The Challenge Of Traveling With Friends To Disney World

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise, Walt Disney World

Tagged: , , , , ,

parkwise

Published on January 24, 2013 at 4:02 am with 14 Comments

Top Tips For Taking On The World With Friends

Ahh, the Disney trip.  This is the stuff dreams are made of, my friends.  After years of making these dreams come true for ourselves, our family decided we’d join forces with friends and take on the (Walt Disney) World together.

Let me take a moment to interject this little tidbit—the head of our family is a retired Marine Corps captain;  we’re a military family through and through.  Efficiency is our middle name, and it’s no different when we get to Disney.  We have our touring down to a science.  He’ll grab FastPasses; I’ll park the stroller. You take the kids for a potty break then meet back in front of Pirates—and go!  Our four-generational family (the kids, my mom, my grandparents and me) is a well-oiled park-touring machine.  Would it work?  Could we add people to this?  Would they think we were crazy?  Would we still be on speaking terms when the eight days had passed? Let’s find out.

First and most important: Communicate, communicate, and communicate!

 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the little details that get lost in the excitement of planning a trip with your friends.  While pre-trip planning, decide just how close you want to be.  Splitting a villa?  Maybe just staying at the same resort?  Connecting rooms?  Totally across the property from each other?  We’ve done all of them, and they all have they’re pros and cons, so decide if you can still be friends after sharing living quarters for a week in the most over-stimulating place on Earth™.  Or if you know you’ll need your space after facing the lines together at Enchanted Tales with Belle and Toy Story Mania.

Touring the Parks

Speaking of lines, discuss how you’ll be touring the parks.  Will everyone be linking arms and skipping through the parks together for the duration?  Perhaps the entire party will hit the headliners together then split off into other directions.  Maybe meals will be the main together time.  We’ve traveled with newbies who were perfectly content to follow us while they got the hang of it.  Then we’ve met up with other park pros, and we hit our favorites together and met up again for dinner.  Decide what everyone is comfortable with and remember that dose of flexibility I mentioned earlier.

Let’s make that our next point.  Any seasoned Disney traveler knows that stuff happens even at the happiest and most magical places on Earth:  kids get sick; phones fall into Bay Lake; skies open and pour.  This is where we learn just how flexible we can be when those picture perfect plans are threatened, and this is even more important when you introduce others to your trip.

Get Park Wise: Familiarize yourself with the locations of the First Aid stations and Baby Care Centers (if needed).  It probably won’t help you if your phone falls in Bay Lake, but it will be a good starting point for medical issues or diaper emergencies.

When traveling with first-timers a few years ago, they were completely content to let us be their tour guides.  We were all comfortable with this approach and had made most of our plans around it.  Fast forward to the trip, and their toddler wants absolutely nothing to do with characters.  We’re talking tears, screams and burying her head in mom’s shoulder.  My little ones are character fiends!  We had daily character meals and, as usual for us, planned stops to see as many characters as we could.  We were able to drop our friends from a few reservations, and for the ones they really wanted to try, the little princess sat away from the character path (i.e., on the “inside” seats).  When we stopped to see characters in the parks, they made a beeline for the nearest gift shop or play area.  Which leads us to our next tip.

Don’t be afraid to split up and tour in smaller groups. 

 

After taking an obligatory group shot in front Cinderella Castle (everyone say Facebook!!), make the most of your time by hanging out with those who are interested in the same things as you.  On a recent trip, one mom took all the boys to see Finding Nemo while the rest of us trekked Mt. Everest (six times in a row!) in Animal Kingdom.  We met back up for dinner and then closed the park together.  This can work out really well, especially if you’re comfortable rationing out kiddos to different parents.

Get Park Wise: When choosing a meeting place, go for somewhere a little off the beaten path (like near the First Aid station).  If you decide to meet at the Castle, you could be looking for a while because 100s or even 1000s of other people probably had that idea, too.

Finally, don’t forget respect. 

Be respectful of your own vacation wishes.  This can be hard when you really want to help your friends have the “best trip ever!”  Playing host can be a tiresome job, especially at a party as big and bustling as Disney.  Make sure you check off your must-dos, too!

Respect your friends’ Disney ambitions (or lack thereof).  While everything looks so great printed on your laminated index cards, your travel buddies may have lost their energy halfway through, or they may leave you in the dust.  Again, continuous communication throughout the trip will most likely alleviate the hurt feelings and annoyed glances that can come with broken plans.

We all know that a Disney World trip is wonderful all on its own, but if done right, adding great friends to the mix can really plus the experience.  So, was our trip with friends a success? Short answer: Yes.  But it did require some adjustments here and there and a dose of flexibility.

Have you traveled Disney World with friends?  Done Disneyland with the neighbors?  How did you approach it?  How did it go?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

Browse Archived Articles by

14 Comments

Comments for The Challenge Of Traveling With Friends To Disney World are now closed.

  1. I LOVE this information. You always see large families and groups traveling together and I wondered how it could work. Nice work Jessica.

    • Thanks! Group travel definitely has its pros and cons, but when it’s done right, it’s so much fun!!

