Disney for Everyone
Multigenerational travel brings the entire family together
to enjoy exciting adventures and make memories to last a lifetime
at Walt Disney World Resort.
BY OLYA FESSARD
Multigenerational travel is on the rise. Now more than ever, families are seeking to have meaningful experiences with each other. In a recent study, AAA found that 36% of families are planning to take a multigenerational family trip in the next 12 months. Grandparents, parents, and children can enjoy exciting adventures, make lasting memories, and spend quality time together when vacationing Walt Disney World Resort is a perfect choice for all the family. From energizing theme parks, water parks, character dining to relaxing resort accommodations, there’s something for everyone at Disney World.
Today’s grandparents are often hip and strongly engaged in being big helpers with the little ones who can only tolerate so much park time. Most grandparents would be thrilled to stay with baby while mom and dad have a few hours to themselves or with the older children. Or if every child chooses a different activity than the rest of the family, a grandparent can always accompany one of the children so that no one has to sacrifice his or her preference. During a recent trip to Disney World with my daughter and her family, some of my mostprecious moments were spent with my 18-month old and six-year-old granddaughters.
Shortly after arriving at Disney World by car, we checked into Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, and then drove over to their three-bedroom Treehouse Villa. The Treehouse was elevated 10 feet off the ground. The rustic and comfortable accommodations offered a fully equipped kitchen, flat-screen TVs, private deck, and charcoal grill. We had access to the huge swimming pool and all other amenities offered by Saratoga Springs Resort, although separated from them by a mile or so, guests can take the shuttle bus or drive over for food and fun. While you might get more luxury for the bucks at an off-Disney-premises hotel, there are definite advantages of staying in a non-pretentious, Disney family resort. Indeed, after the hectic atmosphere of the park, it was an added benefit to come back to the privacy of this quiet and relaxed ‘nest’.
We unpacked and hurriedly headed out to Hollywood Studios, where we were scheduled to have dinner at the famous Brown Derby. Even the downpour couldn’t keep us away from the lure of Disney fun. We found out quickly that our umbrellas were not the best choice, so our first purchases inside the gate were Disney rain ponchos for everyone. After a short wait, we were seated, and to my surprise, enjoyed cuisine equal to that of the finest restaurants in Paris. Surprised—because the decor, itself, was simple. It was Spanish Mission with light walls, tiles, and dark wood. The walls were lined with hundreds of signed caricatures of celebrities—movie giants of all eras as well as political figures. Although pricey, the service was almost perfect, but not at all snobbish. Dinner here is definitely worthy of any re-budgeting you might have to make. The pan-seared black grouper with a half herb-crusted lobster tail over an orzo salad with a cognac-mushroom beurre blanc is not to be missed!
There aren’t enough hours in the day to take advantage of the hundreds of activities that Disney World offers. We quickly discovered that we had not spent enough time planning for our three-day visit. We plan to go back soon for a more extended visit, and we will spend hours of careful planning to make sure that we can take full advantage of the resort.
I asked each family member about their favorite moments. The baby yelled, “Happy!” Here are the other comments:
Gabrielle Saiya, age six: “It’s a Small World’ at Magic Kingdom.” The magic is still there for small children (and adults) after so many years. She also enjoyed the dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, where she met several Disney princesses. The princesses visited various tables and then walked around the restaurant leading the children who wanted to follow, like the Pied Piper. Discounting her usual shyness, the excitement of meeting those princesses often left her speechless.
Ken Saiya (dad): “My favorite moments were the meetings with Gabrielle’s favorite characters/princesses. Watching her face when she met each princess was a priceless experience. Gabrielle tried on and ultimately purchased her first authentic Japanese kimono—and all its accouterments—at the international Mitsukoshi Department Store that is located in Epcot’s Japanese Pavilion. As a Japanese father, it was a touching moment for me. Of course, Japanese kimonos can be purchased worldwide, but having taken place within a department store that seemed lifted right out of Japan and set down in the Epcot Center at Disney World was truly special.”
Véronique Saiya (mom): “My favorite moment was Enchanted Tales with Belle, located in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park. Gabrielle clearly loved it as well. It offered a wonderfully up-close-and personal setting and intimate encounters that reel you into the world of the Beauty and the Beast. Only a small group of people are allowed in at a time. The journey begins in a small room in Maurice’s Cottage, where you see a very large mirror which is the focal point of the room. The human guide invites all the children in the group to gather round the mirror. She reminds them that the Beast made the mirror so that Belle, who was home sick, could visit her father by walking through it any time she wished. The host then asks everyone to chant the magic phrase—and the mirror through some very impressive Disney special effects—makes all its onlookers, both young and old, really feel like the mirror is indeed magical. Ultimately, we all go through the mirror and are transported to the Beast’s castle where a real piece of furniture again comes to life—the wardrobe—and asks for volunteers to act out a scene. Gabrielle was a volunteer and during the performance the realBelle came into the room and personally thanked each participant. Incidentally, the terrific fireworks that welcome you when starting each day at the park were special to me, too. They amp up the excitement for the magical journey of Disney that you know is about to begin.”
