By: Jordan Elizabeth
A trip to Disney World with your kids and your grand-kids is about as picturesque as you can get for a family vacation. It can also be a real hassle if you don't plan right. Three generations together is a beautiful thing, but odds are, everyone will have different needs and wants.
Before you even board the plane, there a couple things you should do to plan ahead. Get a guide book and look at all the attractions in the parks you plan on visiting (and once you book the vacation, you will be sent more theme park literature in the mail than those catalogs you never remember signing up for). This way, everyone can pick the things they think they want to do or ride, what the grand-kids will be able to do, and come up with a game plan. Although there are a lot of rides for toddlers and kids, a good number are for riders of a certain height.
For the more popular rides like Test Track and Mission Space in Epcot, and Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, there will almost always be a long line and not rides suitable for small children. In that case, get a FastPass for those rides (you can now get FastPasses online, weeks before you even touch down in Orlando - a Type-A dream!).
Next, try and pack light. Adults, a small cross-body purse or a fanny pack is best when going on rides (luckily, fanny packs are cool and ironic now, so it's not embarrassing). Of course, when you're talking about young grandchildren, there's a lot to pack: snacks, diaper bag, change of clothes in case of an accident...the list goes on. But, do your best to pack just the necessities. One thing the Disney Parks are not short on is snack stands. While it is much cheaper to bring your own, don't pack too much! This isn't the Oregon Trail, you can always buy more (and isn't that what grandparents are for?) Do bring a water bottle, though. Remember, Florida is literally a swamp, so in the summer months, it is hot and humid. You'll want to drink a lot of water, and that's something you might not want to spend $5 a bottle on.
In addition, I'd suggest bringing your own stroller. You may rent them in the parks, but they run about $30/day. Besides an added cost, it's another thing you will have to seek out once you get to the park, organize, and it's kind of a hassle. Just bring the most compact one you have at home, and use that. There are stroller parking areas near all of the rides/attractions so can ditch them and retrieve them easily. It's also nice to have a stroller with you that you know the kids can sleep in when they get inevitably crash after the high of meeting Mickey and Friends.
Once you're in the park, it's time to put your planning and those FastPasses to work. And here's a good tip: They now let you do a "parent swap," which works like this: Get a FastPass for half the group, but then everyone should go to the FastPass entrance and tell the Cast Member that you have kids and want to swap out. They will give the other half of the group a FastPass, so when the first group is done, the second group doesn't have to wait in line. This is key - the only thing worse than waiting in long lines is waiting for someone else to wait in a line, so then you have your turn to wait in line.
Next: once the first group of people are on the ride, find a ride that you can take the kids on so they don't get restless (and it helps the grownups from getting restless, too!). Once you switch out, odds are the kids will want to go on the same ride again, so just rinse and repeat (poor short term memory can be such a blessing).
Finally: shopping. The place where grandparents shine and grand-kids will have temper tantrums over Authentic Woody cowboy boots or a Princess Anna dress. I would try and avoid any meltdowns in the parks by glossing over all the shops (unless you need air conditioning, then by all means, go in). Overall, they sell the same stuff at every park - the only exception being Animal Kingdom, because that's a lot of themed merchandise. I usually save all my souvenir shopping for Downtown Disney. Here, there are restaurants and a tons of stores (a lot of which carry things you can't find in any parks, like home goods, framed art, Christmas decor), as well as the big Disney Store. This way, you're not buying something at every park, which is good for 2 reasons: you don't have to schlep things around, and you will be less likely to end up with so much stuff that you won't be able to carry it home.
So, in order to treat your grand-kids to a trip they'll never forget - and cement yourself as their most treasured grandparent, take the time before you leave to plan. This is will increase the fun factor and lessen the likelihood of excessive crying. From both the kids and adults.
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JORDAN ELIZABETH - Life
Jordan Elizabeth is a comedian, TV Writer/Producer, collector of hobbies, and master of putting off adulthood. She can be heard on the Podcast "3 Dudes and a Broad" and performs stand-up comedy with "Girls Gone Funny." She lives in Manhattan with her fiance and two dogs. Read more about her life at Jordie Elizabeth and follow her on Twitter at@JordiElizabeth.