Large multigenerational trip planning for dummies

It looks like I’m going to be planning a trip for more than just my immediate family.

DH and I had talked about taking SILs kids to Disney (she’s a single mom and unlikely to be able to afford a Disney trip in her own), which evolved into taking SIL and her two kids. Talked to SIL about the plan and what ages she’s be interested in for this eventual trip. This all happened maybe 2 years ago, and we agreed to shoot for spring break 2023, assuming our school district calendars aligned.

So now, we’re thinking June 2023 (spring breaks didn’t align), 7-8 days and it looks like FIL and his wife will also likely come (paying their own way).

I’ve only ever planned for our immediate family!! Trip will be me, DH, our 3 boys (11, 13, 16 at time of trip), SIL and her 2 kids (girl 9 and boy 6 at time of trip), plus FIL and wife SMIL (both late 60s, very active).

Shades of Green is probably our hotel, to keep costs down, and still benefit from whatever on-site perks are left in 2023 (onsite perks aren’t a guarantee, but Shades usually buys into them). Although renting an offsite house definitely holds some appeal…

DH and I have been 3 times, our kids twice, SMIL I think came with her daughter maybe 20 years ago? SIL, her kids, and FIL have never been.

Reservations and FastPasses for our family of 5 were sometimes difficult (things are usually designed around families of 4), I have no idea how to get dining reservations and G+/LL$ for 10!

How do I plan a multigenerational trip with/for newbies?

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There’s essentially two plans and I’ve never been able to affect this outcome. It just happens.

Plan 1 is everyone is joined at the hip. Especially true of newbies but not always.

Plan A is folks don’t mind exploring on their own. Often this doesn’t even fall along family lines, but more of an adult or kid thing. Kids hanging together with one or another adult while some adults tour at their speed/interest.

As you have more than a year, I’d recommend some Intel gathering. Ride and meal preferences. There’s so much info on line, which is easily shared.

I start with a calendar - slots for meals, morning, afternoon and evening activities. You just start. Things evolve.

For meals, I’d call the group meal number for reservations if everyone’s eating the same meal at the same time.

For our last big group of 19 in 2019 I knew we’d be splitting up but allegedly gathering to eat so planned meals accordingly. I reserved groups for tables of 3 or 5 until I had the necessary number. The odd number is to add easily one more. We did rearrange our tables every meal. The smaller groups were so we weren’t waiting for everyone to show up so we’d could be seated. One reservation could always wait for the laggards. Often we were rearranged by the restaurant to be seated one table. Sometimes we were at tables near each other. Our main meal together was usually about lunch time or late breakfast.

You’ll not want to be locking in much more than lodging until early to spring 2023. Things have been changing so much.

I agree, SOG sounds perfect for your group. Hoping to stay there ourselves some year.

Good luck. A good imagination helps. The more I can just imagine touring the better choices I’ve made.

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Just went with a group of 6 (DW, 2kids, DFIL/DMIL in 60s).

  • I put everyone under my MDE account. All resort reservations, ADR, G+/ILL were managed by me. I logged everyone into my MDE login on their phones. This worked well, except for one thing (see next)
  • If making ADR for a smaller group that doesn’t include yourself make yourself the contact person. I made one for FIL/MIL with FIL as contact, and I found I couldn’t cancel/modify the reservation. He made his own MDE and couldn’t either! I had to wait 2 hours on the phone to talk to ADR people to cancel the reservation I made on the wrong day. All future reservations I made with myself as the contact, and they just gave my name if I wasn’t there.
  • It was much easier to split up and reunite than I expected. FIL/MIL didn’t do a lot of rides bc they got motion sick on simulators or anything remotely exciting. So they opted to skip all the star wars rides and go to world showcase. We were able to meet them just inside the international gateway easily later.
  • also easy to make G+ reservations for subsets of the group. But be aware that every person maintains their own eligibility window for G+. We couldn’t find our youngest’s magic band at KS, and the CM let us on. But then realized we couldn’t book another LL for him with everyone else, bc he didn’t scan.
  • Mobile ordering was great. We had people looking at the menu on phones and 1 person submit the order (all on the same MDE login)
  • I picked counter-service restaurants for lunch with exotic menus for the cool factor and due to book recommendations. 2x DW vetoed the choice due to the weird menu, as she didn’t think the kids would eat anything on it. Be aware of the pickiness of all parties and consider having a backup CS option for lunch.
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This makes sense, but I’m assuming that means you can’t have 2 different reservations? Like FIL/SMIL at one restaurant and the rest of us at a different one at the same time? Or does MDE not care?

