In today’s busy world, families want to create unforgettable memories together and there is no better place to enjoy quality time than at Walt Disney World Resort. From the beginning, of coming to Walt Disney World annually with my parents, starting at the age of 6 months old, to having my honeymoon at Walt Disney World and now raising my children next to Walt Disney World, the magic that is Disney has been an important part of our lives.
Sharing the experience of Walt Disney World not only with my husband and older children but also with my parents and my infant baby has been very special and important to our family. My parents are in their senior years and I ’am the youngest of their children. The baby marks their 15th grandchild and my 4th child. My children are fortunately being raised alongside my parents and their grandparents. These memories of time spent together are among the most cherished memories we all share as a family.
I was once again honored and thankful to be invited to this year’s Disney Social Media Moms Celebration #DisneySMMC. A wonderful opportunity to be able to bring my parents, aunt (my mom’s sister and great-aunt to my children) and twin boys. As we have often traveled with my parents and older family members, the following are tips we have learned when planning a multigenerational Walt Disney World trip:
Think About the Time of Year You Want to Visit and Packing Your Bags
Be sure to consider temperatures, especially when older family members are on a trip. The hot Florida sun can seem punishing when outdoors for long periods of time and for those with health or outdoor restrictions. Think if the cooler (and often less-crowded) months like January – May and October – December will be better suited for those in your family. If summer is best for your schedule, there are many special offers for summer travel to Walt Disney World that will also help with budgeting.
When packing your bags, its helpful to make a list of not only clothing and travel items needed, but also essential information. For example, a list of medications for anyone traveling (especially seniors), doctor’s information (for any questions or concerns) and the nearest 24-hour pharmacy to your hotel (to refill any prescriptions or medications).
Sample Packing List to Get Started
- Medications and any Medical Needs for Seniors*List of medications and when they need to be taken
*Contact information for primary doctor
*Address and telephone number of nearest or 24-hour pharmacy to hotel
- Snacks and Water (very important to remain hydrated when walking and experiencing the parks and remember to pack snacks for little ones and seniors, who may need to take some food with medications)
- Clothes (lightweight and quick drying and jackets or sweaters for cooler areas for seniors’ comfort)
- Shoes (comfortable shoes like sneakers for the WDW parks and sandals)
- Hats, Sunglasses
- Swimsuit and Cover-up
- Toys, Stroller, Cups, Diapers, Wipes, Bibs, Small Baby Cooler (or Diaper Bag) for Baby Food and other Baby Supplies
- Phones, Chargers, Camera, Batteries
- Tickets (theme park and travel itinerary)
Making Reservations and Where to Stay
A great place to start is visiting the Walt Disney World website to reserve a Disney Resort hotel room, purchase theme park tickets and make dining reservations. There are so many choices to select on the website that can be categorized based on length of stay, preference of amenities, character experiences, favorite type of dining and more. Be sure to check out the Walt Disney World Facebook Page and Twitter for exclusive content, information, savings and special offers. (In addition, you can contact a Disney reservation specialist, who could help you purchase theme park tickets, reserve hotel rooms, make dining selections and answer your questions).
Don’t Wait with Fast Pass+
Avoid long lines on popular rides with Disney FastPass+ Service. You’ll be able to reserve time to visit some attractions, entertainment experiences and Disney character experiences before you even leave home. You can start making selections as early as 30 days before you arrive, or up to 60 days before check-in when you have a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package. Also, Disney FastPass+ Service lets you reserve spots to view select fireworks, shows and parades and lets you make select changes on the go. Best of all, it’s complimentary because it’s included in your theme park admission so make sure to reserve some can’t-miss experiences that seniors and the entire family can do together.
Travel Lighter and with Less Worry Using MagicBands
MagicBands are colorful, waterproof wristbands—resembling a watch or bracelet—that you can quickly and easily touch to a sensor called a touch point. Cards work in a similar fashion, but physically resemble a plastic credit card or driver’s license. Both MagicBands and cards allow you to travel lighter throughout your vacation. Use your MagicBand to enter your Disney Resort hotel room and access Walt Disney World Parks and Disney FastPass+ attractions and shows. You can even charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room (available during your hotel stay).
Its a helpful resource to have each member of your traveling party have their own MagicBand. For example, if a senior wants to purchase some food or needs to return to their hotel room, they can just touch their MagicBand to a sensor and not have to worry about taking out keys or money.
Link Reservations for Easy Access and Download Disney Experience App
You can connect and link your reservations by following 5 easy steps
1. Register or sign in to MyDisneyExperience.com.
2. Link Your Reservation. Once you’re signed in to MyDisneyExperience.com, enter your Resort Confirmation number.
3. Link Your Walt Disney World Ticket or Pass. (If you have a room and ticket package for a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel, your tickets will be included when you link your Disney Resort reservation and you can skip Step 3). To access Disney FastPass+ service, you’ll need to link a ticket or pass for each member of your travel party age three (3) or older.
4. Customize Your MagicBands. Choose “Personalize MagicBands” to select MagicBands for your travel party. Be sure to choose your MagicBands and confirm your address at least 11 days prior to your arrival.
