In 2017 the hubby and I travelled to Orlando over the Christmas and New Year period with 5 other friends. I wanted to write this post to give some ideas on what we did to make our group trip easier, things I may do differently next time, or other ideas I’ve had since then that might help to make the trip as good as it can be for everyone. So if you’re thinking of heading to Orlando in a group but are a little bit worried about it, or if it’s something you might want to do in the future then please read on!
So here’s some details of the things that we did to make our group trip easier…
Before we booked the trip we spoke about dates that would suit everyone. It was always going to be for Christmas and New Year because the hubby and I were planning to go again anyway after our trip in 2015.
Obviously if you’re open to dates then sitting down altogether to organise when roughly would be best for everyone, or at least the time of year or month, then you can have a look at holidays available at that time.
Most of us went to the Virgin Holidays store in Bluewater to book the trip, and we booked as soon as December dates were available, which was 18 months prior! I would definitely recommend booking this far in advanced. It gives you so much time to save and pay it off, and as a group it gives you a ton of time to plan and organise things that need to be done. It’s also more expensive as time goes on, especially for that time of year.
We had decided before booking that we wanted to book our entire trip through Virgin because from past experiences this had been beneficial to all of us and we knew we could get specific deals we were interested in. We had already decided to stay in a villa so we could all be together and had one 8 seater car that 3 of us were able to drive.
Once our trip was booked and set in stone we decided to book the seats on our flight because we wanted to be able to sit together, so didn’t want to chance it by checking in at the airport and having seats allocated to us then. Yes this can be quite pricey, and honestly my opinion is that we shouldn’t have to pay extra to guarantee sitting with the rest of our group, but if you do want to sit together then I would just pay out for it.
We then got together multiple times to talk about things we definitely wanted to do. We wanted to make sure everyone’s top priorities were 100% included on the trip. Like I mentioned earlier, Craig and I had been to Orlando in 2015 for the same time of year, so we had a pretty good idea of current attractions. Plus, as you probably know by now, I’m completely addicted to researching things I’m passionate about, and planning/making lists/etc lol… so I was happy to look fully into what we should and shouldn’t do.
When we met up about 6 months before travelling, we were able to book a few things such a things in Busch Gardens or Seaworld, plus express passes for Universal.
Closer to the trip, about 6-8 weeks before, we got together to plan a more detailed itinerary, mainly so we could book our Disney fast passes once they became available 30 days before.
There were times when we were planning things that we wouldn’t all agree, or at all want to do the same thing – which is definitely going to happen in this circumstance! At one point we were discussing potentially adding another car to our booking, but we decided against that. There were also a couple of things that some of us booked but the others didn’t fancy it.
Once we were there, we pretty knew what we were doing most days of our trip. With fast passes booked, and other hard events, there wasn’t much space to move things around but we were ok with that as we liked it being pretty organised. Plus I think this was easier for us because we didn’t have any kids with us.
We had a Memory Maker for Disney which was great! It came free with our park tickets but I would purchase next time if I have to. It was so easy to be able to get group photos in all the main photo spots in the parks, and the photographers were brilliant. They would take as many photos as we wanted, in a big group, other little groups between us, couples and individual. It’s such an awesome thing to have access to.
We also went to Walmart and did a shop for basic things we wanted to have in our villa such as bottles of water, snacks, breakfasty food. We also agreed before the trip that we would be arriving to each park for when it opens because it gets so busy that time of year.
So to sum that up…
- Plan your dates and get it booked as early as possible
- Book your seats on the plane if you defo wanna be together
- Consider more than one car if there’s a chance you’ll be doing different things some days
- A villa may not be for everyone, that depends on how good you do with being around people all the time, mess, etc. I personally wouldn’t choose to stay in a villa again, but that was actually just because I prefer the locations of the hotels on International Drive and I prefer a hotel as opposed to feeling like I’m in a house on holiday
- Plan an itinerary together, including all the things you want to do
- Plan your fast passes in plenty of time
- Go with the intentions that you might not always want to do the same things all the time, or eat the same things, and that that is completely fine!
A Couple of Other Things to Consider
- If there are restaurants you definitely want to eat at, or at least ones at Disney, then you should consider pre-booking your table – again especially if there is a really big group of you and you want to all sit together. For restaurants on Disney property, you can book up to 180 days in advanced!
- If you are travelling with children, then check their height and height restrictions for certain rides, especially when it comes to booking your fast passes. On My Disney Experience, you can link your whole groups tickets together and book everyone’s fast passes at the same time
- Disney fast passes can be booked 60 days in advanced if you’re staying on Disney property, or 30 days in advanced if you’re off property
- Consider one of your party getting an annual pass for Disney. This will give you discounts in certain hotels, restaurants and off merchandise. It will also give one car free parking st the Disney parks
- Make sure you download all the park apps so you can keep updated with wait times, and if you lose anyone then you can look at the park map to find them
- At Universal, if you want to get more rides done but can’t all afford to purchase express passes, then get a few between the group and ride in a couple of groups. We did this for 2nd or 3rd rides of popular rides that had long waits
- Appoint a leader, the person who likes to be organised and you trust to do a good job – but if that’s you, then don’t power trip 😂
- Make sure you have everyone’s numbers, start a what’s app group so everyone can be messaged at once if maybe you’re meeting at a later time or something like that
- Be well rested, and let people take breaks if they need them more than you do
I think that pretty much sums it up, let me know if you have any questions or other ideas that might help people!
I’m gonna leave you with this picture… which is also another reason why 2 cars may have been a better option for us…🙈
Speak soon, Rachel x