Disneyland with large families or a large group can be done, and it can be done well. If you follow a few simple suggestions, your time at Disneyland with a large group can be stress-free and exciting.
Below you will find the top six guidelines for a successful, magical trip. Using these tips will allow your large group to enjoy the day as stress-free, happy, and memorable as possible.
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When beginning to plan a trip to the Disneyland Resort with a large group, it is crucial to get everyone on the same page as much as possible.
Create a group text thread
These days everyone has a cell phone at their fingertips. Get everyone connected by starting a group text message thread. The information will hit all parties within seconds so that everyone will have the same information. There will be no question on who is going where, where to meet up, what ride you’re on, and so on. This will eliminate confusion and keep the lines of communication open throughout the group.
Discuss “must-dos” prior to entering the park
Whether you discuss this prior to your trip or when you’re waiting in line to enter the park, getting everyone in sync is essential to all parties having fun. Everyone will have something that they are particularly looking forward to so you want to make sure to hit all those spots. There’s nothing worse than enjoying the day only to have someone be sad or upset that they missed out on what they wanted to do that day.
Discuss Food Options
When traveling with a large group, you’re bound to have different food needs. Whether there are dietary restrictions or young children who need to eat more often than adults, each group will need to be sensitive to each other’s needs. Simply discussing the options ahead of time will help everyone to think similarly throughout the day. If you can, pick one specific meal that everyone will meet for and do together.
When you have a large party, you’re bound to get separated throughout the day at some point. If you have at least one meal planned, you ensure one explicit time where everyone will gather to enjoy each other’s company. Since you have such a large group it's especially important to make a dining reservation ahead of time to ensure you have seating for your entire part.
You can make dining reservations on the Disneyland's dining website or on the app up to 60 days in advance. If your plans change, make sure you allow 24 hours to cancel your reservation or the card on file will be charged a penalty of $10 per person.
Purchase Tickets Ahead of Time
Purchasing tickets ahead of time allows your large group to walk directly to the entrance gate rather than stand in line for upwards of what could be an hour to buy your tickets at the property. You can use our link below to find the best possible ticket prices that we’ve negotiated for you. It will save you time and get your party started right away!
2. Download the Official Disneyland App
The Official Disneyland App is one of the most helpful tools any Disney patron can use. The Disneyland Resort monitors the app so you can ensure that the information is accurate. On the free app you will find wait times, entertainment schedules, restroom locations, restaurant locations and information, character locations and times, and so much more for both parks at the Disneyland Resort. Click on this link for more information on how to download the app using the the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Use the app to make restaurant reservations
You can use the app to make restaurant reservations for any accepting restaurant inside the parks or at Downtown Disney. You can make dining reservations on the app up to 60 days in advance. If your plans change, make sure you allow 24 hours to cancel your reservation or the card on file will be charged a penalty of $10 per person.
Checking Wait Times
Wait times for attractions are almost always correct. You will even see Cast Members handing those lucky guests a red time tracker card every now and then that will record the time of the line from start to finish. In addition to wait times, if you click on the attraction you are interested in, you can also view the FASTPASS times. This will do two things; ensure that there are FASTPASS tickets left and check on the return time.
Use the app as a map
The app has maps of both parks right at your fingertips. You can scroll through the lands and decide where you are going next and how you will get there. It will also show you locations of restrooms including companion restrooms, first aid, shops, guest services, and so much more. The map will direct you exactly where you and your party want to go.
Check attraction requirements
The app is especially helpful when you are trying to figure out if your younger ones can go on a particular ride. Instead of walking all the way to the attraction and being disappointed, you can click on the actual ride for more information. It will show you any height requirements, give you information on thrill type, and list information regarding accessibility including if pregnant women can ride or if one must transfer from a wheelchair.
With Disney MaxPass, you can link all of your party’s tickets to one app and select FASTPASSes without even being near the attraction. You will create a “FASTPASS Party” on the app using your camera to scan each ticket or annual pass. Each person in the party will need to purchase the Disney MaxPass feature.
Although this comes with a $15 per day, per ticket cost, it does also include Disney PhotoPass pictures from the day. All official pictures taken on the rides and by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers are included in the cost of MaxPass. They will be great memories to cherish for years to come. Read more information on Disney’s MaxPass option on this Disney website page or check out our extensive guide here. (Note: Be sure to keep all of the tickets you scan. You will need to scan them at each of the rides twice when entering the FASTPASS line.)
3.Plan Out Meals
When you have a lot of people in one party, especially if you have a range of ages, trying to find food to accommodate everyone’s needs as well as enough space can be very difficult.
Decide if you want quick service or table service
Typically you’ll find plentiful seating at the quick service restaurants such as Galactic Grill, Red Rose Tavern, or the Hungry Bear Restaurant. At those restaurants, you don’t need reservations and the menus have a wide variety of foods. Table service restaurants, such as River Belle Terrace and Café Orleans, almost always require reservations ahead of time. The menus are smaller but still offer a wide range of options to suit everyone’s needs. You can research all the restaurants for both parks, quick service or table service, and check out menus either on the Disneyland App or on this page.
