Trip with grandparents - your experiences / advice?

SG131

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 3, 2017
Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I appreciate it and I think you’ve helped me avoid a minefield :) After reading through these, I will not be inviting my parents or brother on the trip with us.

You guys raised some really great points that I hadn’t thought about. I was caught up in the pixie dust. But the normal “frictions” of both travel and family would still be there. And may even be amplified by the expectations and cost of a Disney trip. My in laws and my parents don’t have a lot in common, besides us and wanting to spoil their granddaughter. (She’s the only grandchild on both sides!) I can see them all wanting to spend as much time with us as possible, and keeping a mental scorecard of who got to spend more time with the DGD.

We have never travelled with either set before. And it’s an odd dynamic because they are relative Disney newbies while my 4 year old knows exactly what she wants to do.

Will turn my thoughts to how to plan a fun, relaxing, once in a lifetime trip for my in laws that works for their expectations and health. :) And learn from this and plan another for my parents at a later time.

Thank you all again. This is such a great community ❤🙏
I just wanted to add an experience on the flip side. Not with me, but with my cousin, whose trips I've helped plan. They took her husbands parents, her mom (her dad HATES crowds and knew Disney was not the place for him), and their two young kids 3 and 6 at the time. Not only that, but they got a two bedroom unit for all 7 of them to share, and they ended up having an amazing time. They had such a great time that they are going again this summer now with a third child in tow. Since costs went up dramatically, they were looking into other hotel options including possibly splitting up into studios, but the oldest really wanted to all be in the same room as that was one of his best memories so I helped them find a discount on a 2 bedroom.

Both sets of in-laws are focused on just spending time with the kids there and catering to their needs, which is very similar to their lives at home as well. They usually spend almost the whole day each day together and it works out great for them. There are little things like paying for meals that can cause some tension so they buy the dining plan ahead of time even though it probably costs them a little bit more, it keeps the peace. They had never traveled together before, but it worked out very well since everyone put the kids first.
 

Nancyg56

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 17, 2005
Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I appreciate it and I think you’ve helped me avoid a minefield :) After reading through these, I will not be inviting my parents or brother on the trip with us.

You guys raised some really great points that I hadn’t thought about. I was caught up in the pixie dust. But the normal “frictions” of both travel and family would still be there. And may even be amplified by the expectations and cost of a Disney trip. My in laws and my parents don’t have a lot in common, besides us and wanting to spoil their granddaughter. (She’s the only grandchild on both sides!) I can see them all wanting to spend as much time with us as possible, and keeping a mental scorecard of who got to spend more time with the DGD.

We have never travelled with either set before. And it’s an odd dynamic because they are relative Disney newbies while my 4 year old knows exactly what she wants to do.

Will turn my thoughts to how to plan a fun, relaxing, once in a lifetime trip for my in laws that works for their expectations and health. :) And learn from this and plan another for my parents at a later time.

Thank you all again. This is such a great community ❤🙏

I am one of the Grands invited on my DGD's first trip. We had quite a crew going, and the dynamic was similar to what you are proposing. My DD and DSIL invited DH and me, and reluctantly included DD's aunt, who was a WDW regular. My DS and DDIL were joining us upon our arrival. The aunt was pushy at best, as she "knew" the best way to "do Disney" and finally my DD told her to plan her own trip if she as not happy with her plans. Once we got there she spent the entire trip trying to outdo DH and was very jealous of any time DD and her family spent away from us. By the end of the trip we had a mutiny. A quiet mutiny, but one nonetheless.

The bottom line is that you know your family and you know their personalities, so you know how much they need to be in charge, if they play well with others, and if they need to be the center of your family attention. DH and I are invited on our children's vacation often, however we know how to play nice. WE do not compete for attention, encourage the family to go off on their own, offer to babysit when it was needed. An extended family vacation can be a wonderful experience, but you should have a frank discussion with the family to see what their expectations are. A Disney vacation is not usually a family reunion type thing, so it is best to be upfront about what you want, and how you expect the family to interact with your child as well as each other.
 

elaine amj

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 26, 2012
Very good points. Especially good cautionary tale about the know it all. My best friend married a guy who is huge into Disney and even worked there for a year. DH keeps hoping to take them to Disney and "show them how its done" as the new husband's family does Disney very, very differently from us. I keep trying to shush DH from talking too much about how awesome I am at planning Disney trips lol. Of course I am awesome (heehee) but I know better than to tell someone who is happy with how he tours that "my way is the better way". They don't see a problem so I keep my mouth shut and happily exclaim over all the awesome parts of their trips.

