I remember when Walt Disney World first opened in the early 1970s. My Disney experience included riding “It’s a Small World” over and over until the song would never leave our heads. From there, we’d run to Dumbo to fly round and round on the oh so cheery elephant. Those were among the “e-ticket” rides, remember those? Magic Bands and fast passes replaced e-tickets making things simpler and eliminating time wasted waiting in long lines.
Today, my grandkids live in the Orlando area and have spent many hours exploring the Disney parks. The grandkids know all about the latest attractions—especially Star Wars. And sharing our collective experiences enhances our time together. Whether you’re planning your first Disney World vacation or you’re a seasoned Disney pro, multigenerational trips deserve a little extra planning. Here are some things to consider.
1. Choosing a Disney Resort
Staying in a resort hotel adds to the Disney experience. Fortunately, Disney’s resort hotels come in a wide range of styles and budgets. Things to consider when choosing your room or suite include just how much togetherness your family wants. Taking cost, space and style into consideration ensure a memory maker trip for all generations.
Disney World Resort Hotel Highlights
Art of Animation extends the Disney magic with themed rooms like the Little Mermaid and family suites (sleeps six) decked out in decor from the Lion King and Finding Nemo.
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Craving a trip to Africa? Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge works well for anyone who loves wildlife. Giraffes, ostriches and zebras roam sections of the property. African culture abounds throughout the lobby accented by the decor and music. My grandson, Benjamin loved participating in a drumming lesson during our stay.
Coronado Springs Resort is another excellent option. Often considered a business resort due to its convention facilities, this moderate-priced option boasts one of the coolest pools of any Disney property. I know for my grandkids, that’s a big plus.
If your family leans toward the grander side of lodging, the Grand Floridian beckons with timeless elegance and beauty with turn of the century Victorian architecture.
Disney resorts provide colorful “magic bands” for everyone from grandparents to grandkids. The bands give access to rooms, resort facilities, and parks. For dining and souvenirs, just swipe your wrist and go. You might want to keep an eye on the tweens, they’re really good at swiping those wristbands in the snack bars!
One current advantage to staying in a Disney resort hotel is the transportation provided to and from the Orlando International Airport via the Magical Express bus. The magic continues through 2021; however, it will no longer be offered beginning 2022.
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2. Consider the Seasonal Weather
When planning travel with adults and young kids that require spending most of your day outdoors on foot, the weather plays a huge role. So, decide on what everyone can handle before booking your Disney vacation. Florida temperatures soar in the middle of summer bringing along a healthy dose of humidity.
If that’s too much for your group, consider traveling in the cooler months. Hurricane season tends to peak in August and September, so be sure to look into travel insurance just in case. As a former Florida resident, I can tell you that winter weather often brings the most pleasant temperatures. If you can manage to slip away then or during the kids’ spring break, that’s a nice option.
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3. Focus on Disney Rides and Attractions for All Ages
A remarkable place for families, Walt Disney World and all the Orlando parks include attractions suitable for babies to great-grandparents. When you do a couples-only trip to a Disney park, chances are you’ll head for the thrilling roller coasters. But when you’re taking young children and older grandparents along, the agenda changes.
When my grandkids were younger, we focused on the fantasy side of Disney. I bought them pirate costumes, we watched the entertaining Jack Sparrow shows and jumped in line for rides where they reached the height requirements. Character experiences were also a priority. Now that they’re tweens and teens, we’re all about the thrill rides. Have you checked out the Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios? We love it!
Disney’s extensive selection of rides and attractions offers something for all ages, no matter which theme park you choose. When my granddaughter, Katherine, was younger, Cinderella’s castle appealed to her princess side. Today, at 13, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios tops the list. My grandson, Marshall, can’t get enough of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge also at Hollywood Studios.
Over the years, we’ve all enjoyed the old school attractions like It’s a Small World in the Magic Kingdom, Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom, The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Living with the Land in Epcot. As a huge fan of Norway, I love visiting Epcot’s Norwegian Pavilion and introducing a bit of my favorite country to the grandkids.
4. Plan Dining Experiences in Advance
When it comes to Disney’s theme parks, dining doesn’t have to be all hot dogs and pizza–unless that’s what you want. From quick serve walk-up spots to themed restaurants, your dining choices are plentiful.
EPCOT presents an opportunity to sample cuisine from around the world. Fish and Chips tickle your fancy? Head to the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion. Don’t forget to order a British beer to wash it down. (You, not the kids!) Prefer a sit down dinner with time to linger? Consider making reservations for Le Cellier Steakhouse. Here’s you’ll dine on outstanding steaks and seafood specialties in the cozy cellar of a Canadian château.
A favorite of my son and daughter-in-law, the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom serves flavorful dishes hailing from Asia, South America and Africa. A fun kids menu includes appetizers and build your own entrée choices. And, you’ll be dining in a fun jungle cruise-themed environment. For a relaxing al fresco dining experience, check out the Boathouse at Disney Springs where you can sit on the back patio and enjoy the lake view.
You’ll definitely want to do your dining research ahead of time. Book early for restaurants requiring reservations. And consider a Disney dining plan if you plan to eat most of your meals in the parks.
5. Maximize Transportation Around the Parks
Along with great transport options to the park from its resorts (shuttle buses, boat, monorail), there are several ways to get around the parks as well. It is useful to research this ahead of time so you can take advantage of it before the whole family becomes exhausted from all the walking.
In Magic Kingdom we took the WDW Railroad to get from Frontierland to Fantasyland to conserve energy when my grandkids were younger. The Liberty Belle cruise around Tom Sawyer Island is another opportunity to relax while sightseeing.
At Epcot we love taking the friendship boat from the World Showcase to Morocco and Germany.
6. Remember to Capture Memories
Photos bring your favorite Disney members home. Have your camera or smartphone ready to capture all the key moments. But, don’t overwhelm your party by taking too many photos. Limit yourself to one or two photos at any location. You can also take a few practice photos before getting grandparents and kids to pose.
The Disney Photopass is another option that can facilitate grandparents’ ability to pose in photos easily with their grandkids at character encounters and iconic attractions where the photographers are available. Scan your magic bands or get a pass from the photographer to access the photos online.
7. Make Note of Special Festivals
Walt Disney World’s lineup of special events and festivals typically runs all year long. We especially enjoyed visiting during Epcot’s Flower and Garden Show. Strolling through the multichromatic blooms and sampling fresh food from many of the outdoor kitchens added to our experience.
Other favorites for our family include Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Epcot Holidays Around the World. With so many cultural festivals from around the world, there is always likely to be a celebration to look out for when you visit Disney. Plan ahead as some of these events require a special ticket.
One More Thing!
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I took my kids and 5 year old granddaughter for 7 days over Christmas 2014. I hit the wall on day 5 and just could not move at a normal speed. I rented a scooter and it was a vacation saver! They also sent me to the Grand Floridian spa for one of the days. Everybody had the best memories from our vacation!