I am in the process of planning my 17th trip the Walt Disney World, but this is my first trip with a large group. My daughter is graduating high school, and her wish was to have some of our family go with us. I love to plan and so does my whole family. The planning is almost as much fun as our vacation with the Mouse! But I realized early that planning for a group of 12, possibly 15, is not as easy as planning for just our regular four. Here are some tips for your upcoming large-group visit to the Happiest Place on Earth!
1. Who should go?
First of all, remember that just because you are related or bestest friends does not mean that you should vacation together. If there are already many conflicts within the relationship, then going to WDW together can make things even worse. Once the “who” is decided, it’s a good idea for everyone involved to begin planning and reading everything they can get their hands on about Disney World.
Try and decide on a main planner to assist getting everyone’s information organized. Some of my favorite sites to visit and read are Mouse Kateerz, (of course!) wdwinfo.com, allears.net, Disneyworld.com, and chipandco.com. I also bought all the other families a Pass Porter Walt Disney World planner.
2. When to go and how long to stay?
Deciding when to go and how long to stay has been the hardest part of group planning for us so far. If you live close to one another, you could meet for dinner or have a potluck and watch some Disney movies as you finalize dates. Our families all live apart, so we’ve made use of technology: texts, Facebook, emails and phone calls. We asked the families whose schedules were not as flexible to decide on a month, and then – by voting!- we finally got it down to a week we could all agree on. Each family should decide how long to stay with the Mouse and not be pressured by other family or friends.
3. Where to stay: onsite or offsite?
Each family will be on a different budget, so where you stay can sometimes be tricky. However, there are hotels to meet every budget in Orlando. Our families all decided to stay onsite at the All-Star Sports Resort. There are perks to staying onsite such as Disney transportation, location, and theme. Our deciding factor was the early entry and late nights that are offered only to onsite guests. Each family should be responsible for their own reservations. If you are all onsite, make sure that the head planner joins all the reservations together so the hotel knows you are traveling together as a group.
4. Touring together or separate?
Here is the best advice that I can give about touring the parks: please do not think that everyone in your party should do everything together every second of the day! Decide on a few days that you may all visit the same park but split up once you get there. Meet back up for lunch or for a parade or fireworks. We will be traveling with 4 families with Disney fans ranging in age from 2 years to 60. Some of us are Disney veterans and some will be on their very first visit. Not everyone will want to ride Small World 10 times or Expedition Everest 22 times. 22 is my personal record for Everest so far, by the way! Everyone represented will have things they want to do, and talking this out before you get to Disney is much better than waiting until all 12 of you are all standing in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
5. The Roundup: Plan ahead, compromise and BE FLEXIBLE!!
We are celebrating my daughter’s graduation and 18th birthday. This was her wish to go to Disney World with some of her family. We are also celebrating my mother’s birthday, but I’m not revealing which one! We decided to let each of them pick a special day, as in a specific date, to celebrate at a restaurant of their choosing. This is already planned ahead of time, so that everyone knows about it and can participate. The other meals are not planned for the whole group but left up to each family. This helps in the financial aspect especially.
If you enter those wonderful gates to WDW without knowing how to compromise, and knowing how to be flexible, then your vacation will be doomed. Things happen, plans change, rides break down, people get sick, and children CRY. Realize ahead of time that the even the best planned itinerary sometimes changes, and everything will be OK!! Walt Disney World is the Happiest Place on Earth, but most especially to those who come prepared and are FLEXIBLE.
Thanks for stopping by for a photographical Disney ride, and we’ll see you sitting around a table for 15, with a big ol’ smile on everybody’s face!
Heather Clark Love is the mother of two teenagers, Kristyn and Taylor, and has been married for 20 years to her high school sweetheart, Adam. They are a “Disney-A-Holic” family, with 17 visits to WDW and counting….
Heather works for The Lighthouse in Alabama public schools as a prevention educator of domestic/dating violence, sexual assault, and bullying. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society and teaches 9th grade Sunday school. Heather’s Happy Place is at Disney World riding Expedition Everest over and over, and any day at the beach in Gulf Shores, Al, with her family.