Last month, I turned 30. I knew I wanted to have a big bash, and what better place than my favorite place, Disney World.
I started planning in January of this year. I sent a preliminary email to anyone I thought would be interested to establish the dates we were going. Every few months, I would send out another lengthy email trying to get everyone on the same page.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
Plan early– this advice is mostly for the sanity of the planner. Our group had a hard time deciding on a hotel. Some wanted value, others wanted moderate. Since I was the birthday girl, I had the final say and we went with Pop Century. We also offered the idea of Art of Animation for groups staying together. This would have been great if AoA hadn’t been completely booked. The advantage of planning ahead is knowing this months in advance instead of scrambling at the last minute. I may have taken this advice to the extreme- I was incredibly nervous about booking FastPasses for over 20 people. The most difficult part was having all members of your party create a MyDisneyExperience account and purchase their park tickets and finally, link the park tickets.
Meal planning– is tough with so many people. When our group was at its largest, we had about 20 people. The day of my actual birthday, I made reservations at Teppan Edo in Epcot. This was a great restaurant choice for a large party. We were able to sit at adjacent hibachi tables in the same room. My husband surprised me with a cake after our meal. My birthday was a truly magical day. I will give another restaurant mention to Boma. We had a very large party for breakfast and they accommodated us- even when we had more people than our reservation! As far as quick service goes, Pecos Bills’s worked well with a few small tables we could wrangle together, as did Columbia Harbor House. We did not have the same experience at Flame Tree, because the seating environment is more spread out than the others.
Park hopping– I had to brace a few of my friends and family that the ticket prices are by far the most expensive part of Disney trip planning. If you can rip that band aid off- you’re golden. Also, it may take the work of a Disney veteran to meticulously plan your days so you don’t spend money on a park ticket when you don’t have to. Luckily for us, the day after my birthday was the day we planned on going to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This was perfect because it built in a morning of rest, but we still got to enjoy the parks at night! Also, park hopping is totally worth it. I had a few friends who were wondering if we were really going to park hop. My answer was yes, and we park hopped every day. Even though the youngest person on this trip was in their 20s, we still enjoy a good mid-afternoon nap or lounge by the pool.
Let it go, let it go– Even though you’re taking responsibility for the planning of a large group, things happen. Luckily, Disney World is one of the safest places in the world and it’s relatively easy to find your way to the bus and then your hotel if you’re staying on property. One of my friends on this trip is pregnant and was feeling really sick- she ended up having to go to urgent care and then had to hunt down a 24-hour pharmacy in Kissimmee. You can’t expect that everyone is going to stick together the entire time. Everyone ‘Disneys’ at their own pace. I will tell you that my group had matching t-shirts on the actual day of my birthday. Best. Idea. Ever. We picked bright yellow- so it was easy to identify our group from all over the World (Showcase).