WHAT WE LEARNED
Whether going for a three-day getaway as we did (but don’t recommend) or vacationing for three weeks, planning is essential to get the most from a Disney World trip. With careful planning, we could have avoided scrambling around, chosen the fastest travel routes (preferably by car) from hotel to each Disney park, and planned our rest stops closest to the rides and attractions we wanted to experience.Use FastPass+ and My Disney Experience. All guests can make up to three FastPass+ selections at one park per day with valid park admission 30 days in advance. Guests staying at Disney World Resort hotels may make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance of their visit. It not only cuts out the whining you would invariably hear from young children, it is literally helping you pack in more during your stay, plus it forces you to make some planned decisions so that you don’t get lost in the revelry. The enormity of the park—-especially if park hopping—-is otherwise daunting. With My Disney Experience mobile app, my son-in-law was quickly able to find each location we wanted to experience with virtually no outside planning.
We most decidedly do not recommend that you wait until you are there to make plans. With that app in your iPhone (or Android phone), you can find the schedule of events and character appearances, waiting time, where the rides are, where you are in the park, and make ride reservations utilizing FastPass+. If you plan your three to be utilized early in the day, you may continue to plan three at a time, and you may also continue to take advantage of the FastPass+ throughout the day into the evening hours.
It may not be the best use of FastPass+, but we were able to meet several princesses without any serious waiting time in spite of very poor planning. For example, Gabrielle was anxious to see Anna and Elsa. Within a five minute wait, she was talking to Elsa. After getting Elsa’s autograph, she moved immediately on to obtaining Anna’s.
We regret not having time to do more dining and shopping in Epcot’s World Showcase, which has beautifully recreated the culture and cuisine of 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Gabrielle, who has never traveled outside the United States, felt like she was getting to see the world. Of course, she was especially excited to visit the Japanese Pavilion since Japan is her father’s birthplace. Don’t miss allowing time for this invaluable experience.
Most importantly, plan your trip with each child’s age in mind. For example, while the Epcot Center is intriguing for all, it is perhaps not as exciting for the very young such as our six year old.
Young children and extremely hot weather equal discomfort and whining. We would love to plan our next trip for winter or spring break.
The largest expansion in Downtown Disney history continues with the opening of several new dining and shopping locations, as the area transforms into Disney Springs. The lively shopping, dining and entertainment destination will treat guests by day and night to a one-of-a-kind Disney experience amid beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs and waterfront charm. The Landing is the first of four neighborhoods to open—home to unique shopping locations and memorable dining experiences. The new offerings are part of an expansion that—when Disney Springs is fully completed in 2016—will double the number of shopping, dining and entertainment venues from the current 70 to nearly 150.
Downtown Disney is perfect for guests to relax and listen to live music or get up and dance to high-energy dance music at Waterview Park, authentic Irish music at Raglan Road, and Latin rhythms at Paradiso 37, The Landing offers entertainment for all to enjoy.
Exciting new dining coming to Downtown Disney includes:
- The Boathouse (now open)! – An incredible culinary experience is showcased in the expansive restaurant with nautical themed rooms.
- Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar – An aviation-themed lounge, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at The Landing area at Downtown Disney, will open fall 2015.
- Morimoto Asia – Chef Masaharu Morimoto, known for his appearances on Iron Chef America, is opening a one-of-akind dining experienceand it will be the Japanese master chef’s first pan-Asian restaurant.
- STK – The ONE Group Hospitality, Inc., known for developing upscale, high-energy restaurants, is opening STK, a modern steakhouse mixed with the ambiance of a sleek lounge and emphasizing a social and fun environment.
- The Edison – A lavish “Industrial Gothic”-style restaurant, bar and nighttime destination that will feature exceptional classic American food, artisanal craft cocktails and unparalleled live entertainment. The Edison will open in 2016.
New Downtown Disney shopping open now includes (with more to come):
- Apex by Sunglass Hut – A first-ofits-kind sunglass store that was built with the athlete in mind.
