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Old 12-05-2012, 09:46 AM   #1
mjc2003
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Help with planning a large group trip

I know this topic comes up from time to time, but now that I'm in the midst of this I thought I'd rehash the topic. We have 3 rooms at BCV next October, and will be adding a 4th. 2 2BR's, 1 1 BR and a studio. We'll have approx 20 people, about half of whom will be children between the ages of 3-9.

Besides myself and our 3 daughters, nobody in the group will have been to WDW in a very long time. My two nephews visited for 3 days 3 years ago, when they were 4 & 2; they basically don't remember. None of the other kids have been. Nobody has any idea what they want to do, and they want me to tell them.

We will be there for F&W, and that's a big reason for the trip, as well as obviously bringing all these kids to the Magic Kingdom for the first time.

I am looking for some feedback from others who have been in charge of a like-sized group. What worked, what didn't work? I have the issue of commitment/payment all worked out (they are paying me up front just to cover the MF's on the points used, and will only get reimbursed if they cancel in a manner timely enough for me to rent out the reservation), and I think I have rooms assigned properly, but any feedback on these topics is welcome if there's something I might not be considering.

Some specific questions:

Specific to BCV, if I ask them to link the 4 rooms and put in a request that they are close to each other, how likely am I to have that work out? We don't need to be all in a row, but it'd be nice if we didn't have one family 4 floors away.

We are a big dining out family, so want to be able to get in several group dinners; any suggestions on places that are conducive to larger groups? (Since we're at BCV, I am thinking about maybe even 2 nights at the buffet b/c I think that'd work).

Have you ever used in room babysitting? Is there any special arrangements that can be made if we need 7-9 kids watched so we can have an adult dinner?

How do you handle the parks, obviously not all 20 people will be together every minute, but how do you avoid spending all day either heading to a meeting spot or waiting for somebody?

What's the best way for a large group to see fireworks? Any special suggestions? We'd probably only do this once as a group.

I have plenty of other questions, but really I am looking for real life experiences.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:38 PM   #2
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You've got F&W festival time and that could make it difficult to get the rooms close to each other since there is almost no availability after six months out.

Are you paying for all the rooms with your points? Do the guests know they will be paying for tickets? That can be a big expense.
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Old 12-05-2012, 02:17 PM   #3
mjc2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb & Bill View Post
You've got F&W festival time and that could make it difficult to get the rooms close to each other since there is almost no availability after six months out.
I'm confused, what would availability at 6 months have to do with getting rooms next to each other? I have the rooms all booked already. The request is already in. I'm just curious if anybody who has booked several rooms and attempted to get them near one another has been successful.

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Originally Posted by Deb & Bill View Post
Are you paying for all the rooms with your points? Do the guests know they will be paying for tickets? That can be a big expense.
I booked all the rooms with our points and some that were transferred. Everybody is aware of the cancelation issues, etc...
I did talk about tickets, and explained prices. Nobody going to adverse to the cost. They all really want to go and affordability is not really an issue.
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Old 12-05-2012, 05:20 PM   #4
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Hi!

Dh and I will also be taking a big group to Disney. We have 15 going in September 2013 and have also used our points to book. We are still in the planning stages but I am putting together info for everyone. We were going to do a Grand Villa but decided against it because of too much togetherness. We booked 2-2 bedrooms and 1-1 bedroom.

Things I have on my list to discuss.......

*Not touring together ALL the time....totally impossible.
*Info on Magical Express
*Dining plan vs discount with splitting charge for 2nd Table in Wonderland card
*Eating one meal together each day
*Park Passes
*If wanting to do other things like golf, Universal, Sea World they are responsible for obtaining tickets/transportation. I will help with info.
*I will give info on obtaining Grocery delivery if they want to do that & they are responsible for setting that up
*I will give info on stroller rentals
*I am also obtaining park maps prior to our visit so they can get familiar with the lay of the lands
*I will make them aware that when we have a time to meet or leave, we will only wait an additional 5-10 minutes and then be on our way...with the cell phone technology today, they can catch up when they get there. Except dining....everyone MUST be on time.
*We will also discuss Photopass.

