By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Planning a Multigenerational Trip to Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

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I asked my friend John Schunk, a grandfather and a Walt Disney World trip planner (Leave it to Genie at ) to comment on some of the special challenges that a first family trip to Walt Disney World including grandparents involves.

His thoughts (which I have edited) are below:


1. Decide who is the “decider.” With this many adults involved, someone has to bring together the thoughts that the others will have, synthesize them, and propose an overall approach. Your own family dynamics will help shape who plays this role, and how to work it.

The best decider has two characteristics: willingness to get deeply into the planning issues, and organizational skills—to cover all the logistics ranging from flight schedules to daily itineraries.

2. Decide if you are going to design the trip for the kids, or compromise around all of the adults’ tastes and concerns as well.

If you do it for the kids, you can use one of Dave’s itineraries.

  • Some of the adults will not want to do some of the items on the itineraries, or will need or want breaks at different times than Dave’s itineraries suggest.
  • In this approach, the unwilling adults would simply wait outside a ride for the rest of the family, or head back to the hotel, while the willing adults stayed with the kids.

If you decide to design the trip around the adults’ wishes, you have a more complicated planning task.

3. Think ahead about conflict, disagreements, and flexibility.

The more adults you put into the mix…and the more complicated the family dynamic among the grandparents and their kids…the more you should think about this.

One important question is whether you want to do the dining plan or not. The dining plan only saves you money if you would have done the equivalent of all of its sit-down meal credits anyway. Using it also means you have to make your dining reservations well in advance, not only to get the best-loved meals, but also to avoid being shut out from being able to get reservations anywhere.

  • However, this can result in over-scheduling, and perhaps a little too much togetherness.
  • An alternative might be to skip the dining plan, and schedule just three or four sit-down meals. These might include Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Chef Mickey’s and the Crystal Palace.
  • If you eat your other meals at counter-services, you won’t spend much more than you would have spent on the dining plan, but will have more flexibility.

Another typical point of conflict is showing up at the parks before they open. Sensible people resist getting up before 7a on their vacations. However, doing so is critical to having a sane visit.

  • You—as the decider—don’t need a commitment from your group before you go to get up early every day.
  • What you do need is a commitment to try doing so one of the first mornings you are at Walt Disney World. Once your party experiences the difference, it can then decide for itself how to go forward.
  • You can also note to everyone that the option of punting an afternoon and heading back to the hotel for a nap is always there.

This gets to the flexibility point.

  • Your itineraries are a guide to your vacation, not a prison sentence.
  • Stuff happens, people get worn out, etc. Have a plan, but be ready to toss it, or let different parts of your group go their own way, if following it becomes too much.

Well, that’s about it. A Disney World trip is complicated even just for parents and kids—which is why Dave put this site together. Adding grandparents to the mix makes it even more complicated. Follow the steps above, get some help if you need it, and you can pull it off!


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