Disney Trips with Grandparents: Planning Tips for Memorable, Hassle-free Travels

Fun at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Disney Trips with Grandparents

Since our son was born, we have traveled to many locations where we took his grandparents with us or met up with them at our destination. With some advance planning, multi-generational travel can be fun for the whole family.

If your parents and/or in-laws enjoy traveling, then consider a Disney trip with grandparents. Yes, it’s a little extra work to make sure everyone’s idea of vacation is implemented, however the memories made will be priceless.

Disney Trips with Grandparents: Planning Tips

The Calendar

Once everyone is on board to make a multi-generational trip a reality, the first step is coordinating calendars. First, gather dates that are available for each member of your traveling party, see what dates are mutually convenient, and then price out your vacation.

Plan a Disney trip with grandparents.
Nic and Nana with Mickey. Plan the best time of year to visit WDW for your family!

You may want to travel when prices are lower or your first priority might be to share a holiday or enjoy a certain type of weather. Once you get this first stage of planning coordinated, everything else will begin to fall into place.

Springtime at WDW. Enjoy family touring at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
Visit WDW during the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.

Accommodations

Discuss the type of accommodations that are suitable for each traveling party as well as the price point that everyone is comfortable spending.

For a Disney cruise, you’ll want to decide on the type of stateroom desired and whether or not you want adjoining or connecting cabins.

Disney Dream at Castaway Cay
Decide which staterooms are best for everyone in your traveling party.

At Disney’s Hilton Head Island, we recommend reserving a two bedroom villa for a mixture of privacy and family togetherness.

Fun at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort

Headed to Walt Disney World? You will have a large assortment of hotels to choose from. Will you camp? Stay in a cabin? Reserve rooms at a value, moderate, or deluxe resort? Or perhaps, you’d like to rent a condo off-site. There are also villas available from studios to multi-bedroom options at the Walt Disney World resorts.

Port Orleans French Quarter is a charming hotel at WDW.
Port Orleans French Quarter is a charming hotel – a great choice when visiting WDW with grandparents.

Getting There

Now you need a plan to get the family to your Disney destination. Each travel party should choose the type of travel (car, train, plane) that best suits their budget and travel preference.

Air Travel with Grandparents
Nic and Nana waiting to board airplane.

If you live in different cities, will you meet up and then continue on to your destination or meet up at your Disney locale? Either way, specify clear departure and arrival times and keep everyone posted if travel delays are encountered.

Itinerary

Before you leave home, you’ll want to have some idea of the preferred vacation desires of each traveler. Does Grandma want to shop when the ship docks in the first port of call? Is Grandpa wanting to fish or play golf? Perhaps the kids want to ride Dumbo with their grandparents followed by lunch at Be Our Guest. While compromises will have to be made, it’s important to try to accommodate varying vacation styles, likes, and dislikes.

Fishing Excursions are a fun activity with grandparents at Walt Disney World.
Take a Fishing Excursion at Walt Disney World.

And no one is immune to getting cranky when they are exhausted. You’ll enjoy more quality moments together if everyone is well rested. So, do allow down time for relaxing pursuits such as afternoon naps, hanging out at your resort, and poolside fun. It’s a vacation, not a marathon!

Enjoy relaxation at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Relaxing at the Wilderness Lodge.

Be flexible. If Grandpa and/or the parents need a rest, let them sit down in the shade while Nana takes the kids on a Disney ride. Parents want to do some shopping? Grandparents can watch the kids at the playground. The best part of a multi-generational trip is being able to spend time together and sometimes that means the kids alone with grandparents or the moms hanging out by the pool while the dads play horseshoes. There are countless special bonding opportunities!

Disney's Hilton Head Island is perfect for a getaway with extended family.
Grandpa, Dad, and Nic playing horseshoes at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.

Also, allow for everyone to have some alone time. This can be during an early morning, afternoon down time, or evening. Allow those travelers needing extra rest to sleep in and then meet up for lunch.

Rest time with grandparents at the Polynesian Resort in WDW.
Parents escape to shop while Nic is being entertained by grandparents during rest time at the Polynesian Resort.

Dining

Just like at home, dining encourages families to slow down and talk. It’s a time to bond with each other.

Bonding time with grandparents on a Disney cruise.
Nic escorts Grandma to dinner on the Disney Dream.

On a cruise ship, dinner can provide the opportunity for the family to meet and discuss the different activities that each family member enjoyed that day. Or maybe Grandma wants to hear about your latest school projects.

Enjoying a family dinner on a Disney cruise ship
Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream.

When traveling with differing ages, you’ll also want to keep in mind a few things when planning reservations. Do you have picky eaters? Does anyone need to eat at a certain time? Any allergies or other dining considerations to be aware of? Ask — before you make reservations.

French Onion Soup at Les Chefs de France in Epcot at WDW
French Onion Soup at Les Chefs de France.

