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Old 09-20-2012, 07:11 PM   #1
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Tell me your tips for travelling with large family group

You know how the DVC guides always try to sell you on how wonderful it would be to bring your extended family down for a visit -- right at the point where you're touring through the Grande Villa and they tell you where people usually put the Christmas tree?

Well we're going to take the plunge, and are bringing 11 people for a hot, humid week-long August vacation. It started as a trip to bring one family for their first visit. Now we have four in their 50s, four in their 30s, and girls 13, 7 and 5. We all get along extremely well.

I really want to do some things as a family, including some Photo Pass pics and dinners at favourite restaurants. We're thinking four days at the parks, after which people are on their own, whether it be more park time, shopping, golf or a trip to the beach.

We're planning to get a two-bedroom villa, and two studios. Food will be a combination of restaurants onsite, and cooking in (each family responsible for one meal).

Please tell me how you manage with your large travelling families? Do you have frank discussions about the ground rules? Expectations? I don't want everyone to follow a spreadsheet for their visit -- I want them to enjoy themselves. But I'm also hoping that we don't end up as four independent groups, either.

TIA -- I'm looking forward to hearing your tips and tales!
2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
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2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:22 PM   #2

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Depending on your family, you may be alright, we have tried to do the same thing a couple of times and it isn't worth the headache.

50 year olds have their own way of doing things and it may not be your way. In addition, some people just don't get Disney.

We have witnessed some of the best reality shows while on vacation at WDW. Family members who are complaining to each other about the DVC Member who planned the whole vacation, how they don't like the plans, and how the Member must be making money off of them. The Member shows up and everyone is all lovey dovey.

We decided to keep WDW to ourselves and let the others plan their own vacations.



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Old 09-20-2012, 07:27 PM   #3
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No answers yet....We are taking my brother's and sister's family to Disney for Christmas. There will be 14 of us, sharing a grand villa and two studios. Yes, we are going to put a Christmas tree in "that" spot....lol!

We are the Disney vets, so everyone is looking to us for guidance. We decided early in the planning that we were going to be in charge. Its easier to make the broad decisions, then trying to decide everything by committee. We are going for 10 days and are doing the dining plan. We decided to go with the dining plan to make eating decisions easier, no pressure on spending money....its all set. We set up a schedule of parks, shows, etc and let everyone know upfront that they do not have to follow the schedule. If they want to sleep in or go to a different park, that is great.....no worries from us. We picked most og the dining, but left a few days open and provided a few choices for them to vote on. Also, if you do allow input of decisions keep the choices to three or under.
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:02 PM   #4
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We have done 3 big family trips. All 3 trips were pretty similar vacation style. The last one was a year ago. We had a GV, a 2 bedroom and 2 - 1 bedrooms for 21 of us. We had only 1 ADR--Chef Mickeys. We did one group meal offsite at Bahama Breeze and that wasn't planned until we got to WDW. We did MNSSHP together but split up once we got there. The first full day we went to AK together and rode Safari. I think that was the only ride we did together the whole trip. We were together off and on all day everyday but we were in subgroups as the spirit moved us. This may not work for other groups but it works great for us. After each of our 3 big trips everyone was planning for the next one (they will have to wait for us to save up some points ). Our only problems revolved around the issue of having so many young kids (5 of the 7 kids were under 5) and you won't have to worry about that.
Have a super trip!
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:28 PM   #5
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Honestly, I think I did mine perfectly.

We've done many trips with friends and family.

Once we did a group of 13 or 14 two sides of a family - so I'll concentrate on that larger trip:

