Disneyland is The Happiest Place on Earth, so it makes the perfect place to plan a fun-filled trip with your closest friends and family members. Whether you are taking a multi-generational trip with family, hosting a group of kids or gathering a group of friends or loved ones for a special celebration, successfully managing a large group at Disneyland takes a little prep and planning. Doing your research before the big trip will smooth out your visit and help you to meet everyone’s needs so that it feels like a seamless, enjoyable day. Follow our tips for managing a large group at Disneyland to maximize your time and ensure that everyone has a magical time!
First of all, what’s a large group? A large group at Disneyland is a party over eight people. This may not seem like such a large group in other places, but at Disneyland, where experiences vary and crowds come into play, eight or more people can feel like a lot of people to keep track of. Add differing opinions on shows, rides, food preferences, bathrooms breaks and more, and you have a lot of opinions at play. No worries! Whether you have a party of eight or 20, these tips will help you keep your crew hoppy.
Top Tips for Managing a Large Group at Disneyland
1. Assign a Scheduler
Disneyland has so much hoppening on any given day, and you don’t want to miss the events that are important to you. Assign a scheduler to keep track of entertainment and dining. Leap is our family scheduler. Whether it is just the four of us or a large group of 14, Leap gets online and does the research to determine Disneyland refurbishments and closings, special events, parade times, fireworks and any other entertainment that may interest our group. He makes any advance restaurant reservations we need, then he makes sure we are in the right place at the right time and fitting our rides, snacks, meals and character meet-and-greets into the touring plan so we stay on track and don’t miss a beat. The scheduler keep everyone informed of the general itinerary regarding departure time, mealtimes and major stops along the way.
2. Find Out Everyone’s Must-Do
My job is to find out every froggy’s most favorite, can’t-miss experience. Is it a ride, character meet-and-greet or show? I make sure everyone’s voice is heard and then I plan with the scheduler to make sure we hit each frog’s favorite thing. Leap looks ahead to make sure it is happening that day — there’s no sense in promising Fantasmic! on a day when there is not a Fantasmic! showing or planning on a ride that is closed for refurbishment — and schedules it into our itinerary. If a person’s first choice is closed that day, they get a second choice. One person’s favorite thing might be the next person’s least favorite, so you may need to divide and conquer to meet everyone’s needs, which brings us to the next tip.
3. Know When to Divide and Conquer
Lets face it, together time is awesome, but everyone has different needs, so sometimes it’s best to split up for a while. A toddler’s needs, grandma’s interests and a teenage boy’s ideas of fun are all going to differ. Even two people the same age may have vastly different interests or tolerance for thrill rides. Perhaps some thrill-seekers are pumped up to ride Indiana Jones, whereas the rest of the group would prefer to cool off and rest in the AC with some Dole Whips in the Enchanted Tiki Room. Time to break up the group temporarily, with the thrill-riders heading one way and the rest of the crowd going to enjoy something that’s more their speed, will keep everyone entertained. You can then meet back up at the Jungle Cruise in the middle to share a ride that everyone can enjoy. Mealtime might be a good time to break up for an hour to suit your own tastes and budgets. You can also use planned mealtimes as a good meeting or check-in point if that suits your group’s dynamics.
4. Plan Meals
If you want to eat together, try to schedule quick service mealtimes for early or late (eat lunch by 11:30 a.m. or after 2:30 p.m. to avoid the mealtime rush and find more flexibility in getting seats together). You should make reservations for table service restaurants as soon as you can, up to 60 days in advance. Character dining can be a fun experience with a large group, and the buffet guarantees there will be something to satisfy everyone. You may need to call Disney Dining to make large group reservations.
