My grandmother, who we call Meme, is no stranger to travel—she visited all seven continents with my late grandfather, bringing back souvenir gifts from Australia, Egypt, and beyond and inspired my own travels. For her milestone 85th birthday this year, my cousins and I asked what she wanted to do to mark the occasion. I couldn’t have been more surprised with her response: “Disney World.”
Our family trip to Disney World, her first time back in at least a decade, was planned for March. My grandmother was fully vaccinated but vaccines hadn’t yet been rolled out to our age group, so I gauged interest with my cousins to see who was comfortable traveling to Florida during the pandemic. There ended up being five of us, with ages ranging from 17 to 85, along for the birthday trip of a lifetime. We learned quite a bit along the way: Here are our tips for enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth, no matter if you’re young or simply young at heart.
Pick a hotel on the monorail
The one request my grandmother had was to stay at one of the hotels on the monorail route: The Contemporary, Grand Floridian, or Polynesian Village Resort. The Polynesian was undergoing renovations and the Grand Floridian was a bit pricey for our group of five, so we landed on The Contemporary.
It was one of the first hotels to open in the park in 1971, so it seemed a fitting choice for the special occasion, with its 90-foot-tall Mary Blair ceramic mural, designed by the artist that worked on Cinderella and Peter Pan, and California Grill, one of the top-rated restaurants within Walt Disney World.
We booked three rooms, all with balconies overlooking the Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary is located less than five minutes from the park entrance, making it possible to go back into the park after dinner or return for a midday rest.
Choose parks with wide appeal
I took on the planning, enlisting the help of a travel agent friend to cater to our wide variety of ages, mobility levels, and interests. Meme chose the parks: the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The agency booked our group’s tickets, making payments and logistics easier. My grandmother is still very active, but because we all move at different paces, we didn’t pack the days too fully. If you are traveling with someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter, check out which rides are accessible and where there are parking areas.