Have you ever been to Disney with a large group of people? Family, friends? People you hope are still family, friends after you vacation together? Well, believe it or not, you actually can have fun with your extended family. I lied; I don’t know your extended family. It’s entirely possible that you cannot have fun with them. So think of a large group of friends! Let’s talk about a vacation with them! I love going to Disneyland with big groups. The more the merrier for me. So here are some things I’ve learned over the years.
1. Choose Whom You Invite Wisely – First, you need to decide who is going! This may be decided for you by family obligations, but if you can pick, pick people you think you’d have a great time with. Keep in mind that Disney considers 10 or more rooms travelling together a group. Group means group discount! Discounts on rooms and tickets! So you may want to reach out to even more friends and family!
2. Designate a Leader – I confess, I like to be the leader on a big trip to Disney. My husband, who after 20+ years in the Air Force has no room to talk himself, might say I like to be bossy. I admit it, there’s a fine line between being a leader and being bossy (but I assure you, I’m firmly on the leader side of the line!). For planning purposes though, having a leader helps immensely! One person as the main contact is so much easier than constant Reply All emails!
3. Work With a Travel Agent – This will seem oddly self-serving (Star Trek reference anyone?), but it’s true. Even better than having a leader, is having a travel agent. A good travel agent who specializes in Disney and has experience booking groups will be your best friend. They can help coordinate the group, schedule things for you, book everything, take payments, etc. Their whole purpose should be to make it easier for you. And best of all, many won’t charge you any fees. It’s the same price to book through them as to book through Disney directly!
4. Link Everyone’s Rooms – I’m going to say right away that it will be much easier if everyone stays at the same resort. It will give everyone a stronger feeling of togetherness. Make sure you, or your travel agent, let your hotel know that everyone is traveling together. They’ll try to keep you as close to each other as possible.
5. Get Input – Get input from everyone that’s going. It may be that some want to splurge and stay at the Grand Californian, or maybe some others are trying to do this as cheaply as possible. Let everyone be honest about what their expectations are. Find out if anyone has a restaurant where they’ve always wanted to eat or a show they’ve always wanted to see with everyone else. Keep these in mind when you’re planning.
6. Agree to Split Up – The truth is, with a large group you probably won’t do everything together. The truth is, you probably shouldn’t try to do everything together! Different people are going to want to do different things, at different times, and at different paces. We always send out a letter to all involved before we leave for a big Disney trip. This letter describes what everyone can expect. This is what it says – “This is YOUR vacation. You have paid a lot for this vacation. It is not anyone else’s job to make sure you enjoy your vacation. You have complete freedom and responsibility to do what you please on YOUR vacation.” There will be times when little cousin Johnny wants to ride it’s a small world for the fifth time, and all you want to do is find Tower of Terror as quickly as possible. When that happens, it’s time to part ways. Not forever. Just for a while. No need for hurt feelings. We will see you again, and we will survive without each other for a few hours. See you soon!
7. Have a Basic Schedule – Splitting up is easier when you have a basic schedule. Make sure everyone knows where and when the day starts. Let everyone know what time you’ll leave the hotel every morning and where you plan on going. Everyone doesn’t have to go! A family with young kids may be up at 6 while families with teenagers may want to sleep until 10. Remember, it’s their vacation and they should do what makes them happy! Knowing what others are doing will help them decide and make it easier to meet up later.
8. Plan Meals Together – Another thing to add to your basic schedule is meals. We like to make reservations, or specific meal plans, at least once a day for everyone. It’s a great time to sit and relax, enjoy everyone’s company and compare notes from the day if we’ve slit up. Knowing that there’s at least one time a day that they’ll see everyone will make people feel more free to spend time on their own too.
9. Private Event –If you’ve got a group by Disney standards (10 or more rooms), you can plan a private event for your group. That’s right, Disney will let you spend even more money with them! Events like a private gathering in Cars Land. Or, you can get together on Paradise Pier and enjoy VIP World of Color viewing. How about an event inside the Golden Horseshoe? Sounds fun to me!
10. Meet Every Night to Reassess – We like to touch base with everyone every night before bed. Remind everyone of the departure time in the morning, the meal plans for the day, and see if something needs to be changed. If someone’s room has a living area, that’s a great place to unwind. You can all talk at dinner if you’re all eating together as well, or just a quick phone call before bed will work!
So that’s what works for us! What tips do you have for traveling with large groups?