The Parenting Panel turned to Twitter this week and MousePlanet’s followers responded! We saw a trend on MousePad of members planning multi-generational trips spanning from young children to older grandparents and so we asked: What tips or tricks do you have from your experiences planning and taking multi-generational trips? What has gone well and what has not gone well?
We heard not just from families with experiences of three generations but even taking four generations on vacation together! In fact, we gathered so many submissions that we split this panel into two!
Helga Bergthold has one daughter and one grandson. They have been Disneyland annual passholders for many years. Her 2½ year-old grandson always asks to ride in Gram’s car. “Where do you want to go?” “Dizzyand!” They recently returned from a stay at Walt Disney World. You can read Helga’s trip report from that visit here.
Probably the best decision I made in the planning of our three-generation Walt Disney World trip was to book two connecting rooms. My grandson could go to sleep and the adults could stay up in the other room, watching television, reading or downloading the more than 1,000 photos we took—without disturbing him. This was very convenient for all of us. You could achieve the same result, depending on your budget, with a family suite at the All-Stars, or a regular suite at another resort.
One important consideration to think about is the schedule of each family member. I’m a morning person but my daughter is not. Again, the adjoining rooms meant that my grandson could get up and come into Gram’s room early in the morning. I would get him dressed and we would head to breakfast while daughter got up and got ready for the day. After breakfast she would take charge of him while my best friend (who accompanied us) and I would dash out to the parks. They would meet up with us later.
Which brings me to splitting up. Yes, this is a family vacation, but, sometimes, the best thing to do is go your separate ways. It took us two wasted mornings to figure out that since my daughter took so long to get going in the morning we needed to just leave her and my grandson behind. We would meet up for lunch and then spend the rest of the day together. That way no one would be waiting around for the others. This strategy worked perfectly for us.
I planned a nap/break time for each of our days, but it turned out my grandson didn’t need a nap. He was so happily engaged in what was going on around him that he didn’t crash until the bus going back to the resort. I’m still a big believer in the afternoon break; it just didn’t work for us this trip. Again, flexibility is the key.
It’s tough to decide what to eat 180 days before leaving, but in doing so, you’ll best be able to plan which park to visit and when. This is another important time-saver. No need to plan by committee each day. We love to eat at fun places at WDW, so we ate at least one meal at a great restaurant every day. Ironically, the only day we had a disagreement about dinner was when an Advanced Dining Reservation had not been made. We ended up walking halfway around Epcot looking for a place to eat that we could agree upon and would seat us. Moral of that story is to book those ADRs and keep them!
- Connecting rooms will save your sanity.
- Know the schedules of the family members you’re traveling with.
- Plan ahead but be flexible!
- Book those ADRs whether you want to or not.
We had a wonderful time and plan another trip in five years. Meanwhile we are very fortunate that we can dash to "Dizzyand" whenever the mood strikes.
Laura Troescher is a Web site/graphics designer, mother of one, and wannabe Annual Passholder living in the high desert of Reno, Nev. Laura says, “Disneyland has been my second home all my life.”
We took our first three-generation trip to Disneyland in summer 2009. My son, Andrew, was 18 months old and we brought along my mother and my brother. Four-plus-a-kid turned out to be a great number.
At attractions that my son couldn’t ride, one person stayed with him while the others enjoyed the ride. We typically purchase a four- or five-day hopper, which means there is plenty of time for everybody to ride everything without ever employing the parent/rider switch. The person elected to stay with my son could either hop into a line for something they could enjoy (Andrew LOVED Pirates of the Caribbean at 18 months) or, even better, got to enjoy some “in between” time as well, without rushing here or there. Perfect time for a churro, a balloon, a few moments at the wishing well, or just noticing other small things that you tend to forget without a toddler’s perspective.
Prior to my son’s birth, Disneyland trips had always been just the four of us, and we always followed a quite relaxed and somewhat “early” schedule. This fit in perfectly with our toddler and we found that we could stick with our normal routine: at the park at opening, lunch at 11 a.m., back to the hotel for a nap after lunch, early dinner (before 5 p.m.), and returning to the room in the evening for bathtime and wind-down. I always recommend this schedule to anybody heading to the parks, but with a toddler and a grandma alike, this served us well and kept us away from the high points of crowds and chaos.
Having my mom along was fantastic. She was a huge help while changing his diaper in public restrooms. (If it had been just myself and my husband, I would have had to manage changing a squirmy and heavy 18-month-old alone, or find a family restroom.) There were also a few nights where Andrew and grandma went back to the hotel, letting the rest of us get in some late-night park visiting. For the electrical parade, grandma and uncle were able to find a spot to park along the parade route, while mom and dad wandered around and kept the toddler occupied until just a few minutes before show time.
Last year, we stayed in a two-bedroom suite, but this year we will be staying in separate rooms. Either way, multiple rooms are a must. The way we do it, my son can go to sleep in one bedroom while the adults stay up later, watch TV, enjoy beverages, and have some free time in the other rooms.
One more tip: Bring a camera and take lots and lots and lots of photos. Pass it around so everybody gets photos of everybody else. They will be precious memories in the future. A small child may not remember these trips, but we also won’t let him forget them.
Chris Peterson shared:
I have made the 11-hour trek to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim three times over the last five years with three generations. My family consists of one preteen, one middle-schooler; pre-school age twins, and my wife. Usually, my in-laws come with us to enjoy the grandchildren, and the bonus of Disneyland. One trip, my mother, my sister and her family of four also came along. Here are my tips for getting to see the most with this big of a traveling party.
