Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be an overwhelming and long process for just your immediate family. Add in the grandparents, maybe some aunts and uncles….and then all of a sudden you find yourself planning a trip for twice as many people as live in your household! Traveling with extended family to Walt Disney World is sure to make some amazing memories~any chance my kids get to travel with their grandparents always ends up in fantastic memories and a good time! Today, I’d like to share some Tips for Traveling with Extended Family to Walt Disney World.
Extended families traveling together to Walt Disney World is becoming more and more popular. Many travel parties are consisting of mom, dad, children, grandma, and grandpa. Sometimes an aunt decides to go along, as well. These are sweet memories to be made! I am a firm believer that children and grandparents need to experience travels together. Walt Disney World is a spectacular place for groups of all sizes to experience magic in their own way. Traveling with a large group can be memorable, enjoyable, and manageable! It takes a bit more planning, some organizing, and plenty of pixie dust!
First, you have to decide on where you are going to stay and what accommodations will work best. Do you want your own space? Look at booking a couple of standard rooms with two queen beds. Maybe you all want to stay together, then a 2-Bedroom Villa at one of the Deluxe Villa properties is your best option. After you have booked your resort, have your resort reservations linked with a “travel with number”. Since all Disney resorts use the same Reservation Office, this is so easy! Linking your reservations allows Disney to know that you are all traveling together and that you want your rooms as close to each other as possible.
Plan a few sit down meals together. Even if you don’t all have the Disney Dining Plan, you can still coordinate your dining reservations so you can eat together. When it comes time for payment, those with the meal plan can redeem credits, just as those without can pay cash.
You may need to break your larger group down into smaller ones to get close dining times. At the majority of restaurants, your group will be broken down into smaller parties. Some dinner shows and table service restaurants who can put tables together to accommodate everyone. This gives you a chance to reconnect after a day in the park. You will want to make these reservations as close to your 180 day mark as possible.
While you are enjoying your time together, it is also important to plan some time apart from each other. If you are traveling with 8 of your closest family members, someone is bound to feel a little stressed. Split up in the parks during the day and meet back together for a meal. Or, consider a date night amongst the adults, and take turns watching each other’s kids. Most importantly, allow for some down time at the pool or Disney Springs to be sure everyone is relaxing and having a great time.
Before any of your major planning starts, appoint a “team leader” for various aspects of your group. Someone to seek out resort options from a travel agent, as this helps so much with communication and making sure there aren’t too many cooks in the planning kitchen. Appoint someone to research restaurants and check the crowd calendars to plan your park days. Consider another member of your party to plan park activities, and yet another to look for airfare or make road trip plans.
One of the really fun aspects of an extended family trip is to set yourselves apart! Put together some fun matching t shirts for everyone. This could be the same color with “The Hurst Family Reunion 2018″ on it, tie-dyed shirts, or coordinated by each family. It’ll add some great fun to your photos!
Another great tip for traveling with a large group is to set up a loose schedule. Perhaps you all agree to visit Epcot in the morning, but then part ways in the afternoon. Park hoppers are a GREAT option for extended family. It really gives everyone the flexibility they need, yet allows you to meet up when you want. Be sure you remind everyone to arrive at your dining reservations 15 minutes prior to check in.
Everyday coordinate a daily meeting time and location. It’s important to meet up during the day so you can catch up with everyone and make sure things are going well. It’s also the perfect time for some group photos! Choose an easy to find icon-like the Partners Statue at Magic Kingdom.
Touring the parks and getting from one place to the next doesn’t take as long when you are a family of 4 or 5. But add 3 or 4 more people to that, and you’ll need to add some extra time making your way around. Slipping into the Festival of the Lion King or Illuminations with 15 minutes to spare in hopes of finding 3 or 4 seats together is doable. For much more than that, not so much. Plan on arriving at shows about 45 minutes to an hour beforehand. Or, Disney offers dessert party options to allow you a sweet treat and a great viewing spot.
Plan on extra time for everything. Trying to make rope drop for Magic Kingdom at 9:00? Then be sure to tell everyone in your party to meet at the bus stop at 7:30 AM to catch the earliest bus possible. This is a very important consideration with dining as well. Don’t schedule any group activities or plan on catching any shows, until at least 3 hours after your dining reservation. It’s better to have 30 minutes to spend before a show, than it is to miss it because you didn’t account for enough dining time.
Most importantly, have an alternative plan for those who need a break. One way to do this is to appoint someone who is willing to go back to the resort with the adults, or children, who need a break from the parks or become ill.
Planning a trip to the Disney Parks with extended family can be a fun experience, with so many memories. It’s a priceless time together with those you love and want to share a little Disney magic!