For the past few decades, my wife and I have visited Walt Disney World regularly, sometimes with our children and sometimes alone. (It was one of the first real empty nest trips we made after everyone moved in.) Our trips continue to make us happy every time we return.
This fall, we visit the WDW world with our daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. The three girls (and their father) had never been before and we can’t wait to see this magical place through their eyes.
We want to wait intentionally until the youngest (6 years old) was old enough to walk most of the day alone and tall enough to enjoy all the attractions. (Her older sister is 9 years old and her older sister will be 11 years old while we are there.)
The four adults started planning this trip in 2019, with the intention of visiting it in October 2020, but we canceled our trip due to the pandemic. Luckily we didn’t tell the girls our plans last year; the disappointment would have been terrible. This year, we announced our trip in the spring.
I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve done (and will do) as we embark on our October adventure. Your preparations, of course, will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the age of your grandchildren, budget, schedule, mode of transportation, location, and hotel amenities, among others. But this will give you a snapshot of a family’s preparations and may give you an idea or two that you may want to try. (By no means do I want to convey that I recommend for the mother to be inactive.
We shared the news of our next October trip with them over the Easter weekend, when they came to visit us. Our daughter had prepared a special Easter egg hunt, hiding plastic eggs outside. Three of the eggs had notes inside that, placed next to each other, instructed the girls to enter our living room.
On our couch was a 2021 Mickey Plush doll and three Mickey backpacks (purchased at a deal at shopDisney). Inside each was a certificate with the girl’s name and the dates of our trip.
You can guess that when they entered the room there were many jumps up and down, which lasted a while. Good luck that we captured everything on our phones so we can play it when they go out on their first dance date …
Since then, this is what we have done (and plan to do):
- Time passes differently for children than for adults. Christmas is so far away when you’re young, but it comes so often now that I’m big! To keep their excitement alive, we thought it would be fun to give them something from Disney each month before the trip. Gifts such as Disney sleepwear, Disney character t-shirts we found at Target or Kohls and their MagicBands.
- We’re preparing a couple of little things to give them at the beginning of each day while we’re at WDW: Mickey’s hand sanitizer bottles from the grocery store, socks with their favorite characters, stuff like that. Once we arrived, we would give each girl a gift card that we asked shopDisney to be personalized with their names.
- We gave parents a copy of the Unofficial Guide to 2021 to Study (both are educators they enjoy reading) and kept them up to date on the latest news (which seems to come more often as we approach the October 1)c) visiting this blog daily.
- From the start, the four adults agreed that this seven-day trip would not be a “Dumbo or Die” experience. To get season tickets to the park we had to plan which parks we would visit on what days; but we also planned pool time and some quiet afternoons on our itinerary. Rest is important not only for the youngest, but also for the older ones (grandfather).
- We asked each girl to choose 2 or 3 attractions they would like to see safely in each park, making it clear that they may not have all of their options. We then planned an itinerary for the day, agreeing to stay fully flexible.
- We don’t worry about the whole march, as the girls are older and their family is camping, hiking and spending a lot of time outdoors. But the situation of each family is different; if you take a small one that will need a stroller or one that you will want to carry after an hour, you will consider it. The shortest visits to the park, scored by the rest time in your room, may make sense.
- We shared ideas about our favorite places to eat with the parents, who then reviewed the menus with the girls. Then we chose when and where to eat and made reservations. (Most days, this includes breakfast in the rooms.)
- We plan to spend a night with the grandparents, so that parents can spend a special evening for themselves: they can have dinner wherever they want, stay out late, enjoy wine, all without having to worry about the girls. My wife and I will also spend a night for us, which will allow her family to spend time together alone. While it’s fun to be together, it’s also good to have some time apart.
- We bought Memory Maker so we can create and share magical photos that will last forever. Once home, we believe we can print them out in a book to give them away for Christmas. It can be a lot more fun to look at photos in a book than on a computer or TV.
- With all the changes coming up on October 1st, we’ve tried to let the girls know that plans will change, so the key to having fun will be staying flexible.
One last note: our daughter and family plan to fly to Orlando the night before our October adventure begins. They will stay at an airport hotel for the night, which will allow the girls to rest a good night before accompanying us on the Magical Express the next day.
And that’s our family’s idea of what to do before going to WDW with grandchildren. We know it will be a time that creates many special memories for them (and us!).
Let us know what you think about preparing to take your grandchildren on the first trip in the comments below.