Planning the Multi-Generational Family Vacation

Cinderella Castle at Night!

Cinderella 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 I 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 involving 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.

Last year 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 this year!  We already knew what we were going to do with those points!

Last year we 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.  This past September, 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 falls 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 NC 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?

Mike Ellis (1466 Posts)

My Dreams of Disney is just that…My Dreams of my absolute favorite place in the World! Stop by and share your Dreams too! Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and , and check out our special pages on the Lands of the Magic Kingdom, the countries of Epcot’s World Showcase, and our Disney Planning Resource pages! I am also a Pixie Vacations Travel Agent, so contact me to help you plan your next Disney Vacation!


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  1. says

    We are three families that travel together. On my first trip, it was just my parents, brother and I. Now it is my parents, brother, sister in law, 2 nephews, husband, my 3 kids and myself. It is amazing sharing the vacation together but you definitely have to be prepared. My best tip is to appoint one person as the leader, not that they make all the decisions, but one person who everyone gets their ideas to. This way everyone checks in with one person. For my family, that person is me. I gather all the dining suggestions, dates, hotel requests and then plan from there. I think we all know what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen . . .

  2. says

    Beth, thanks for those incites! We have done that, I am the planner for Disney trips, not just when it involves multiple families, but also when it is just myself, my wife, and our daughter. Also, we have the DVC so I made the reservation. I can't wait until our trip! Now that we have the Adult Only restaurant chosen, the next things will be to make our ADR reservations later this month, and also to call to make our Bibidi Bobiti Boutique appointment for my daughter and our niece for Sophie's birthday. The biggest thing I've been working on is making sure that all of the parties involved are communicating with us so that no one is feeling left out. Thanks for reading!

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