5. Identify Rides That Work for Everyone
You are bound to have people who meet different thrill level interests and height requirements. That’s why is it’s best to identify the rides that everyone can enjoy together, so you can enjoy them at the same time. Some popular attractions without height requirements that suit large groups include:
- The Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- “it’s a small world”
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- King Arthur Carrousel
- The Haunted Mansion
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Disneyland Railroad
6. Know Your Party Size (And How to Divide Up)
Always count off at the beginning of the process of entering a ride's queue so you know how many people from your group are riding that particular ride. This will speed up the sorting and loading process when you get to the front of the line and a cast member asks you how many in your party. Decide in advance who is sitting with whom. All of the cousins in our family like to take turns riding with everyone, and if they don’t get their pick on one ride, they know they can catch up with that aunt, uncle, grandparent or cousin on the next ride. (Seriously, is there anything sweeter than squeezing your niece or nephew’s hand as you share the first time they are finally tall enough for a ride? Or seeing the excitement when the kids are old enough to ride with a sibling or cousin without an adult seated next to them? We love those Disney milestones!) Figure out seat mates while waiting in line means that we don’t hold up the ride by making last-minute switches. It’s good to know if a ride seats one, two or three people in advance, and be ready to hop in place. Be flexible. If you have an odd number for an even number of seats, someone may have to ride alone. You can take turns going solo. I am always hoppy to volunteer to ride alone if necessary.
7. Know Your Height Requirements
With toddler Lily with us, I always measure her in advance so I know how tall she is and what rides she can and cannot ride before we enter the park. We definitely do not want to face disappointment and get turned away when it's ride time! It’s time to divide and conquer based on Disneyland height requirements, taking the smaller children and supervisors for something fun for them to do while they are blissfully unaware that everyone else is on a thrill ride. We may use Rider Switch for parents who want to take turns riding. Keep in mind that some rides such as the Matterhorn require a 1:1 ratio of adult to child under 7, and that on all rides, children under 7 must have a supervisor 14 or older to ride with them.
8. Get on the Same FASTPASS Page
You do not want to spend your special day together waiting in long lines, so using Disneyland FASTPASS service to get a one-hour return window to return to a ride with a short wait instead of waiting in the standard queue is an important part of managing your day. There are a couple of ways to acquire FASTPASS (the traditional way or through the Disneyland app) and it’s important to get on the same page as a group when deciding which system to use. Traditional FASTPASS is a free service, but you do have to go to a FASTPASS distribution kiosk with everyone’s park tickets to physically acquire the return time. It’s easiest to assign a runner or scheduler to hold tickets and acquire and keep track of FASTPASS return windows. When managing a large group at Disneyland, we highly recommend that everyone use the optional paid Disneyland MaxPass service to be able to make FASTPASS reservations via your phone. MaxPass saves a lot of walking and keeps the group intact because you can make reservations from anywhere once you enter the park (even from the other park if park hopping) and you receive shorter waiting periods in between being eligible to make the next reservations compared to free FASTPASS.
You don’t need anyone’s ticket because you can reserve for people via your phone. Plus, MaxPass includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads, so you can enjoy those professional group and ride shots. You can definitely accomplish more with MaxPass. But decide as a group whether you will use free FASTPASS with a designated ticket holder and runner, or if you are all going to purchase MaxPass for $15 per person. It is actually quite difficult to manage a mixed group with only some MaxPass holders, because a traditional FASTPASS user may receive different return windows than a MaxPass user. If you decide to spring for MaxPass, have one person manage the group by scanning each ticket into the app so you all get the same return window. It helps if that person is the scheduler or in communication with the scheduler to make sure the plans work into the touring plan. You don’t want to reserve a ride time that conflicts with the parade and end up missing your ride window.
9. Pack Patience
Moving as a large group goes a lot slower than as a small group. Set your pace to the slowest walker in the group. Everything will take more time, so be patient and use the buddy system to keep an eye on each other. When one person uses the restroom, encourage everyone to use the restroom so you don’t have to take another potty break 10 minutes later. You will want to arrive 30-60 minutes early for shows to accommodate your party. Secure parade-viewing spots early. You can lay down thin blankets or towels to save spots, but try to have everyone return and be in place at least 30 minutes before the parade.
10. Try to Arrive Together
We know this is not always possible, but it’s best for group dynamics if you can all arrive at Disneyland together. When people trickle in throughout the day, frustrations can mount because the latecomers do not necessarily have FASTPASSES that others have acquired, the group may have already ridden the rides the newcomers want to ride and people find themselves on different eating schedules. Some are tired while others are just getting going, and everyone feels out of sync. For the most together time, have your army arrive early. Then feel free to take breaks and split off for a bit after you have gotten in that mandatory group castle or character photo (you know, before roller coaster hair and spills happen). It’s a lot harder to corral people into a photo as the day goes on. It’s fun to get in some group bonding and first rides together before everyone divides into smaller groups. That being said, you’ll have to refer back to your patience if the other group members do not operate on your schedule.