We actually do travel well with my best friend and her new DH and I know my own DH just gets excited sharing Disney love. And I fully expect one day we will travel with them to Disney (I am super excited to do Disney with my best friend some day). When that happens I will make happy suggestions, smile when her DH does his thing his way, and just quietly make sure DH and I get to do the things we like at some point :) Thankfully the 4 of us don't do drama and we are all happy splitting up when we want to do different things although generally we like a lot of the same things.

Definitely the one thing I keep reiterating when I travel with others is that splitting up is okay and so is ditching all my carefully made plans. It's only fun when u are having fun after all :)

It isn't an easy balance trying to plan for so many wants, likes, and dislikes and it sure helps when the group is willing to focus on having a great time together.
 
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  • SleeplessInTO

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2019
    I just wanted to add an experience on the flip side. Not with me, but with my cousin, whose trips I've helped plan. They took her husbands parents, her mom (her dad HATES crowds and knew Disney was not the place for him), and their two young kids 3 and 6 at the time. Not only that, but they got a two bedroom unit for all 7 of them to share, and they ended up having an amazing time. They had such a great time that they are going again this summer now with a third child in tow. Since costs went up dramatically, they were looking into other hotel options including possibly splitting up into studios, but the oldest really wanted to all be in the same room as that was one of his best memories so I helped them find a discount on a 2 bedroom.

    Both sets of in-laws are focused on just spending time with the kids there and catering to their needs, which is very similar to their lives at home as well. They usually spend almost the whole day each day together and it works out great for them. There are little things like paying for meals that can cause some tension so they buy the dining plan ahead of time even though it probably costs them a little bit more, it keeps the peace. They had never traveled together before, but it worked out very well since everyone put the kids first.
    I think this is the scenario I was imagining - we would all go, have a lovely time together, and just be a Big Happy Family.
     

    sponica

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2017
    I think this is the scenario I was imagining - we would all go, have a lovely time together, and just be a Big Happy Family.
    Personally I'm not sure I'd want to run that experiment at Disney, a week at the beach, maybe?
    I feel that Disney everyone goes in with their own expectations and managing those expectations is the HARDEST part of any group trip, whether it be 4 people or 14 people.

    I think focusing this trip on your in-laws and then the next go around having your parents tag along might be the way to go. You'll still have to manage expectations and become an expert communicator but it will be easier only having to do that with one extra party.

    Some things I learned from my trip with my in-laws:
    Plan in time separate from each other. This might be a losing battle, but separation helps keep the sanity.
    If the in-laws just look at the dollar signs on menus, have them get the dining plan. In hindsight it would have made more sense for my in-laws to get the dining plan, they would have enjoyed meals more by not looking at the dollar signs.
    Make sure they understand HOW MUCH WALKING is involved and that they're wearing appropriate footwear.
     

    SleeplessInTO

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2019
    Personally I'm not sure I'd want to run that experiment at Disney, a week at the beach, maybe?
    I feel that Disney everyone goes in with their own expectations and managing those expectations is the HARDEST part of any group trip, whether it be 4 people or 14 people.

    I think focusing this trip on your in-laws and then the next go around having your parents tag along might be the way to go. You'll still have to manage expectations and become an expert communicator but it will be easier only having to do that with one extra party.

    Some things I learned from my trip with my in-laws:
    Plan in time separate from each other. This might be a losing battle, but separation helps keep the sanity.
    If the in-laws just look at the dollar signs on menus, have them get the dining plan. In hindsight it would have made more sense for my in-laws to get the dining plan, they would have enjoyed meals more by not looking at the dollar signs.
    Make sure they understand HOW MUCH WALKING is involved and that they're wearing appropriate footwear.
    Thanks! I agree. Especially about the shoes.

