Surviving the Multi-family Disney Vacation

It’s inevitable.  You’ve made several trips to Walt Disney World and have been bragging it up to your friends and family.  “It’s so much fun! It’s wonderful! There’s just something special about Disney!”  And now….they want to go with you.  You hear yourself saying how excited you are and what a great time you are all going to have together.  All the while the fear is creeping in and overwhelming you.  “How are we going to pull this off? What if they ruin our vacation?  Are we going to spend our whole trip playing babysitters to the Disney newbies???”

Relax! Take a breath. With some sound planning and preemptive conversations, you can still have a fabulous vacation.  Of the 6 trips we have made to the World since 2007, 3 of those trips have been with other families. We have not only learned how to make it work, we have had some wonderful experiences and made some very special memories.

Our very first trip to Disney World was in the early 90’s. We were visiting my mom and step dad who had a vacation condo near Tampa.  We had only been married a couple of years and it was our first real vacation together.  My husband had been to Disney World one time when EPCOT first opened, but I had never been.  We decided to do a 3 day side trip to Disney, along with my parents.  We both felt they would slow us down on this trip, but the vacation was about spending time with them so we happily made plans together.  We soon found out that the two of them were power walkers. They pretty much left us in the dust wherever we went.  We bought our tickets at the gate, had no plan and not one dining reservation.  Like many other Disney guests, we just showed up and went for it.  We missed a lot of what was then MGM Studios, because we had no idea what was there.  We didn’t know where to eat so we mostly did fast food.  In spite of everything, I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had and the memories we made with them.

We learned two very valuable lessons on that trip.  Leave the preconceptions about your travel partners behind.  They might just surprise you.  The second lesson has become clearer with every trip we make to Disney:  It never hurts to have a plan.

Disney Vacation with my California cousins

First of all, bring your fellow travelers into the fold.  Include them in the planning stages. If they feel they have been a part of the decision making process, there will be less arguments later and they will understand how and why they came to be in Magic Kingdom or EPCOT on that particular day. They will be looking forward to their dining reservation instead of everyone arguing about where they want to eat.

Secondly, it is absolutely imperative to have a pre-trip conversation.  That conversation should include questions such as, “How much time do we want to spend together on this trip?” You need to decide if you want to stick together like glue, or if you want to spend a few days together then have a day or two on your own.  Do you want to eat every meal together or do you have different tastes in food and maybe want to go your separate ways at meal time? Also if both families have children, it helps to talk with them before the trip about compromise. Everyone can’t have their own way all of the time. Find out the things that are must do’s for each of them and then make sure they all get a chance to do their favorites.  Again, if they are involved in the planning and feel that they have had some say in the decisions, you will have far less arguing.

Once there, it’s important to remember everything doesn’t have to be written in stone.  Be flexible and most importantly, don’t stress out and have some fun!

Some other important tips:  There is nothing more frustrating than taking a 10 minute bathroom break, then 15 minutes later, the person who insisted they didn’t have to go, now has to go.  We have a rule and it applies to all of our trips and everyone in our party.  If one goes…we all go.  Eventually everyone gets on the same schedule. Also, it’s a great idea to have a plan if your party gets separated.  It happened to us one time with my brother-in-law and niece, and he didn’t have a cell phone. We finally left the park and hoped that he had found a way back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, he wasn’t there so we left one of our cell phones and a note and went to eat. He finally called us and it turned out he and his daughter had a great time being out on their own. It all ended well, but for a while it was very nerve-wracking not knowing where they were.

Family Disney vacation with Brother-in-law and niece

There are some great perks to traveling with another family.  There are a lot of expenses that can be shared, like the Photopass CD, rental cars, a mult-room villa or house, and group tours just to name a few.  It’s a great way to bond with friends and family, plus there is nothing more fun for your kids than to share the experience of Disney with other kids their own age.  It also allows us to break off into smaller groups based on interests.  For example the guys went together and did a Segway tour while the wives went shopping with the kids for souvenirs.

So don’t panic, relax and have fun planning your trip.  You may find, like we have, that you actually enjoy traveling with another family.

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