11. Stay Nearby
If you are traveling with different age groups, staying on-site or at a nearby hotel can allow everyone to meet their own needs. Some people like to go hard in the park all day, whereas others need nap time or a shower, or even a little pool time. It simplifies everything if people can easily hop back to the hotel when they need to. Having that hotel within walking or shuttle distance really helps.
12. Avoid Lost Kids … or Adults.
Chances are, you might temporarily lose someone in the crowd when dealing with a large group at Disneyland. Follow our tips to avoid losing a child at Disneyland to keep the group together and quickly find each other in case someone accidentally wanders off. Make sure each child (or easily distracted adult) has a dedicated person watching out for them. We all know that person who gets excited and seems to disappear too easily. Talk to tadpoles about what to do if they get separated from an adult. The buddy system and assigning easily-accessible meeting spots and meet-up times help a lot. While it’s always smart to establish meeting places, you’re going to want to keep phones fully functioning to communicate with each other and to use the Disneyland app. Bring an external changer (or purchase one in the park with unlimited exchanges) to keep everyone charged up.
13. Snack Smart
When different members keep running off for a snack line, it slows the whole group down. Bring some snacks and drinks with you to save money and time. Have the scheduler plan snack times for everyone’s favorite Disneyland snacks. When we have a large group at Disneyland, we like to plan a group snack time in Frontierland where the Mickey pretzel cart is just steps from the churro cart, which is just across from the popcorn cart. Plus, the stand that sells turkey legs, corn on the cob, chimichangas and fruit is also nearby for those needing heartier on-the-go Disneyland foods. Time to divide and conquer! Everyone can get their favorite snack by sending one person to each line with orders from the group to save time. With must-have snack cravings satisfied in just a few short minutes, it’s time to press on!
14. Wear Matching Colors
Many families and friend groups get matching Disney T-shirts, which makes it easy to identify each other and bond the group. But if you don’t have the budget or coordination for customized or matching shirts, you can also pull items from your wardrobe and wear a matching color scheme to get the same effect. Matching makes sticking together easier and definitely heightens the cuteness factor in your group photos! One time that you especially see large groups pull together matching outfits or costumes is at Mickey’s Halloween Party and or on Dapper Day.
15. Use Tools to Maximize Time
To make the most of your special day, you’ll want to use available tools to maximize your time. Hop over to our 40 tips to maximize your time at Disneyland to get a jump on things. Depending on your group dynamics, you may use Rider Switch, Single Rider, FASTPASS, MaxPass, Mobile Ordering or the Disneyland app to maximize time in the park. The app can help you find entertainment, check show times, locate characters, check wait times, or even see that a ride is closed so you save the walk over there. You can also manage FASTPASS reservations through the app whether you use traditional FASTPASS or MaxPass.
16. Choose the Right Time
Will you be visiting during a busy season or a quiet time at Disneyland? If you have flexibility, you can determine the best time to visit Disneyland. You may not have complete control over everyone’s schedules, so you can make the best of whatever season you visit. If it is off-season, you can enjoy much shorter lines and ease of getting around the park, but be sure to check the park hours and look at the entertainment schedule in advance so you can try to visit on days that offer the hours and shows you want. If you are visiting at peak times or near holidays, you’ll want to arrive early and use your skills to maximize time, manage crowds and keep everyone together. You can enjoy longer park hours and more shows and open rides at peak times. There really isn’t a bad time to visit Disneyland, but it’s good to know what to expect so you can prepare for it!
If you have an upcoming trip for a large group at Disneyland, you’ll definitely want to hop over to save money on discounted multi-day tickets and nearby hotel stays though Undercover Tourist. If you have a large group and a few days to spend in the parks, a good way to divide up your time is to spend at least two days at Disneyland and one day at Disney California Adventure. However you decide to do it, you now know how to set you and your group up for a frogtastically good time!
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