* I did not make it a full week for everyone that time. I think we did 4/5 days average. This was perfect. (but then again I understand air has gone way up too) Some showed up a day or two later and stayed later. Simply b/c of schedules but made it fun for all of us to greet them
* I made sure everyone had their own space. Ie. studios are for four but I gave two groups of two their own studio. And two of those groups were parents and sister/niece. They didn't think they needed it but thanked me for it afterward - liked their own space to wind down. One family had their own two bedroom that we booked - but I didn't try to squeeze to capacity - again last group of three could have been put in the two bedroom but I simply didn't do it. They were booked in another room.
* I had no concrete plans - really. I know people love their plans but we didn't have them and it all worked out fine. Meaning 14 people didn't have to be together all the time.
* I booked myself into a one bedroom and didn't add anyone extra in mine/ours and I still was with everyone I don't think this took away from anything - I needed to do OKW b/c of points - others were at SSR and POR (paid - ran out of points). So we were away from most but that in the end was nice. For us. And for them to come to OKW and hang out and have family breakfasts. Loved that - can not beat having one booking at OKW because with a group you can't beat that living space/meeting space for a larger group - some one bedrooms have very small hang out areas in comparison. Ie. that two bedroom SSR suite - we were cramped getting all together - the one bedroom OKW tons of space for everyone plus huge balcony. Heavenly.
* We ate together a couple of times but nothing concrete
*water parks - they still talk about everyone going to TL - don't forget that option- and no forcing/coercing - two stayed back and that was fine. (People always forget that half the joy is telling others what fun you just had - I liked that part when we had moments split up). I think it still remains everyone's favourite memory. Funny - we always think parks and I think mine would say SSR pool time and Typhoon Lagoon
*no conversations - expectations - nothing. I had none either.

Biggest plus: GO WITH THE FLOW. Of course there will be moments of GRRRRR. Human nature. Even if you normally get along wonderfully!! 99% of those moments came from my father endlessly complaining about transportation (it was fine )

My best piece of advice: I booked us for two or three days after most left. Great choice.

Have fun - listen - just do it - I won't go on and on with this part - but we went that time after a couple of deaths to just be together and now some on that trip can no longer go - so precious times. Ours was nowhere near a horror story. And they still talk about it with joy.

Have a wonderful time!

Last edited by lisaviolet; 09-20-2012 at 08:50 PM.
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:30 PM   #6
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We do a family trip about 2 out of every 3 years now with anywhere from 24 to 40 people most trips. There's none of our group that tends to generate drama so we're OK there. My first suggestion (which apparently doesn't apply to you since you all get along) is to NOT assume someone will behave because it's Disney and because you're being nice. We've seen reports of people expecting free tickets and meals in addition to the free lodging and all type of other issues. If there are family members you tend to have problems with for holidays and other get togethers, assume they will be worse for the Disney trip no matter how much you try to give them rules.

Our approach is we try to boil the trip down to the least common denominator. I try very hard not to control other's vacation and to allow them to do as much or little on their own or with the group as they want. I have some limited rules which are.
  1. I don't wait on you/you don't wait on me
  2. I provide the accommodations, you simply behave yourself
  3. If there are real costs you generate (phone, room charges), you take care of those.
  4. There will be ONE required family meal either eat out or in depending on the group and specifics of the trip.
  5. There will be an occasional adult beverage but NO ONE will be out of control in any way.
I plan the trip, location and dates but I do so attempting to time to when the group is likely to be able to go. I may solicit info related to timing and interest but the ultimate decision of when/where/how many is all mine and my wife's.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:19 PM   #7
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I was in charge of our most recently family trip of 9 people. I had two "meetings" beforehand to discuss issues with family members. I asked everyone what was tops on their list for the vacation - did they want rides, food, photos, what was important to them to get a good idea. If they said food, I asked what restaurants. If they said rides I asked what kind of rides, etc.

I only did all that because I like to plan. I would never do it if I didn't enjoy it! That's part of MY fun lol.

Then I made up a schedule of where we were going what day and booked our ADRs for everyone. I gave out the schedule.

Once we were there we did have a car but we used Disney transport a lot. Basically everyone knew where they would supposed to be and what time to meet. If someone slept in, everyone else left. If someone decided to do something else, no stress to everyone else. And really it was only one little section of the family that caused the little issues and we all KNEW it would be them so we had planned that out ahead of time and it didn't stress any of us because it was only them missing out.

I got a lot of kudos for all the planning I did. The trip was very smooth, we had little to no waits for anything, the dining plan worked out for everyone (it was our first time using it) and it was an amazing, magical trip all around.

It CAN work out, you just have to know you are going to go with the flow once you get there. My motto is always plan before you get there, then plan to let go once you ARE there.

Good luck!
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:32 PM   #8
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Sixteen celebrated my in-laws 50th anniversary in Wilderness Homes in 2006.

Don't expect everyone to do everything together. Maybe make a plan for a specific park for each day. Not everyone will want to get to MK for rope drop, and that's why cell phones are so great. "Text me when you get here, and I'll tell you where the rest of us are." Believe me, the first morning we all stood around waiting around campground waiting for the slow pokes and it was frustrating.

