Disneyland can feel overwhelming for anyone – going solo or with your family. Add a big group to the plan and some people start to lose their minds a bit. (Me included.)
I have some tips on how to make this more enjoyable while keeping everyone accounted for and safe. Above all else, keep in mind that the goal is for everyone to enjoy the experience and not to ride every single attraction. Resist the temptation to run your group from one thing to the next. OK, lots more to cover. Let’s get started!
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Start planning now. Look into dining options at Disneyland and California Adventure. Review all of your options on Character Meals. Consider Special Dining Experiences that Include Reserved Seating for Shows. Know everything you need to know and think about who you’ll be taking to Disneyland with you. Dining reservations should be made up to 60 days in advance. Restaurants will fill up during peak times, so be sure to make proper reservations for your group.
When planning any part of the adventure, take into account if you have seasoned Disney veterans or first time guests. Your choices should reflect who will be with you. If you have new visitors, I recommend sticking to classic Disney attractions and those most consider the best in the park. For veterans, try out some trendier options.
Break Into Subgroups
I recommend assigning on person per 4 (at the most). Whether your group includes children or adults, everyone needs corralling of some sort, especially on busy days. Even if it’s just one person keeping track of his or her friends, make sure everyone is on some sort of system to be accounted for. Leaving everyone under one person’s care is too much responsibility.
Consider having the leader of each subgroup hold everyone’s park tickets for FASTPASS distributions and to cut down on the possibility of losing them. Don’t ever let young children hold tickets of FASTPASSES. Just. Don’t.
Plan Park Touring
Even if it’s just selecting a land per 3 hour span, having some sort of direction for your day will help everyone see and do more. Consider following a touring plan if it works for your group. If not, create your own. If part of your subgroup does not want to ride the current attraction, have a backup in mind.
Knowing how to start your days will help, too. And, with big or small groups, I always recommend following my basic rules for Disneyland. You’ll have a few who won’t want to follow them. Decide ahead of time if you insist everyone follows the same plan or if people can decide on their own.
If you plan on souvenir shopping, designate a time during the trip that everyone will shop. Try to stick to that agenda to prevent wandering sheep. World of Disney in Downtown Disney has the largest store with the most diverse selection.
Enjoy Meals as a Group
Eating together allows everyone the chance to chat about the attractions and to regroup. Compare experiences and take an hour off at each meal to relax a bit.
Counter service meals or reserved dining works for this. If you’re dining back at the hotel during your mid-day break, try to get everyone together. Pulling everyone back together during meals makes the trip feel in more unity than everyone drifting apart.
Be Polite & Have Realistic Expectations
Here’s the truth: I shudder a bit when I see 30 people in bright yellow tshirts designating their family reunion coming at me. I shudder because I’ve been on those trips and they’re overwhelming for not only the people on them, but for the people around them.
Remember your manners and encourage those in your group to do the same. Don’t cut in line to try to ride an attraction together. The subgroups should suffice for attractions.
Have a Home Base Designated
I recommend this for any Disney trip, whether there are 2 or 20 people on your roster. Find a place in the park that everyone can remember. Designate this as your home base and ask everyone to meet here if lost.
We meet at the bench that the Walt statue in the hub is pointing to. It’s distinct enough that my kids can remember it and is where we go if lost.
Until 4 days ago, I didn’t know my husband’s phone number. And, I was in the parks wandering – as I do – and thought….hmm…..how would one reach a husband if one doesn’t know his phone number and one’s phone goes out? So, I went home and immediately memorized it. And, I wrote it down on paper.
Technology is a tricky thing. It enables us to not know information because we always have it with us. But, phones drain quickly at Disneyland, phones break and phones get lost. Be prepared by writing out everyone’s contact information, making copies and distributing it among the leaders of subgroups. Also, encourage everyone to make sure their phones have their ringer on, or at least have it vibrating.
Also write down any dietary restrictions. I recommend writing those notes down and giving them to the subgroup leaders and having several copies on hand. It’s much easier to hand over written food requests than to try to remember them in a hectic time. Having copies made for table service meals will cut down on miscommunication. Simply hand over your restrictions to your waiter or waitress if the chef needs to know specifics. Disneyland is excellent at working with you on dietary requests.
Ride Your First and Last Rides Together
I love this tip. Theo, DLR Prep reader and friend, suggested this and I totally agree. He recently took 10 people to the parks and followed this plan. They split into smaller groups, but rode the first and last attraction together as a group every day. This begins and finishes the day together and pulls everyone in together for the same experience.
Discuss your first ride at breakfast and then the last at lunch or dinner. Have it blend with the rest of your day and be sure it can accommodate your whole group if possible.
*If one person in the subgroup needs to use the restroom, everyone should try. This is mainly for young children, but you can decide if it works for your group.
*Arrive 30 minutes to an hour early for shows so that you can get seating for everyone since your group will be larger than most.
*Take group photos at the beginning of the day because it will become more difficult to do as the day progresses.
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