Wishing you luck on your planning, hope all goes well. It's a lot to do and think about but just remember, it is YOUR vacation too. I am trying to remember that too.

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Old 12-05-2012, 06:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjc2003 View Post
I'm confused, what would availability at 6 months have to do with getting rooms next to each other? I have the rooms all booked already. The request is already in. I'm just curious if anybody who has booked several rooms and attempted to get them near one another has been successful. ....
I'm just trying to point out how crowded it will be and there might not be a lot of vacancy when you arrive to put your party's villas together. Plus the vacant villas could be scattered around the resort. Especiallys since BCV is a small resort.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:51 PM   #6
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I've done a few large group vacations at BCV. Even with requesting linked/close we have been all over the place, not on the same floor. Thank goodness BCV is a small resort-we haven't found it to be horrible not to be close.

We always set a meet time in the morning in the BCV lobby. I also made laminated wallet sized cards with ADR information for each adult. I make all ADRs for each party.

We rarely hung out together during the day as a large group. We would have 2-3 smaller groups and even those would break during the day.

I book one TS per day as a group. We do one adult only dinner at Bluezoo while kids do Sandcastle Club. Each couple usually does a dinner for 2 while the rest of the group dined together and watches that couple's children.

During the morning lobby meet we would discuss our ideas/plans for the day. Sometimes we met at the pool (or most of us would).

The first trip I planned too much for us together as a group. It didn't work. I learned that flexibility is the most important thing.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:42 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Deb & Bill View Post
I'm just trying to point out how crowded it will be and there might not be a lot of vacancy when you arrive to put your party's villas together. Plus the vacant villas could be scattered around the resort. Especiallys since BCV is a small resort.
I still don't understand. The only way capacity would affect whether or not we end up together would be if they never look at requests in advance and just ignore them until everybody arrives. If that's the case, then nobody would ever get a request to have rooms near each other fulfilled because BCV is probably at or near capacity 90% of the time. I was of the mindset that they actually work these out in advance. I guess I might be naive, but either way, us being right next to each other would be a nice bonus but is not going to make or break the trip.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:44 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pakey View Post
I've done a few large group vacations at BCV. Even with requesting linked/close we have been all over the place, not on the same floor. Thank goodness BCV is a small resort-we haven't found it to be horrible not to be close.

We always set a meet time in the morning in the BCV lobby. I also made laminated wallet sized cards with ADR information for each adult. I make all ADRs for each party.

We rarely hung out together during the day as a large group. We would have 2-3 smaller groups and even those would break during the day.

I book one TS per day as a group. We do one adult only dinner at Bluezoo while kids do Sandcastle Club. Each couple usually does a dinner for 2 while the rest of the group dined together and watches that couple's children.

During the morning lobby meet we would discuss our ideas/plans for the day. Sometimes we met at the pool (or most of us would).

The first trip I planned too much for us together as a group. It didn't work. I learned that flexibility is the most important thing.
Thanks for the info, that's great feedback. Did you ever do in room babysitting? Any recommendations for restaurants that are better suited for a group of 20? I would like to have us all together for 1 meal a day, if possible.
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Old 12-06-2012, 02:06 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by mjc2003 View Post
I still don't understand. The only way capacity would affect whether or not we end up together would be if they never look at requests in advance and just ignore them until everybody arrives. If that's the case, then nobody would ever get a request to have rooms near each other fulfilled because BCV is probably at or near capacity 90% of the time. I was of the mindset that they actually work these out in advance. I guess I might be naive, but either way, us being right next to each other would be a nice bonus but is not going to make or break the trip.
From what I understand, they will look at these requests about 3 days ahead of time. If there are not 4 rooms near each other that people are checking out of that same day, then there will be little chance of being close.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:03 PM   #10
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It's unlikely that all 4 rooms will be close together but I've found that's no big deal in the end.

