Touring Disney World As A Large Group – Stay Together Or Separate?

Whether it is an extended family with everyone from grandparents to grandchildren, or groups of college friends and their spouses, traveling together in a large group provides some unique opportunities and some unique challenges.

It is important to plan your strategies with your entire group before arriving in Florida.  There are few things worse than a group of 23 people standing just beyond the ticket turnstiles – each looking at the other and wondering what to do next.

There are some occasions where it makes sense for a large group to stick together, and other occasions where it is smarter to split apart.  Joe Needham at the Mouse Planet website has written an in depth article on the topic. (Source)  Let’s take a look at some of the suggestions that can improve the vacation experience for everyone in your large group.

Being Smart About FastPass As A Group

One of the ways are large group can take advantage of its size use by getting FastPasses using each person’s admission ticket.  As you probably know, FastPass is a system at Disney where you enter your theme park admission ticket into a machine and receive a slip of paper when you can return to the attraction and ride with little or no wait.  It is important to remember that FastPass tickets can and do run out for many popular attractions.  To take fullest advantage of FastPass, you normally need to get your FastPass ticket at the beginning of the day – while there are still FastPass slots available.

Here is a place where you can use your large group size as an advantage.  The key is making sure that everyone in the group arrives together.  Then, take an inventory of people who want to ride the most popular attractions were a FastPass makes the most sense.  Depending on the makeup of your group, it’s very possible that not everyone will have an interest in riding the thrill rides where a FastPass has the most benefit.  You can get a FastPass for each person who enters the park.  But that doesn’t mean that the FastPass generated by the ticket holder must be used by the ticket holder.

Here’s an example of how it can work.  Let’s say to you have 12 people in your group.  Six of them are not interested in riding Expedition Everest – they are too old, too young, were just not into thrill rides.  The other six people can’t wait to ride.  When all 12 of you arrive together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the morning, have a runner take all 12 admission tickets to the Expedition Everest FastPass distribution point.  Get a FastPass for each of the 12 tickets.  It will have a time when you can return to Expedition Everest and ride with little wait.  In this case, the six people who are interested in riding will be able to take advantage of two FastPasses each.

Here is an example of the FastPass distribution location for Space Mountain.
Here is an example of the FastPass distribution location for Space Mountain.

If there is a wide age range or energy level across the members of your group, it’s very likely that some people will want to run from attraction to attractions while others will have an interest in sitting down and watching the world go by.  If everyone shows up together, you can take advantage of the FastPass strategy listed above.  This still gives everyone an opportunity to leave the parks – either for a midday break and later return, or for an earlier tend to their day.  The last thing you want to do is drag everyone through an exhausting day that they really don’t enjoy.

Planning Your Group Dinners

Depending on the restaurants you select, it can be difficult or even impossible to get tables that seat more than six people.  Explain to everyone that you will need to separate your group into smaller tables, but still make the reservation so everyone can eat at the same time.  Make plans to mix up the tables for those large meals you will enjoy together.

Don’t Go Overboard With A Large Group Photos

Disney PhotoPass photographers will be very happy to take photographs of your large group.  Take advantage of it, perhaps getting one or two large group photos at the start of the day.  A photo of your full group with Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom in the background can be a keepsake for everyone.  However, don’t spend too much time trying to get everyone in multiple large photographs.  Most of the photos that families really cherish are of small groups or close-ups of the family interacting together.

Remember To Have Fun

Take a bit of time before your vacation begins to make plans with the entire group regarding arrival times at the parks, group dinners, and group photographs.  By getting agreement before everyone leaves for their vacation, you will save valuable time and prevents uncomfortable confusion about how the group will travel together.  If things don’t go exactly as planned, remember that this is your vacation.  It’s a time to be a little bit spontaneous and have fun.  If schedules don’t work out as anticipated, if people end up splitting off into their own sub-groups, or if plans change at the last minute, the flexible and focus on having a great time.