There are dozens of reasons NOT to take your parents on a family holiday to Walt Disney World Florida.
The kids mostly want to ride rollercoasters, they can walk for miles, while the grandparents might have different ideas about where to eat, and what shows to see.
Whatever your doubts, though, I’d say go for it. Because there’s nothing quite like seeing your child share a really special experience with their grandparents, knowing everyone involved is creating memories that will last a lifetime. Disney was our second excursion of the trip – check out our review of Kennedy Space Center!
With a bit of planning and compromise, Walt Disney World is a brilliant place for multi-generational trips. We hired a scooter for my Dad, who struggles to walk for any distance, and agreed in advance that Mum would be official bag holder while we went on the more exciting rides!
We had been given Park Hopper tickets that gave us access to five key Disney parks for one day. However, we’d planned ahead and knew we wanted to focus on three parks – Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
My parents had visited Florida with their jobs more than 20 years ago, and both were keen to see Epcot again. So we planned to start our day there, before heading to the other two parks.
Turns out we’d arrived at the perfect time, during Epcot’s annual Food and Drink festival, which definitely made for some fun snacking.
We headed to the Soarin’ ride first and found the queue really quiet at the start of the day – just 15 minutes. This ride involves sitting in a hang-glider style seat and being raised in the air in front of a spectacular 3D display. The way you feel the wind in your hair is a lot of fun, and this was my Dad’s favourite of all the attractions.
Another highlight in Epcot is the Mission:Space Ride. I rode this space launch simulator with Flea and she initially chose the milder ride version, but then took her Granddad back on the ride for the ‘red’ action-packed version! Both times the line was just about 10 minutes long, which was ideal.
Using the app is AMAZING and such a time saver. Even Mum stopped her usual, “Look at all those young people on their phones!” grumbling when she realised the app lets you check line times, book restaurants and find the nearest loo at short notice!
After a quick drink, we took a bus from Epcot over to Hollywood Studios, where we had FastPass tickets booked for Hollywood Rock and Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror. Without thinking, I’d booked FastPass tickets for all of us together – and my parents accepted the challenge!
By this time, my parents were definitely starting to flag so we took a break for lunch. And I sort of think they’d earned it!
One thing I will say about Disney parks in general is that they are NOT great for vegetarians. Most of the stands give you the option of hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, smoked turkey legs – and that’s it.
Some stands do pretzels with cheese sauce, but I don’t really consider that a viable lunch option. We used the app to check out menus and to spot places where you’re able to place a mobile order and then go and collect it without standing in line.
After quite a bit of hunting, we opted for Rosie’s, next to the Rock and Rollercoaster. This counter sells burgers, nuggets and fried green tomato sandwiches. Here, Flea was able to get a kids’ meal pack, which included a mandarin orange, carrot sticks, milk and a smoothie – topped up with some French fries, it made for a decent lunch.
After lunch, we took another shuttle bus over to Magic Kingdom. If you take this kind of trip with elderly relatives or someone with a disability, it’s worth knowing how scooter rental works here. Basically you pay a deposit of $50 to hire a scooter, plus $25 – then collect your scooter at, say Epcot.
Once you leave Epcot, you need to leave the scooter, and collect a new scooter at Magic Kingdom. If you take your receipt from the first park, you won’t have to pay more than once per day.
This is great, but (and it’s a big but) the walk to the shuttle buses can be quite long for people who don’t have great mobility. If you ask at the gate, there should be courtesy wheelchairs for guests transferring to other parks, and you should insist, even if your stubborn Dad says he doesn’t need the extra help. It’s a good walk, and if it’s hot, it’s very tiring.
We got to Magic Kingdom around 4pm, and had planned to do some rides, have dinner, then finish off with the fireworks. But unfortunately my lack of planning caught us out. As we arrived at the park, staff told us that it was the Not So Scary Halloween Party, so the park closes to regular visitors at 7pm. Oops.
No matter. My folks decided to spend the next couple of hours shopping for souvenirs while Flea and I checked out rides.
In two hours, we managed to tick off Thunder Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger ride. Oh, and of course we went on It’s a Small World. Can you even say you’ve done Disney if you don’t leave with that song welded into your head?
By 6pm, the park was starting to fill up with Halloween guests. By mid-afternoon, some of the store areas were closed to ‘regular’ visitors and once we’d finished dinner at Tony’s on Main Street shortly after 7pm, we were pretty much escorted off the premises.
Had I realised ahead of time the park was closing early, we’d have changed the order of the parks we visited. But no matter. As it turned out, nobody was devastated by the thought of heading home for an early night after 10 hours of Disney!
It was such a fun day, but my parents were wiped out, I think. Luckily, we’d scheduled a quiet morning at the villa followed by an afternoon of shopping the next day. So we all had time to recover!
Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary Park Hopper tickets for the purposes of this review. Heading to Orlando? Check out the Visit Orlando website for loads of tips and inspiration.