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. The best part is that 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 overflow 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. Allow smaller groups with different interests to break off 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 a 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 successful multi-generational trip to Disneyland. You may want to consider weather and crowd levels. Disneyland has overall pleasant weather most of the year. However, July, August and September tend to be the hottest months. 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. It 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, the Pixar Pal-A-Round, the Golden Zephyr, Jessie's Critter Carousel and Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind.
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). These may 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. 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. That keeps each family member feeling hoppy. Grandma Frog loves a parade. We know that we have to check the parade schedule, pick a shady bench 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. You do not want to find 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. Look at the 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, there is so much to see. Parades and stage shows such as Mickey and the Magical map or “Beauty and the Beast” and “Tangled” at the Royal Theatre are always a hit with any age crowd. Shows and parades are great way to make everyone stop and rest. 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 multi-generational entertainment.
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 Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure. Catch Five & Dime in the Carthay Circle area. There are bands all over the parks, so sitting on a bench near the action can make for a great rest with nearby entertainment.
If there is a dance party happening, get in on the action. You may get a chance to shake it off with favorite Disney characters!
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 while the first group rides. Then when when they return, the supervisor can take a turn riding Space Mountain and bring a companion (or two). The large granite ball outside Space Mountain makes a great waiting spot — and it is surrounded by benches.
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. The FASTPASS 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. 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 than the price 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.
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: Mobile order Dole Whip to skip the line!
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. Wear matching clothes.
We see a lot of large family groups getting matching shirts for their visit to Disneyland. It makes the trip extra special. It also means you always match in photos. Dressing alike 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. That 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 stop again 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. This is especially true if people are on different budgets. Having extra family members may mean having built-in babysitters for a romantic kid-free meal at Napa Rose or Steakhouse 55. When older relatives need a day off from the parks or can only do a half day, let them have some down time. Let teens 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.