By: Princess Diva
Traveling to Disney with a large group can be tons of fun (ok, maybe not EVERYONE in this picture went with us on our trip, but there were 16 of us)…our family rarely goes to Disney without some sort of group. We have even done this during the holidays (this past Christmas we went with a group of 16)! While this is something that the Diva does not recommend
, it can be a magical way to build memories, and sometimes, you just have to get your Disney when you can.
Things to know before you go:
1) Set up a meeting with everyone and get their input on what they want to do
. Our group decided to have planning meetings (we are total Disney nerds) and hash out things that we all wanted to do or not do. This is a fun way to start the Disney magic before you go (I handed out countdown jars for each family at our first meeting). Different ages are going to want to get different things out of their vacation. Weather your focus is shows
or relaxation, make a plan that incorporates something for everyone.
2. Have one person in charge! This doesn’t mean you get to be the boss; you still need and want to have everyone’s input (they will overthrow you otherwise). This person is in charge of booking. It will save headaches in the long run of trying to remember who said they were going to book the all important ADR (advanced dining reservation). There are some great online tools to help with planning your Grand Gatherings that let you participate in group chats, make a favorites list, and share pages with others in your group. Or you could just let Megan be in charge over at Glass Slipper Concierge! She will do a marvelous job planning your vacation.
3. Speaking of ADRs, book them as soon as you can
(like 180 days out…an extra 10 days if you are staying on Disney property). Most dining experiences try hard to accommodate large parties, but it can be tough. We have dined with a party of 8 at Akershus
with no problem at all, but had to be split up into two tables at Chef Mickey’s
. The sooner you book, the better chance to get the tables you need. Still other places such as Cinderella’s Royal Table will not let you book more than a party of 6 on one credit card.
Once you get there:
1. Know that you don’t have to spend every waking minute together!
This was such a life saver for our party of 16! There were two of us with Disney babies, and we wanted to take them to Hollywood and Vine for the Disney Jr. breakfast
…not something that the rest of the 8 and 9 year olds in the group wanted to do. We talked before our trip about this and decided that nobody would get their feelings hurt about doing or not doing something together. We chose one major meal a day (usually a character mea
l) to meet up. This worked perfectly and allowed families that wanted to sleep late, get up early, or stay out all night to do that and nobody cared! We even planed some adult only time
! Some of the resorts, like the Wilderness Lodge,
have some fantastic kids clubs and Epcot and the Boardwalk offer some very cool adult only fun!
2. There are some less expensive and free things to do as a large group while at Disney.
Take some time and explore your resort (or pick one you aren’t staying at and explore there). Spend some time at the pool, take a free tour (Animal Kingdom Lodge
, Wilderness Lodg
e, Grand Floridian
, and Yacht Club), watch a movie on the beach at Wilderness Lodge (we did this and it was so much fun), Beach Club Resort, the Grand Floridian, or at Ft. Wilderness (there is a sing-a-long, and marshmallow roast AND Chip and Dale join in too), or take in the street performers at the Boardwalk. Some resorts will have special character meet and greets during the holidays too! We met Mickey and Minnie decked out in their holiday best one night and Pluto and Goofy the next night in the Lobby of the Wilderness Lodge.Downtown Disney
is a great place for window shopping, playing in the water fountains, or listening to some great live music at Raglan Road or House of Blues.
4. Visit Ft. Wilderness a little early and children can visit with some farm animals and take a pony ride (for the little ones). There really is so much to do outside of the parks, you could spend days exploring everything. Check with the front desk at your resort for anything special that is going on.
If you do happen to brave the holiday crowds at Disney, think about attending the Candle Light Processional in Epcot
(this is free with your admission to Epcot unless you decide to book a dining package. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is also a great treat. It does require an extra ticket, but there are only so many of these sold. This means smaller crowds (plus you get free cookies, apple slices, and hot cocoa). Our group decided this was something we wanted to do, so we spent the day in Downtown Disney and then went over to Magic Kingdom that evening for the party. We had shorter wait times and tons of fun!
Be “those” people…you know, the ones in the matching shirts! No, really, just do it. They make great souvenirs (without spending an arm and a leg at Disney World) and when are you ever going to see your husband and his friends dressed alike again?! We had so many compliments on our shirts…and my kids LOVE wearing them to school.
Lastly, you are going to Disney with a large group because you love them and you want to share these memories with them. With large groups, things are going to take more time (what would normally be a quick grab and go lunch takes an hour) and have you tried getting 16 people through a ride (cast members’ faces are priceless when they ask how many in your party and you give them a number like that…I can’t tell you how many times I got asked, “Really”?). Be patient and go in with mindset that you will not see it all. This just means that you can start planning your next trip!