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?