    I think we will be footing the bill financially for the entire visit (flights, accommodations, food, etc) excluding any souvenirs they want to buy for our daughter. We have told them about flights and accommodations being on us and they seemed okay with that. Meals we haven’t discussed yet although I’d like to take them to Cinderella’s Royal Table and Space 220 for the experiences.
     
  • SG131

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 3, 2017
    I think this is the scenario I was imagining - we would all go, have a lovely time together, and just be a Big Happy Family.
    With so many negative stories I just wanted to let you know that it can work. They are all very devoted to their grand children and that is their focus on the trip. None of them have stuff that they must do or the trip will be ruined. The kids like to go back to swim in the afternoons, and they all go back because they would rather spend time with their grandkids than explore the park on their own. Neither of the grandparents want to be left out of the trip that they make sure to put aside any differences they had and it makes it so special for the kids. The kids (all boys) don't even do thrill rides or care much about the characters, I think it's having the whole family together that is why the 8 yr old who is already too cool for a lot of kid activities is really looking forward to going again.
     

    Tangled Pink

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Dec 30, 2019
    Like SleeplessinTO said-you can make it work. My advise to to be VERY specific about what things you will be doing. You can give them their options at that time before starting your day. I had to deal with my mom's mentality when something seemed like a good plan to her at the time, and then throughout the day she's giving me the cold shoulder. There seemed to be something wrong no matter how well laid out the plan was. It was exhausting trying to make her happy and not knowing if she's happy in the moment and if she's going to make a comment about something said, done, not said, not done two years later. This is why she is no longer invited to go with us on our trips.
     

    sponica

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2017
    Thanks! I agree. Especially about the shoes.

    I think we will be footing the bill financially for the entire visit (flights, accommodations, food, etc) excluding any souvenirs they want to buy for our daughter. We have told them about flights and accommodations being on us and they seemed okay with that. Meals we haven’t discussed yet although I’d like to take them to Cinderella’s Royal Table and Space 220 for the experiences.
    We got connecting rooms, which made sense given that they were watching her one night so we could have a date night and my daughter was only 20 months old at the time. They put her in the pack n play in our room and left the connecting door open.
     

    Anna131517

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 19, 2019
    We usually do WDW with extended family. We get everyone to set up a MDE account and link them, and we make all the FP’s and ADRs, then everyone can change as they want. We ask ahead of time if there’s anything specific they really want to do. We love early morning character breakfasts and absolutely no one else wants to do those but they usually join us for lunch and dinner. We only make dinner reservations for a couple nights so that leaves plenty of nights open for our parents and siblings to do adult stuff. Oh - keep transportation issues in mind when dealing with older parents. Out parents have kind of made that transition to “elderly” so they usually use a taxi/Uber/Lyft to get to parks/hotels, and they need some more sitting down time during the day. Because our kids are little and we usually do the no-height-restriction rides we don’t have an issue with them going on rides with us, but if you like rollercoasters just make sure everyone else is on board for that or make other plans for them nearby.
     
  • sachilles

    DVC coming to this space soon
    Joined
    Jan 7, 2013
    Possible to do a split stay where you get a full length vacation and each set of parents gets one half of it? That way you get time with all, each set of parents gets dedicated time etc, but the groups stays small to stay maneuverable. If they want longer time they add on to either end but know they don't encroach on one another. Or maybe have one cross over day, where everyone is together and do a show like hoop de doo or something.
     

    LuvMyEAR

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 23, 2009
    Just want to say that I hope you have such a truly magical time that you want to begin planning the next trip with the other set of grandparents as soon as your suitcases are emptied at home!

    We took the plunge years ago, with 10 people, of 4 generations, ages 3 - 89. It was amazing. While second was not pixie-dusted, overall the trip was a huge success. The children don’t have actual memories, but they can tell the story of that trip from pictures that we still look at together.

    Above all, adults must be courteous to one another, and make sure no one gets too hot, hungry, or tired.
     

    SleeplessInTO

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2019
    Possible to do a split stay where you get a full length vacation and each set of parents gets one half of it? That way you get time with all, each set of parents gets dedicated time etc, but the groups stays small to stay maneuverable. If they want longer time they add on to either end but know they don't encroach on one another. Or maybe have one cross over day, where everyone is together and do a show like hoop de doo or something.
    I thought about this and it would be great but I want to fly with and escort the in laws and my parents on magical express, help them navigate Disney transport, etc. at the beginning.
    Just want to say that I hope you have such a truly magical time that you want to begin planning the next trip with the other set of grandparents as soon as your suitcases are emptied at home!

