Some of our most special trips to Disneyland have been multi-generational trips with Tad and Lily’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The cousins are in a constant huddle of hugs, Grandma and Grandpa love snuggling little tadpoles and watching them play while the bigger froglets go on the thrill rides. Everyone takes turns sitting next to different aunts and uncles for the scary rides, gripping their hands so tightly, and nobody has to cook or clean. It’s good-time family fun with something for everyone.
Whether you are taking grandparents to Disneyland or are planning a multi-generational trip to Disneyland with all the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, your trip will abound with love and family bonding. Having extra adults can be especially helpful if you have children under age 7. Older relatives are usually hoppy to babysit or sit and watch the ducks with little ones, plus having extra adults or older cousins to ride with the tadpoles really helps out. It is super exciting for your tadpoles to experience a new ride with their relatives.
Of course you’ll want to find rides, shows and activities that work for everyone as well as different experiences that can appeal to various members of the group when they each want to split up to do something the whole group is not on board with. The beauty of taking grandparents and great aunts and uncles on any multi-generational trip to Disneyland is that many times the oldest members of the group are very much in sync with the youngest members of the group. In no way are we generalizing anyone’s interests, but even the grandparents who love thrill rides usually enjoy a slower pace with plenty of rest stops and simple pleasures, just like the babies and toddlers who adore them. Plus, the older generation finds extreme joy in watching all the kids experience it all for perhaps the very first time.
Now let’s hop to it and cover the 10 tips that will make taking a multi-generational trip to Disneyland the hoppiest family outing yet.
Most Hoppin' Tips for Hoppy Multi-Generational Trip to Disneyland
1. Plan the best time to visit Disneyland
Deciding the best time to visit Disneyland is an important step in taking a multi-generational trip to Disneyland. You may want to consider weather and crowd levels. Disneyland has overall pleasant weather most of the year, but August and September tend to be the hottest months where temperatures can reach the 90s and sometimes 100s, making it unsafe for more elderly guests. Late October through May are usually sunny and pleasant during the day. Nighttime temperatures are always a bit cooler, but can be especially cool at night November through March. If you want to experience Holiday time at Disneyland, mid-November to mid-December are going to be a lot less crowded than the weeks from Christmas to New Years. No matter when you visit, if you plan ahead and use your tools, you should not worry too much about crowds.
2. Find rides and attractions everyone will enjoy
Disneyland offers many classic rides that people of all ages can toadally enjoy such as “it’s a small world,” Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, the Haunted Mansion, the Disneyland Railroad and most of the rides in Fantasyland. There are no height requirements for these rides and the thrills are just right for everyone. Children under age 7 must be seated with an adult. The inside rides offer air-conditioning, which is welcoming to everyone on a hot day. Grab a seat on the Mark Twain Riverboat, for a relaxing ride around the Rivers of America. At Disney California Adventure, all ages can enjoy Monsters Inc., The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Toy Story Midway Mania, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Golden Zephyr, the carousel and Bugs Land Attractions.
Other attractions that appeal to people of all ages and give the kids a chance to run around and have unstructured bonding time (especially if the are cousins involved), include Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and playing with all the buttons, gadgets and even dynamite in Toon Town. Over at Disney California Adventure the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is especially fun for kids on the go, while people who would like to rest can enjoy a shady bench.
3. Narrow down each person’s priorities
Before your trip, find out each person’s must-do activities. Do they have a must-see character, favorite ride, specific show they want to see or a special meal in mind? Knowing everyone’s priorities can help you map out a touring plan to accomplish it all and keep each family member feeling hoppy. Grandma Frog loves a parade, so we know that we have to check the parade schedule, pick a shady bench very early and fit it into our visit. If you have a toddler or small child, be sure to research Disneyland height requirements for rides before the trip so there are no unpleasant surprises like finding out your child who is obsessed with Lighting McQueen is not tall enough for Radiator Spring Racers after you have built up the excitement for the ride. You can instead redirect their attention elsewhere, keeping it all positive.
4. Find shows and musical entertainment when taking grandparents to Disneyland
If you want to maximize your time at Disneyland and have the most magical day, do a little research ahead of time on the type of in-park entertainment, considering the interests and needs of your group. You can check the entertainment calendar in advance and note the days and times of shows so you do not miss anything.
Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have amazing entertainment from Broadway-quality shows, such as Frozen — Live at the Hyperion, to colorful and exciting nighttime water shows such as Fantasmic! and World of Color to the evening fireworks, parades, and other stage shows such as Mickey and the Magical map or “Beauty and the Beast” and “Tangled” at the Royal Theatre. The shows and parades are great for all ages. Kids and babies love the colors and music. Grandparents love being able to rest their feet and knees while they are entertained with the stage shows or parades. Shows are a win-win for multigenerational entertainment. Force-sensitive tadpoles ages 4 to 12 can participate in Jedi Training, and everyone else can rest their legs in the shade while they watch the performance. Kids love having their favorite people in the audience watching them battle Darth Vader or Kylo Ren. Grandparents adore watching their grandkids perform. Does it get any better?
There are much shorter musical acts throughout the parks as well such as the Disneyland Band, playing some favorite Disney music, or the pearly Band (sometimes with Mary Poppins and/or Bert joining in). The Dapper Dans and the Straw Hatters perform up and down Main Street. You can watch the entertainment while eating a meal at the The Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland or at the Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure. Catch the Red Car Trolley News Boys or Five and Time for some nostalgic music from the '20s and '30s. There are bands all over the parks, so sitting on a bench near the action can make for a great rest with nearby entertainment.
5. Use Disneyland tools to make your day extra magical
There are several tools you can use to make your day much easier on you such as Rider Switch, PhotoPass, MaxPass, FASTPASS and the Disneyland Park Mobile App. Let’s say some party members want to brave Space Mountain, but other guests are not tall enough, you can all go to the ride entrance and obtain a Rider Switch reservation. Someone can supervise the smallest group members (the large granite ball outside Space Mountain makes a great waiting spot — and it is surrounded by benches) while the first group rides, then when they return, the supervisor can take a turn riding Space Mountain and bring a companion (or two).
FASTPASS is a free service that allows you to skip the lines for some of the more popular attractions. You go to a FASTPASS distribution machine (usually but not necessarily near the ride) with everyone’s park tickets to receive a one-hour return window that allows you to come back at your reserved time and jump near the front of the line. It is really necessary to utilize this service if you want to go on several large rides.
We recommend getting MaxPass for at least some if not all the guests. MaxPass is an optional paid service that allows you make FASTPASS reservations from your smart phone. That can save you a lot of walking, and if you are park hopping, you can make FASTPASS reservations in either park. We especially love it when visiting with a large family group or with grandparents because it cuts down on running around to collect FASTPASSES while increasing the number of rides we can fit into our day. MaxPass also comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the days that you have purchased the service.
PhotoPass is a photography service at Disneyland where park employees will take your photo with their professional camera at iconic spots like near the castle or the Mickey flowers near the park entrance or at certain character meet and greets. The photos will appear in your Disneyland Mobile app. You can share the images on social media or by text or email right from the app. You can purchase MaxPass when you buy your tickets or wait until you have entered the park to purchase through the Disneyland Park mobile app. People who do not plan to ride roller coasters or other thrill rides might pass on MaxPass, but at least one person in the group should get it each day because you are going to want those PhotoPass downloads and great family photos, but if you wait until you get home to decide you love the photos and want to download them then it is going to cost a lot more money ($12.50 per download) than the $10 you paid for MaxPass with unlimited downloads.
The Disneyland app is a useful tool in itself. You can use it to make restaurant reservations, check the status of your FASTPASS reservations, locate character, check upcoming show times or check wait times for attractions.
6. Pace yourselves and move efficiently through the park
Knowing everyone’s needs and planning an efficient route through the park can help cut down on unnecessary walking. Try to cover an entire land at once instead of popping in and out of it. That can mean planning meals in that land, catching a show while you are there, parking the stroller maybe once in that land and knowing alternative gentle options for the people who might be avoiding a particular thrill ride. You can divide and conquer but still be close enough to meet back up for the next attraction.
For example, on a recent multi-generational trip to Disneyland, we enrolled all the cousin tadpoles in Jedi Training in Tomorrowland. Then we acquired FASTPASSES for Star Tours for before the show, FASTPASSES for Space Mountain for after the show, and had lunch at the nearby Pizza Port, meaning we spent a lot of time in Tomorrowland without having to walk very far, including several rests for the Grandparents (to eat and watch the show), and then the grandparents could take Lily on the slow moving Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters while Tad and the rest of the thrill seekers went on Space Mountain. We all met back up at the giant granite ball before moving on to the next area together.
You are going to move a lot slower with little ones and grandparents. Nap time is key for everyone! If you are staying nearby you might consider taking a break mid afternoon for naps and downtime. If you cannot easily leave the park, consider seeing some shows and doing more relaxing activities, like having a lunch reservation so you can sit and recharge.
