If there’s one vacation most kids dream about, it’s a trip to Disney. Turning that dream into a reality can feel overwhelming, especially if you are travelling as a large or multi-generational family. It can be difficult to find the balance between planning ahead and going with the flow. And how do you make it a great trip with so many people? I’ve recently traveled with my family of seven, ages ranging from 7 to 63. I’ve used my experience to come up with some helpful Walt Disney World planning tips for large families.
Walt Disney World Planning Tips for Large Families
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Initial Preparations to Have Your Best Vacation
- Choose the accommodations that best fit your families needs. When vacationing at Walt Disney World, I always suggest staying at a resort on property. This is especially true when travelling with a large or multi-generational family. Doing this adds ease for those who may want to take a break at the resort mid-day. If you’re not sure where to start researching hotels, check out my post on Walt Disney World Accommodations for Large Families.
- Ask every person in your group for their top priority for the trip. It is impossible to fit in everything on a Walt Disney World vacation. That’s even more true when you’re travelling with a large group with varied ages and interests. By making sure you know early in your planning what is important to each person in your party, you can best plan how each day will be spent. It can be a meal they want to eat, an attraction they want to experience, a character they want to meet. Making sure each person has a voice in your Disney vacation plans makes the trip more enjoyable for everybody.
- Download the My Disney Experience app and set up accounts for all guests. A My Disney Experience account is one of the most crucial planning tools for Walt Disney World vacation. And I don’t just mean for your planning; this tool will come into play before, during and after your vacation. My Disney Experience is where you will make and manage all of your reservations. This includes hotel, ticket purchase, MagicBand setup, dining reservations, FastPass selections, and Photopass images. If your group includes several adults who all have their own separate My Disney Experience accounts, make sure you are connected as Friends and Family.
Before Your Arrival
- Designate one person to make your dining and FastPass+ reservations and make them early. I discuss this in my post Walt Disney World Dining for Large Families, but when you’re making reservations for a larger group, the earlier you can book them, the better. And don’t stress out wondering, “What if my plans change?” You are able to cancel a dining reservation with no penalty as long as you do so 24-hours in advance. Booking early ensures that you’re able to have more choices about where and what time to eat. The same is true for FastPass+ selections for attractions, shows, and character greets. It’s also a good idea to designate one individual as the “Master Planner,” responsible for making or changing any reservations. This way if your group decides to adjust the time of a FastPass selection, you won’t have multiple individuals trying to change the time at once. Sometime the app and website have hiccups, so this helps you avoid adding your own technical issues to the mix.
- Schedule a grocery delivery. Dining is an area where costs quickly add up during a Disney vacation, especially with a large group. Not to mention how much time it can take to get people moving for breakfast in the mornings. I like to alleviate this stress by scheduling a grocery delivery to my resort prior to my arrival. There are several companies near Disney who provide this service, but I prefer Garden Grocer. On their website, you can search for a large number of grocery and toiletry items that they will deliver directly to your resort. Bell services will call once your order has been delivered and will bring it directly to your room. I use it for bottled water to bring with me to the parks, breakfast items, and snacks and beverages to have after returning to the hotel in the evening.
While at Walt Disney World
- Make sure everyone knows the plan for the day. I think the essential tip to having a great Disney vacation is making sure everyone is on the same page. There’s no better way to do this than going over your plans for the day each morning. I like to take a screenshot of any dining or FastPass+ reservations and texting it to those in your group. This also helps in the event that you are having trouble connecting to My Disney Experience while in the parks.
- Not everyone can (or wants) to do everything, and that’s okay. Once you’ve reviewed your scheduled plans for the day, remind everyone in your group that if they need to take a break or want to split off to do things, that is expected and encouraged. Everybody moves at a different pace. While some may want to ride Rock n’ Roller Coaster 3 times, others may need to escape back to the room midday for a nap. I always schedule one sit-down meal during the day for the entire family to be together. Outside of that, I think it’s important to go with the flow.
- Have charged battery packs. This is particularly important if your group is splitting up. It is easy to drain your phone battery at Walt Disney World. This can be a result of checking the My Disney Experience app, sharing photographs to social media or checking your weather app to see when a storm is going to pass. Carrying an external charger with you ensures if you go your separate ways, you can still keep in contact with each other. I use the Lumina 5200 Compact Charger, which holds about 2 full phone charges.
After You Return Home
- Download pictures and videos from Memory Maker. Did you know that if you are traveling in a group where several individuals have My Disney Experience accounts, as long as one person has Memory Maker, they can download your entire group’s pictures? This is a fantastic benefit for those who travel as multi-generation families or groups where you may split up during the day! Be sure that your accounts are set up to view each others photos. Photopass images display on your account after they are taken, an can be shared from the app immediately. You will have access to the photos and videos through My Disney Experience for 45 days after they are taken.
- Preserve your memories! I’m old school and still love to print out physical copies of my pictures. But there are so many more ways now to display your vacation photos. I have made a number of photobooks using Picaboo, and will have a more in depth review of their services soon. If you have a device that records videos, you can also make a compilation of your videos and images set to music to share with family and friends. I was the unofficial videographer of our family trip in August. I wanted to record everything about my nephews’ first trip to Walt Disney World. We couldn’t have predicted that it would be the last family vacation we had before my sister passed away. The video I made will be something my family can look back to forever of a wonderful time in our lives and the joy we shared.
What Walt Disney World planning tips for large families did I miss? Leave me a note in the comments with any other tips you would add!