How to plan for large groups

Our little family of three always goes to Disney for a week in late August. This year our good friends have decided to coordinate their vacation and come down at the same time, and have convinced our third friend to join as well. All in all we are now looking at a vacation with approximately 12-13 of us (13 if the adult son of one of them decides to come. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed to say the least as I have never been to Disney with so many people, and I know they will be looking to me to help plan.

A little about us all:
There will be 6 adults, 3 10-year olds, 2 8-year olds, a 6-year old and the possible 19 year old.

Family 1 (us) are DVC members and go to Disney at least 2x per year, sometimes 3. We will be staying at Riviera for the first half then OKW last 2 nights.
We are AP holders
Family 2 Have been to Disney once or twice in probably the past 5 years. They are military so will be staying at Shades of green most likely and Family 3 will be joining them there.

Family 3 have never been.

Family 2&3 I think will be doing 5 or 6 day hoppers.

Since we go alot, and I’ve been in the hell weather of august, we likely will do mid day breaks./ half days. Family 3 also talked about maybe only doing half days. Family 2 will break it up depending on which parent wants to do what. Likely hubby will do some pool hours since he has PTSD and struggles with crowds (more on that later)

We are possibly mulling the idea of heading to the Kennedy space center one day too (any advice/info)

Genie + hasn’t been discussed but since some of them are more “money is no object” they will likely want to buy it every day, and me and family try to stick to a tight budget (unfortunately for us, we have friends in much higher tax brackets :face_with_raised_eyebrow:)

I am trying to figure out some good ideas/plans for maximizing our fun with the least amount of stress and “debate”.

More on the PTSD person- The last time they went to Disney, our trip overlapped and he got DAS (we were on the DAS pass). How many people are allowed on this if he applies for it again?

How hard will it be to get ADR’s for 12/13 people? Will I have to call?

This is all new territory for me so anyone who has done large party trips, please chime in on advice/suggestions. They’re pretty good friends, so we ( I think) are all comfortable breaking off and doing our own things at times when we want to. I know I will need some quiet time, as I can definitely get social anxiety.

Thanks for all help/ideas/suggestions.

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This may be helpful:

This will be helpful. I will have to have a discussion with them about this.

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I did not read your entire opening post. Just for full transparency.

But I think the overarching rule is that there is no expectation for the entire group to spend 24/7 together.

There must be an understanding that the larger group will form smaller groups as the trip unfolds and that has to be okay. No hurt feelings, no resentments, no drama.

I would agree to be together for one anchoring event each day. A meal, the fireworks, an e-ticket attraction experience. Maybe a Capture Your Moment (you’ll need two ressies for the full group). But beyond that anchoring event each day everyone has to feel and be free to do what they want when they want and with whom they want.

Look at our Liner meets as some good examples of that in action.

If you try to spend every waking moment together you’re bound to be miserable before long.


Yes this! I think thankfully they will all feel this way for sure and no one will get upset or resentful.

This is a good idea!

I’m a little miserable just thinking about this trip (although the memories will be worth it), in a family of 3 there aren’t alot of opinions that I need to be considerate of :wink:

Thankfully at least for us, since we go so often, I have seen/done everything (or will be seeing/doing it at some point in the next 40 years) so I have no particular expectations (ok, maybe just to always ride space mountain on the MK days). I am hoping this will make me be a little more “go with the flow”

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The general rule is DAS holder plus 5 for any selection. My son is a DAS holder, and we have had more than 5 linked to him, but we would switch up which 5 got to go in the LL with him. You may find a CM that could make an exception to extend it beyond 5.

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We had a few more for our big birthday bash trip in September 2019. We were off property in a resort with 3 bedroom villas, and had three of these villas very close together - same bldg different floors kind of thing. So we had some non park together opportunities. Like around the jig saw puzzle table.

We split into somewhat smaller groups for touring. I suspected at least one of these groups would consistently show up late.

We had usually at least one meal together. But not all meals.

I usually made at least 3 ADRs for each meal. On past trips we’ve been told many times, we can’t seat you until your whole group is here. So we had at least 3 groups in case the Tardys were tardy. :smile: We could say, yup our group is here.

I made each ADR for an odd number - more than the smaller group number.
The reason for this was if a partial smaller group showed up to eat rather than the whole smaller group. Which did happen - two showed instead of 5. We could absorb those ones into the other groups because the tables could accommodate extra people.
A table/ADR for 4 can’t fit one or any more. But if those same four have an ADR for 5, the ADR is at a bigger table, able to seat 2 extras.

When checking in we said, these ADRs are together - usually we all got seated together. At one restaurant our tables were beside each other.

I did have 4 credit cards available to use to reserve all those ADRs. Some people are so trusting. Luckily, I’m trustworthy. :grin:

Group photos
We picked a color of the day and asked folks to wear whatever they already had, in that color. Like MK was teal, AK was green, HS was white (Stormtrooper). It worked out very well. We weren’t matchy but our photos looked more coordinated than they were and were kinda interesting. Some had tees with graphics, some with blouses or button up shirts.
And we didn’t have to mess with sizes and neck styles and slim/relaxed fit.

Good luck and remember to have fun. :blush:

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I’ve planned larger group and multi-family trips in the past. [And my disclaimer is that I LOVE to help people plan Disney trips (even if I’m not participating in the trip!) so if that’s not fun for you, you may not want to take on this level of responsibility, in which case I’d just say “here’s what we’re doing, join us if you want to.”]