    We took the plunge years ago, with 10 people, of 4 generations, ages 3 - 89. It was amazing. While second was not pixie-dusted, overall the trip was a huge success. The children don’t have actual memories, but they can tell the story of that trip from pictures that we still look at together.

    Above all, adults must be courteous to one another, and make sure no one gets too hot, hungry, or tired.
    Thank you! I am glad you had an amazing trip :)
     

    elaine amj

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2012
    Oh yes - planning on a few taxis made the first trip so much better for my father. He was fine with only buses for his second trip but being flexible with using taxis for that first trip when we had super early mornings really helped.
     

    Feberin

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 6, 2014
    We're going with my dad in May. It's our first vacation with him but we did live with him while we were selling/buying our house for a few months so I'm know we'll get along. I'm hoping to do Fastpasses in the morning so he can always head back to the resort if he gets tired. We typically are very active on vacations. I'm also doing Fastpasses for just him and one child (we have four) so he has something to do while the rest of us do thrill rides. Bonus it lets my kids get to do the rides they want to do.
     

    mercuryvenus

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Feb 18, 2020
    We just did a week with my parents, his parents, and our 3 year old. My parents only stayed for the first 3 days, while his parents stayed for the whole week.

    I think the key is to communicate clearly about a few things:

    1. Does everyone want to stay in the same hotel?

    2. What are everyone's expectations for how much babysitting will happen? Both sets of grandparents were great about babysitting, but we had to really press them to tell us what *they* wanted out of the trip, too.

    3. At what point during the day will they want to go back and rest? Remember that they probably don't have the stamina you do, so communicate early and often that anyone can go back to the hotel and rest whenever they want to.

    If you communicate well, it can be a really fun trip for everyone.
     

    NotUrsula

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 19, 2002
    We took my late MIL (then aged 78, but pretty physically fit) when DD was 9 mos and DS was 10yo; she finally caved to DS' pleading. She later told DH that "I am never traveling anywhere with that slave driver ever again!". (The slavedriver being me.) So, what did I do, you ask? Well, I planned which park we would go to each morning and each evening, with a midday rest break in the middle. We also planned a no-parks day mid-week. We stayed in adjoining rooms at the Swan, which has the least amount of walking I could finagle. At no time did we try to make rope drop, but we did close a park most nights, in order to do most of our park time at night when it was cooler. We were fine with her not coming with us to parks if she didn't feel up to it, but she didn't want to spend any time on her own without the kids. Because we went in late September, we knew it would rain. We warned her to bring appropriate footwear for rain because we don't leave parks for rain showers, but she apparently didn't believe that, because she was astonished when I just passed out ponchos and kept walking.

    So, what was the problem, other than the rain? Mostly Fastpasses. She just could not wrap her mind around the idea of making an appointment for a ride, especially since she didn't much like the rides, and it drove her crazy to have to cross the parks without stopping in order to make FP times. She loved the shows, but otherwise mostly just wanted to sit on a bench & snuggle the baby (who was on her 3rd trip, and of course was a character junkie even at that age, she kept crying to follow every character she saw.) MIL also felt very strongly that the baby shouldn't go on any rides, so she tried to sit them all out with the baby, which frustrated the baby, who didn't want us to leave her behind, AND disappointed the 10 yo, who wanted Grandma to see at least some of his favorite rides.

    MIL had offered to watch the kids one night so that we could go downstairs for a nice dinner, but that didn't happen; she bailed on it because she was tired and realized that they would get antsy in a hotel room. We did suggest she take them to the pool, but she was afraid to, even though there were plenty of lifeguards and DS swam like a fish at the time. (We were not really disappointed by that episode at all, we just canceled the dinner and took the kids back to a park. I only tell that part of the story to illustrate that a plan to have grandparents babysit might not work out.)

