Tips and Tricks for a large group at Disney World?
August 16, 2012 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I've seen questions about Disney parks on here, but I'm looking for specific tips for a trip with tons of little kids - both in Florida theme parks and on the Disney Dream ship. What has worked for you?

I am going on a fabulous and free-to-me trip this fall. It will include 11 children (ages 1 year to 11 years), eight adults, and two grandparents (in their early 60's). We will spend four days at the Florida Disney parks, a day at Universal Studios Florida, and then a 3-night cruise on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

I've been on a cruise before, and I've been to Disneyland a few times. I've even done both with small children. But with so many kids, there are often times when they are too small to ride something the grown-ups want to ride, thus somebody has to sit with them and entertain. I'd love some good ideas to keep a group of toddlers/young kids busy at the theme parks when they aren't riding anything. I'd also love some tips about individual parks (For example, my brother really loves Epcot, but it doesn't sound like an exciting place for kids. Is there something especially cool there they will like?).

I'd also happily accept any tips you have for traveling with so many little ones or for going to theme parks for 5 days in a row. It sounds exhausting.
posted by tacodave to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (8 answers total)!

Also, EPCOT has been my favorite park since I was two. Lots of great classic rides, including Spaceship Earth, Maelstrom, Universe of Energy, Journey Into Imaginatiom, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the early morning, split the big kids and the little kids up for age appropriate rides. Bring your cells and rotate adults if necesary. Meet up back at the hotel for lunch. Impose nap/quiet time on everyone. Head back out around three or four to do some things you can all enjoy together (Magic Kingdom really is pretty good for this). Have dinner at the park, watch parade and fireworks, repeat.
posted by murfed13 at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I remember seeing large groups of people wearing the same color t-shirt at Disneyworld. One group in particular had something like "Huerta Family Reunion" on the back of each shirt. The kids in your group might be young enough to do that without it being Totally Embarrassing OMG!! That might help with "quick counts" to make sure that all 11 kids are accounted for once you get into crowds. It also would help the younger kids find the group if they got a bit lost.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:11 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Epcot has come a long way in recent years. My five- and seven-year-old niece and nephew really enjoyed Ellen's Energy Adventure (they were heavily into dinosaurs at the time) and Soarin' is really fun for the kids who meet the height limit. The smaller ones will enjoy the aquarium with added Nemo characters, and the hydroponic gardens are pretty neat and slow-moving.

The Parade of Nations is a little slow for smaller kids, but the 360 degree movies are neat and there are some classic rides that smaller kids might enjoy over there.

Clearly I come from an Epcot-loving family, so I'm biased, but I think you'll find things for the kids to enjoy there these days. Plus, some of the best food in the parks is there, so it's worth finding ways to entertain the kids.
posted by carolinecrane at 5:19 PM on August 16, 2012

If you're staying on property, then it's easy enough to go back to your room at midday for everyone to take a swim and a nap. You'll also avoid walking around the park during the worst hours for sunburn. (For some reason, when we put swimsuits on kids they tolerate sunscreen.)

If you need a nap/rest spot in the parks, there are some options including going to guest services which has a rest area. There are also some rides that are good for naps (quieter, dark and air conditioned). If you ask a cast member, they'll let you sit through a few go-rounds so the kids get a decent nap.
Magic Kingdom - Hall of the Presidents / Carousel of Progress
EPCOT - American Pavilion/American Experience
Studios - Whatever the show is (not the Muppets, the other one)

All day in the park is too long with that many people. Take a break at midday. The alternative is to break the group up so that everyone isn't together 24/7. Giving each couple a few hours off will increase everyone's patience and enjoyment.
posted by 26.2 at 5:44 PM on August 16, 2012

Buddy system. It would be extremely helpful to you if each adult has a specific child or children they're supposed to be keeping an eye on. When one adult is leaving off watching a kid, make sure there is a verbal transaction passing responsibility to another adult. In large groups like this, I've found that everyone assumes everyone else will handle things, and it's distressingly easy for kids to get separated.

If any of them are still nappers, take 'em on Spaceship Earth, the golf ball ride at EPCOT. It is air conditioned, dark, and quiet, and has the mystical property of lulling a toddler right to sleep.

Parades and shows are your friends for entertaining the ones who will be too small for most rides. There are TONS of these at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Be sure to pick up the schedule of events every day, and think seriously about planning your day around which shows you'd like to see at what time.

Make sure all of the kids are labeled with a phone number to call if they get missing (sharpie on arm, business card in pocket, tag pinned to shirt, something.)
posted by Andrhia at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2012

N'thing the "take a nap/break" advice. I recall seeing lots of children being pushed in strollers by parents who had clearly arrived the second the park was open to beat the crowds, and had forgotten that their own stamina was greater than their small child's. Besides the nap/rest break, keep in mind that your fastest pace is that of your smallest non-stroller-occupying child, and your schedule will need to be built around the youngest in your party.

I'm a big fan of AllEars.Net and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

Ask the older kids to help take care of the little guys. They may appreciate being treated as "grown-ups", and you will occupy two kids at once.

There's a fountain in Epcot (I think near the bridges connecting Future World with World Showcase) that's popular with small children. It's got random jets that spray from the ground at random intervals and random heights. Be prepared with changes of clothes and let them play.

Finally, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in the Magic Kingdom is a 10 minute ride, not often crowded, and not scary. It makes a good resting ride. I've read that it's popular with breastfeeding moms as well. It's above the crowds and a fair amount of it is in darkness.

Remember the goal is to have fun and make memories, not see everything. Good luck!
posted by booksherpa at 7:29 PM on August 16, 2012

Have a plan of attack. You can get Fast Passes for the more popular rides, these will allow you to skip the long line and schedule a time to return when you don't have to wait. You can only have one Fast Pass at a time, so start with one ride, like Pirates of the Carribean, then do some other stuff close by, that doesn't have such a long line, Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, stuff like that.

EPCOT. I'm going to go against the grain here, I'm not a fan. The cool sciency nature of it has changed. The Living Seas is now Nemo's Great Adventure or some crap like that. Also there are no trees or shade in the place. You are a fly on a plate, frying away in the Florida sun.

The countries section of EPCOT serves beer, but the rides are old and tired and tacky, if I'm honest.

I like Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom the best.

I'm in agreement, try not to see everything all in one day. Get the Park Hopper passes, so you can do a water park in the morning, and an amusement park in the evening, when the sun goes down and it's cooler. Also fireworks.

Animal Kingdom is only open during the day, so hit that one early, then eat and nap, then swim at the hotel, then get dinner and head over to another park in the evening.

Buy everyone a nice, cloth, floppy hat to keep the sun off of faces, put sunglasses on lanyards around everyone's neck, and slather on the sunscreen. Dress everyone similarly so you can keep track in the crowds.

You'll have a ball! Enjoy!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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