Disney World is the perfect family destination, and that includes extended family! Grandparents have been traveling with their children and grandchildren to the parks since the day Magic Kingdom opened. It’s an excellent opportunity to spend great family time building bonds and creating memories. We have loved spending time at Disney with each of our parents, and in the process, we’ve learned a thing or two.
To put this list together, we talked to a number of grandparents and asked them what advice they would give to others. Here are their top seven tips for grandparents going to Disney World!
Editors Note: We are well aware that grandparents come in a variety of ages, needs, and physical capabilities. This article is admittedly more for grandparents toward the more seasoned end of the spectrum. If these tips don’t reflect who you are as a grandparent, we mean no offense. Also, please note that these are not our tips. These are the top answers from a number of grandparents that we asked, “What is your best advice for other grandparents visiting Disney World.”
7 – Plan Your Spending
Most grandparents have to watch their spending (don’t we all). It’s a good idea to start budgeting some money for your trip as soon as the trip is on the calendar. Factor in room costs, tickets, dining, souvenirs (see tip 4), treats (see tip 3), and extras when figuring out how much you’ll need for the week. This planning will allow you to enjoy the time you have with your grandchildren, instead of worrying about how you are going to pay for it all.
6 – Your Shoes Were Made for Walking
One of the first things we told our parents when planning a trip with them was to start walking. Now. Everyday. We tell everyone at any age this advice! Many people come unprepared for all of the walking and standing. Disney guests report walking anywhere from 5-9 miles a day! If you are not used to activity, build up slowly, but try to build up to at least 30 minutes a day. More will be better. Get your body accustomed to the walking well before you arrive. It will save you from soreness and pain later help make sure you last for the whole trip. Keeping up with your grandchildren can be exhausting, and it is even more so at Disney. One grandmother suggests wearing shoes that are well broken in, as Disney isn’t the time to wear new shoes. She learned this lesson the hard way. Walking sneakers are the best bet. If you want sandals or flip-flops, make sure you wear very supportive brands.
5 – Have Your Day Bag Packed with the Right Things
You’ll want to have a backpack or large purse to bring everything you’ll need for the day into the parks. Here are our suggestions on what to bring.
- Bring a light jacket/sweater. Even when it’s hot outside, restaurants and indoor attractions can be cold.
- Bring a hat with a brim/visor. Wearing sunglasses alone won’t handle the glare of the Florida sun.
- Bring pain meds for headache, sore feet, and back.
- Bring a small book with you or something else to keep you busy. When the family goes on a ride that doesn’t appeal to you, you can find a shady spot and read.
- Pack some special treats, games or book that can cheer and distract a tired child. This can be good when waiting in line for a restaurant or attraction.
4 – Plan for Special Souvenirs
Another Grandmother suggests you can make special memories with your grandchild by discussing and planning on a special item you’ll be purchasing for them at the park. Disney hats with the child’s name monogrammed on them is a good idea. Spend time looking together to make the perfect choice (don’t rush, let the child enjoy the choosing). Many years, our children were treated to face painting, and they loved it! Once the item is purchased, have a photo taken of you and your grandchild with the special item you picked out together and put it in a unique frame. It’s not so much about the buying but spending the time discussing, looking and choosing that special treat.
3 – Special Treats
Also, plan ahead to purchase special food or drink treats. Different parks offer different treats and its fun to plan ahead with grandchildren that they will pick out a treat from Grandma or Grandpa. For our family, this was usually an ice cream treat or some other food snack. This is an excellent way to create memories that aren’t costly and will offer a break in the day.
2 – Lend a Helping Hand
I’ll be honest. When we first invited my Mother-in-Law to join us on a Disney vacation, it’s because we knew we’d need help with the kids. Just having another adult around to help with three small children made an incredible difference. Not only are you helping your children, but you’re spending quality time with your grandchildren. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Here are a few ways you can help out:
- For a baby/young child who would benefit from downtime, offer to find something low key or enjoy a treat together in a quiet place with them.
- You get a bit of rest and mom, dad and siblings don’t miss out on Disney time.
- If there is a child in the party that is not tall enough to ride an attraction, offer to do something else special just with them. The rest of the family can ride together, and they don’t feel left out.
- Offer to take a young child back to nap at the resort. One grandmother reports that she was more than willing to take the child back because it meant that she got to rest as well!
- Offer to help with “regular” parenting tasks like diapers, bathroom breaks, feeding, and all that great stuff.
- Offer to babysit one night so that the parents get a date night! Who knows, maybe you’ll get another grandchild! 🙂
A note here to all involved. It is especially helpful to discuss how grandparents might help before you go on the trip. Just honest, open communication can do wonders. Your adult child might not want to impose or ask you for help, but deep down she may be desperate for it. Don’t assume because they don’t ask, that they couldn’t use it or don’t want it. Family dynamics are different for each family, but again, just be willing to communicate that you’d be happy to help! “How can I help?” is a magical phrase!
1 – Cherish the Moments
Above all, just enjoy the time with your family. Children grow up way too fast, as you probably already know. A special vacation with your grandchildren, creating lasting memories is a fantastic way to spend a week! Our children have great memories with all of their grandparents at Disney. We are thankful for our supportive parents!
What are your tips for traveling to Disney World with or as a Grandparent? Share your Disney wisdom in the comments section below.
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