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Old 12-29-2013, 07:57 PM   #1
LisaR
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Smile Are We Crazy?!? Advice needed for large group

I am getting extremely excited for a June 2014 trip to WDW! There are going to be 21 of us going (10 adults and 11 kids) and we are staying off-property. It will be both of my parents, my 3 sisters and I and our husbands & kids.

As far as the kids ages goes, we have: an 8 month old, 3-3 yr. olds, a 4 yr. old, 2-5 yr. olds, a 6 yr. old, a 7 yr. old, a 9 yr. old, and an 11 yr. old.

I would love ANY advice for going to the Parks with large groups. For anyone that has travelled with a large group or tried to coordinate many people, what are your tips?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions!
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Old 12-29-2013, 08:56 PM   #2
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I haven't done this with a large group, but one piece of advice I'd give you from reading about others who have: have each family unit buy their own plane and park tickets, and make their own hotel ressies (unless you're all staying together). The reason for this is that it'll be very hard for that many people to get all that time off at the same time, and you don't want to be stuck holding the bag for non-refundable tickets if someone has to drop out.

Another piece: don't even try to do everything together all the time. Maybe one meal together every day would be good. Each family will have its own touring style, and that many pre-schoolers, toddlers & babies will mean someone has a blowout or a tantrum or a bathroom emergency or desperately need a nap pretty much constantly. Some families will want to be up late and others will be early birds. And the older kids are likely to tire of FantasyLand and want to ride the older-kid rides.

Others may have a different opinion on this, but I'd say don't over-plan. You don't want to try to go commando-style death march here, trying to rush little ones here and there instead of enjoying the magic as it happens. Sure, plan which park you'll be at, and make sure you get to the high-demand rides and shows early, but leave time for spontaneity--that's where the magic happens, IMO.

Oh, and take pity on the 8-month-old's mom and make sure she gets to ride the rides, too.

Have fun!

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Old 12-29-2013, 10:19 PM   #3
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I agree completely with Ginger. We did a large group (17 people, baby, toddler, couple of "kids", LOTS of teens, a few young adults, middle adults, and a few seniors) quite a few years ago, we've done 10 to 15 people multiple times, and it can become a nightmare!
First - reconsider staying off-site. I know it's cheaper when you crunch numbers, but don't forget - you'll have to pay for parking for each vehicle, each day. You can't do EMH (in my opinion, one of the best perks about staying on-site - at least for the nighttime EMH). If you "car-pool" and someone's kid starts acting up, you'll all have to leave, as opposed to the offender and its parent just taking an hour or so to cool off. Plus, with that many younger kids, there are going to need to be naps - and not everyone naps or takes breaks at all, let alone at the same time. Staying on-site may make it easier. Renting points for DVC may be comparable to renting a home or multiple hotel rooms.
Don't forget the time spent traveling to and from each park, and waiting in line to park, to catch the tram from the parking lot, and then to the park. Yes, you'll wait if you're on property, but maybe not quite so much. And if you really want to drive while staying on-site, you can park for FREE!!

Okay - for the rest of it:
Yes, I'd only make reservations for ONE meal a day. Preferably breakfast, as the kids are probably going to be in the best moods they will be, everyone's awake and refreshed, and it's easier to get everyone together for a meal before they hit the parks.
Then, I'd do either "Make your own ressies" for the rest of the day,counter service, or "Meet back at the resort/hotel/home we're renting."
If you make reservations for that many people, I don't know if they'll charge if only some show up, so a commitment to attend would be good.
Before they started charging for no-shows, we'd make reservations for the party for 2 meals a day and let people know where it was and what time to BE there (usually about 20 minutes before the reservation). If they were not there 15 minutes before or hadn't called or texted to say they were on their way, we approached the counter and told them we were the Teresa party of 17, but only 12 were eating. You could try that.
We all usually toured the same park and spent most of our time together, but it's not always do-able or even fun. Make sure it's understood that everyone can do what they want.
And since your parents are along, maybe let/have them spend time with each family and set of grandchildren alone for a few hours. That way, they'll have special memories (mom, dad, and the kids) of that time.

Oh - we make cards, a different color for each day. Each adult and teen/person that might go off on their own gets one. They're just index cards, with stickers on the plain side that have something to do with our plans that day (castle and cinderella for MK, movie mega-phone for DHS, Dino for AK, etc.) and the name of the person/family and the date/day on them.
The lined side has a list of what we're doing when, including reservation numbers and time to show up and where to meet. Let's say we're in EPCOT that day - the card might have some stickers of the Eiffel Tower on it, and then say something like: 5:00, meet for 5:20 dinner at Rose and Crown in UK section of World Showcase. Meet at red phone booths across "street"
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Last edited by Teresa; 12-29-2013 at 10:30 PM..
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:33 AM   #4
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Make sure everyone has big vehicles. That way, if say 2 or 3 only want to go back to the condo/house/hotel, there will be room in the other vehicles for extra folks. Cheaper to rent bigger vehicles than to pay taxi bills.
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Old 12-30-2013, 01:36 PM   #5
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I agree with Ginger 1000%. There were only 6 of us our last trip and we found out after that first day that trying to do everything together becomes old fast. We would meet up for lunch and dinner and maybe a show and then go our own way the rest of our trip. This seemed to work out best for us.