  2. This is a really important topic for lots of travelers.

    We travel almost exclusively in large groups. We’ve found that offering lots of pre planned activities and then letting individuals decide which they would personally like to participate in is the best way to go.

    It takes some pre planning and communication to make it work, but a vacation with friends can be very rewarding!

    • Most definitely rewarding!

  3. When we did this the first time with friends, they were gifted the Burnbaum book about WDW & told to read up. Then once they knew what restaurants they were interested in and what shows & attractions, we all met up and mapped out a plan. Everyone had a list of the shows & attractions that they wanted to do or not do. We rated each item on a 3 – MOST IMPORTANT, 2 – DO OR NOT DO & 1 – NOT DO scale.

    Once we decided what day to do what park, we used the listing to map out the MOST IMPORTANT items & filled in with the Do or Not Do items. That way we had everyone’s favorites & skipped those that no one cared about. It was easy to change up where we were headed next when someone needed that bathroom break & someone wanted to sit down. We could skip one attraction on the do or not do list & decide to do another one cause it was right by the bathroom, etc. (Or it was on the way to lunch, so why not do it now instead of coming back later).

    For the restaurants, we divided all the meals up for lunch & dinner & # of days (breakfast was the one we didn’t plan out at first). Each person got to pick a lunch meal & dinner meal. They could be counter or table service. We then sorted them by days that we’d be in that park. Or planned to visit that resort. The meals left over,we did as a group. We tweaked a couple meals. Like deciding that the person who had chosen counter service for dinner at MK could switch with the person who picked Cinderella’s castle for lunch. That meant we could have a less expensive lunch, and do a later dinner at the castle & be there for the fireworks. :) It left room for a snack & both people got to eat where they wanted. This was before the 180 day “gotta get them now” reservation system went into effect.

    For breakfast, we sorted out who liked character breakfasts & wanted to do one. We then put in all the ones to consider – drew out one & that was where we went for that one breakfast, the rest of the time we ate at the hotel or on the bus as we headed for the parks. Some only did coffee for breakfast, so had more time to get ready, or just veg out while the rest of us did what we needed to do.

    Yes we had a few fights due to being over tired, or over stimulated, but over all, the planning helped to smooth out some of the bumps ahead of time.

    • The uber planner in me is LOVING all of the thought you guys put into it. When it’s Disney planning, though, it doesn’t seem like work, does it? At least not to me. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. We travel in a group every year when going to Disneyland (someday we’ll get back to Disneyworld), We have two core families and then others join from year to year – we have voted families off the Island, but most have done well jumping into our Disney Madness – Flexability is always key – of course we’re all about the early entry and stock piling our fastpasses (which may come to an end with the new system everyone keeps talking about). We’ve done everything from sharing a condo/ attached Hotel rooms to seperate room and even seperate Hotels for a few of the families with us – so far they’ve all worked out well, just make sure that the ones you have 24/7 access to are compatable with your family’s routine.

    One year we lost our cell phone in Indiana’s Temple of Doom – it’s now a runnihng joke – we should never have looked into the eyes of the snake! : )

    • Ha! Yeah, we’ve got a couple friends off the island, as well. I agree with you 100% on the 24/7 thing. Even if it’s just over the course of a vacation, you’ve got to have that level of compatibility to not go crazy.

  5. [...] further ado, my first Park Wise column, Traveling With Friends!! Spread Some [...]

  6. Great article !! There’s a family that I’ve traveled to the World with on several occasions and we prefer to split up. We are both single moms and used to being in charge so we know it’s best to take charge of our own trips and meet up for dinner or pool time !

    • I hear you on the “used to being in charge” front. Haha! Definitely a good strategy for a park goer who know what she wants!

  7. [...] traveling challenge with friends to Disney World Get Wise Park: Familiarize yourself with the location of first aid stations and health centers for babies (if necessary). It certainly is not … When we stopped to see the characters in the parks, they made a trip to the nearest gift shop or a playground. That … Learn about MiceChat [...]

  8. This is all great stuff. I am definitely a planner and have found myself very frustrated by my traveling companions on more than one occasion. I find that it’s REALLY important to check to be sure that all the kids WANT to go on the attractions or see the shows you plan for everyone. Nothing wrecks the day more than kids spontaneously deciding they won’t go on this, and don’t want to eat that, and get into a surly mood. I ask ahead, make a plan, make an alternate plan for when I find out I wasn’t given all the info I needed. I always have a MUST DO list for myself that I am going to do no matter what. I inform everyone and anyone who doesn’t like that plan, should go do whatever they want at that point and we’ll meet up after. I also ask repeatedly who ELSE has something they absolutely must do and work THAT into the plan. The goal is for everyone to get something they want that day. Most of the time people follow my lead, because I make sure it happens. I usually have to give in on food choices because we frequently travel with folks with various allergies. Because I just defer to their needs on that issue, they usually defer to mine. Give and take. But, where kids are involved…don’t ever assume the plan won’t need altering.

    • That’s even true when traveling with just your own family. Cranky kids can lead to cranky grown-ups, and that’s never good! Thanks for your thoughts!!