- The Art of Shaving– A boutique retail offering that sells high-end shaving supplies and related grooming products for the modern man.
- Chapel Hats – A fashion forward shop that specializes in an assortment of hats for
- guests of all ages.
- Dockside Margaritas – The perfect spot for guests to relax and unwind, this waterfront margarita bar offers live entertainment daily in a laid-back environment amid tropical decor.
- Erin McKenna Bakery NYC – A unique bakery with savory offerings and an all-vegan and gluten-free menu. Look for a full selection of award-winning donuts, cupcakes, cookies, bagels with vegan butter.
- Erwin Pearl – Specializing in fashion jewelry and accessories, Erwin Pearl features hand-painted French enamels, 22k gold plating, sterling silver and freshwater pearls.
- Havaianas – A Brazilian-based shoe store that offers fashionable flip flops made with the highest quality rubber.
- Sound Lion – A new retail concept that offers the latest technology in headphones, docking stations, wireless music players and other products.
- Vivoli Gelateria – A family-run gelato shop.
New Pedestrian Causeway
The new Village Causeway at Downtown Disney provides guests with another path of travel through the Marketplace, connecting the area near The LEGO Store across the water to Rainforest Café. With beautiful brickwork and handsome arches, the bridge houses four new freestanding retail locations: Flour & Sugar, Icon Jewellery by Bico, Kate & Leo, and Florida Bath Co.
Downtown Disney is currently undergoing the largest expansion in its history, to be renamed and re-imagined as Disney Springs, an exciting new waterfront district for exceptional dining, shopping and entertainment at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Kid-Size Package for Preschool Families This Fall
Disney makes little dreams come true in big ways with the Fall Kid-Size Package ideal for preschool families. The vacation package provides special savings to experience all the fun of stories, characters and attractions that little ones love at Walt Disney World Resort, including the fun of Disney Junior during the golden days of the harvest season.
The fall Kid-Size Package includes three nights at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort and two-day theme park tickets for a family of three for $903*. Guests can book this package through September 18. This package is available for Sunday–Thursday nights during select travel dates: Oct. 4–8, Oct. 12–Nov. 5, Nov. 9–19, and Nov. 29–Dec.10, 2015.
There’s a bounty of festive offerings just right for preschool families. Guests can play along with favorite experiences including many Disney Junior offerings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
- “Disney Junior Live on Stage!” is an interactive sing-along stage show with enchanting puppets from
- Disney Junior shows and songs. Lots of dancing and fun for everyone.
- Meet Disney Junior pals in Animation Courtyard for fun-filled photos, hugs, and autographs with Sofia, Jake, and now Doc McStuffins.
- Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine Character Dining at Hollywood & Vine is an entertaining interactive dining experience for kids to eat, play, and dance along with friends from Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Handy Manny.
For reservations, visit DisneyWorld.com/dine, or call 407.WDW.DINE.
Another Local Family”s Experience:
THE HUBBARD FAMILY
CONTRIBUTED BY JENNIFER HUBBARD
I come from a “Disney family.” Growing up just an hour away from the happiest place on earth, I am blessed with a deep well of magical Walt Disney World memories. Though my husband, Jeff, and I now live in Macon, we still make the seven-hour journey (love those potty breaks!) to Disney World every other year in order to pass on the magic to our three beautiful children.
Until this summer, all of our Disney vacations have been exclusively multigenerational. Call them biannual family reunions, if you will. We pack into multiple hotel rooms with grandparents, aunts, and uncles and enjoy the Disney resorts and parks as a group. This plan works marvelously! Usually right about the time the kids tire out, the grandparents are ready to relax as well. This always allows Jeff and I to enjoy the adult-side of Disney as a couple or with siblings, while grandparents enjoy the hotel pool and rest time with the kids. Also, with a multigenerational group, rides are much easier. There’s always an adult who is available to sit with each child on two-seater rides or to wait outside at an ice cream bar with a child who is too scared to ride on a scarier attraction.
This summer, however, Jeff and I had the idea to tackle Disney as a single family. We’d never been on a vacation with just the five of us, and there was something exciting about trying. Since it was our 10th wedding anniversary, Jeff and I ultimately decided to spend two days of our vacation at Disney with the kids, and then my parents came and took the children back to their house for three days while Jeff and I enjoyed some much-needed time alone. I know that not everyone has grandparents an hour away from Disney, but if you do have grandparents accompany you on your vacation, I highly recommend taking advantage of Grandma and Grandpa and enjoying some time in the Disney parks as a couple! You’ll feel young again together, and that is a priceless experience!