Have a great trip and remember to takes lots of pictures.
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:32 PM   #6
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Thank you so much! I appreciate everyones' tips and advice. This is exactly what I was hoping for. Thank you, Teresa especially for the card advice. And thanks a lot Ginger for the encouragement and reminder of what it's really all about (the kids and enjoying the moment, not over-planning and worrying!).

Keep it coming, if anyone can add anything!
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Old 01-05-2014, 04:55 AM   #7
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Hi Lisa!
You get my advice all the time, so I'll just pop in to say; So fun to see you posting!!!
Oh--one fun group thing--matching t-shirts! Look so good in the pictures and easy to spot everyone in the crowds!
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Old 01-05-2014, 09:55 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by LisaR View Post
I am getting extremely excited for a June 2014 trip to WDW! There are going to be 21 of us going (10 adults and 11 kids) and we are staying off-property. It will be both of my parents, my 3 sisters and I and our husbands & kids.

As far as the kids ages goes, we have: an 8 month old, 3-3 yr. olds, a 4 yr. old, 2-5 yr. olds, a 6 yr. old, a 7 yr. old, a 9 yr. old, and an 11 yr. old.

I would love ANY advice for going to the Parks with large groups. For anyone that has travelled with a large group or tried to coordinate many people, what are your tips?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions!
We did a large group last trip. Here are some pointers;
*Make dinner reservations , because large groups are harder to accommodate. I would suggest sticking to buffets to make everyone happy.
* Pick out occasional meeting spots whether it will be for meals or swimming. This way people can go do their own thing. As much as you love those people, you will want away time, as will they. Hidden meaning...they will get on your nerves in long doses. lol.
* make sure there is a spokesperson for each group so that wires do not get crossed.
* Too bad that they canceled the Grand gatherings dinner for large groups. Instead plan a special dinner or event to celebrate your family, You can have specialty cakes made if you order in advance.
* Have fun!
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:15 AM   #9
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we've done it before with 15 people and here is what worked for us:
-before the dawn of cellphones we used walkie talkies with limited success (just too big an area to cover, I guess) we also used (and still use on cruises where cell reception is nonexistent) sticky notes on our room doors. A quick note on our door to say we've gone to the pool meant any other strays that returned to the resort could find us if they wanted the company.
-totally consider staying on site for all the reasons mentioned. Logistically it would be so much easier and enjoyable for everyone concerned and gives you so much freedom.
-we did the index card idea with reservations on them and it was great
-one table service meal a day (we always did dinner) was the best approach otherwise we just planned on being in the same park at the same day and if we crossed paths it worked great. Because we were all game to rise early we set alarms and went into the parks together each day too so we usually spent a bit of time touring together before we started to splinter off. Don't insist on this with the little ones though...let sleeping babies lie if they need to, right?
-with all those young ones maybe plan on some FW time together so they can decompress in a quiet setting and it would also give the older children some time to let loose without the young ones holding them back. If you had an afternoon quiet time each day with different adults supervising it would also allow some free time for the off-duty adults to enjoy as well. each park also has areas that encourage quiet fun free time for little ones - remember not to be in too big a rush and zoom right past them. Our youngest who is 12 and was 4 on our first trip still remembers the little water jets in Epcot that he danced on and the little lights in the ground as we exited the park one night and again stopped so he could dance.
-above all else-be flexible! Our first big group trip, we had 2 little girls that were princess crazy and wanted nothing more than to wait in line for character meets and three young tween /teen boys who wanted thrill rides with 2 in the middle that loved riding but wouldn't fit on all the rides because of their young ages so splitting up worked the best and then everyone was able to have a blast. We stayed at the FW cabins that time and we returned each evening for a late dinner in our cabins and then headed to the pool for a bedtime swim together and it worked for that trip. Ever since we have had the dining plan so we reconnected over our dinner reso and that was enough scheduling for us - the rest of the days flowed the way they wanted to. Surprisingly, each day had random meets that happened at our designated park and spontaneous gatherings at our resort pools for swims and cocktails and often a small group would head back in for "one more ride" - it just works effortlessly if you let it flow.
-we are big fans of group Ts and do it for every holiday in one form or another since I was a child. For our upcoming cruise we all have Blue Corona cowboy hats...
I can't imagine anyone not having a cell phone, but I would make sure that every family group has one and you are all in each others contacts which will make everything so easy for you. You can send out a cranky toddler alert to the group and gather in a play area on a whim - it should be a blast.
Have fun and take lots of pictures and video of the kids- this will be memorable for sure!
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Old 01-05-2014, 04:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by GingerJ View Post
I haven't done this with a large group, but one piece of advice I'd give you from reading about others who have: have each family unit buy their own plane and park tickets, and make their own hotel ressies (unless you're all staying together). The reason for this is that it'll be very hard for that many people to get all that time off at the same time, and you don't want to be stuck holding the bag for non-refundable tickets if someone has to drop out.