5. Select your FastPass+ Experiences, Make Dining Reservations and Explore My Disney Experience, Including Online Check-in at Select Disney Resort Hotels. Simply choose these options from My Disney Experience.
*Be sure to download the My Disney Experience App to manage your reservation and get up to date daily information on Walt Disney World parks.*
*Invest and purchase a Memory Maker. When you are traveling with a multigenerational party, you are focused on trying to create memories. By having a Memory Maker, all of the memorable Disney moments – like in front of Cinderalla Castle – and anywhere there is a Disney PhotoPass Photographers are automatically captured and scanned onto a MagicBand. Added magic (like Tinkerbell in your hand) and videos will be added to you photos too. You can download all of your Memory Maker pictures from the My Disney Experience website or app. It truly is worthwhile and will capture all of your favorite iconic moments from the trip.*
Our Recommended On-Site Hotels for Multigenerational Travelers
Hotels listed below can sleep 4 + in a standard/deluxe room and/or offer suites (with kitchens) that sleep 5 or more for larger groups
See a list of Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts: HERE
Take Advantage of Scooter, Wheelchair and Stroller Rentals
Even if a wheelchair, scooter or stroller isn’t needed daily, the parks are huge and can get anyone from young children to seniors easily tired. Wheelchairs and ECV’s (electric scooters) are available for rental at all theme parks but must remain in the park. Disney has designated specific scooter/wheelchair/ECV rental companies as approved vendors. This means these companies are the companies allowed to drop off rentals at the front desk/bell stand of a Disney resort for them to be held for guests. When a guests arrives to a hotel, their scooter/wheelchair/ECV will be waiting for them. Guests using these approved companies will also be allowed to return their rentals to their resort’s front desk when they check out.
In addition to ECV rental locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort, several private approved companies in the local area also offer ECV rentals, as well as wheelchairs, strollers and other mobility product length-of-stay rentals.
Our Recommended Multigenerational Can’t-Miss Experiences
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Space Mountain (fast-moving)
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (speeding cart)
Splash Mountain (will get wet)
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (a little fast for some)
Country Bear Jamboree (show)
Soarin’ (visually simulating as if you are flying)
Test Track (fast-paced racing car)
Explore Culture and Cuisine of 11 countries with World Showcase: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition
Festival of the Lion King (show)
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (3-D motion motion-simulated space flight)
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (opens 6/17/16 – fireworks)
Special Note *Disney Springs*
Featuring shopping, dining, and world-class entertainment, you can easily spend the entire day doing something for everyone in the family.
Amphicars: Did you ever think you could ride a car that is also a boat? Well, now you can at Disney Springs with the vintage Amphicars! It’s an amazing interactive experience by land and water. You start on land by boarding a beautiful vintage car and then the car converts into a boat entering the water and embarking on a 20-minute tour of Disney Springs. My entire family was able to experience this incomparable attraction together in two different Amphicars.
Over 50 brand names and Disney-themed shops, boutiques, and kiosks give new meaning to the phrase “shop till you drop”. The crown of the shopping experience has to be the mega World of Disney Store. It is the largest Disney character store with 12 rooms full of apparel, collectibles, toys and more.
Customize Meal Choices and Decide Where You Want to Eat with a Disney Dining Plan
I always recommend that people decide where they’ll eat after figuring out where they’ll be each day. In addition, try to schedule at least one special meal together. From Chef Mickey’s to Cinderella’s Royal Table at Cinderella Castle, there are many dining choices to please everyone in a multigenerational group.
You can truly customize your meal experience for everyone in traveling with you by using a Disney Dining Plan. Whether you are having fun going through the parks or want to be able to relax at one of the Disney’ hotels, the simplicity of the Disney Dining Plan can help when making meal selections. Disney Dining Plans are options available exclusively to guests of select Walt Disney World Resort hotels with Magic Your Way Vacation Packages. When booking your vacation, purchase one of the Magic Your Way Vacation Packages that includes a Disney Dining Plan. Disney offers various Dining Plans according to the needs of the guests.
All of the Disney Dining Plans can be used at Quick-Service or Table-Service restaurants. Quick-Service restaurants offer a wide variety of food from soups, sandwiches and salads to pastas, fish, chicken and meat entrées. At Quick-Service locations, guests order food and beverages at a counter or register. Advanced dining reservations are not needed because you are able to grab and go. At Table-Service restaurants, guests are escorted to their table and waited on by a server. There are a wide variety of Table-Service restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort from family casual to character dining and dinner shows to the gourmet cuisine at the more upscale Signature Restaurants. It’s important to note that Table-Service restaurants, character dining and dinner shows book quickly and the restaurant and seating of your choice may be limited or may not be available during your visit. Reservations should be made ahead of time through the My Disney Experience app, at disneyworld.com/dine or by calling 407-WDW-DINE up to 180 days prior to your visit for the best options. Most of the restaurant locations in Disney Theme Parks, Disney Water Parks, Disney Springs and Disney Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort hotels accept the Disney Dining Plans.
