Mommy Frog and I were in charge of planning the last "Frog Family Reunion" and, of course, we did it Disney-style. Here are the eight steps we followed that kept family members from acting like Cinderella's step-sisters.
(I'm not mentioning any names!)
1. Pick a team leader.
If you are reading this blog, you are probably the self-appointed team leader for your group. Trust me, it's quite an undertaking, but having one point-person keeps everything running much more smoothly. You'll be the one to make dining reservations, keep confirmation numbers, organize a general schedule, play referee...yes, play referee. Look on the bright side though...being the team leader means you have the final say! (Well, it sounded good in my head anyway.)
2. Set your dates.
We had a vague idea of when it would be easiest for everyone to take off from work, so with that in mind, we sent an email to the group with two date options. Fortunately, all but one chose the same set of dates, and the one who didn't was OK with the dates we picked. Do this far enough in advance that arranging work schedules, school schedules, pet-sitting and such won't be a problem. (Our When to Visit page is a big help at this stage of the process.)
Purchasing your tickets in advance is one of those things you can easily cross of your list...you're going to have a long enough list as it is! In my opinion, having the Park Hopper option is a must if you're traveling with a large group. You'll want as much flexibility as possible, and as you'll read later on, you may want to split up. Not everyone has to get the exact same ticket either. In our case, the grandparents had no interest in the water parks, so they got Park Hoppers, but everyone else got Park Hopper + Water Park Fun & More tickets. (For tips on choosing which ticket, click here.)
4. Choose where to stay.
There are a number of factors to consider here, the first of which is "budget." Part of your group may want to go full-on luxury while others are more comfortable in a Value Resort. For planning purposes, it's easier if everyone stays in the same place, so a Moderate Resort may be the way to go. You might also consider renting a vacation home. Keep in mind this means you will have to organize transportation to and from the parks. We like the convenience of complimentary transportation and being able to have a little "alone time" at the end of each day, so it's on Disney property for us. For the best of both worlds, the Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort are great! (Click here for more help on Where to Stay.)
5. Take care of transportation-related plans.
Before you have to start deciding what to do and where to eat, why not go ahead and cross off the "getting here" part of your list? At this point, since everyone knows the dates of the trip and where they are staying, it's simpler for each sub-group to make its own transportation arrangements. There may be some people who fly and others who are close enough to drive. Just make sure you (the team leader) has everyone's itinerary and arrival information. (Check out our Orlando Transportation page for travel tips.)
6. Get a general idea of what everyone wants to do.
"General" is the key word here. If you get a feel for how people see their vacation going (i.e. take it easy vs. do as many things as possible, arrive at park opening each day vs. sleep in, rides vs. parades and shows, etc.), you'll have a better idea of how detailed to make your schedule. The larger the group, the wider range of answers you're going to get and the more important it is to let sub-groups do their own thing. In this situation, it's a good idea to have scheduled "together time" like meals or fireworks shows. (Our Tips & Advice page is a good place to start.)
7. Make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs).
Sit-down meals are a great time to get everyone together especially if you plan on doing the smart thing and split up into smaller groups during the day. Since you will be making reservations for a large group, try to make them as far in advance as possible. Where you have Advanced Dining Reservations will affect which park everyone chooses to visit that day, so make sure you get feedback from the group beforehand. And remember, you can't please all the people all the time. (Our Where to Eat page is packed with Disney dining information and Frog Family Favorites.)
8. Start exercising your "patience muscles."
You'll need them to be in tip-top shape...trust me. ;)
Have you ever gone on a theme park vacation with a big group? What worked and what didn't? (Our next Frog Family Reunion is coming up and I need all the help I can get!)