Best Trip Tips: Vacationing with Grandparents
You can see it all over the parks, large groups of families with many generations. Kids, grandkids, parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents. These multi-generation trips are becoming more and more common. You may find your parents wanting to piggyback on your upcoming Disney trip. This can be exciting and a little scary. Here’s a few tips we’ve used during our last two vacations that have involved a couple days with grandparents. They’ve helped us include the grandparents while still sticking to our must-do’s. Leaving everyone happy and many memories made.
With a large group of people, there will either be too many cooks in the kitchen or everyone will deter to one person, which can be very overwhelming. So do yourselves and the whole group a favour, plan everything out ahead of time. Make a list of the things you want to do and plan your days around that. Book your fastpasses and dining reservations accordingly. Once you figure out what you and your immediate clan want to do, share it with those who are coming along. We go by the policy “this is what we’re doing, you are welcome to join us or go and do your own thing, whatever works for you”. We’ve spent money and we have things we want to do at any given park. We understand that may differ from other people’s plans and that’s perfectly fine. By having a blueprint of our days, other members of the party can make their plans off ours. They’ll join in on things they want to do and skip others.
Walt Disney World now has Wifi pretty much everywhere on property. You can find it at the Magic Kingdom, at Disney Springs, in your room at Boulder Ridge and sometimes even on the bus. This can really help you stay connected. When travelling with so many people there’s bound to be a few mishaps or unexpected surprises, so having cell phones at the ready help with these last minute changes. Whether using messenger, messages or actually calling someone, knowing any member of your party is able to be reached at any time really helps. You can also use walkie talkies, if not everyone has a cell phone. These only work when you’re all in the same area though. The signals won’t go as far as having a cell phone will.
Carve out some time over the course of your vacation where grandparents can have one on one time with their grandkids. Maybe it’s taking them to the Chip’ n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long, maybe it’s taking them to the Grand Floridian Magical Moment or maybe its simply enjoying a meal together at Chef Mickey’s. This can give the parents a chance for one on one time as well. On our last vacation, my mom generously watched the kids one evening so we could enjoy some adult time at a variety of the lounges at Disney’s Boardwalk. During the park days she also hung out with Lincoln while we took MacKenzie on Tower of Terror and then with both kids so we could get on Space Mountain. We also made sure to include her during times we couldn’t enjoy attractions all together. The three girls went on Big Thunder together, and Mom and I went on Star Tours together. Take advantage of the extra adult or adults to have a well rounded vacation.
Whether you’re a family who loves to collect lots of toys, clothes and stuffed animals, or a family who has more of a minimalistic approach, any purchases made during your vacation still has to come home with you. If you’re driving or flying, all the merchandise bought is going to have to get packed in the van or in suitcases. Now, we know grandparents love to buy things for their grandkids. Before anyone even enters a park, a resort store or Disney Springs, discuss a merchandise cap. Maybe give them specific items to pick up for the kids, like a sweatshirt, mug, princess gown. Or say two items per kid. This will help maintain the amount that’s purchased.
A big part of your vacation may be dining. If so, you may want to include these extra members of your party. This can be a bit of a hiccup for a couple of reasons. One, if you’re on the dining plan but they are not. If this is the case, make sure to tell the server up front that you’re going to need separate checks. Two, if you’ve already made reservations. If you’ve already reserved your dining experiences and want to add members of your party to the reservation, you’ll have to create a whole new reservation. Sometimes these can be easy to find if you’ve booked some of the easier reservations. If you’ve booked some of the must-do restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table or 1900 Park Fare, you may find you can’t find any reservations. No fear, show up a little early for your reservation and say you have an extra person to add to your party. They will accommodate. Sometimes you may have to wait an extra 15 minutes but they’ll adjust. As long as it’s reasonable. If your party size is going from 5 to 6 or 5 to 7 that should be fine. 5 to 12 is another thing though. You may have to opt for a different restaurant.
Try to keep this as simple as possible. There may be attractions your family wants to enjoy but the grandparents don’t. So going back to tip #1, make your own plans and then add everyone else in. Book your FastPasses and then add in others who want to join. In some instances you may not be able to add other guests to the time you want or the ride. When walking by the FastPass check in area of an attraction. Go in as a group and you may be able to sneak in one of the members. We did this a couple of times on our last vacation and my mom was able to sneak on Dwarve’s Mine Train with us.
These park days can be long. What you and your littles can do may be too much for the grandparents. On the other hand, the grandparents may be jacked up on excitement that they can do it all. Do your best to provide full disclosure. Don’t assume they don’t want to do something and totally leave them out of the chance to participate. Maybe you assume they don’t want to meet Mickey Mouse, when it turns out that’s what they want to do most. Don’t assume they want to spend the whole day at Hollywood Studios when they want to head back to the resort to sit by the pool for a couple of hours. This is their vacation to.
Even with cell phones, it can be helpful to have meeting spots just in case people get lost or disoriented. Having a meeting spot at specific times can help everyone come back together after having fun times separately. Relying on phones is different than using them as a tool. By having a meeting spot, you’re relieving yourself from constantly checking your phone for updates from your family.
This seems like a given, but with the chaos of park days, getting these iconic pictures can become an after thought. Get that big family picture in front of the castle. Get pictures with grandkids eating grandparents ice cream. Capture these moments because you never know. You may expect that this family Disney vacation will become a tradition but no one knows what the future holds. So capture those moments now.
I hope this list of tips will help you get excited about vacationing together as a family. Taking away a few of the unnecessary stresses. The more you and your family talk about it, the more everyone is informed. So use these tips, and have an incredible time with your most important people at the most magical place on earth. Happy Planning Friends.