"OMGosh, we should totally go to Disney!"
Have you ever made this mistake? You love Disney, and I love Disney. Therefore, we should both love Disney together, right?
Traveling with friends, and some family, isn't for beginners and choosing the wrong group of friends to take to an expensive destination like Disneyland or Walt Disney World can easily lead to friendship disaster. Everyone wants to get the most out of their vacation, and we surely don't all enjoy doing it the same way.
We all have a different way of approaching our theme park days. We have different strategies, self-imposed rules, and rituals that we swear by, all in the name of getting the most out of our day. So what happens when you haven't done your homework and end up sharing your park time with a friend who is firmly opposed to all your Disney customs?
Let's run through a few vacation-saving tips to help you vet your fellow Disney-loving friends before suggesting you go halfsies on a hotel room for a week.
Are you a rope-drop or a late-start traveler?
There is nothing worse than being a morning person impatiently watching the day slip by while your friends are fast asleep. On the other hand, when you are not a natural early riser, having your buddy wake you up at 6am like an excitable golden retriever wearing a novelty Donald Duck hat may consume you with the urge to throttle your fellow traveler.
Are you a quick-service or 180-day-out reservation park-goer?
Some of us love to be organized and others prefer those wherever-the-Disney-winds-may-take-me feels. If you love a reservation, but your friend prefers a pretzel, you might end up feeling like all your Disney checkpoints aren't being hit.
Are you a dining plan or out-of-pocket person?
Nothing seems to divide the masses quite like a good old Disney Dining Plan debate. Well, that and straws. Geez, the flippin' straws... anyway. If your friends were brought up to be good old-fashioned dining plan humans and you were raised in hippie-style Disney spontaneity, you might clash when it comes to planning and budgeting.
Are you a snack-packer or an on-the-spot improviser?
How are you going to feel when you are ready to pull out those pre-packed carrot sticks and mini pretzels right when all your friends are getting in line for the new Smoked Kaadu Ribs in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge? Make group decisions before you go so everyone is on the same page when it comes to snack preferences. Even if everyone does something different, it can be easier to know before you go.
Are you a FastPass extraordinaire or a play-it-by-ear radical?
Whether you are planning on making your FastPass+ selections at Walt Disney World 60 days ahead of time or expecting to invest in MaxPass in Disneyland, to be successful, it helps to have your whole group using the same strategy if you want to stick together.
Are you a dawn-till-dusk devotee or a pool break insister?
How will it feel when your friend is begging you to stay and make the most of the day in the parks, but you have your heart set on your midday pool/tan/relax sesh? Check-in with everyone's expectations before you go so they know how you roll at Disney and vice versa.
Are you a character meal connoisseur or do you prefer to eat your meals sans character friends?
You don't need to have children to be interested in a character buffet. For many visitors, they are a must-do on their annual Disney list. If your friends are character obsessed or have children that will want to take in this experience, be sure to leave enough time to do it justice or agree to split up for that meal and meet back together later. If you chat about it in advance, feelings are less likely to be hurt, and time is less likely to be wasted.
Are you a thrill rides first or start slow and work your way up rider?
Everyone loves Disney; you know that going into it. But what do you do when the rope is about to drop, and your group is torn between Peter Pan and Space Mountain? Suss out the priorities of your co-travelers ahead of time and make a plan that accommodates what everyone likes on different days. Save yourself those last minute feelings of resentment and agree in advance. It can even make for a fun night of planning before you leave.
Are you a technology obsesser or an outside-world banisher?
Sometimes friends are all about the purple wall and getting that perfect insta-shot while others prefer to ignore the tech and be in the moment. This is one of those sticking points that can be really frustrating when the other isn't on board. If you suspect you and your friends will have different tech styles, make sure to set aside time for that perfect selfie but also make time to shut down and just hang.
Are you a backpack champion or a pocket compactor?
Start your day right without unexpectedly splitting up in the security line. You might be stuck in the line carrying your perfectly packed backpack while the others shoot straight for the no-baggage line saving the 20-minute wait on entry. You might also be the one saving the day when everyone needs to store their park purchases while getting on and off the rides. Decide what roles you will each take on, or share, so you don't end up feeling used.
Are you an all-for-one group or divide-and-conquer party?
If you have different Disney styles, sometimes the easiest move is to split up into teams and get it all done your own way. The problem is, some people hate the idea of splitting up at all. Plan early on if you are going to try to fit in everyone's to-do list as one group or if you are all happy to split up and get your character meet-and-greets on separately.
Are you a head-to-toe Disney apparel advocate or a plain-clothes officer of the people?
If you stroll through the parks, you can usually find two different types of people. Those that look as though they have been featured in a special Disney edition of Queer Eye with every piece of clothing and accessories perfectly-styled with Mickey Mouse flair and those that look as though they could have stepped off the subway just about anywhere in the world. While you can't break up your Disney friendship over wardrobe choices, you may need to prepare yourself if your friend is going to show up looking as though they have been rolling around in the Imagination Pink section of the Disney Store and one of everything they make, stuck.
Are you a believer in Minnie Ears, or are you a novelty headwear disparager?
When it comes to Minnie ears, I confess that I have both a decent little collection and a lot of feelings. Now I am cool if you aren't into them, no worries mate, but I, love my ears. I have lots of different ones, and I will wear them most of the time, outside of any time where I could be blocking someone's view. Take your time to get used to it. Accept that I, or your friend, will be sporting our Minnie ear obsession and they will be in several of your photos. I'm happy to take one with and one without, but it will be in that order.
Are you a matching outfits group or a don't-come-near-me-with-a-shirt-that-has-my-name-on-it individual?
Despite the fact that I like to scare everyone I know into suggesting we wear matching clothing to Disney parks, for me personally, it isn't something I am ever going to want to actually do. Matching our Minnie ears is pretty much my limit. Break your matchy-matchy friend's heart early on, before she orders your group an entire matching wardrobe.
How many wrong answers equal a deal-breaker? That, my friend, is up to you. Traveling with friends and family can be a challenging experience; one might even sarcastically say character-building. Though, once you find the right few people that compliment your traveling style, you might have just found your team to see the world with, starting with the Disney world.