Planning a big family trip to Walt Disney World? Don’t know where to start? Then you’ve come to the right place! Multi-generational vacations can be stressful. Shoot, traveling with my family of 7 can be stressful. Who came up with the phrase ‘the more, the merrier’ anyway? With the right tools and tips, grandparents will be sipping on Dole Whip floats and riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with the kiddos in no time.

Multigenerational travel to Walt Disney World

Enjoying Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park with grandparents and cousins! Photo credit: Tania Lamb

 

Coming from a Latina family, I was taught familia was everything. When you have a party, EVERYONE is invited. Cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, neighbors’ cousins…you get the picture. Maybe it was my mom who made up the saying “the more the merrier.”
When we vacation at Walt Disney World, everyone is invited. That doesn’t mean everyone is coming, but more often than not, grandparents jump at the chance to see their grandkids soak in the magic. We’ve done trips with extended family and friends. And while, yes, I love having grandma’s helping hands, it also can be very stressful trying to keep everyone happy. So here’s my advice on how to keep your sanity and still love everyone by the end of the trip.

You Can’t Please Everyone All the Time

Once you accept that, the planning can begin! Right off the bat my family is already starting as a party of seven. With five daughters ages 3 to 11, there are different interests. We let everyone choose the one attraction they want to do each day, and everything else is bonus! This cuts down on complaints because, hey, you got your #1. And yes, #sorrynotsorry, but character meet and greets count towards the pick. But dear 3-year-old, if you make it through the day with no tantrums, then mamá will hook you up with an extra visit to see Rapunzel.

Split Up

There is no shame in letting the older kids ride the thrill rides while the younger kids ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant over and over and over. I’m all about togetherness, but the family that does not make mom ride Tower of Terror does not unleash mom’s wrath. That’s one thing I do like about FastPass+: you can schedule different attractions during the same time frame, so it’s easy to meet back up afterwards. Do some people want to ride Space Mountain while others want to ride it’s a small world? No problem. Schedule everyone for the same FastPass+ selection and then change the attraction for the people who want to ride something else during the same time slot. Easy peasy.
Multigenerational travel to Walt Disney World

Nana racing on Tomorrowland Speedway while the big kids ride Splash Mountain! Photo Credit: Tania Lamb

Or you happen to walk by Expedition Everest and it’s a 10-minute wait? Abuela and my oldest daughters can ride while I chill with the littles eating ice cream, because that’s how I roll. That Yeti is frightening; ice cream is not.

Schedule Meals for Off-peak Times

My father is a bit of a grumpy one. He’s what I like to call terco or stubborn. A good meal turns his frown upside down, a trait I probably inherited. So advanced dining reservations are necessary for this crew! When you have a large party, you have to be on the ball at 180 days to get a reservation at the popular Disney restaurants. However, if you’re flexible with your times, then you can usually find something to please the masses.
One of my favorite meals has been Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. I scheduled a reservation for a party of 11 at 10:30. It was perfect. It’s right before the switch over from breakfast to lunch. So not only was the restaurant not crowded, but they were able to seat us all at the same table. We had plenty of great character interaction with several visits from each one, which my daughters adored. And the best part? I still could eat chocolate croissants and waffles for breakfast and then eat rice and plantains for lunch 20 minutes later. I ate so much that all I needed was a snack later on in the day. Bam! Money saver.
Multigenerational travel to Walt Disney World

Set Expectations

We tend to relax a bit on rules, bedtimes, and treat restrictions on vacation. However, my relaxing sometimes equates to full on party mode for the abuelos. When I say no, then usually my mom or dad will step in with a big ‘ol, “Angel, sweetie pie, of course you can have an over-priced balloon, three ice cream cones, a Mickey ice cream bar, a turkey leg, and 15 stuffed animals.” That usually does not fly well with me even though my girls have the wide-eyed ‘please, grandma’ look down like champs.
Make sure to talk about it before hand. It’s fun for grandparents, relatives, and friends to spoil kids if they can. And in Walt Disney World, there are opportunities everywhere to allow that. It doesn’t have to cost money, though. Are you okay with sacrificing a nap or an early bedtime?  Will you let a grandparent take a child back to the hotel swimming pool if they want? Set your expectations ahead of time, so there are no tears from children or parents later.

Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

If your budget allows for it, then I recommend staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. You can absolutely have magical memories and fun times off-property. For a multi-generational trip, I think it’s easier for younger children and even grandparents to go back to the hotel to relax and rest midday or even for an early evening. Not everyone will stay feliz for fireworks each night. With free Disney transportation, you’re just a bus, monorail, or boat ride away to your hotel. This is also great for teens to give them some extra independence if they want to stay late for evening Extra Magic Hours.
A practically perfect day at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Photo credit Tania Lamb

A practically perfect day at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Photo credit Tania Lamb

You can also get multiple rooms at the same resort and still have your own space without being on top of each other. So I may have requested a room in a different building from my sister when we went on a trip together with our families. Don’t tell her, though. I may have said there were no available rooms next to each other.
Now that you’re ready for the big trip, relax, forget about your worries and your strife, and get ready to watch grandma’s heart melt when she sees the kids meet Mickey Mouse for the first time. My daughters ask for their grandparents every trip, because we’ve also taught them that familia is everything.