A Guide to Planning a Trip to Disney World With Friends and Family

A Guide to Planning a Trip to Disney World With Family and Friends
Check out what our Giordano’s family in Florida has to say about your next trip to Disney World. With locations in Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee, you can trust our Florida Giordano’s family knows a thing or two about visiting Mickey and Minnie.

Disney World is the most magical destination, so it’s natural to round up your extended family or a group of friends to experience that magic together. It sounds like a great idea, but once you get into the details, planning a Disney trip with family or friends can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately for you and your upcoming travel plans, Disney offers plenty of time-saving tools to help you manage your whole travel party. Manage your trip with our best planning tips for large groups at Walt Disney World.

Start With the Basics

Before you get caught up in the details of what rides you want to experience, where you want to eat and which characters you want to meet, you need to coordinate the overall trip as a group. First, establish who is going on the trip. You don’t all have to agree on everything, but the group should have a solid dynamic and the ability to get along most of the time.

Establish who is going on the trip.

Once you establish the travel party, consider these factors:

  • Travel dates: How long does everyone want to stay? What dates work for all parties involved?
  • Budget: Factor in the budgets of all parties to determine if you need to do Disney on a shoestring budget or you can afford to splurge.
  • Travel types: Another important aspect is how each family approaches travel. Is everyone the on-the-go type who wants to experience everything possible or do you have a more laid back group that goes with the flow? What interests each part of the group the most about Disney World? The larger the group, the more likely you are to have a wide range of travel types, which may mean splitting up at times.

With dates and budgets in mind, it’s crucial to book accommodations. With such a large party, you’ll want to book early to find the best accommodations together.

Onsite Disney resorts offer many advantages including:

  • Complimentary transportation to and from the airport
  • Complimentary transportation from the resort to all Disney parks, water parks and Disney Springs
  • Extra Magic Hours, which offers extended time either in the morning or at night at certain parks only available to guests staying at Disney resorts
  • Free MagicBands, which act as room keys, hold reservation and dining plan information and much more
  • Earlier access to your FastPass+ reservations, making it more likely to get reservations for the most popular rides
  • Magic of Disney even when you’re not at the park, including amazing themes
  • Free parking at the parks if you decide to drive from your resort
  • Option to purchase the prepaid Disney Dining plan
  • Ability to charge purchases to your room with your MagicBand
  • Package delivery of purchases made in the parks to your resort
  • Close proximity to parks for faster arrival from your room
  • Special activities at the resorts, such as movies and campfires

Disney resorts fall into three main categories: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. You have several options within each category. Value options are the most affordable but often share transportation and have fewer amenities on site. Moderate resorts typically have more food options, waterslides at the pools and additional amenities. Deluxe resorts offer the best dining and a strong sense of theme with the best dining and amenities. All options offer some transportation to the parks. Value and moderate resorts typically offer bus transportation, while deluxe resorts include boat and monorail access to certain parks.

Disney Pricing Falls Into Three Main Categories

In addition to standard rooms, many of the Disney resorts offer suites and villas with larger capacity options. The villas often include a kitchenette or full kitchen.

Most standard rooms only accommodate four people, but Disney has some options for larger groups, including:

  • Cabins at Ft. Wilderness Lodge: 6 people, includes full kitchen
  • Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs: 9 people
  • Art of Animation Family Suite: 6 people
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary and Grand Floridian Suites: 8 people
  • Polynesian Suite: 9 people
  • Animal Kingdom Villas: 12 people
  • Grand Villas in Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary: 12 people
  • Beach Club Villas: 8 people
  • BoardWalk, Grand Floridian, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs 2-Bedroom Villas: 9 people
  • BoardWalk, Grand Floridian, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Grand Villas: 12 people

Before choosing onsite accommodations, consider how much time you want together. Renting a villa can save money, but it also means you will have no private space to enjoy time away from the rest of your party. If you want the trip to be about togetherness, look into villas, suites and adjoining standard rooms. If you want your space or don’t care if you stay together, consider different resort options that fit each family’s budget and preferences.