I would suggest getting everyone together for a few sit down meals. I'm not a fan of buffets, but they are great for a big group. For example, we went to dinner at Boma for our last evening. Some of us got there early for drinks and to check out the resort and some came directly from a park. One evening we all stuck around FW and ordered pizzas.

My husband and I had a been to Disney a bagillion times before this trip, but some had been there only a few times and a couple were WDW virgins. My sister-in-laws were loving EMH and staying in parks until midnight and took our sons along to hang with their kids. (Bonus for DH and I who got a night out alone.) My sisters-in-law got some rest when we took all the kids to the pool. My point is to be open and go with the flow.

Large groups and commando travel do not go well together.

Have a great time.
Disney -- We have a love/hate thing. It's complicated.

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Old 09-20-2012, 09:41 PM   #9
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Thanks of all the advice - and the question - I too am planning a family vacation for 8 - DH and I and my niece and nephew and their families - Age range 50s to 2. Planning away...both organized and unorganized time!
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:44 PM   #10
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After reading Queenie's reply and then mine, I guess there are two schools of thought. Haha. I think you have to take into consideration group size and personalities. The bigger the flock, the harder it is too herd the sheep.

I would ask everyone beforehand whether they would be more interested in having an itinerary planned or whether they'd like to make it more of a jam. As the planner, what I think will be important for you is to not get upset if someone bails on an event because they don't feel well, are overwhelmed, etc. One brother-in-law (the easy-going, quiet one who loves fishing and gardening) went along with everything but we later found out he was no WDW fan and had no inclination to ever go back.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:54 AM   #11
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We show up on the 29th with 19. It's our 4th large group. We provide the rooms and get the master suite. We made adr's based on input from each family lead. Guests need to confirm attendance to the adr 2 days before the trip so they can be modified to a smaller adr to avoid any fee charged by some restaurants and free up an adr for someone else. We put together a suggested park to visit each day based on crowd levels, emh's, where adr's are booked and shows/parades. They can follow the suggestions or not, it's their vacation. They buy their own transportation and tickets. We do a grocery run and split the bill except they pay for their own alcohol. We take turns making breakfast. We used to ask for 1 dinner but don't anymore. Last time 4 pooled and gifted the dining plan, this time those same 4 gifted park hoppers which I will upgrade to pap's. We never asked for either but graciously accepted both times. We may do a few rides as a group but everyone is free to split up at any time. The hardest thing is to get everyone moving together in the morning and we've given up on that. If we want to see someone's excitement entering a park we'll wait and go with them but we won't wait for all unless everyone is motivated to get wherever for whatever. Going with the flow is the best advice other than remembering that it is your vacation too. We have not had squabbles with large groups but have with smaller groups. I think that came down to the people in the smaller groups than anything else. Good luck.
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Old 09-21-2012, 09:33 AM   #12
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The largest group we have done is 13, so not as many as some of you here, but for the most part, our large groups have been very successful.

Our rules:
1. We only provide housing for free plus one meal out and one meal in and all breakfasts.
2. You are expected to buy your own park tickets plus provide the whole group with one meal in of your choosing.
3. We will plan the next day's events the night before. If you don't want to participate, it's your choice.
4. We will only plan to do one BIG dinner out with the whole group.
5. We will plan one common meeting place and time each day. Those who don't show up within 15 minutes will expect the group to already be on their way to the planned event. We do NOT wait for people longer than that.

So far, these rules have worked well on all our large group trips. One time we had a single mother and daughter who had difficulty getting with the program, but that's because they aren't used to large groups having to only always deal with just the two of them. As it turned out, they were the ones to lose out, because the rest of the group pretty much decided right away not to wait for late arrivals.