Older members of the party will welcome a slower walking pace and a nice, shady place to rest. There are benches around the park, but they do become scarce on the parade route closer to parade time, so plan ahead if you want a bench to view the parade. We have all experienced some of the most interesting sights while seated on a bench near the castle. There is a lot of musical entertainment in that area, and sometimes unexpected characters hop on by. You can watch the Main Street vehicles, do some people watching, enjoy the ducks or just gnaw on a turkey leg, popcorn or churro. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the hub of Disneyland while other party members take on thrills. The Enchanted Tiki room will delight babies and toddlers while giving older guests some time to sit and rest their legs in cool air conditioning (while enjoying refreshing Dole Whip.)
Hop tip: the Dole Whip line is shorter on the attraction side!
Restful ideas that will keep young ones entertained at Disney California Adventure include taking an art class at Animation Academy, seeing Frozen, or sitting on a nice cool bench in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Hop into the family friendly but stylish Carthay Circle lounge for dignified drinks and lounge bites to recharge and feel like you have left the theme park behind.
Other tools for getting around that can help manage your pace include strollers, which can also be great napping spots, and wheelchair or electronic convenience vehicles (ECVs). You can rent wheelchairs or ECVs even if the user doesn’t usually require one to get around. Walking around Disneyland is exhausting, so it can offer the user more stability and energy if they can ride around for at least some of the day. Using a wheelchair can also mean less time standing in line and easier access to seating for shows as long as you arrive in a reasonable amount of time. If you have an infant or toddler, be sure to read up on using a stroller at Disneyland and taking a baby to Disneyland.
7. Food tips when taking a multigenerational trip to Disneyland
It’s no small feat managing the dining needs of a large and diverse family group at Disneyland. The best way to make it simple on yourself and save money is to bring some snacks and waters, especially for the tadpoles. Plan ahead by making some group meal reservations at a table-service restaurant. It helps save energy by taking the time to sit and relax during a meal, and you can always find kid and toddler options wherever you eat. Another fun group dining option is character dining. You can attend a character breakfast inside Disneyland or enjoy character dining meals at each of the thee on-site hotels. You can make dining reservations through Disney Dining up to 60 days in advance. Some of the dining packages that offer vouchers for preferred viewing for some nighttime shows fill up right away. If you usually grab a corndog or turkey leg and eat on the go, know that that pace probably won’t work for this crowd.
8. Get matching clothes
One fun thing we see a lot of large family groups doing is getting matching shirts for their visit to Disneyland. It makes the trip extra special, means you always match in photos, bonds you as a family and makes it easy to spot each other in the crowds. It helps in avoiding lost children …or parents … or grandparents. You’ll have a lot on your plate, so dress everyone alike and assign buddies so you don’t have to worry about locating lost family members.
9. Pack patience and flexibility when taking the grandparents to Disneyland
When taking a multi-generational trip to Disneyland, you are going to have to take everyone’s needs into consideration. Moving from place to place will be slower. You might not get to everything you plan. People will get hungry at different times (which is why having snacks and drinks on hand can help prevent making extra stops). When one person has to use the restroom encourage everyone to go so you don’t have to go 10 minutes later. And if it happens, and it will happen, just smile and take them. So maybe you would not choose to ride the Disneyland Railroad one more time, but understanding that it will get your parents across the park without walking there will allow you be flexible and do what’s best for the group. We promise your kids will be “all aboard.”
10. Know when to split up
Even though this a family vacation and it is so much fun to be together, you can ensure that that everyone will stay hoppy if you split up occasionally. If Grandma would rather go wine tasting in Disney California Adventure than lose her stomach on Guardians of the Galaxy, let her have her own fun. It can be great to to split up for a meal too, especially if people are on different budgets or it means you have built-in babysitters for a romantic kid-free meal at Napa Rose or Steakhouse 55. If older relatives need a day off from the parks or can only do a half day, let them have some down time. If you have teens in your group, let them venture off for a little space and independence, but be sure to set guidelines to bring them back into the family fold.
If you have an upcoming multi-generational trip to Disneyland, you are in for a treat. Be prepared to have your cheeks hurt from smiling too much. All your prep and planning will pay off in valuable family moments. You can all experience the magic of Disneyland together, and see it in a new light through the eyes of your loved ones.
If you are ready to grab the family and take an upcoming multi-generational trip to Disneyland, be sure to check out some hoppin’ deals on family friendly lodging near Disneyland or car rentals, so you can get planning your magical family vacation.