We had conflicting reservations. Never at exactly the same time (i.e. 7:00pm and 7:10pm). It just flagged the reservations that it said were conflicting. Same with G+. On the last day, I had all of the following simultaneously: (JC 5:10, PotC 5:40, ADR 5:40, PPF 6:40). Fwiw, I had to cancel the PotC, but I was able to make all of them.


Ooh this is interesting. I had assumed that everywhere would have something our one picky eater would like, but I see it may be necessary to have him and his dad pop to the nearest burger/pizza location and meet us at the table?

With some of the others being newbies, I think you should help them learn about WDW - what it is, how big, just the number/variety of resorts/dining/attractions/activities, etc. The Birnbaum book is simpler (and full of pictures) for people to start researching WDW. I think they need to have a basic understanding before you start trying to decide on exactly which meals/which days. Plus, everyone needs to understand their own touring style (go-go-go vs relaxed, joined at the hip vs split and regroup, etc). TP had a series of blogs last August about planning/touring with a large group.


Veto occurred on the spot as I was asking people to pick lunch choices for mobile order. It’s possible we could have done it. Ended up with pizza one day and bbq the other (DHS and AK).


I had my multigenerational group look at menus and we ordered while in a late morning standby queue. Gave everyone something to do, and then we were first served for lunch when the QS opened for the day, so had the “place to ourselves” more or less, for seating.

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Just don’t ask this guy about multigenerational trip planning

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It depends. When chatting with a CM by phone - does this even happen any more? - I was able to secure two different, same time, reservations with one credit card in 2019. When I said, oh, do you need a different card, she replied, not necessary. As for MDE, I think it’s had a few updates since then. Your experience will vary.

That was then. Also then, I had 3 cards - mine, my sister’s and my ex daughter in law’s, which pretty much covered all meal/restaurant situations.

When traveling with a joined at the hip group I always called group dining. It was fun to chat up the CM and sometimes they had availability I had not seen myself.

Years and years ago I would call for 3 reservations a day for 7 or 8 days. Then before Covid CMs had a time limit per call. Making several calls a better option. Except nowadays you can’t ride every ride and stop in each shop and eat 3 sit down meals every day. There’s not enough time.

Joined at the hip groups seem unavoidable with first time grandparents and grandkids. Nobody wants to miss a reaction. :grin:

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On our trip in 2020, we had a large group that split up a lot. I was able to book 2 ADRs that conflicted at that time by signing into the Disney website, and then opening a new window to book the additional adr. I learned that trick on here somewhere🤣, and it worked like a charm. I’m not sure if that’s not necessary any more due to updates, but if you get stuck, it’s worth a try.

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Honestly, I think I’d rather not have to manage 9 other people all day every day. I’m hoping we’re more of a “break into smaller groups in the morning, come back together for lunch and a couple rides/attractions maybe different smaller groups for the afternoon” type group. But given the newbie/grandparent combo….it makes sense that we could be together nearly all the time.

Virtually all of our trips are multi-generational, large family trips. Both my mom and MIL are regular travelers with us. Sometimes we add in multiple families as well.

Based on the demographics of your group, I would want to do something special for your niece as the only girl. Maybe fsplit the group up into girls/boys one morning to do special girly things, then regroup in the afternoon. A lunch in Cindy’s castle may be fun for her, depending on her interests.

For dining reservations for the whole group, it’s easier for the computer if your tables are even numbers. It’s like it can’t figure out that a table of 5 needs a table that seats 6. It bugs out. Search for a table for 6 and a table for 4. (not necessary for buffets). You can even use this trick when it’s just your immediate family - search for a 6.