Another piece: don't even try to do everything together all the time. Maybe one meal together every day would be good. r
Excellent advice!
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Old 01-05-2014, 05:45 PM   #11
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Wow! That's a large group. I don't think there's 5 people I'd want to vacation with, let alone all those people. I hope you have fun!
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Old 01-09-2014, 10:11 AM   #12
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You aren't crazy...group trips can be a lot of fun but definitely need some extra planning and extra patience, too. You have received some great advice, Lisa. We did one large group trip ( ages 6-86) and it was definitely easiest to divide and conquer during the day and then regroup for an evening meal or activity. We all stayed at the same resort which made it easy to meet at the pool or watch the evening movie together. I think the trip can be great fun as long as you plan but then can be flexible when needed.

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Old 01-17-2014, 04:56 PM   #13
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Last year we went with my sister and her crew making us a total of 11- but just two individual "families". I am a planner- I made a play by play itinerary of what I would be doing everyday and gave it to them... I told them they could join me as they wanted and go off and do something different as they wanted... but that is what *I* would be doing.... It worked for us.... We spent a fair amount of time together, but plenty of time apart as well....
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Old 01-17-2014, 06:24 PM   #14
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As posted above. I would reconsider staying on site. Rent DVC points. You have larger accommodations. And all the perks.
I would make time for "family time" this includes only your family going off to do things. I would also make plans prior to park entry. Such as these 3 want to do rides what parents are with them. We will all meet at ____ for lunch. Or if you rent a DVC room you can have you meals back at your room.
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Old 01-25-2014, 10:56 AM   #15
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There is some experience here on Passporter that might be helpful to you: MouseFest.

MouseFest was a yearly gathering, held between 2003 and 2008, involving multiple web communities like Passporter. Many Passporters attended. It was, essentially, a convention, but in atmosphere it was more like a huge family reunion with thousands (yes, we were over 2,000 by the end) of people coming from all over the world.

Since MouseFest no longer happens, many web communities still hold their own yearly gatherings, using the same techniques that were used for MouseFest. I attend 3, from other web sites - Tag-o-Mania, held by web community Tagrel.com; Pixelmania, held by web community TheMagicInPixels.com; and WDWReunion, held by the WDWToday podcast. In 2013, all three were held on the same weekend, which was great for me - I was able to attend events from all three on the same trip.

Planning for a group of 21 can be done using many of the same techniques as planning for a group of 200 or 2,000.

1) Think Small. Don't think of the group as one large group. Think of it as a collection of smaller groups. In your case, there will be 5 individual groups:
* Your parents
* You and your husband and kids
* Sister One and her husband and kids
* Sister Two and her husband and kids
* Sister Three and her husband and kids

The groups will sometimes want to be together, sometimes want to be apart, and sometimes two or three will want to be together. There may even be some group splitting, where a couple of the husbands might want to go play golf while the rest of the family does something else.

2) Establish a "Park of the Day". Set an official park for each day of your stay, and schedule activities in and around the POTD. When scheduling activities, you can also set them in resorts near the POTD, such as meals in the monorail resorts or Hoop Dee Doo on MK days, or an Illuminations cruise on Epcot day. Downtown Disney events, or golf/mini-golf, can be scheduled for a non-park day or a water park day. In between scheduled activities, everyone is free to go their own way and explore as they please, or join together and move from attraction to attraction. The key is to give everybody choices - and that is what will keep everybody happy.

3) Go a la carte. Treat all of your group activities as events that each family or individual can sign up for - meals, rides, parades, shows, character meets, even scavenger hunts and KidCot activities. Schedule these things and allow each family's planner to decide whether they want to attend. Set up the entire thing like a buffet - take what you want and leave the rest. The one restriction is the POTD; by keeping all official activities inside the POTD, you give everyone the opportunity to attend as much or as little as they want, giving them maximum flexibility in their own schedules. After many years of attending gatherings like this, I find that the best way to schedule is lightly - one morning event, one mid-day event, and one evening event.

As for individual events, let me link to the schedules from some of the gatherings I mentioned earlier; they may give you some ideas as to how to structure your own schedule:

MouseFest 2008 - Passporter Meets

WDW Reunion 2013 schedule

Pixelmania 2013 schedule

Tag-o-Mania was set up a bit differently; we had sign-up threads for each official meet on our message boards, and those who planned to attend signed up for each one. The final schedule was printed on the backs of our name tags, but unfortunately we didn't post a coherent schedule on the boards. I think I'll have to remedy that for Tag-o-Mania 2014 (I'm a moderator at Tagrel.com, too). Here are a couple of the sign-up threads for Tag-o-Mania 2013:
Tagomania '13: Begin at the End - Wed, 12/4 4:00pm - Tagrel.com - Sharing Disney Magic
Tagomania'13: Gift Exchange Meet - Saturday 12-7 at 7:30PM - Tagrel.com - Sharing Disney Magic
Tagomania '13: Osbourne Light Spectacular - Friday, 12-6 at 6PM - Tagrel.com - Sharing Disney Magic
Tag-O-Mania 2013 Name Tags - Tagrel.com - Sharing Disney Magic
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