Auntie Tip: Traveling with Large or Odd-Number Groups

I am the youngest of three children. Growing up that meant that someone would have to sleep on the floor whenever we stayed in a hotel room, and we’d have to add a chair to the end of the table if we sat in a booth at a restaurant. In theme parks, it meant that my dad was often in a row by himself. (We figured he was the toughest; he could handle it.) Now that we’re older and my siblings are married with kids, our numbers have grown and figuring out who sits with whom has become more complicated. We also take trips with extended family, and remembering how many of us we have at any one time can be difficult. Here are a few tips from this aunt’s perspective on traveling to Walt Disney World with large or odd numbers.

1. Consider a variety of lodging options.

I love staying on Disney property, and our budget usually places us in a value resort. Rooms in those resorts are limited to four people age three and older, plus a child under three in a crib or Pack ‘n’ Play. If you choose a family suite at All-Star Music Resort, you can fit six in a room. We’ve never done that because it’s actually less expensive to get two rooms than a suite (plus you get a second bathroom), but it may be a good option for your family. There will also be suites in the new Art of Animation resort opening next May.

If a moderate or deluxe hotel is in budget, many of those hotels accommodate five or six people in a room. A Disney Vacation Club villa accommodates even more, up to twelve people in some cases.

An off-property alternative for larger groups is renting a vacation home from a company like All-Star Vacation Homes. We did this on one trip, and it was great having a kitchen and plenty of space. The downside is that you need a rental car (or cars), and if you’re sharing a car, it gives less flexibility to split up and come and go as you please.

This is just the briefest of overviews of lodging options, so I highly recommend you refer to a guidebook like The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World or websites like AllEars.Net to help you choose the best option for your group.

2. Decide who’s riding with whom as soon as you get in line for each attraction.

Some attractions, like Expedition Everest, accommodate two and only two people per row. Others, like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, can comfortably accommodate two adults plus a small child or two. It will save time and reduce confusion if you figure out when you get in a queue how many can fit in each row and who will sit with whom. If you’re unfamiliar with the attraction and can’t see the loading area when you enter the queue, you can ask a cast member or refer to a guidebook. Some attractions also have a ride vehicle out front so you can see how you’ll fit.

You will also need to know the total number of people you have in your party, because a cast member will ask you when you get to the front of the queue. This may seem like a simple thing to know, but when you have a group of 15+, and you’re constantly splitting up and regrouping, it can be difficult to keep track. Help keep the queue moving by being ready for the question.

3. Take advantage of FASTPASS.

FASTPASS is great for all guests, but it can be especially helpful when you have a large group with lots of kids who aren’t big on standing in line. Getting FASTPASSes can be time-consuming, however, if each member of your group gets their own. What we like to do instead is to give all of our tickets to one (trustworthy) person who runs and gets FASTPASSes for all of us. You should also make sure to note at what time you can get another FASTPASS and send a runner to get the next set of passes as soon as you can.

4. Coordinate bathroom breaks.

When you’re traveling with a lot of small children, bathroom emergencies are inevitable, but you can reduce them by making sure you take regular bathroom breaks. My rule is that when we stop for one person to go, everyone has to try to go. Otherwise you spend the whole day stopping at the bathroom for just one child at a time.

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Does anyone have any other tips for traveling with large or odd-number groups?