By Amy Odgers, Travel Advisor
Disney World with multi-generational, extended family
What do 7 year olds, high school and college students, middle age teachers, doctors, nurses, and grandmothers have in common? A love for all things Disney World, of course!
Typically our family of 6 takes a Disney trip every few years with extended family, including MomMom, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We always travel in July or August, so much of our success includes navigating crowds, allowing for water breaks, and taking advantage of all the air conditioning! Trial and error has taught us a few things, especially as the children have grown older and can visit the Parks independently. Our last visit included family members ranging in age from 7 to 75 and here is what we learned about traveling with large, multi-family groups.
- Stay with a kitchen and order groceries. This has been increasingly important as our kids have gotten older – and bigger – and hungrier! The ability to whip up eggs before hitting the parks, and throw in a late night frozen pizza, has definitely prevented some teenage meltdowns!
- Schedule some activities but encourage independence in others. Gone are the days of us rushing out the door in matching outfits, bags full of snacks (bribes!), hoping to get to our breakfast reservations on time. Now, the teens know the plan (thanks My Disney Experience!), we fast pass the rides we all love, meet at those rides, and then tell the teens we will see them at the next fast pass or meal!
- Don’t force the fun – it’s ok to split up! If MomMom and the 7 year old are ready for a swim at the resort pool, the teens want to go single riders on their favorite coasters, and the adults are ready for a beverage in Mexico – go for it!! You’ll be all the more happier to see each other again if you take the divide and conquer approach!
- But, determine non-negotiables ahead of time – and make everyone aware of them! If having the whole family together for a picture on Main Street is a tradition that mom wants to continue, plan for it! For real buy in from those pesky teens – attach it to a meal and you’ll be sure they are there!
- Take advantage of Photo Pass and sharing cell phone photos. For some reason, photos are a huge source of stress in my family. I love pictures – they hate them. I force them, they oblige, I am disappointed. So I have learned to change my expectations. They love the ride pictures (see below!) and willingly pose at each camera, and those pictures have become my favorites. Do you need a full family picture at every photo stop? Or can you pick just a few that are super important and nostalgic and maybe return to those spots year after year? Nothing beats MomMom’s face on Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster!
Finally, be realistic about what larger groups can do together. Once my niece let cars full of people ahead of us because she decided we wanted the first car. It’s not easy – or practical – or sensible – to think that the ride operators can easily accommodate 16 riders. Also, staggering arrival and departure days has been a lifesaver for us. We usually build a few days on either end of our trip reserved for our immediate family and MomMom and this helps us to accommodate the wants and needs of everyone.
Oh, and bring earplugs 🙂