Use the Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering on the Disneyland App
Recently, Disneyland introduced a genius new feature of its app with Mobile Ordering. Although it isn’t available at all restaurants quite yet, it offers a much easier way to dine especially with a large party. The app allows you select your restaurant with a specific time along with your food choices. Once at the location, you will simply follow the instructions for the appropriate line to get in to pick up your food. You can have some people search for a table while others are picking up the food. Learn more about Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering on the Disneyland site. And check out our Disneyland restaurant reviews here!
DISNEY TIP: If you go to lunch or dinner at just a few minutes before or after peak time, your experience will be far more pleasant. For example, heading to dinner around 5:30 isn’t necessarily peak time because most people eat somewhere between 6:00-7:00. At 5:30, it is just early enough to miss the larger crowds but not too early to feel like you’re actually eating dinner.
Ask for free water instead of bottled
At any of the quick service restaurants, you can order a cup of ice water for free. When ordering your food, you can ask for as many ice waters as your group needs with no questions asked and you will save a ton of money compared to the price of water bottles. In fact, you can ask for a cup of ice water at any point throughout the day at any quick service restaurant with a soda fountain. The Cast Members are more than willing to provide cups of water when asked.
DISNEY TIP: bring a reusable water cup, or sippy cup for your littles, and refill it throughout the day with ice water from the restaurants. It will save you money on water bottles and you will have water on hand at all times.
Make reservations ahead of time on the Disneyland App
If your group wants table service, it is extremely important that you make the reservation ahead of time. You can use the Disneyland App to select a location, input the number of people in your party, and select and available time. In addition, you could also walk over to the restaurant of your choice and speak to a Cast Member there to see if they have any availability that day/night.
Disneyland takes all people into consideration no matter what their needs. This is no different with food needs or restrictions. There are food options for all needs including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, and kosher. You can ask to speak to a Disney chef at any restaurant and they will come have a discussion with you about an option for you. If you cannot find something on the regular menu, the chef will make you something that fits your needs. Having much experience in this area, I can say that Disney goes above and beyond in this area. Rest assured that any needs that you may have will be addressed with professionalism and understanding.
One thing we love are all the fun little park freebies that gets the whole family excited. If you’re heading to the parks for a birthday, anniversary, or even bringing guests who have never been, there’s a free button waiting for you. You can go to any store or merchandise kiosk and request buttons for your whole group.
We recently celebrated our nephew’s 5th birthday at the parks. Our nephew had a “Happy Birthday” button while the rest of us had “I’m Celebrating” buttons. The Cast Members are always so thoughtful to say “happy birthday” to the guests and make your day feel even more magical. He walked around beaming the whole day because everyone stopped him to wish him a happy birthday. The Cast Member who gave us the buttons even personalized all 12 buttons. Such a great keepsake from your time at the park.
5. Navigating with Children
Adding children into the mix of a large group can make things even more difficult. Here are a few tips that can help you make things just a bit easier for you.
There are many family restrooms around the park; however, one of our favorite spots to change diapers is the First Aid in both parks. They allow you to take your strollers into the bathrooms, which are huge and have a cot you can use to change your little one(s). They are always very clean, the bathrooms are large, and there isn’t typically a long line waiting. The Cast Member RNs at the First Aid are always beyond generous with allowing you to use the restrooms.
If you have older children, the BabyCare Centers are wonderful. They have several diaper changing stations as well as small potties for your younger potty trained children. They also have high-chairs, microwaves, and a small store with all your baby needs in case you forgot something. The prices for the “store” are extremely reasonably priced. It takes out the panic of forgetting something for your little one or having to run to the store in the middle of the day. The only negative to this area is that strollers have to stay outside. Here is more information on the centers.
Bring Your Own Food and Snacks
The Disneyland Resort allows you to bring in your own food so long as it is not in a hard cooler. This is a great choice for your little ones who may not be able to eat all foods, may be picky eaters, or may be hungry very often throughout the day. I don’t know about your little ones, but ours eat all day long. They are always asking for a snack of some sort. It helps that we can have their favorite snacks on hand with us instead of trying to search for a cart and waiting in line. It also helped us when they were first being introduced to foods to make sure that we had on hand what would be safe for them and what I knew they wouldn’t have an allergic reaction to at Disneyland. There’s nothing worse than an allergic reaction ruining everyone’s day.
6. Remember to Enjoy Your Magical Day
When you are navigating with a large group, things can become very stressful and overwhelming. Here are a few tips to try and eliminate some of the stress from your day.
- Start out the day knowing that things are going to take you longer than they would if you were alone or in a smaller group. Going in knowing that will reduce your stress level immediately. If you can, have your specific list of “must-dos” and think of anything else as a bonus. If you reduce your stress about needing to hit anything and everything in the park, you will really enjoy your day. Taking it slower allows you to truly take in all of the sites and experience the joy of simply walking around with your family.
- Remember that not everyone has to do the same thing the entire day. Of course it is more fun to be together, but when you have a large group of people with different expectations, needs, and/or ages, you’re bound to have some separation. Enjoy the times you do have together throughout the day, but also enjoy the smaller groups you might have throughout the day. Plan to all have lunch, dinner, or both together at one centralized location so you can ensure that everyone has at least 1-2 times that day that you will all be together to thoroughly enjoy the memories you will make. Disneyland is truthfully one of the most magical places if you can open your heart and enjoy the day for all that it may bring.
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