Planning large family trip to WDW. Advice?

Grandma and grandpa (me) are looking for advice and tips for handling a large family group trip to WDW … large for us anyway: 9 people total in 3 separate family groups. We are going to float the idea TO THE FAMILY over our Thanksgiving get together. Assuming we get a favorable response, we’re looking at potentially an early June 2020 trip once school is out for the little ones. We’re looking at staying on Disney property as none of these folks have ever done that before, except grandpa and grandma. We want the family to have that experience. So, what is the best way to approach something like this? Book directly thru Disney? An Agency, like MVT or someone else? DVC? How to handle meals? Multiple rooms? I assume there will be interest in special events like a “princess event”, visiting the Kennedy Space Center and perhaps other Parks, like Universal. I know this will be expensive, but the memories of a once in a lifetime family trip with everyone together will live on long after the cost is forgotten. The idea of coordinating logistics for a large group like this is a little daunting, so was hoping for advice from anyone who has done this before. Thanks.


An MVT agent could totally help. I’d go that way if you feel overwhelmed. Personally I’d skip non Disney stuff to keep it simple. Adding on universal to an already expensive Disney trip is a lot of money.


Look up @OlafsDad trip report! He planned for a big group. Might give you ideas how he split it up!


I think a lot depends on the make up of your group and the relationships. We did a group of 9 last year…me, my husband, my 2 sons (4 and 6 at the time), my daughter (15mo at the time), my mom, my nephew and his girlfriend (late twenties). We rented DVC. A 2 bedroom villa at AKL. My husband, daughter, and I slept in the room with the king bed, my mom and 2 boys slept in the room with the 2 queens, and my nephew and his girlfriend slept on the pullout couch in the living area. There were 3 full bathrooms, a washer and dryer, and a full kitchen (that we barely used). It worked great for us because my mom and kids are close and she had no problem sharing a room with the boys.

I did all of the planning as nobody else had been and had no input. They all just went with it, and, since I’m a liner, my plans were awesome!!


Meant for OP!

Remember that ADR’s can be made 180 days out (and the tough to get ADR’s should be made then) … A June 2020 trip puts 180 days back in December 2019 so you will have to make decisions fast after your amazing Thanksgiving announcement!

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That was the first thing I thought of too. My first trip we really didn’t know how important that was and I spent many months trying to get stuff–lots of computer time.

And yes, adding on Universal has proved to be much more $$$ than I had anticipated when I first had the idea. Tix are way more expensive than I ever thought. But it was important to us so we decided to split our stay and are staying first at a Universal resort for 2 nights in order to get the perks there and then switching to a Disney resort for the last 5 nights. I say this b/c I want to forewarn the writer about the expenses of Universal, but it might be worth it to their group if they have big Harry Potter fans or a lot of older kids. BTW I’ve never had a group larger than 6 but there is tons of advice for / from people who have done Disney and other Orlando stuff with very large groups. Look at some of the “trip reports” from people who have done it. You can find many on this forum and also the disboards.

Sorry to say this, but the conventional wisdom for planning for large groups is “don’t do it.” Trying to coordinate 3 family groups, all of whom will have differing attitudes about things like RD and their own priorities/interests is soul destroying. The easier approach is to schedule certain group events (e.g. meals) and then let each family plan for the rest of the time themselves. What you can then do is make plans for your part of the group, and let everyone else know that they are welcome to follow you or catch up with you later in the day.


When my parents booked a muli-generational trip for them (2 ppl), my family (12 ppl) and my sister’s family (8ppl), whether cruise or multiple VRBO homes, my mom said this (as she was the one paying). Go out during the day and do your own hthing (each family separated) and then meet back in evening for dinner together (that was for cruise). For VRBO, kind of the same thing, except we might do a day or two of planned group activities (pontoon boat, etc.)

While a cruise does not necessarily translate to a WDW vacay, here are some pointers.

  1. don’t plan to be with everyone every single day
  2. if so inclined, along with doing their own thing, the Grandparents can hang for a portion of the day with each family - prolly only one family per day. That way, as things develop, not rushing off someplace else.
  3. Plan a couple (don’t know how long u r staying) of events where everyone attends: a tour, a land, a meal, or meal/event (think hoop de doo).
  4. If u r paying for it, talk regarding expectations you have for the trip BEFORE BOOKING and state those expectations to your children, grandchildren.
  5. Also, think about what you want from this trip. That will help with #4
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I’ve seen this advice over and over and think it’s a really great way to handle it. We’ve traveled with 8 (myself, DH, our four kids and my parents) and done everything all together but my parents are very easygoing and didn’t really care what we did. Just wanted to spend the trip with their grands. I would LOVE to do it again with my siblings and their families which would increase the number of family groups and diversify the desired touring styles.