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I’ve got related questions but we leave THIS FRIDAY 2/4!! Obviously our big items are already booked like flights, resort (ALK-KV 3 bd grand Villa), tix (6 day PH w G+ pre purchased). Also have one ADR per day (usually dinner but we have 1 breakfast), as well as what I’d call “placeholder” park reservations for each day. (I’ll get to that in a minute).

It’s 9 ppl total:

  • 2 grandparents in mid 70’s (fairly mobile but can’t last all day, also not too savvy w tech);

  • me, my DW, & our 2 kids DD1 & DD7; and

  • my sister & her 2 kids DN5 & DN7.

(So, total of 4 girls aged 18 months, 5, 7, and 7).

I was the main planner & so far booked everything they my MDE account. I did send an invite to the MDE account to my wife & my sister, and so far I gave them managing privileges.

Our hope is we won’t do the “joined at the hip” strategy & instead will divide & conquer using the ADR each day as the one rallying point.

Here are my concerns & looking for suggestions:

  1. The 1 year old still naps but the other 3 don’t. Hoping we can get her to nap in the full reclining stroller in the parks. Willing to do the “siesta method” & go back to AKL-KV if needed, but hoping to avoid sometimes due to longer distance. Even splurging on Lyft to get back asap we risk her waking up & being unable to properly nap in room. Plus, I don’t want my DW to have the pressure of almost always going back to the room while other adults stay & have fun.

  2. Already have G+ & willing to use ILL, but it seems like the no brainier is to use evening deluxe hours & closing out parks to shorten ride times.

  3. I’m personally willing to RD most days, but my family can be slow to move, let alone getting all 9 ready to RD. Most of family aren’t early risers anyway so I’m wary of being utterly hated as the bad guy if I push to rope drop too often. Plus, RDs often conflict with using later evening Deluxe hours. Willing to do the siesta method for all the kids too, but not sure if that’s enough. Concerned we get back to room & when it’s time to head back out at 5pm, kids are too pooped. Willing to do sleep in & stacking method too.

  4. Problem w 2 & 3 is the baby & the grandparents. Even if we get her to nap in the stroller, the baby & the grandparents will want to bail by 7-8pm and not use later hours. Obvious answer is to have grandparents take the 1yo back, but that robs them of attraction time & not sure at their age I 100% trust their ability to navigate back to the room & put 1yo down without the baby freaking out that it isn’t me or DW.

Setting aside the scheduling challenges, also have logistical questions:

How do we handle MDE & who controls park reservations, booking LL times, buying ILLs, ordering in park QS meals etc assuming we are split up most the time? I assume we’ll be together 7am in the room (or at least I’ll have marching orders then), but even that can be a challenge. It gets even more complex as day goes on. Example:

Say we’ve got a reservation right now for all of us at HW & plan to PH to EPCOT later. What happens if grandparents want to sleep in & just go to EPCOT that day to enjoy FARTS while the younger people & kids want to go to RD at HS, siesta, then PH to EOCOT later? Do I need to entirely cancel our EPCOT park reservation & then get one for 7 of us at HS & then have grandparents w different MDE account reserve EPCOT since they aren’t hopping?

Keep in mind grandparents aren’t super tech savvy. Do I share my MDE managing with them, give them a crash course in how to use MDE to look at ride times, how to book LL times & QS meals on their own, and hope they understand & also don’t accidentally mess up any ILL or LL or QS bookings I made for the others over at HS?

Basically looking for 2 types of advice:

  1. Scheduling & making subgroups with our family mix in mind so as many people as possible get what they need & aren’t forced to be “stuck at the hip”.

  2. Technical MDE advice as to how to divvy up park reservations, LL selections , ILL selections & QS selections in the parks (assuming at any given time we’ll be split into 2 or 3 groups).

I’ll agree with you regarding even number at tables is easiest.
Until you need to add one.

