Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tips for Traveling to Disney with the Whole Family - A Large, Multi-Generational Group

I have traveled to Walt Disney World many times. Each time at a different stage in my life - as a child, newlywed, mom-to-be and a mom. I have traveled with friends and I have traveled with family. I traveled with just my husband, with a large group for a friend's wedding and a small group for a family reunion. Each trip has brought its own special memories that I wouldn't trade for the world. Plus, each trip has taught me valuable lessons for the next.

For our next trip, it will be myself, my husband and my three little ones. My oldest will be 5.5, my middle child will be almost 4, and my youngest will be 2.5 in April 2010. We are hoping that my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew will join us. By then we would be a party of 10, though, hopefully, a party of 11! :-) We are also excited to invite my aunt and uncle, who have not been since 1982! They will be quite shocked at how much Disney World has changed since then. I don't know how they have kept themselves away for so long - I can hardly make it 2 years before I "need" to go back.

Travelling with a group takes some planning and some compromising. I think we all know that you can't make everyone happy every moment of every day - not even at the happiest place on Earth! When we plan our trips, we know that the kids will pretty much determine how long we are in the parks, when we will eat and what rides we will go on and which we will have to skip. No one wants to be that family with the crying, exhausted and overwhelmed child. It is not fun for the child, you or the people around you. With that said, we stay in the parks until one of our children is giving us the signal that they have had enough. Why push it? It accomplishes nothing and creates only stress. Besides, your park pass is good for re-entry. So, we leave the park, go back to the hotel for naps or a swim in the hotel pool. It gives the kids a nice break (and parents - all the hotels we have stayed at on Disney property have bars at the pool . . . . ah!). Once we feel the kids are refreshed and ready, we head back to the parks.

If you travel as a group of 8 or more over the age of 3, you qualify as a Magical Gathering. This gives you access to some activities that smaller groups and individuals are not able to attend. We have yet to qualify as a Magical Gathering simply because our children are so young, so we have not had the opportunity to attend any special events, such as the fireworks boat cruise, the breakfast at Tony's or the safari dinner, but we hope to in the future. Plus, Disney will place you in rooms next to each other to keep your group together. On our last trip, we were lucky enough to be in 3 rooms in a row at the Caribbean, which gave us the whole walkway to ourselves. It was very quiet because there was no reason for anyone else to be walking in that area.

Here are a few tips for travelling with a large party:

1. Make one person your "leader" - I think we all know the saying "Too many chefs . . ." With one person the contact person, you can stay organized and everyone is informed. Though that one person should not be the dictator of the vacation. Everyone should have a say in what they would like to do.

2. Because you are all in Walt Disney World together, it does not mean that you must spend every waking moment together. Plan days where you split up and then meet for dinner. Or, spend the day together and enjoy a dinner alone. We always plan which days we will be in which park and make a reservation for one sit down meal per day. This gives everyone the freedom to go where they want and then meet up with everyone at one designated place and time.

3. If someone wants to leave the park, but you are not ready yet, don't feel obligated to leave. It is your vacation too, and you should feel guilt free about enjoying it the way you want. Or, if you want to leave and someone else wants to stay, don't guilt them into doing what you want - it is their vacation too.

4. Everyone take pictures! I believe you cannot take too many pictures because someone always captures that one moment or expression that no one else gets. Never leave your camera behind with the thought that so many in your group already have cameras. Plus, know that the Photopass photographers around the parks have always been more than willing to take pictures with my camera. Make sure you get pictures of your whole group too. I know I have been asked on more than one occasion to take a group's picture, and I had no idea who the people were. It happened so many times on one trip that my husband took a picture of me taking a picture of someone's family! I have found in Disney, people, cast members as well as guests, are always more than willing to help make your vacation as special as theirs, so it doesn't hurt to ask.

When it comes to planning trips, I say the more the merrier, especially since having children. Having my family enjoying every magical moment along with the kids is something that cannot be replaced.

1 comment:

DisneyMom said...

The picture posted here is from the Playhouse Disney Live stage show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We had all the kids (my three and my nephew) all decked out in their Patriots gear for the Monday night game. We were selected as the First Family and were escorted in first to the front of the sitting area. It was very exciting!