Planning for this big vacation took three months. We reserved our FastPass+ times, made advanced dining reservations, created rough itineraries, read a ton of Disney blogs, and even discussed how we would handle temper tantrums should they arise (from the kids or the adults). This pre-planning worked beautifully, and, as a result, our family enjoyed a wonderful Disney vacation!
OUR FAVORITE MOMENTS
Hannah Hubbard, age three: Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom. Hannah is a huge Ariel fan and loved seeing her up close. It was truly a magical moment for her.
Haley Hubbard, age five: Belle’s Enchanted Tales! Haley was chosen to play the role of Chip and was able to become a part of the Beauty and the Beast story. At the end, she had her picture taken with Belle and received a bookmark! She can’t stop talking about it!
Jacob Hubbard, age seven: The Barnstormer Coaster and the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train Coaster! They were just exciting enough for Jacob to really enjoy, but not too scary. They were his first roller coasters, and he felt very proud of himself.
Jeff Hubbard (dad): My favorite “kid” moment was riding with Jacob on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and hearing him scream with excitement! My favorite ‘parent’ moment was an evening out without the kids—when we ate in Epcot at Germany’s Beirgarten Restaurant. There was a live traditional German band and a unique buffet of German cuisine, which made for an incredibly memorable evening with lots of smiling.
Jennifer Hubbard (mom): We made an early dining reservation for 8:30 a.m. at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom. This not only got us into the park before other guests (and therefore onto rides earlier), but it was also a wonderful way to start our day! The breakfast was amazing. It included an assortment of pastries delivered to our table before the main entrees. The atmosphere was even better! We sat in the main ball room, which looked like you stepped into the Beauty and the Beast movie. There was even snow falling outside the windows!
WHAT WERE YOUR OVERALL BIGGEST SUCCESSES?
Making our days with the kids all about the kids! From planning our Fast Passes for age-appropriate rides, to taking a break in the middle of the day to swim and rest at the hotel, Jeff and I made the decision to plan our Disney World trip around our young children. We never made them push through nap time or get onto a ride that they were scared of—and it really paid off! We walked past so many over-tired, crying children and frustrated parents. Don’t believe that you have to “get your money’s worth” by running your family ragged from park opening to closing or making your children ride on every exciting attraction. If you truly want to make the most of your vacation, plan to slow down and let your children set the pace. Trust me; you can’t enjoy Disney with children without making it about the children!
Making Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) was such a huge win! The restaurants were so much fun, and the portions were large enough to split and for keeping the cost down. I would recommend at least one dining reservation per day of your stay.
Stopping for the 3 p.m. Festival of Fantasy parade! Instead of waiting in long lines to see princesses and characters (which little ones are often afraid to talk to anyway), we stopped for ice cream at 2:30 p.m. and got a good seat for the parade. We saw every Disney princess (except Jasmine) and every character that my kids loved! Often, the characters walked over to us and gave high fives or waved to them or blew kisses from the floats! My children loved it, and felt like they had met everyone in person! (I recommend finding a seat in the shade or bringing your own umbrellas to sit under!)
WHAT WERE YOUR OVERALL BIGGEST MISTAKES?
Not enough rest time! We did stop each day for a short break, but if I could change one thing about our trip, I would definitely plan for even more downtime. Mainly, I would get the kids to bed on time each night. This is because tiredness and exhaustion are your worst enemy at Disney, and by far the easiest way to sabotage your magical moments! If you’re only going to Disney for one day, pushing through the day and night might be fine, but if you are taking young children (or older grandparents) for two or more days, I highly recommend sticking to your normal nap and bed times. Then, on your last day of vacation, plan to stay up late for the fireworks!
Park choices. For our two days with the children, we chose Magic Kingdom the first day and Epcot the second day. This was a mistake. There wasn’t enough at Epcot that really interested the kids, so it felt like a little bitof a letdown after Magic Kingdom. Then, after my parents took the kids, Jeff and I visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When we walked in we kicked ourselves! We had not been to Hollywood Studios in many years, and didn’t realize all of the new attractions that they had for children. There was Disney Junior Live, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a car stunt show with Lightning McQueen, A Toy Story Ride that was amazing . . . and not to mention Summer Frozen Fest!
If you only have a couple of days in the parks with little ones, I would recommend visiting Magic Kingdom twice! This is because it truly is the best park for little children! You won’t feel like you have to hurry up and get it all done in one day, and there will be many rides your children will want to repeat. However, if you really want to visit two different parks, I would visit Hollywood Studios the first day and Magic Kingdom the second day, with fireworks on the last night to seal the deal! #