Our main group is responsible and knows the ropes. Every so often we add in this sub group who apparently are indifferent. For the 2019 BIG group I experimented with the odd tables. I’m not recalling now exact details, tho the reservations did require a bit more attention initially. The end result was awesome as we were able to be flexible at the last minute without problems. Which was wonderful as the birthday kid is autistic and happier with less drama.

Some splitting off can happen with more informed folk. Maybe a monthly get together with the attendees to watch planning videos.

On our BIG trip the birthday kid had a series of lunch meetings with the smaller family groups, using a PowerPoint presentation (part of their homeschool assignments) to impart information to the newbies. Like when to start their physical training for all that walking.

Splitting off might happen later in your trip as well. MK is awesome for the first day because it’s got the hub and spoke and the lands. With newbies we typically start at Adventureland to acclimate everyone to the sensory overload. :crazy_face:
We’ll finish the morning at Frontierland.

One great thing I like about MK is how easy it is to say here we are in Frontierland. We’ll be here 90 minutes. At [insert time] we’ll meet [here] to go elsewhere. Please have your shopping, bathroom going, ATM visiting completed by then. Maybe I wouldn’t do that with a group of nine but with 12, definitely. Especially 12 that must move as a 24 legged colony.

This idea of we’re here for this long and meeting there does seem to facilitate splitting up. At least a little.

I’d save for 3rd or 4th day, maybe, a park like HS which is difficult to navigate and has such specific and varied areas. By this time, your peeps might be relaxing enough to venture out on their own (in the same park :wink: ).

Be warned - it’ll take exponentially longer to navigate just a few attractions. And I have factored in and announced bathroom times. One granddaughter never needed to go until she’d been in a line for 10 min. :roll_eyes:

So, my number one to you - tho we’ve only traveled with 2 year olds as the youngest - regarding the baby : maybe don’t plan naps. Let the kid take care if it’s own naps. Cuz they do anyway.
One 2 yo always napped at meals. Oh, well. Another never napped at all for 4 or maybe it was 5 days. :astonished: By that time, it’s mom was happy to relax in the room while Super Nap lasted 5 hours.
One tip, if you happen to notice that a nap is occurring, consider that prime shop browsing time!

Here’s another horrible tip: the 7 yos might enjoy the rides but most kids that age and younger really like the pool, or splash zones, etc. Except it’s likely to be cold when you’re there . . .

With your group, less is more. Neither the grandparents or the kids will be able to go as long as they think. I know your plans are made. I’d plan really light for the first day. Cut back.
We’ve done maybe 3 attractions and a character meal and called it good for first morning.
By 6th day, we’re going all day, hitting 2 parks, no midday rest. Build it up.

Best Tip Ever: don’t skip on the fluids and fuel. Every couple hours for kids and elders. Grab a table, share a snack. Look around and discuss what y’all are seeing. Good memories.

For the tech questions: the only thing grandparents need tech for is changing something, which they may not do anyway. Provide them with paper info, maybe mini-index cards and turn 'em loose. Reminder of where they’re staying. Paper schedule of the day. Name of restaurant. They’ll figure it out.
If they don’t mind asking for directions, they’ll be fine. If these grandparents are like us - they want to watch the kids react, as long as arthritis allows, anyway.

Even, if you’re the guy doing the MDE, others in your group can text you. You can make the change.

I’d ask them what their expectations are. I did a multi generation trip in 2015. My family of 4 with a 1 year old and 6 year old, and my parents and my mother in law. The grandparents were only there to experience 6 year old, so breaking up (during the day) was a no go for them. I just created a TP with shortest walking and that broke up rides with sit down attractions (ie. Belle, Philharmagic) etc so it wasn’t ride, ride, ride. This was pre g+ so I could strategically get my FPs in advance.

We did MK rope drop (8-4 first day and 8-2 next day with a mid day break and optional return to park for FW’s after thanksgiving dinner). Grandparents had no desire to return to parks and offered to put baby down and stay in our room allowing us to take our 6 year old back for projections and FWs and then be able to use those FPs I had reserved for 7 in the evening.

Only thing I’d recommend is making sure any late evening is followed by a sleep in day. Also consider they were counting on me to plan as they had no interest in figuring out a Disney day on their own

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