We have gone twice all together - the first time in a 2 bedroom villa at AKL and the second in two connecting rooms at the Poly. I preferred AKL simply because we had a central living space + full kitchen + more space to spread out. Oh, and laundry in the unit which was :+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3:

I think the way you plan a trip like this depends on how many people are interested in the planning aspect of it. For us, my family did not care to discuss trip details, restaurant preferences, etc months and months out from our trip so I just did everything and set expectations as best as a I could.

It’s gonna be SO MUCH FUN!!


Thank you for saying it! I was about to write out the same advice. I love my extended family, but would never try to plan out an entire trip for everyone. Someone isn’t going to be happy and it sounds so stressful - the complete opposite of a vacation.

When we go in 2021 with my wife’s extended family (which means my family, my wife’s parents, my brother-in-laws family, and my sister-in-laws family), I already know my in-laws want everyone to be together for just about everything. I have warned my wife that it may be a logistical nightmare.

No one (other than me) knows anything about planning a WDW vacation. And other than DW, DD4, DS2 and me, none of them have been to WDW since the early 90’s. I already told my in-laws things have really changed since then and the planning process is much more complicated.

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Agree, IF I were to agree to a big trip, as much as I love my whole family, logistically I’d plan something to do together each day but then have time for each family to go off. If it was just my family and my parents that’s easier and we would stay together. I think it’s hard with every kids different interest or thrill level.

Maybe think about meal together or see different shows to meet up for. I wouldn’t try to plan every minute for everyone.

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We go on a large family trip every 5 years or so. The first trip was a party of 18, and the second trip was a party of 30. Our next trip is Oct 2020 and it’s shaping up to be a party of 18. We have a group meeting, setting expectations, deciding on how together we want to be. Then I coordinate with one person from each family group. I get all the FP’s and ADR’s. The first two trips we pretty much toured together each day. It was hairy at times and completely magical at others. I think that you have two choices - tour together or sleep together. Don’t do both. 24/7 does not allow for any decompressing time. If the grandkids are all around the same age, I’d tour together.
If you want help with the planning, an agent is your best bet. With an agent you cannot get DVC. I don’t know if you do tickets only with an agent if they’ll help you with touring?
If you want to go to another location, like uni or the space center, do it at the beginning or end, keeping in mind the potential cost.
Have a great time and absolutely reach out if you have any questions.

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I had a hard enough time getting FP for a group of 6. I can’t imagine with some of these larger group sizes I’m hearing about. One thing we did a lot was to break up the group into different rides at the same general time. So, my husband and 2 older kids to a thrill ride while me and my senior friend and younger child do a kid ride (usually nearby). It’s tricky to plan but works out well. We also had periods of the day when those 2 groups were split up for a few hrs. It’s also nice to have the kids not with each other every moment of the day b/c they get testy.

We have planned numerous large family trips. All but two have been on property. The on property trips have been the best mostly due to ease of transportation. And since we’re usually coming from several states we welcome the extended visiting time that traveling together provides.

It was our 6th big family trip before family members began peeling off on their own. When a dozen people are touring together everything takes longer. Bathroom breaks are probably the worst. I never anticipated ATM breaks either! Whatever you think you are used to doing in a morning will likely be 4 times more than you’ll accomplish. Add in all newbies and you do less.

Our family has always been more about experiences. A favorite recent September ride was when the boat from Broadwalk to Hollywood Studios sang happy birthday to my grandniece. We also finally managed to ride Flight of Passage which was great. We’ll be talking about that boat ride way longer.

Our family loves characters and meals. We actually have evolved to getting together for a meal - perhaps mid day - and doing separate things before and after. On our Sept trip I made several smaller reservations for meals in case some were late - the rest could eat. Nobody was late but one family group couldn’t make the trip last minute and two other family members had plans change almost during the trip. We did not expect to be seated at time same table but usually were, or next to each other.

Whenever we’ve stayed on property with a big group I’ve used a travel agent for lodging. I’m quite certain we’ve gotten better discounts.
Personally, with large family groups, and with smaller kids, I’d go with regular resort rooms. Individual families need the space and quiet and the ability to be off stage.

I would be very careful about cancellation policies. Make sure you have cancellation abilities.

With a big group meal reservations are easier at 180 days out. However, I did plan a large group trip in September for Thanksgiving wk. Only one restaurant was unavailable; we figured we’d catch it next time.

Figure out your priorities. With us, it’s making memories. Sometimes that’s on a ride (great granddaughter singing - with arms outspread - on Frozen), sometimes it’s spur of the moment (enjoying ice cream with my grandneice’s grandparents while listening to the Barbershop Quartet) or in a restaurant (Lady Tremaine telling my husband her Christmas list - he’s got a big white beard and a twinkle in his eye).

You will have to make some decisions when planning with newbies. Thinking of what each person’s likes or dislikes are can help with that.

And asking lots of questions.

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