Another thing we have always done that works really well is to have each family group plan one meal for the trip. We always stay in a GV for these large groups, and we like to have one meal a day in the villa together to kind of "catch up". It's up to each group what meal and what menu they will prepare. Those who aren't making the meal get to clean up afterward! We've done at least 7 large groups trips like this, and we've had very little if any real drama.
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:07 AM   #13
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I have done many family trips with the most recent being 19 people. We stayed at OkW which has the largest rooms and had 3 2bedroom units and two studios. I made all the room reservations since I was familiar with disney after being a dvc member since 1992. We paired people up in the bedroom based on who we thought would work good together and then made sure that everyone knew who they would be sharing the accomedations with. I made dinner reservations for each night and put out emails early to make sure that people had a say as to what we would eat. The purpose of the emails was if someone really wanted to try a place we tried to do that for them. Since some of the group had never been to disney( as hard as that is to believe lol ) we did a cpl of charter dinnings as well. Since people where flying in from different areas we arrange magical express for everyone so we could meet at the resort. We didn;t plan every minute of every day we just said if you meet at the bus stop by the hospitality house at 7 or if you where their then we all loaded the bus. Generally most of us travel to each park together but we had a few that did their own thing each day. We also left time to enjoy the pool since it was the end of june when we went . All in all we all had a great time and some of the non disney people became disney people on this trip. The ages of the group where a cpl of 70"s, 50's 40's 30's 20's, teens and two 4 year olds. We all said it was a once in a life time trip except guess what we are doing the parks and a cruise next year all together again. So I would say it was a hit. You can pm me if you would like to talk further. Enjoy and good luck.
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:08 AM   #14
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We took a trip with 15 people in April 2011. We provided the rooms (Two 2 bedrooms and 1 studio at AKL) and paid for a grocery order that was divided between the three rooms and one breakfast at Boma (this breakfast replaced our usual Easter meal which was supposed to be at our house that year).

Here is my advice:

1. Know your crowd. Like Dean said earlier, a partly free trip to WDW won't change someone's personality. If they are difficult and problematic at other family events, they will be difficult at WDW too.

2. Ask early and set deadlines. We sent out an exploratory email to family about 18 months before the trip to gauge interest. Then we set deadlines for when people had to commit to being in for the trip so that we wouldn't lose any points. Set the deadlines earlier than actual banking/booking deadlines so that you have time to finagle things if needed.

3. Provide info but don't overwhelm. We had two pre-trip planning meetings and one sort of last hurrah party just to get excited. The first meeting we laid out the basic plan and what we were offering and asked what people wanted to do. The second meeting was to determine eating plans (we ended up eating most meals together, I made ADRs, even the ADRs for non-group meals) and the last meeting we finalized our grocery order and just had fun.

4. Be clear about what you are paying for and what you are not paying for. Also be clear that if you are providing your DVC accommodatations at no cost to them, that does not mean it is no cost to YOU. Sometimes people don't get that and think that it is no big deal if they bail at the last minute.

5. Don't get too hung up on your plans. It doesn't matter how much you plan, something will go wrong or go off course. Once we all got there safely, our luggage all arrived and our rooms were all acceptable, I had to take a deep breath and just let everything else happen.

6. If you want to tour parks together and be together a lot, that is fine but be clear about time, etc. I tried to be nice and would say "Let's leave early tomorrow for the Magic Kingdom" but everyone has a different idea of early. Say "meet at the bus stop at 8:00 am" if you want to go together.

7. Don't be mad if people don't want to do everything together.

8. Take lots of photos. Use PhotoPass to get whole group photos when you can


There were plenty of times that I thought "I will NEVER EVER do this again" both during the planning process and on the trip. We are now planning another trip for 2014. All in all, it was a WONDERFUL trip and I think I can do it even better knowing what I know now.
1984 - Contemporary ~ 1991 - Caribbean Beach ~ 1999 - Port Orleans French Quarter ~ 2000 - Vista Way (College Program) ~ 2001 - AllStar Music ~ 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 & 2007 - Port Orleans Riverside ~ 2008 Beach Club ~2008 Animal Kingdom Lodge~ 2009 Saratoga Springs(x2) & Pop Century 2010 Boardwalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas - Jambo House & Coronado Springs~ 2011 Port Orleans French Quarter & Kidani Village(April), Old Key West & Beach Club (October) 2012 AKV - Jambo and Yacht Club (Commodore Suite!) 2013 - Port Orleans French Quarter and Boardwalk Inn 2014 - Boardwalk Villas
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:55 PM   #15
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Don't create chains of events (First we'll all go here, then we'll all go there). When you do this, if one person is late getting out of the shower, then all the dominos fall one after the other, making everybody late for everything and irritable the whole day.
Allow plenty of time for smaller groups to informally join and disperse. Only require total togetherness for major events like a large family dinner.
Make a clear rule that when everyone is supposed to meet somewhere at a certain time, within 10 minutes the group will move on without waiting longer for stragglers. The stragglers can connect by cell phone and catch up with the group as a whole. It's not a bad reflection on them (plenty of things can make someone late at WDW that are outside of anyone's control), but it also won't stop the action for everyone else.
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