Ask a Fodor's Disney Expert: Mult-Gen Families, Water Parks, and More

Posted by Leigh Jenkins on March 27, 2013 at 8:59:00 AM EDT | Post a Comment

Who doesn't love a few days spent at Disney? It's an all-ages destination, which means the whole family will probably want to come. We're turning to our resident Fodor's Disney expert to answer questions about multi-generational family travel as well as for her tips on picking a water park and how to avoid exhaustion on a trip.

Want to ask our Fodor's Disney expert a question? Shoot her an email: DisneyExpert@fodors.com.

Q: I'm traveling to Disney World with both my parents and children this summer. How do you overcome the challenges of planning with a multi-generational family?

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A: When planning a vacation with lots of people, the most important thing the official "planner" can do to save the trip is to listen. Everyone from ages two to eight-five will want something different out of a vacation.

Remember, there's a reason you are all traveling together. Yes, family togetherness is top priority, but grandparents or aunts and uncles are there to help too. You'll want to experience some things together as a group, but schedule time apart as well. As much fun as a family meal at Chef Mickey's is with nine people, let the grandparents and grandchildren get some one on one time as well. This is a great opportunity for a Parent's Night Out while the kids get an extra evening of parade viewing with Grandma—trust us, she won't mind watching their faces light up twice!

But keep in mind people's varying stamina levels. Teenagers might be able to run around the parks all day, but older folks and young kids will need built in rest breaks. Especially in the hot Florida sun. The best plan? Tour the parks early in the morning, return to the hotel for a mid-afternoon nap and swim, then venture back out after the temperatures have dropped. Happy relaxed travelers make for a happy and relaxing vacation!

Q: Which water park, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, is the better choice for my family?

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A: The two water parks at Disney World, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, are both great fun but can make for a long and exhausting day.

Typhoon Lagoon, built around the theme of a deserted tropical island, is the more "relaxing" of the two parks. I use the term "relaxing" loosely though, since there are still mammoth waterslides, a huge wave pool and the exciting signature ride, Crush-n-Gusher, a "water-coaster" that propels its riders back uphill. However, this park has better spots for laying on the beach, and wonderful areas for children, including Ketchakiddee Creek a water play area exclusively for guests under 48 inches tall. Consider Typhoon Lagoon if you are traveling with kids under the age of 10 or your primary goal is to chill by the water in a beautiful setting.

Blizzard Beach is for the more adventurous. The story here is that during a freak (very freak) Florida snowstorm, a few investors built Florida's only ski resort—only to have the sun eventually return and all the snow melt. When they witnessed a gator slipping and sliding down the new slopes, they turned the entire place into a water park and Blizzard Beach was born. The centerpiece is Summit Plummet, a 12-story plunge straight down. But don’t overlook the equally dramatic Downhill Double Dipper or Slush Gusher, both which will take your breath away. Visit here with your fearless teens—and a hopefully fearless adult!

Q: What's the best way to avoid exhaustion while touring?

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A: Trying to take in four full theme parks, two water parks, and the bevy of extras Disney offers is a lot. Many families think the best way to visit Disney is to see it all—no matter what! But savvy families know it's not how much you see; it's how much you enjoy.

Especially when touring in the summer, make sure to get to the parks as soon as they open. Not only are the parks less crowded in the early morning, but temperatures are (relatively) cool. This is a good time to hit up the "big" rides at your park, and if you aren't sure what those are, stop by the tip board. It is always located near the entrance of the park, and ask the host or hostess which rides draw the longest lines. Then head straight there!

During the heat of mid-day, either return to your hotel for a swim or take time to enjoy some of Disney's many shows. Theatre style attractions can hold many people at once and often have shorter lines than the coasters. Another good idea is to have a sit-down lunch, rather than a sit-down dinner. Taking an hour or so in the middle of the day to get off your feet and out of the heat can recharge everyone's batteries. And the meals are often cheaper at lunch too.

Finally, be prepared to split up. Forcing a fifteen year old on It's a Small World fifteen times won't help their patience. With teens, give them the time to blow off a bit of steam on their own. Set a time and place to meet back up, make sure they have a watch, and then let them ride their favorite attraction over and over. When you regroup, they'll be much more likely to enjoy family time!

Leigh C.W. Jenkins is co-author of Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids. She has visited the parks over twenty-five times, including a two year stay to work at the Magic Kingdom. She is an expectant mother who currently lives in Charlotte, NC.

Photo credits: All photos courtesy of Walt Disney World News

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