    I should also point out that I got along fine with my MIL, though our relationship was a rather politely formal one; we were never best buddies because our interests were very different. My mistake on that trip was in not truly understanding that despite her saying that she "wished" she'd had more money and opportunity to travel, she actually hated travel. She didn't like being away from home, and really wanted us to stay with her and keep her company at all times, which, since she didn't like rides, was kind of problematic at WDW with 2 active little kids who were experienced with Disney World and eager to do their favorite activities. In hindsight a few years later, we realized that she had probably begun to develop minor dementia at the time of the trip; so she wasn't just uncomfortable in a strange place, but probably frightened as well, but at the time she just presented as a tad grumpy.
     
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    Heather07438

    WDW Apprentice
    Joined
    Oct 20, 2015
    Personally I'd wait for the next trip to bring the other 3, but you can make it work with both sets too.

    Either way, I think it's best planning not to spend the whole time together.

    It can feel like herding cats trying to host everybody and making sure everyone's needs & desires are constantly being considered. It's over-whelming. Instead, plan some meals and rides/FPs together and leave big chunks of time for couples to go off and do their own thing. The great thing about WDW is there is plenty to keep people of all ages occupied and intrigued. Don't worry, they shouldn't feel 'lost' without you :) For each park advise them on a few things you know they'd enjoy.

    Make a plan where some or all of you are meeting up each day. Pick some shows or fireworks together, &/or all go on the Safari together, etc. Plan a few meals to do together. That seems like the best recipe to make sure all enjoy themselves, together AND separately. So much easier and you'll still make tons of wonderful memories together.

    You might also want to schedule in time for your child to spend alone with each set of Grandparents.
     
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    SleeplessInTO

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2019
    We took my late MIL (then aged 78, but pretty physically fit) when DD was 9 mos and DS was 10yo; she finally caved to DS' pleading. She later told DH that "I am never traveling anywhere with that slave driver ever again!". (The slavedriver being me.) So, what did I do, you ask? Well, I planned which park we would go to each morning and each evening, with a midday rest break in the middle. We also planned a no-parks day mid-week. We stayed in adjoining rooms at the Swan, which has the least amount of walking I could finagle. At no time did we try to make rope drop, but we did close a park most nights, in order to do most of our park time at night when it was cooler. We were fine with her not coming with us to parks if she didn't feel up to it, but she didn't want to spend any time on her own without the kids. Because we went in late September, we knew it would rain. We warned her to bring appropriate footwear for rain because we don't leave parks for rain showers, but she apparently didn't believe that, because she was astonished when I just passed out ponchos and kept walking.

    So, what was the problem, other than the rain? Mostly Fastpasses. She just could not wrap her mind around the idea of making an appointment for a ride, especially since she didn't much like the rides, and it drove her crazy to have to cross the parks without stopping in order to make FP times. She loved the shows, but otherwise mostly just wanted to sit on a bench & snuggle the baby (who was on her 3rd trip, and of course was a character junkie even at that age, she kept crying to follow every character she saw.) MIL also felt very strongly that the baby shouldn't go on any rides, so she tried to sit them all out with the baby, which frustrated the baby, who didn't want us to leave her behind, AND disappointed the 10 yo, who wanted Grandma to see at least some of his favorite rides.

    MIL had offered to watch the kids one night so that we could go downstairs for a nice dinner, but that didn't happen; she bailed on it because she was tired and realized that they would get antsy in a hotel room. We did suggest she take them to the pool, but she was afraid to, even though there were plenty of lifeguards and DS swam like a fish at the time. (We were not really disappointed by that episode at all, we just canceled the dinner and took the kids back to a park. I only tell that part of the story to illustrate that a plan to have grandparents babysit might not work out.)

    I should also point out that I got along fine with my MIL, though our relationship was a rather politely formal one; we were never best buddies because our interests were very different. My mistake on that trip was in not truly understanding that despite her saying that she "wished" she'd had more money and opportunity to travel, she actually hated travel. She didn't like being away from home, and really wanted us to stay with her and keep her company at all times, which, since she didn't like rides, was kind of problematic at WDW with 2 active little kids who were experienced with Disney World and eager to do their favorite activities. In hindsight a few years later, we realized that she had probably begun to develop minor dementia at the time of the trip; so she wasn't just uncomfortable in a strange place, but probably frightened as well, but at the time she just presented as a tad grumpy.
    Thank you for sharing this - I can definitely see this happening to me! I just kept nodding as I read your post.
     





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