Staying offsite provides more options. Renting a vacation home is a popular option for large groups, as many rentals offer several bedrooms and have kitchen facilities to save money on dining costs. You can often find cheaper accommodations, but keep in mind you may have extra expenses, including the $20 per day parking fee at the Disney parks. You also have to wait longer to make your FastPass+ selections, which may mean you miss out on the best rides.

Make Reservations for a Large Party

The easiest way to make reservations for a large party is to have each family make their own reservations. This makes payment easier, since each family books and pays for their own reservation. This also allows families to book at different resorts easily if you don’t plan to stay at the same resort. You can then connect your reservations later through your Disney account for easier planning.

If you’re staying on site, booking a package is the most cost-effective option. This allows you to bundle your room, tickets and dining plan together. Book directly through the Disney website or over the phone to get the current deals through Disney. Another option is to go through a Disney travel agent, who handles all of the booking for you.

Communicate About the Trip

A single person who manages the planning and communication can make the planning process run smoothly. Choose someone with good organizational and communication skills to keep the process on track. This person keeps a planning timeline and ensures all information is dispersed to the involved parties.

If one person doesn’t want to take on all the responsibility, consider sharing responsibilities. One person might handle researching the accommodations, another handles dining reservations and another plans the FastPass+ selections and daily plans. Allowing more people to be involved in the planning divides the workload. Remember that people should communicate regularly, so everyone stays current with the plans.

Some ways to communicate about the Disney plans include:

  • Group emails
  • Private Facebook groups
  • In-person meetings
  • Group text messages

There are many ways to communicate about your Disney Trip.

Use the Family & Friends Tool

Disney World offers a useful tool for managing groups of any size called Family & Friends, which lets you connect with others in your party within your Disney account. By adding the other members of your party using Family & Friends, you can easily make reservations, make and share plans, book FastPass+ selections and choose dining reservations as a group. Using this tool ensures your whole group can enjoy activities together while keeping everyone advised.

When you log into your account, add the other party members in your Family & Friends list. You can connect after everyone books their reservations. The tool also allows you to add names of people who don’t have a Disney account, such as kids, to include them in reservations.

Make Dining Plans

Food is a major part of the experience, and Disney offers a wide range of dining options to satisfy varying preferences. All Disney parks and resorts offer dining options. Disney Springs offers even more restaurant options.

Disney dining options fall into one of two categories: quick service, also called counter service, and table service. Many table service restaurants offer reservations. Disney opens reservations 180 days ahead of time, and many of the most popular restaurants book up immediately. If you know you want to eat at a particular table service restaurant, make the reservation as soon as possible. You can cancel or change the reservations later if needed.

Some table service restaurants also offer character dining experiences, where costumed characters circulate for pictures and autographs. This option is ideal if kids in the group want to meet characters, but don’t want to wait in long lines.

You also have the option to pay for each meal as you eat, or you can purchase a prepaid dining plan for each person if you stay at a Disney resort. If you choose the dining plan, you receive a certain number of meal and snack credits per day, which are all assigned to your account at the beginning of the trip. You can use the credits as you wish throughout the trip. This means you can use three snack credits on one day and zero the next if you want.

There are maximums for large reservations.

When traveling to Walt Disney World with a friend or family group, keep these dining tips in mind:

  • Some restaurants have group size limits: Not all Disney World restaurants can accommodate large groups. You may have the option to divide your party into two smaller groups to book at the same time. Check in together to request a table near one another.
  • You may have gratuities added automatically: Parties of six or more typically include an automatic gratuity of 18%. Check on this to determine if you need to add a tip or not.
  • Look for off-hour reservations: You are more likely to find a reservation for a large party outside of normal breakfast, lunch and dinner hours.
  • Call the reservation number for help: You can book dining reservations online, but if you can’t find what you need, call the reservation line at 407-939-3463. The reservation line may be able to help you figure out booking for your large party, even if you want to eat at a restaurant with a small group size limit.