F&W, good luck with the kids, I might suggest that the adults do F&W on alternate days, taking each others children to other parks if possible. By noon there will be a lot of drinking, I'm no prude and I do drink but I was rather shocked at the display and the kids got pushed around in strollers with little to no enjoyment!

I've done 4 family reunions with up to 13 people from 3 states and 2 continents, best advice:

Let everyone have some alone time, I mean don't over plan even though they are asking you to. Especially with small kids, they get tired, they get cranky and so do the parents for that matter! I plan a few group ADR's, I make sure to get a little bit of input from each family about something they really want to do or try and schedule that (Like character breakfasts, the Bibbidi Bobbedi Boutique)

I make a little itinerary for everyone and then just go with the flow. Allow for people to bow out of reservations or activities, even though it may tork you after all that planning. Allow for resort down time & pool time. The worst thing I ever heard was a Dad tearing into his little son because he didn't want to go back to the parks that night. He was about 5, and I don't think he understood why his dad was yelling, at the top of his lungs, "We didn't come all this way and spend all this money for you to swim in the pool, if that's the case we could have stayed home!" Not everyone vacations the same way you do nor at the same pace, it's important to be flexible but to also do what suits your family too, remember you're not just Julie the cruise director, your family is part of this too!

I was asked to plan the first one, "No, you just handle it." , "You know best, you've been so many times!" Yah right! Though we still had fun, I learned a valuable lesson, "Don't Over Plan" The next three reunions, much smoother!

Good luck!
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Old 12-07-2012, 09:59 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BEASLYBOO View Post
It's unlikely that all 4 rooms will be close together but I've found that's no big deal in the end.

F&W, good luck with the kids, I might suggest that the adults do F&W on alternate days, taking each others children to other parks if possible. By noon there will be a lot of drinking, I'm no prude and I do drink but I was rather shocked at the display and the kids got pushed around in strollers with little to no enjoyment!
We were there for a week this year during F&W, staying at BCV with our 3 daughters, 7, 4 and 6 months. We only visited F&W during the week, and to be honest the kids really had fun. We did get passes for Soarin and did some other attractions, but we actually walked the countries 3 times one afternoon and they were into it. It was not overly crowded early afternoons during the mid-week, and we also did stop and make sure to do the things they enjoy. They love the little trains in Germany, and the boat ride in Norway (for some reason). My 7 year old was intrigued by the different foods and even the movie in France, because she was just studying France in school. We spent about 2+ hours on 3 different afternoons in the World Showcase. Of course having BCV right there to go back and swim or break up the day was great.
That said, I can see where it would be tough to manage with a larger group. I also have seen it on the drunken weekend afternoons, and know enough to stay away. I think we'll let the whole F&W thing happen organically. I also know that some folks are coming for the first time so they'll want to spend a lot of time at the other parks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BEASLYBOO View Post
I've done 4 family reunions with up to 13 people from 3 states and 2 continents, best advice:

Let everyone have some alone time, I mean don't over plan even though they are asking you to. Especially with small kids, they get tired, they get cranky and so do the parents for that matter! I plan a few group ADR's, I make sure to get a little bit of input from each family about something they really want to do or try and schedule that (Like character breakfasts, the Bibbidi Bobbedi Boutique)

I make a little itinerary for everyone and then just go with the flow. Allow for people to bow out of reservations or activities, even though it may tork you after all that planning. Allow for resort down time & pool time. The worst thing I ever heard was a Dad tearing into his little son because he didn't want to go back to the parks that night. He was about 5, and I don't think he understood why his dad was yelling, at the top of his lungs, "We didn't come all this way and spend all this money for you to swim in the pool, if that's the case we could have stayed home!" Not everyone vacations the same way you do nor at the same pace, it's important to be flexible but to also do what suits your family too, remember you're not just Julie the cruise director, your family is part of this too!

I was asked to plan the first one, "No, you just handle it." , "You know best, you've been so many times!" Yah right! Though we still had fun, I learned a valuable lesson, "Don't Over Plan" The next three reunions, much smoother!