The Disney Dining Plans entitlements can be used for the always popular Character Dining. It’s an incredibly unique experience for the entire family that while you are enjoying a delicious meal together, your favorite Walt Disney World character comes up to you, hugs you, and you get a chance to capture the happiness. Character Dining is one of my children’s all-time favorite moments and we all love getting to the chance to meet and embrace our favorite Disney Characters. It is truly a one-of-kind experience for all.
All of the Disney Dining Plans (expect Quick Service) offers options for in-room private dining and dinner shows, which are family-style dining with live entertainment show performances throughout the meal, themed to the Resort setting.
The Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan includes two (2) Quick-Service meals and one (1) snack per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over, beginning after check-in to your Disney Resort hotel.
**The Disney Dining Plan includes one (1) Quick-Service Meal, one (1) Snack and one (1) Table-Service Meal per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over, beginning after check-in to your Disney Resort hotel.**
The Disney Deluxe Dining Plan includes three (3) meals and two (2) snacks per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over, beginning after check-in to your Disney Resort hotel.
**The Disney Premium Plan includes one (1) breakfast, lunch and dinner and two (2) snacks per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over, beginning after check-in to your Disney Resort hotel.**
The Disney Platinum Plan includes one (1) breakfast, lunch and dinner and two (2) snacks per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over, beginning after check-in to your Disney Resort hotel.
**Included with this plan is the use of recreation equipment and facilities, i.e. Walt Disney World Golf, Watersports, Horseback Trail Rides, Carriage Rides, unlimited use of Children’s Activity Centers, In-Room Child Care and more.**
It’s easy to use a Dining Plan while vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort because you can choose from over 100 select restaurants available. You simply present your Disney Resort ID (either a MagicBand or card) to the server or cashier at the time a meal or snack is purchased and specify the number of meals or snacks being redeemed for Disney Dining Plan Guests ages 10+ and the number of meals or snacks being redeemed for Disney Dining Plan Guests ages 3-9. Your Meal usage will be tracked electronically to your reservation or your server will provide an easy-to-read receipt that will display your remaining meal balance. You can redeem your meals in any order throughout your package stay until each person’s meal total is complete.
Some of Our Favorite MultiGenerational Dining
Be Our Guest Restaurant
50’s Prime Time Cafe
Remember the Importance of Naps and Taking a Break
One of the benefits of staying on-site at a Disney property, is the convenience of being able to easily return back to the hotel at anytime. Whether by car, ferry, bus or monorail, guests are minutes from their hotel. Grandparents may want a break to rest or children may need to stay on their regular nap schedule. Its a good idea to keep nap/break time in mind when making FastPass+ selections or dining reservations so everyone can be able to enjoy themselves.
Use the Extra Magic Hours perk as guests of select Walt Disney World hotels to return back to the park in the evening or arrive before its upon to the public. Each day, one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time. Additionally, Disney Water Parks offer Extra Magic Hours during select times of year.
Let Grandparents or Seniors in the Group Chose Their Must-Ride or Experience
Ask grandparents/seniors what they want to see, ride or experience. Its easy with younger travelers to be racing from Space Mountain to Test Track, but prioritize key events and rides that a grandparent/senior wants to enjoy so nobody misses that one ride they wanted to visit. At #DisneySMMC, my mother really wanted to go Hollywood Studios – not only just to see the latest Star Wars attractions – but because she really likes The Great Movie Ride and she had not been on it for a long time. Being on one of her favorite rides with my dad, her sister, grandkids and her daughter, totally made her day and trip for her.
Have Grandparents Spend Time Alone with Grandkids or Help with Babysitting (if possible)
My oldest son just graduated high school and we had to submit family pictures for his memories slideshow. Some of the most cherished memories that were flashed on the big screen, in front of his grandparents, were the times he spent having fun with them alone at Disney. It brought tears to our eyes to see him again in those pictures as a young child with Disney characters and with his grandparents by his side. They are truly unforgettable and priceless memories for both my son and my parents. In addition, grandparents can help mom & dad have some probably much-needed adult time (or date night) while they are busy enjoying themselves with their grandchildren at the parks or relaxing by the pool at their hotel.
If both grandparents and parents want to go out together, consider Disney’s children’s activity centers or in-room childcare. Our kids are big fans of “kid’s clubs” because they eat a play games, sing & dance, watch movies, make themed crafts, eat a kid-friendly meal, etc. They love the feeling of being at their own club and it gives us an opportunity to have a parents/adults’ night out.
Be Flexible with Your Day
After choosing your favorite attractions using FastPass+, remember to relax. Enjoy your day in the theme parks. Don’t try to over-schedule every minute. Allow for spontaneity and silliness. Whether, you want to stop for ice cream or take time to shop for some Disney gear, be able to adapt to any unscheduled or unplanned activities or occurrences. It will take the stress out of trying to perfectly plan your trip.
No matter what your plans are, remember its Walt Disney World – The Happiest Place on Earth! Enjoy the magic, imagination, fun and spend time doing what is important
creating memorable moments together!
Disclosure: As an invited guest of Disney, I was invited to the 2016 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Registration, accommodations and some meals were provided by Disney, however, all opinions expressed here are my own and based on my family’s (50+ years) of personal experiences at Walt Disney World.