Each restaurant has a different maximum party size for booking under one reservation. Some of the Disney dining options with some of the highest group limits include:

  • 1900 Park Fare: 30
  • Biergarten: 30
  • Cape May Café: 20
  • Chef Mickey’s: 24
  • Crystal Palace: 30
  • Spirit of Aloha: 49
  • Hoop De Doo: 49
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ: 49
  • Ohana: 30
  • Restaurant Marrakesh: 25
  • Sci Fi Dine In Theater: 30
  • Turf Club Bar and Grill: 24
  • Whispering Canyon Café: 30

Disney dining options are vast, but you may decide you want something a little different. Perhaps you’re catching other Orlando area attractions or simply want to venture off the resort. Or you might find it difficult to book Disney dining options to accommodate a large party.

Giordano’s offers two convenient Orlando locations, including Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee. Visit us to accommodate your large party in our dining room. If you’d rather stay at your resort, we offer convenient delivery to all Disney resorts, so you can enjoy authentic Chicago-style pizza right in your room while enjoying all Orlando has to offer.

Plan a Multigenerational Disney Trip

When you travel to Disney with your own family, the kids tend to run the show, but what happens when you have multiple families coming from multiple generations? Or kids of varying ages? A toddler’s idea of the best Disney attraction isn’t the same as his grandma’s or a teen cousin’s.

When accommodating people of different ages at Disney World, use these tips to make the trip fun for everyone:

  • Let everyone choose: Every attraction or entertainment option might not be your favorite, but letting everyone choose at least one item to add to the agenda can help ease tensions. No matter how long your trip, you won’t be able to do everything at Disney, so let each person pick one top ride or experience they really want to do. Once you have all the requests, you can create a plan to experience all of them.
  • Divide and conquer: Dividing your large party into smaller groups based on age and interests helps everyone enjoy the most out of the trip. You don’t have to split up the entire time, but splitting up for at least some of the activities is a useful strategy.
  • Use Rider Swap: Disney World offers a Rider Swap option to help when some kids in your party don’t want to ride. This program lets one adult go first while another waits with the child who doesn’t want to ride. The adults then swap. The parent who initially waited with the child gets to ride without going through the entire queue.
  • Schedule down time: Going non-stop can be overwhelming and exhausting for all ages. Give your party time to relax at the resort to refresh.
  • Give yourself alone time: Similar to having down time, spending time alone your family can reduce tensions within a large multigenerational travel group.
  • Use specific services to help: Disney World offers several services that may apply to certain members of your party, such as stroller rentals and electric scooter rentals. Look into all of the services available at the parks and resorts to find ones that work for your party.

Tips for Traveling With Family and Friends

Once you make it through the planning phase and finally arrived at Disney World, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you planned well, you should have an idea of what you will do each day and how you plan to tackle the parks, resort, dining and other activities. Disney makes the trip very low stress once you arrive, but keeping track of a large group can be a bit of work.

Use these tips to keep things going smoothly while there:

  • Stay flexible: You spent time planning out every aspect of the trip, but it’s important to stay flexible once you arrive. Someone might not feel well, another group might decide they want to do something different than planned or a park you planned to visit a certain day is packed. Staying flexible lets you still enjoy the trip even if it doesn’t go as planned.
  • Consider smaller groups: You came as one large group, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay together the entire time. Breaking up into smaller groups may make it possible to secure better dining reservations, accommodate different interests and minimize the stress that comes with keeping a large group together.
  • Establish meeting points: If you break off into smaller groups, set meeting points and times when you want to join back up for meals or experiences. Choose an out-of-the-way spot that is less crowded to find your party quickly.
  • Continue communication: Communication is important during planning, but it is equally as important during your vacation. Make sure everyone has contact numbers for all other party members. Touch base regularly to discuss daily plans and any changes. If you’re feeling exhausted or want to change the plans, don’t be afraid to speak up. Holding it in or sacrificing your own preferences can lead to anger and resentment.
  • Use Memory Maker: Disney offers the Memory Maker program for capturing trip memories. You pay one fee, and any photos taken by Disney photographers or on select rides with cameras show up in your Memory Maker account. This is a great way to get photos of your entire party.

Now that you know how to plan a trip to with friends to Disney World, it’s time to embrace the magic. Grab your favorite travel buddies, and head to Orlando. We’ll have a fresh, hot pizza ready and waiting.