Good luck!
Thank you, that's great advice. I am fortunate to be traveling with mostly family, and they are very laid back and we get along really well. We've vacationed together often, and have similar interests. However, I don't want to over plan and I think that's why it was important for us to go to BCV, because I know with the ages of the kids that spending 1-2 full days just hanging around the resort will be fine with everybody. We'll mostly all be there for 8 days, so the good news is that they'll have plenty of days to do the parks without having to rush too much. We of course have our favorite restaurants but I think we will do what you suggest, a character breakfast. I want to do Ohana for sure. Beyond that maybe one buffet dinner at Cape May, then we'll break it up into groups or let people do their own thing.

Obviously there is plenty of time but the time to plan goes so fast. And, of course as soon as you book a trip you want to plan it no matter how far away it is.

Thanks for the thoughts.
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:19 AM   #12
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From what I understand, they will look at these requests about 3 days ahead of time. If there are not 4 rooms near each other that people are checking out of that same day, then there will be little chance of being close.
That seems like very poor planning since most reservations and length-of-stays are determined months in advance. Why not assign rooms that are available as reservations are made? If there are 2 2BR's next to each other and available right now for a week that's basically 11 months away, why not put a hold on those two? Looking at it 3 days ahead of time isn't really honoring requests, it's humoring me. By all accounts thus far nobody gets their rooms next to each other so it sounds like you are probably right!

I know ultimately its not a big deal. But if what you're saying is true, that they wait until 3 days prior, I'd have to think there is a better way. Oh well...
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:22 PM   #13
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We sketched out which days which parks. We set some adds for a group. If people want to do our which days which parks schedule, they are welcome to.

With your crew, I'd try and convince everyone to get hoppers. That will let grown ups enjoy food and wine in the evening, while parents and kids can do more mk mornings.

There are a few points of communication we make sure everyone knows... Plan at least one opening morning at fantasyland is there are small kids. Toy story mania also involves one early morning. Everything else you can have a "join later" schedule, so people who want a little sleeping in on vacation can get it. Note that you can't get fast passes for tickets that haven't been through the turnstile...

Twenty for dinner is tough...you may end up spread out over the restaurant. Biergarten does ten at tables. We did twelve at whispering canyon cafe. You may want to try late lunches or early dinners to maximize your chances of tables being close.
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Old 12-07-2012, 03:19 PM   #14
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The largest that I've planned is 10. We didn't stay dvc but all the room reservations were made together. We all checked in together and our rooms are never more than a few doors away from each other. The friends that we go with are very laid back and everyone goes with the flow. After all we're on vacation.

When doing meals remember that even if you make a reservation for the entire group it does not mean everyone will be sitting together. We did crystal palace one afternoon and ended up at 2 different tables.

Now I have traveled with larger groups. A few years ago the adult youth leaders and they're families attended night of joy together. We stayed offsite. We ran into each other off and on in the park. We split into 2 groups the during the day when we had a choice of water park or disney quest. And everyone was on their own for meals. It worked out really well with all the age differences. Everyone got to do what they wanted and we saw each other when we saw each other.

No matter the size of the group there's always things times when we split up. My daughter was bent on small world last time we were there and ds was asking for pooh bear. Time was limited so my mother took dd and dh and I took ds. Met back at the hub to grab a snack and we were off on another adventure.

Be flexible and if you want to have a family meal together maybe take turns doing quick dinners in the larger rooms together. That's how we do family reunions. Every room with a kitchen takes a night and cooks for everyone. Simple meals like spaghetti, tacos or even frozen pizzas.
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:54 AM   #15
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Our largest groups were 12 and 13, so not as large, and we did stay in a GV. We NEVER try to do dining all together. We did do an adults dining together night, but that was it.

We also only planned one or two group meet ups per day. The time was decided the night before, and everyone was aware that the whole group would wait at the meeting spot for exactly 15 minutes, and then if anyone was missing it would be assumed they were not coming to that meet up. It saved us a lot of extra waiting time for those who were not too punctual. Of course, now everyone has cell phones (including kids), so it wouldn't be an issue anymore.
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