Tip One: Planning. It is important to devise an itinerary prior to travel. I talked to everyone in my party from my twins, to my in-laws and obtain a top-five list of attractions or shows everyone wanted to see. Plan to move slowly! When you’re a party of eight to 15 people without a plan, it will seem like you are herding cats! You waste all kinds of time as the adult stand in a huddle discussing whether to go to lunch, or which land is next. Planning for shows are just as important as attractions. Disney posts their daily schedule on their Web site approximately 45-60 days in advance. Shows are good rest from walking.
Tip Two: Reservations. You must have meal reservations. Grandparents (or the ones I dealt with) don’t care for consistent counter-service meals. You must plan a sit-down meal from time to time. A good way to plan this is with Characters Meals. Although some of them are buffet style, they take some time to complete and meet all the Characters. The grandparents get their rest, and the kids get to meet the Characters. You kill two birds with one stone!
Tip Three: Split/Rest Times. The grandparents will take afternoon breaks. Accept that and plan for it. This is a great time to send little ones back with them, and take the bigger kids on the bigger rides. Grandparents are there to see the wonder and joy of all the children. If you can, encourage the grandparents to take the older kids on a ride or two while the parents take the little ones through Fantasyland for a second time. It is important that you don’t use the grandparents exclusively as babysitters though…it’s their vacation as well. Grandparents will want time to shop, so use Downtown Disney after park hours and the kids are in bed to accomplish this. My wife and mother-in-law did this with great success, and I got to sit in a quiet hotel room and rest.
Final Tip: Accept Changes. Even the best-laid plans go awry. Accept the fact that if you plan your itinerary down to the minute, you will be running late a lot. Plan on visiting each area without strict time limits, and plan on visiting three lands a day, seperated by meals. It takes more time to work your way back to something you missed later in the trip, instead of just waiting the extra time to see the attraction or show.
With this advice, we are able to cover both parks in two days. Planning without times is key. Disneyland will take much longer to cover as there is more to discover there. In fact, encourage a split from time to time to make sure everyone sees what they want to.
My wife, 6-year-old son, and I live in Southern California and my parents live in the Orlando area, which means that we have been doing annual three-generation visits to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World for several years. We even all took a Disney Cruise together.
I had originally expected that my parents would serve as readily-available babysitters, while my wife and I would hit the thrill rides and other big attractions that are less appealing to the younger and older family members. While they are willing and we do occasionally make use of that, we have found that we get the most enjoyment from focusing our attention on attractions and activities that maximizes our together time as an extended family. Of course, this includes the family-friendly attractions like "it's a small world," as well as the various parades and shows, but it also includes scheduling a lot of relaxing meals together as well as simply slowing down to enjoy the theming and atmosphere of the parks, or let our son spend some time at one of the playgrounds. We usually schedule one table-service or buffet meal per day (character meals and other themed dining are lots of fun as a family) and we also tend to take our time at the counter service meals as well.
Other than dining reservations, we have found it best not to over plan these visits with regards to what attractions and shows we want to see on what night. What our son is interested and willing to see has varied quite a bit from year to year, with him actually becoming somewhat more frightened by some of the attractions when he reached around 3 or 4 years old. On the other end, my parents have slowed down a bit as they have gotten older, both in the length of time they can spend in the parks and the types of attractions they are up to visiting. This all leads to a kind of improvisational approach to our visits when it comes to selecting the attractions and shows and even determining how early we arrive and how late we stay. We don't often do mid-day breaks back at the hotel, but starting the day around lunch or ending right after dinner is not too uncommon.
During each visit, we do usually include one "date night" where my wife and I enjoy an evening out together at one of the nicer restaurants and/or seeing one of the less kid-friendly shows (such as the Candlelight Processional during the Christmas season) while my parents watch our son. We enjoy the private time together while my parents really look forward to having their grandson to themselves for a little while.
Bill Wilson's trip is upcoming but he had some insights on how he planned his trip differently this time:
I have always loved Disneyland. Growing up in Hawaii, my only vacations were to the West Coast, and to the L.A. area, so Disneyland is associated with all my happy memories from early on. I was away from the parks for 15 years or so, and have started going again with my family, and now we are Annual Passholders. We fly down from Seattle three to four times a year.
At the end of April 2010, we will be making our first three-generation trip to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. We have been to the resort eight times over the past two years, but it has always been with just our kids, so this is a new one for us.
We will be visiting for six days, and five of them will be with the grandparents. Our group will include six adults and four children. Two of the adults will be grandparents, and the kids range from 6 months to 7 years. For our family trips, we have had to tailor our itinerary, knowing that we will have to include our kids in everything we do. Not having a sitter means that we will all do everything together. Being very flexible in how we accomplish the desires of the first time visitors will be important in making the trip a success. The grandparents will be visiting Disneyland for the first time, and they know that we are going to spend all day there, while they will not. We know that the grandparents will not want to spend the whole day in the park, and will be willing to watch the younger kids at the hotel.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is not about what or how to do anything, but is about managing expectations. We have had to spent time planning what we do and have worked hard to accept the fact that everyone will not be in the same place at the same time. Letting people know that we do not all expect to spend every day, all day with each other has been a huge relief already. The grandparents knowing that they are welcome to leave the park, with or without the kids, has relieved a huge amount of stress.
And we have only just started! We have more coming in Part Two: More Disneyland, more Walt Disney World, more grandparents, parents and kids together!
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(Send an email to Adrienne Krock)
Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being mom to her three boys. Adrienne, Matthew, Spencer, and Colin visit Disneyland frequently, usually with Dad, Kevin.