Disney with a Group of Adults
Disney with a Group of Adult First-timers
We recently took a trip to Disney World with a group of 8 adults. All of the adults were friends from work and aside from Jeff and me, the group had little to no knowledge of Disney World. This was our first time planning a trip for a group of newbie-Disney adults this large. This post includes some of our tips and suggestions that we picked up from planning and taking the trip. If you have experience traveling to Disney with a large group of adults, please feel free to add recommendations in the comment section below!
We feel this is one of the most important parts of planning a group Disney trip. While you cannot predict everything, it is important to think about things like: will the group want to stay together the whole time or will some people need space as some point? While we spent most of our time together, one night half of our group went to Magic Kingdom while the other half went to Hollywood Studios. We also had separate hotel rooms, so we all were able to get some alone time then.
When traveling with a group to Disney, especially one that is not family, an important consideration is sleep schedule. Is everyone in the group a morning person? Will they wake up even though it is vacation? If some people in the group do not want to wake up early, then maybe you want to avoid early morning fastpasses.
Budget is also important. Disney is expensive and the people in your group chose to take their vacation to Disney with you. If some or all of the people in your group are on a budget, this may impact both hotel choices and dining reservations. If you are not sure about budget or sleep preferences for people in your group, ask them! Not knowing these details when planning the trip could result in some less than ideal outcomes during your trip.
Disney World vacations usually work best when there is a plan in place. Having a plan is even more important when traveling with a group. Specifically, it is helpful to have an idea of which days and general time of day you plan on being in the various parks. This planning helps with coordinating Fastpass and dining reservations. (More on specific group dining and Fastpass recommendations below.)
When making a plan, it is important to get some information from the group members. Some questions we asked our group included: Are you okay with rollercoasters? Explain the difference between Everest and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. Do you get motion sick? Would you rather fit in as much as possible or have time to relax at the hotel pool? Do you want to see fireworks? Any type of food you don’t like?
Many of these questions tie into our food and Fastpass discussions below. The main takeaways for us were that our group was willing to go non-stop to fit everything in and we had a mix of people when it came to rides. Some got motion sick and wanted to avoid intense rides, while others wanted to do Tower of Terror 10 times haha. These type of things can be helpful to know when making a plan and especially when making Fastpasses.
When we plan a Disney trip for more than just Jeff and me, we make a schedule in an excel spreadsheet. We like Excel because it is easy to update and we can send it to everyone. A similar plan could be made in Word or by hand. Below is an example of what our spreadsheet looks like. You could definitely add more details if you wanted.
Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
While a spreadsheet may not be necessary, we cannot stress enough how helpful it is to have a general plan. Personally, I have a lot of fun planning our Disney vacations and I am detail oriented. If you do not want to spend the time planning or if you aren’t a Disney expert, we recommend finding an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Many of these services are completely free as long as you book through the vacation planner. If you don’t know an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, DM us on Instagram, leave a comment below, or send us an email and we are happy to pass along a few suggestions.
If most of your group does not know Disney well, we strongly recommend having everyone stay at the same hotel. For our trip, we all stayed at the Disney World Dolphin hotel. Disney transportation is convenient, but can also be intimidating to figure out the first time. If you are all at the same hotel, it makes coordinating getting to and from the parks a bit easier.
We would also recommend the Boardwalk area hotels if you are traveling with a group of adults. Why? The main reason is because you can walk or boat to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Also, if you go through Epcot, you can get to Magic Kingdom by monorail. That means the bus is only needed to get to Animal Kingdom and Disney Spring (which is a major plus for us). Close proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios is also helpful if part of the group wants to join the group late or leave the group early at any point. It is an easy walk or boat ride to and from to the hotel.
The Boardwalk area also has a ton of great food and drink options. This gives your group several choices for dinner and drinks after the parks close. The resorts in the Boardwalk area include: Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, and Swan and Dolphin.
Getting Fastpasses for a large group can be a bit of a challenge, especially for the more popular rides. The best advice we can give is to have a plan of what are your must-do rides and Fastpasses.
If you are staying at a Disney World resort (or some affiliated resorts), you can make your FastPass selections for your entire trip at 7am EST 60 days prior to your arrival date. This is important because if you are going to be in Disney World for a week, you can make the entire weeks’ worth of FastPasses on that one morning. If you are not staying on Disney property, you can make your FastPasses 30 days prior. Every once in a while, we will check Fastpasses 61 days prior to our reservation and will have access. This is definitely luck, but does not hurt to check.
When booking your Fastpassses, we recommend the website version of My Disney Experience. It is usually a bit quicker than the App. Always book the most popular rides first. Currently these would be Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash. Also, it is important to note that everyone does not have to Fastpass the same rides. If some people don’t want to do Splash Mountain, that part of the group can get a different Magic Kingdom Fastpass for the same time frame.
Early mornings are a great way to get a lot of the rides done at the park without too much waiting. If you have some people in your group that cannot wake up early on vacation, we recommend having them meet you at the park and the rest of the group still get up for open. Morning Extra Magic Hours can be especially helpfully when touring Disney with a group. If your group only has a couple of days and wants to see everything, early hours are highly recommended.
Most quick-service locations are easy to go to with a group since there is no reservation required. The hardest part will probably be finding a table that fits everyone. If you do not mind getting separate tables, always keep quick service locations in mind. Our favorite in-park quick service spot for a group of adults is Satu’li Canteen. The menu is really good and there is usually seating.
Table service meals will require a reservation. With a larger group, it is good to make these 180 days out. Depending on the Fastpasses you get, your dining reservations may have to change. If you book a hard-to-get location, changing the reservation may not be possible.
Which table service is best largely depends on the preferences of your group. We chose Biergarten for our group because the seating is ideal for a group of 8, it is a buffet menu, they have large beers, and dining there is an experience. (Without giving too much away, there is entertainment during your meal.)
We also went to Whispering Canyon Café during this trip. We chose Whispering Canyon because it gave us an excuse to go see a really fun resort (Wilderness Lodge), the entrees are good and very reasonably priced, and we were able to get a reservation two days prior. The reason our reservation was last minute was because we wanted our group to be able to pick between having a sit down meal on our last day or going to the Food and Wine festival. It was hot that day, so the group picked the AC and Whispering canyon. If we had done this differently, we should have made a reservation for that afternoon when originally planning the trip and then canceled that reservation at least 24 hours before (if the group picked to go to Food and Wine).
There are a ton of great places to grab a drink at Disney World. However, it may be challenging to find a bar that accommodates a large group. If it is a cooler time of year, drinking around the World Showcase is always a good option. Disney World resort bars are also a great option. The lobby of the Dolphin has a really nice bar area, and since we were staying at this hotel, it was our go-to stop during our trip. We also love Nomad Lounge for a group, but you have to get a bit lucky with having seating available.
Our Overall Recommendation
Going to Disney with a group of adults is a ton of fun. It can be even more fun if part of the group are first-timers because everything you do will be exciting and new for them. Our biggest recommendations are to make a plan for the trip and talk to the people going on the trip beforehand. You do not want to burn out the people in your group or have them miss something they would have loved to do. If you don’t consider yourself a Disney expert or if you don’t want to take on the work of planning everything, get an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
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