You’re traveling with a group of 12 people ranging in age from almost 3 years to 68 years.
Now imagine it is 6:30 AM, and the temperature is already 88 degrees, and the humidity is 85%.
You’re rushing around stuffing little mouths full of granola bars so that you can make it to the bus stop at 7:20 AM in order to ensure that you can get on a roller coaster by 8 AM. Unbelievably, you pull that off with all 12 people in tow and now, it’s 10:30 AM.
Everyone in the group is grumpy and hungry.
While wrangling your three kids, you accidentally bump into your brother who is busy wrangling his own two kids, only to feel your sweaty sunscreen drenched arms rub against each other in a way that can only be described as creepy.
Somehow you make it across the park into the buffet lunch to meet Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too for some of the best poached salmon you’ve had in a long time.
You look over at your mother and father, and they’re glowing. They’re glistening with sweat, and mom’s hair has gone limp in the humidity. But they’re fully engaged in the chaos and loving every minute of it. Seeing the children they once brought to this happiest place on earth with their own big-eyed, wonder-seeking children is pure magic!
So a multi-generation trip to Walt Disney World in the dead heat of summer in Orlando, Florida is no joke.
And please notice that you will not see the word vacation in this post. To be clear, there is nothing vacationesque about a trip to Disney World with young kids. But there is indeed something incredibly magical about a trip with young children and grandparents to the happiest place on earth.
- Riding a roller coaster in the dark with your oldest child who just last summer wouldn’t ride a single ride at Busch Gardens.
- Seeing your younger son’s eyes light up when Belle chooses him to be her Beast for a very special dance.
- Watching your shy but brave daughter meeting Anna, Elsa, and Cinderella only to walk away feeling like a princess herself.
Yep, Walt got it right. This place oozes happiness, even if it also oozes sweat and sunscreen and the occasional flood of tears from a mid-afternoon melt down.
All that said…
Here are the (6) essential steps to ensure a successful trip to Walt Disney World with young kids (and multiple generations).
- Use a Disney Planner!
I can not stress this one enough. Our Disney planner literally took care of all the details. She asked lots of questions about who was going, our ages, our preferences in terms of shows, rides, character encounters, accommodation needs, and dining preferences. Based on all of that, she provided several options for us to consider with multiple package options. This would have taken me hours to research and understand. Instead, she sent everything over in an easy-to-understand format with links everyone in the group could review. We were able to get a resort with a layout that was perfect for the sizes and ages of our group. And the dining plan made us feel like we would have enjoyable and delicious meals without the hassle of trying to decide who would cover each meal, etc. And that is the second suggestion…
- If you’re going with a big group, the Disney Dining Plan is definitely worth it!
We were able to eat when and where we wanted, and no one had to worry about covering the bill each time. You know that’s always an issue on trips with big groups. “I’ll get dinner tonight, you can get lunch tomorrow.” Plus there was no frustration about inflated prices. On the Disney Dining plan, we could have a delicious steak or a simple chicken breast and it was covered. And don’t worry: All of those Mickey-shaped ice cream bars and bags of popcorn your kids will want along the way are covered, too! Best of all, there are many character meals included on the plan as well. The bottom line? Get the Disney dining plan! Which leads me to the third suggestion…
- Plan your character meals for breakfast or lunch, especially if you have younger kids (under age 7) in your group.
The kids (and parents) are SO tired by the end of the day. Dinners are usually rushed and can turn kids into monsters even though Prince Charming is in the room. We had awesome success planning fun character breakfasts like Mickey and Friends at Ohana or character lunch buffets like Winnie the Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace. Be sure to have your camera and autograph books ready when you see the characters a few tables away.
- When the World Showcase in the back of Epcot opens, plan to be the first ones in.
Planning your Epcot day provides a great chance to see many of the characters without the long lines that you have at the character spots in the Magic Kingdom. There is a character (or 2 or 3) at most of the countries. You can usually see a character in less than 15 minutes. They also have several characters that you can’t see at the Magic Kingdom like Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Mulan, and the ever-popular Anna & Elsa. If you have a Frozen fan, the Frozen Ever After ride in Norway is a must, but plan to use a FastPass for it!
- Manage your FastPasses!
Your Disney Planner should provide you some insight into the rides that typically have the longest lines. But if you’re going during summer, almost all of the lines will be relatively long. You’ll want to use your FastPasses for the rides your group really wants to ride that usually get lines that are 90 minutes or more. You can book these in advance, and you should! The most popular rides go fast, so plan ahead. That said, there were times we planned a typically busy ride for a 9:30 AM FastPass, and then the line was only 25 to 30 minutes. You can make two choices in that case: you can wait the 25 to 30 minutes to ride and then ride the same ride again before your hour lapses, or you can change the FastPass for another ride later in the day. To do this, you’ll definitely want to download the My Disney Experience app so that you can change FastPasses on the go. Try to take care of the FastPasses ahead of time so that you aren’t staring at your phone and stressfully making changes all day. Otherwise, you’ll feel frustrated and miss out on your kids’ joy and excitement. And this leads to the next tip…
- Take a HUGE breath when the moments of frustration come–and they will come!
Remember, most of us moms like to keep our kids on pretty predictable schedules with regular bedtimes and limited sugar when we’re at home. Then, we take them to the happiest place on earth with stimuli coming at them from literally every angle. We keep them up late and let them eat ice cream and churros every day. And then, we wonder why they’re melting down at dinner. When that happens, you’ll be ever so glad the grandparents are along for the trip. Let them help when they offer to stay in the hotel room with the kids to order pizza while you and your hubby go out to dinner!
A multi-generational Disney World trip is work in many ways. But the joy and fun the kids and grandparents have are so worth it. And if you remember your own sense of wonder, you might just find that you’re the one blushing when Mickey leans down to kiss your hand!