With a group this large, and being split between multiple resorts, you will absolutely need to go your own way at various times but it sounds like you there are at least some things you’d like to coordinate.

Since dining is the first thing that needs to be planned, I would make a list of suggested places you’d like to go together and have each family weigh in on their top choices. A shareable spreadsheet works great for this (and most planning opportunities in life!) You will most definitely need to make multiple ADRs - possibly up to 3 for each meal, depending on where you want to go. My experience is that they will try to put you all together or at least near each other when possible if you ask when you check in. 'Ohana was the one place that couldn’t accommodate this request when we had 2 tables booked last September - we ended up on opposite ends of the restaurant. And there were many times that they did combine our tables into one, but we ended up tightly packed with nearly no elbow room, so be make sure you really like these people if you request to be combined.

For your touring plan, I would start by determining what’s on the “must do” list for each family. Maybe they don’t know since they are not as experienced as you, so it may help to determine who are the thrill seekers, who needs to meet princesses, and who will not survive even a single voyage through Small World. From there, I would create a basic itinerary of what your family will likely want to do along with suggestions for alternative options to meet the needs of the various other groups. Again, the shareable spreadsheet is my preferred method of organizing this. If you can plan to be in the same parks at the same time, you should at least be able to plan times to come together for a few things other than meals (i.e. Indiana Jones, Tiki Room, FOTLK, nighttime spectaculars, some of the walk-on rides etc.)

For the DAS (my son uses a DAS pass): 5 people plus the DAS user, and of course the DAS user must be part of the riding group. All of the people who might ride with the DAS user need to be on the DAS user’s Friends & Family list AND they need to be manually entered into the DAS user account by the enrolling cast member. It is not enough for them to just be on the F&F list (we found this out when we met up with some friends last year and my son wanted to share a ride with his friend who was on his F&F list but not listed on his DAS pass - it wasn’t an option to add her without going to guest services to update his DAS guest list.)

Added tip: this is an excellent excuse to get together with your friends to enjoy cocktails and discuss plan options prior to the trip. Multiple meetings will likely be necessary. :wink:

Have fun!

Do I even want someone in my group who can’t handle the most happiest cruise that ever sailed??? I’m not so sure… :roll_eyes:

This is good information- I didn’t know and I’ll pass it on.

That is a guarantee

In my experience with larger groups (though not a group this mixed in many many years) the alpha-planners need to be on the same page.

Identify -
planned-out together times;
planned-out separate times;
unplanned separate times.
I hate unplanned together times. Too many people for that.

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Good point. Which is why I’m not bringing my kids anymore.

J/K…They can still come, but DH and I get to enjoy IASW, ETR, CoP and CBJ while they ride BTM on repeat. I probably have to take some of the blame though. I may have traumatized them by playing the “It’s a Small World” song on repeat to get them out of bed in time for rope drop mornings. :grimacing: It was an effective strategy.


I’d just add in here that sit down dining at Disney can be costly, as you know. While meals are an easy way to connect, it’s also going to bring your tight budget up. Maybe you can suggest an hour a day where you try to ride lower tier rides together (ones that might not need Genie) or pick a snack spot or some Photopass pictures.

I would recommend that you have a conversation about money and budgets, if you haven’t done so already. Some might not understand why you are saying no to something that is costly.

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I hate this conversation. I always have to have it with them and they are always so understanding, but im always the one who has factor in costs and it just stinks. It’s hard being friends sometimes with white collar people when you are a blue collar shift worker :frowning:

Our family usually plans for one sit down a day, so I don’t think that will break our budget- we usually all get our own checks.


Me too. It’s why I haven’t really considered traveling with friends. It gets complicated.

Sorry, each to their own. We have gone to Disneyworld 8 times over the last 11 years with a group of 13+ each time. With such a busy world and everyone doing their own thing, Disneyworld is the place that we use to put aside life, and spend time together as a large family. The last thing we want to do is “everyone split up and go their own way.” I would argue whats the point in doing this if your traveling together?

For one, I enjoy the time we all spend together. We just get everyone together and throw everyones “want to do list” and formulate a plan from that. As a group we spend a magical vacation together as one large family.

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And be not sorry. A marvelous thing about a trip to WDW is that it can be so many things.

For at least 5 trips we traveled as a big group, enjoying the memories we were making. Even bus rides were fun because we came from several states to be together at Disney.

The next several trips varied due to families changing but the core goal - memories, remained. Then the kid turned 15 and wanted a big birthday bash. All sorts of extended family member groups. The birthday kid wanted a different experience with each group and some everyone all together time.

It was fun planning.

That’s fantastic!

Can you share some things you did to make that planning a little easier for everyone? How did you meet varying budgets? Sleep schedules? Age groups? Walking speeds?

So glad you guys have such awesome trips together! I have a large extended family that I love to be around, but I can’t even imagine getting us all to the parks at the same time. Some of us early birds would be waiting hours on others just to get up and going in the mornings. I definitely would love to hear more of how you plan with your group.

We had 11 in our group for 5 or 6 trips over 12 or 15 years and 10 were on board. “Just tell us when and where”. Two were at MK in November 1971 as kids and were now visiting with spouses and kids. We did rope drop - “I can sleep late at home”, we weren’t commando tourers. In the afternoon some fished, golfed, horseback rode. We were lucky.

Many of us don’t speak to the 11th person. He was a real wrench :wrench:

This made me laugh! :rofl: Glad the rest of your crew cooperated at least.

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