Herein, some tips learned the hard way.
Delegate leaders for group trips If youre thinking about doing Disney as a big group, as I did when I traveled as part of a party of 16 not long ago, someone in your group needs to act as a point person to handle the planning . . . and ensuing questions. Each family involved should also appoint a representative to communicate with that point person. Once you have this basic structure in place, the need for another role will become apparent: in-park navigator. Even when we broke into smaller groups, we werent precisely sure in which direction we were supposed to walk, nor was someone routinely saying turn here. Being your groups GPS isnt an enviable job, but somebodys got to do it if you dont want to waste valuable park time.
Think twice about formal dining If your kids are young, the same issues you may have in restaurants at home your foods taking too long or your child is falling asleep in her chair will be exacerbated by exhausting days at the parks. A formal Disney meal is too expensive a proposition to mismanage: Plan on eating dinner at least two hours earlier than normal, or, if youre sensing as the day goes on that your familys stamina is waning, cancel reservations on short notice and opt for more informal meals. Further, character meals at times feel like catered fire drills. No sooner will your child settle down for a bite then a character will shamble through the dining room, provoking kids to rocket out of their seats (pictured).
Anticipate character issues While its hard to know in advance, try to determine if any of your kids are afraid of the larger-than-life characters. One year during breakfast, Pluto made a surprise appearance at our hotel and rested one of his meaty paws on my 5-year-olds shoulder. She burst into tears and Pluto felt terrible, which we knew because he raised both paws to his mouth in an Oh my! gesture. After we shooed him away and calmed down our child, my wife and I later realized that it was seeing Pluto in the relative close quarters of the hotel dining room that freaked out our daughter: once we were out in the open-air vastness of the parks, the characters looked and felt more scalable to her and there were no more freak-outs (at least over the characters).