By taking into consideration these dining preferences, you’ll set up meals that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Photographs

Capture the memories. Now is the time to let the grandparents pose and smile with their grandkids or get group pictures. However, grandparents can also help take pictures of your family — since the photographer is usually missing from a lot of photos, let a grandparent take photographs of you, your spouse, and the children.

Capture your memories with the grandparents.
Pose for fun photographs!

Do not forget to get pictures of you with your parents!

Separation Plan

There will come a time when you think you are all together, and then… you’re not. Perhaps Grandpa and Dad stopped to look at old-fashioned fudge in the Main Street Confectionery and lost sight of the group. Or Mom stopped to take another picture and she’s been left behind. Whatever the reason, you’ve lost your group and having a plan will get you back on track.

Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom.
Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom.

Your plan should go beyond “text if we get separated” because sometimes a phone is left in a room or a battery dies. If you are in the Magic Kingdom, for example, you may want your contingency plan to be a meeting point such as in front of Crystal Palace Restaurant.

Don't forget to set up a meeting spot with grandparents when touring a Disney Park.
Crystal Palace Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

A separation plan is for the whole family – kids, parents, and grandparents!

Try Something New

Experiencing a new restaurant, attraction, or activity together creates an instant bond and provides fun conversation for later in the vacation.

Try a new activity like karaoke on a Disney Cruise
Karaoke on the Disney Dream

Age is Relative

The kids are never too young or too old to enjoy time with grandparents. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Grandparent entertains child at WDW.
While the parents take a break, Grandpa plays with Nic at WDW. Hope his back didn’t hurt too much later that day!

Parents get a little break from parenting around the clock, grandparents get to spoil and create lasting bonds, and kids get to soak up the unconditional love from everyone. Plus, your offspring learn to respect their older counterparts and that age is relative; grandparents are fun too.

Buzz Lightyear is a fun ride to share with a grandparent.
Challenge Grandma to a spin on Buzz Lightyear.

Then those little ones become young adults before you know it. Sure, teens may go off on their own and meet up only for meals and a few designated activities, yet the conversations when everyone is together are sure to be interesting. And even the teens will remember the laughs they’ve had with their grandparents.

Take the grandparents -- Whispering Canyon Cafe is fun for all ages.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is fun for all ages.

Don’t forget that traveling with your own parents is a great way to reconnect, especially if you live in different cities/states.

Spend time with your extended family in WDW.
Kim and her Mom at Fort Wilderness.

Set Limits

If you are absolutely against your child staying in the parks without an afternoon nap break, set a limit. However, allow plenty of opportunities for the grandparents to spoil your kid(s) or to help out.

Mickey Ice Cream Bar
Nana spoils Nic with a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Priceless moment!

On one day in the Magic Kingdom, our son was exhausted. Grandma gave him some sips of a soda and he perked right up. Now, did that lead any of us to start putting soft drinks in his sippy cup? Of course not. But it did solve an immediate issue without any dire consequences. And we still laugh about that memory that took place 15 years ago!

Child Tired at Walt Disney World
Time to refuel!

Would you ordinarily allow your kid to race down a hotel hallway? Probably not. But watching Grandpa push a stroller crazy fast down the empty (middle of the afternoon) hallway at the Polynesian Village was harmless fun that filled Grandpa and child with in-the-moment laughter. And still gives us giggles when we remember the fun that they had.

Nana or Grandma wants to buy your kid a stuffed animal or a cookie? Well, as long as your little loved one isn’t begging and taking advantage of the generous grandparent (and doesn’t have an allergy or dietary restriction), then let the grandparent have at it. A bag of spun sugar, a sweet confection, or another furry friend (that doesn’t poop) is not going to cause lasting harm.

Let the granparent spoil your child with a Mickey Cookie.
Mickey Gingerbread Cookies are delicious!

Discuss non-negotiables and then let vacation happen! It’s the spontaneous moments that are usually the most prized.

Celebrate Milestones

While traveling with extended family, celebrate milestones. A graduation, birthday, retirement, and other special occasions become even more memorable when acknowledging them during a vacation.

Wishes Fireworks Birthday Cruise
Wishes Fireworks Birthday Cruise

Packing

Don’t forget to pack items that will make your travels easier. Good walking shoes, some moleskin, rain ponchos, and a bag for the stuff you want to haul to the parks are essential. Grandparents will appreciate your preparedness.

Planning your next Disney getaway? Don’t forget to invite the grandparents!

What are your tips for traveling with grandparents? Contact Us, Follow Us on Twitter, or comment below to share your travel tips.

Kimberly LaPaglia

Kimberly shared her passion for Disney when she was selected for the inaugural Walt Disney World Moms Panel and then as the first Disney Cruise Line panelist. As a Disney Mom, she helped countless families plan their own dream-filled journeys. Blending her love for research, travel, and writing, Kim has been an editor for Disney Food Blog for nearly 8 years. At The Castle Concierge, she blogs about travel, parenting, celebrations, and the road to empty nesting.

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