Disney World Planning: Traveling with a Large Group.

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I need everyone's dining spreadsheets now!!!!

Well, now you’ve done it: You’ve invited your pesky brother-in-law, your third cousin’s family, and your neighbor from across the street to join you on your next Disney Vacation and now there are twelve, not wait fourteen, okay possibly eighteen, people going on your trip. What do you do now?  Well, don’t panic.  I book a lot of group vacations and there are some pitfalls, but if you plan well and remain flexible, it can be–dare I say it?–magical too.

Here are a few tips:

  • Appoint your very own General Patton.  Obviously, this should be the biggest Disney nerd in the group. This doesn’t mean that it’s not a democracy, but it’s nice to have one person coordinating with the travel agent (or Disney, if you like to book on your own) .
  • If you can, have a group meeting to start off your planning. If you’re living in different areas, you can start a Facebook group or even a blog to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Only plan a few group outings.  This probably sounds counter-intuitive since it’s a group trip, but large groups tend to get very unruly and plans fall apart, so the less you plan, the less opportunity there is for hurt feelings.  You’re shooting for a few big meals, a day or two at a certain park, maybe a special event.  Be flexible and let the rest happen naturally.
  • Don’t get your feelings hurt. Some members or your party are going to want to sleep late. Some may want a different resort. If your pesky brother-in-law wants to stay at the Grand Floridian while everyone else stays at Pop, let him and don’t say a word about it.  It’s not a big deal.
  • Think about food. As any Disney fan will tell you, food is important.  For a week-long trip, I’d plan approximately three meals for the group to do together. I love dinner at Ohana for a large group: There’s something for everyone, it’s not outrageously expensive, and kids can be loud without disturbing fellow diners.  This is a great first night meal or a perfect ending to your vacation.  Breakfast can also be a great option for large groups as long as it’s not too early. My favorite is Tusker House, which has plenty of room and big tables, making it ideal for a large group.
  • Since it’s likely you’re not planning all your meals together, make sure that you give your dining confirmations to the person who’s organizing everything so she doesn’t overlap reservations when she makes them for the group.  It may be helpful to send out a spreadsheet to everyone once dining reservations are made.
  • For groups of eight (paying guests) or more, you’ll get a group number. This used to allow you to book certain dining options (under the Grand Gathering label) but now it basically just means your rooms will be together. But they don’t have to be, if you want to avoid your pesky brother-in-law.
  •  How would you like to view Illuminations from a private spot in the World Showcase while eating desserts and drinking some champagne?  Special events like fireworks cruises and dessert parties are surprisingly inexpensive and are a great way to entertain a large group.

Group trips can be a lot of work, but if you’re reading here, you probably know that planning is part of the fun. Be flexible, organized, and enjoy it!

Chris writes here and at Everything Walt Disney World. She’s also a member of the Mouse Chat Podcast and a travel agent. Email her at ChrisW@Pixievations.com for information on how Chip and Co readers can get a free Disney gift card when they book a new vacation.


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