Making Memories to last a lifetime – Planning a Multi-Generational Disney Vacation!

Cinderella’s Castle at night

There is nothing quite like taking a family vacation to Walt Disney World.  The excitement that comes with planning the trip is almost half the fun.  How long do we stay?  Where do we want to eat?  Should we do the Disney Dining Plan?  These are some of the questions that need answering.

However, there is a whole other dimension that gets introduced when you start planning a trip involving multiple families, and even multiple generations of people going.  Just like planning your own family vacation, the excitement that builds as you plan it with another family is perhaps even greater!  Here is a real life example that involved myself, my wife and daughter, my niece and her boyfriend, my sister-in-law and her husband and daughter, AND my sister-in-law’s Mother!

In 2010 when my wife and I took our daughter to Disney World for her birthday, we also invited and brought along my niece.  That was an incredible trip, in part because our daughter didn’t know that my niece was coming until she showed up the day before our trip, and also because Steph hadn’t been to Disney in about thirteen years!  The trip was phenomenal, and while we were there, we took the plunge – we purchased our Disney Vacation Club at the Villas at the Grand Californian Resort & Spa!  Part of what made that purchase phenomenal was that we received double points, meaning the 220 we purchased were doubled, we banked them, and we have 440 to spend!  We already knew what we were going to do with those points!

We had previously tried to convince my sister-in-law’s family to take a trip with us, but with the economy the way it was, they declined.  Then one September day we had a little get together with them and convinced them that they needed to come with us next year!  How could they say no when we would be able to book a two bedroom suite at Bay Lake Towers with our points?  That day in September, we decided that our vacation dates would be June 17th – 24th, 2011.

Planning Tip #1:  Select a date that works for all of you in the party.

We selected those dates because my daughter’s 10th birthday fell in that window. There is nothing quite like being at Walt Disney World when it is your birthday!
Now that we had a firm “Yes” that they would be coming, and a date that worked for all of us, I had to wait a little bit because I couldn’t make the reservation at BLT until it was 7 months out from our check-in date.  That was about two months away.
November 17th finally arrived, and with it, my telephone call to the Disney Vacation Club.  9:00 AM arrived, I dialed the phone, got an agent almost immediately…then was told that they couldn’t book my reservation because of the computer upgrades they were performing to the system.  I would be able to call back and make my reservation at 1:00 PM that afternoon.
At this point, my nerves started getting to me a little.  Would we be able to get the room we wanted?  Would we have to go to a different resort?  Would we have to change our dates?  I resolved to try and put it out of my head for the morning, and worry about it when I called back.  Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment at 1:00 PM, so I wasn’t able to call right then – I had to call after that was over, about 2:30 PM.
When I called back, I spoke with a nice lady named Flo who walked me through the whole process.  They had a two bedroom available – Lake View – so I snatched it right up!  I gave her the names of all the adults, then all the children and their ages, and our reservation for nine people was set!  This brings me to my next tip.

Planning Tip #2: After your reservations are set, get together with all concerned to iron out additional details.

The next thing was to figure out some of the details that we needed to cover.  I had a list of four things to cover with Nancy:

  1. How many days of park tickets do we want to do?  We decided on six days, with park hopper, no water park option.  When planning, I went to the detail of documenting how much the tickets would cost for various days so that they would have as much information as possible.
  2. What sort of dining reservations do we want to make?  I outlined to them what it would cost if we elected to do the Disney Dining Plan or the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.  In the end, we decided on one Princess Character Dining meal at Akershus, one non-Character meal at ‘50s Prime Time Café, and a third meal (location TBD) just for adults.
  3. We also mentioned a special surprise that Cindy and I are going to do for the girls: a certain treat that has the initials BBB – I’ll let you figure out the surprise!
  4. Lastly, we made the decision that we will drive down from North Carolina in one day – it is about a ten hour drive.

In addition to those decisions, Nancy decided that she would get the tickets now.  There are some good reasons for this.  For starters, getting the tickets now will lock them in at the price that they currently are, which is good in case the price goes up.  Secondly, getting the tickets now will lock them in for the trip.  Thirdly, getting the tickets now will help them to have some things to include in the “gift” that they are giving their daughter at Christmas to tell her that they are going to Disney World!  And lastly, the tickets don’t activate the two-week window before they expire until the first day that they are used.
At this point, we are all caught up on what we need to do right now.  Later on next month, we’ll need to book our reservations for dining, and call to schedule the secret surprise.  Additionally, I’m going to read some of my friend Ken’s posts on things that Nancy’s Mom might like to do as an older Disney visitor!

Planning Tip #3: Communication, Communication, Communication


What it all comes down to when planning a family vacation involving multiple families is communication, communication, communication!  The more planning you do together, the greater your chances of everyone having a great trip, and enjoying every moment of it!

Planning Tip #4: Adding in the extra touches that make planning fun


One of the things that I really enjoy getting as a way of increasing the excitement of our upcoming trip is the Customized Maps that Disney offers.  These maps are an incredible reference, and a free keepsake that you can enjoy before and after the vacation.  Some other things to look into include getting your music together, looking at trivia books and other books on what to do at the parks, and researching the various changes that are occurring at the parks to see if any of the attractions are going to be closed when you are visiting.  What things do you like to do to get ready for your Disney vacations, and when do you like to do them?

Planning Tip #5: Remember, it is everyone’s vacation!

One of the biggest things to remember when you are planning a vacation is that, even though you are going to Disney World (or Disneyland, etc.) you need to remember that, while you are going in part to give your children a dose of that special Disney Magic, your trip isn’t just about your kids.  Everyone in your travel party has something that they want to do and get out of this trip, and it’s your “job” as the travel planner to remember to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy the vacation as much as possible.

The key to this is to get an idea of the types of things that your party are looking to do; find out if they want to sit and go swimming all day, or find out if they want to get up at rope drop and go to the parks early, or find out if they want to sleep in some.  Find out who likes what rides, and which of your party can’t handle thrill rides beyond “its a small world.”  Lastly, find out who likes to eat, what they like to eat, and give them ideas on where you think they would like to eat.  As I said in tip #3, the more communication you have with your travel party, the better off you will all be!

These five tips are but some of the ones that I came up with, and I know that there are others that I haven’t even thought of yet!  What is your top tip to share to have a great multi-generational Disney vacation?  Please share it with all of us in the comments, or on the Facebook Page!  Thanks!


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