Whether you are a grandparent going alone or as part of a big family group you are going to love Disney too. Here are some helpful tips to help Grandparents make the most of their time without overheating or collapsing from exhaustion.
Updated February 2016
We have been blessed with getting to bring Grandma & Grandpa with us to Disney World four times.
It has not only been fun for the kids, but Grandma & Grandpa had a BLAST! They are always talking about when do they get to go back!
Don’t miss our other tips and tricks as you are Disney World Planning
Tips for Grandparents at Disney World
The chances of a big group (or even two separate families for that mater) staying together all day is tough. Each family unit will have its own preferences, speed, priorities, etc. And that’s okay! Spending time separately where you can each follow your own interests is good and will allow you to have more fun when you are together. Here are some tips for balancing your time:
Start the Day off with the Family
If at all possible, start your day together. You will all be fresh, happy, and excited about the day. Kids will be well rested, the parks will be cooler, and the crowds will be at their thinnest of all day. Spend the first 1-2 hours riding the rides you can all ride together as a family – in most cases Fantasyland.
Hint: If Grandparents are older, you may want to meet them at a set spot 30-60 minutes after the park as opened to allow them to miss the mad dash back. We started doing this as Grandpa neared 80 and it made everyone much happier!
Eat Meals Together as a Family
Meals are a great way to reconnect during the day. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan you will most likely have at least one reservation a day anyway. You can all sit down together in air conditioning and catch up on your day.
Just make sure everyone has a basic itinerary with where you are eating that day and when.
Don’t overdo it!
If you are not an avid walker at home, don’t expect that you can keep up with everyone at Disney. Expect to go a little faster than you would probably choose and your grandkids will go a little slower than they are wanting too. This compromise will keep you together for a couple hours, but you can’t possibly keep up with it all day. Take every opportunity to sit down, grab a drink, enjoy an air conditioned ride/show, and even time back in your room.
On our first trip to Disney World with the grandparents, Grandpa passed out on the Walt Disney World Railroad. He was just overdoing it and not hydrating well, but didn’t want to stop or worry us. That lead to him being taken to the hospital and loosing a day and a half checking everything out. He was fine, but he took it more slowly and hydrated better from then on. So take it from us, take it slowly and take care of yourself or you’ll just end up missing some of the fun! Mickey doesn’t visit the ER.
Stay at a Disney Hotel & Spend the Afternoon there
There are many advantages of staying at a Disney Resort. One of them is that you can easily go back during the day for a break. I know it will be hard to break from the fun – you won’t want to. But trust me you’ll be glad you did.
The parks get very crowded around lunch time and remain that way until 4pm or so. It is also the hottest part of the day. So go back and take a nap (hey even I sometimes nap at Disney, it’s lots of hard work & you want to stay up late, right?) or stroll around your resort. Catch a movie, trade pins at the store, sit by the pool, or just grab a drink at the food court. You will be refreshed and ready to go back for dinner.
Get in the Spirit & Be a BIG Kid!
Every time I go back to Disney I feel like a kid again. I get all excited, start smiling uncontrollably, and I just want to run from ride to ride. That feeling is shared by people of all ages every day at Disney. I’ve seen our grandparents move faster than I ever have, ride on things I would have never dreamed, and act like a kid again when pin trading or waiting in line to see Disney. That’s okay. And actually, you’ll have more fun if you just let yourself go and have fun like a kid again!
So join your grandkids in donning a very stylish pair of mouse ears, wear a Disney t-shirt, or go all out and costume up. It’s just plain fun!
Take lots of Pictures
Sometimes you can get caught up in just having fun and forget about taking pictures. While I think that is the point, you do want to make sure to take some fun group pictures in front of each parks icons, with some characters, and just some candid moments from your days. You will love looking back at them in the months and years to come. You can always take advantage of Disney Fastpass if you want to leave most of the picture taking up to someone else.
HINT: Over the following months send your grandkids mail to remind them of the special time you all had together. Send them a postcard you picked up from Disney, a favorite picture of the two of you you with a fun memory. These will help extend the magic and reinforce your memories!
Be Careful about Overheating!
Wear a hat & Sunscreen
Especially if you are not from Florida, you will want to make sure you protect your delicate skin by wearing a hat and sunscreen.
You can carry around a water bottle and refill it at one of the many water fountains. You can also get ice and water FREE at any place with a soda fountain.
Take Frequent Breaks!
Take frequent breaks where you get out of the scorching heat. Enjoy one of the many shows and indoor attractions, shop, or grab a bite to eat indoors.
Characters are for Grandparents TOO!
Characters aren’t just for kids! If you are waiting in line to see a character don’t feel like it is just for the kids. get your picture taken too. Get silly with the characters – they love interacting with everyone, and get some silly pictures with you and your grand kids!
Finding Each Other in the Park
When you do separate it is important to have a way to find one another. The Disney World parks are huge and you probably won’t just happen to run into them, although you might. Here are some ideas:
- Carry cell phones and have your groups phone number programmed in (NOTE: There are some areas that have spotty cell phone reception)
- Have a designated time & place to meet. We used meals as meeting times. We’ll be at Art of Animation food court for lunch at 7am or Crystal Palace for lunch at 12 noon.
- Dress in the same color. It might seem cheesy, but not only will your pictures show off your group, but if you get separated (or heaven forbid a child go missing) it is easier to find one another when you are a big blob of the same color.
Take Time for Yourself TOO!
Although being with your extended family is a lot of fun, it can be exhausting too. Make sure you take time in the afternoon and/or evenings to do things you want too. Enjoy the lit up water fountains at Epcot, ride around the Magic Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Railroad, hope on the Safari at Animal Kingdom, or catch an evening show at Hollywood Studios. There is lots to do for people of all ages!
One of our grandparents favorites was the Hall of Presidents. It is in the Magic Kingdom so close to the action, but is inside in air-conditioning. It was a wonderful afternoon activity.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
As I mentioned before we had an incident our first trip with the grandparents. It is good to be prepared. Make sure you:
- Have insurance cards, Photo ID, Credit Card in case you end up in the hospital
- Have some cash on hand for food at the hospital or return taxis
- Have a cell phone & Phone number of family members accessible
- Ask for help! Disney employees are wonderful and they want to help. Ask them – we were so impressed by how they helped us through our incident!
Create Memories to Last a Lifetime
If you are blessed to be there with your grandkids, seize the opportunity to make memories together that will last a lifetime. Be silly, be in a good mood, join in on the fun. You will create a special bond with your grandkids.
This is some of the best quality grandkid time you will get. You get to sit with them on rides, hold their hands as you walk along the path, hold them by the pool, and see their beaming faces as your grandkids enjoy the wonder of Disney World. You are in for a real treat!