This past winter break, my family went on a trip to Disneyland, all 9 of us. We got two-day park hoppers. Here are a few tips that we found helpful for navigating the park as a large group.
One fun way to save money and spend time together, is to skip the hotels and stay in a house. There are plenty of large homes for rent on VRBO or AirBnb nearby the park. Having a large living room allowed us to have a gathering place to play board games and hang out when not at the park. *Bonus tip, communicate with your host ahead of time to see if there are amenities like hair dryers, coffee, and access to filtered water at the house. This can save money and time.
Not everyone will want to stay together all the time in the park, in fact, it’s often better if there are opportunities for people to break off into smaller groups for portions of the day. The night before we went to the park, everyone added each other on the Friends Finder app. This saved a tremendous amount of time and worrying because we were able to see where everyone was, even if we had split up to do our own thing. No more texts and calls trying to figure out where everyone was.
Mouse Wait gives estimated wait times and park capacity percentages. It’s not always 100% accurate, but it does help save you time from having to walk all the way over to Fantasyland only to find that Peter Pan is a 100 minute wait.
For dinners, we found it helpful to have early dinner reservations. Group meals gave us a chance to talk about the day and to plan out the rest of the night. Blue Bayou doesn’t take reservations of more than around 6 per table, but will try to seat your party near each other. For breakfast, we stocked up on bread from 87 degrees, a Taiwanese bakery nearby the Park (this prevented hangry as it’s hard to eat upon immediately entering the park). For lunches, we either split up into smaller groups or found a table together. We had good luck at Bengal BBQ (they recently added seating). We also did a casual dinner in Downtown Disney at Earl of Sandwich (large tables, affordable food, and my favorite holiday turkey sandwich).
Every night, we gathered for a short family meeting, discussing our strategy for the park, which rides people wanted to prioritize, dinner reservations, and the wakeup time for the next day.
Maximize Fastpasses and Single Rider lines
We usually try to get fastpasses first, giving all park tickets to one runner. Fast passes also help to structure your day so you can split into small groups and then meet back up at the ride at the designated return time. Set alarms on your phone for when you can get your next fastpass. It may be helpful to give park tickets to one person to keep safe. Single Rider lines are also a great way to fit in more rides.
The Animation Academy in CA Adventure was really fun to do as a group. Everyone got to sit and rest for a bit and then laugh at each others’ creations.
Don’t forget to take group photos. Take a ride selfie, ask a friendly cast member, or see how many of you can fit in the teacup in Fantasyland.
Start early, we aimed to be at the park by 8 am, but I actually think it would have been better to aim for 7:30 to allow ample time for security and parking. Additionally, the parks reach a point during the middle of the day (around 1-4pm) where you can’t do much as each ride has over an hour wait. That is a good time to eat, leave the park, do some shopping, or do Turtle Talk with Crush or Animation Academy.