Day one of our Multiple Family Disney World Vacation

Port Orleans Riverside dockDisney World trip report time. I promised I’d start going through the Multiple Family Walt Disney World trip that my family and I went on this month (December 2013). In all, five families, myself, my three siblings and our parents, traveled down to spend a week together at Walt Disney World. Not surprisingly, we weren’t all able to arrive at the same time. Based on everyone’s work schedule, and the number of days they wanted to stay at disney, everyone arrived in more of a phased approach.

Because my Mom and I were the ringleaders of this magical trip, and because we’re Disney nerds, we were there first, staying from Saturday to the following Sunday. Eight days. Arriving first gave us a chance to set up everything, and make sure things were ready for the two families arriving the next day and the third family arriving two days later still.

It is a very good thing that we did.

When we booked this trip, through the lovely Disney specialist travel agency Mousefan travel, our agent made sure to code things with Disney as “travel with” to make sure they kept all five of our hotel rooms as close together as possible. When Mom and I (and my family) arrived, we found that four of the five families were together in the same building, and the fifth family was half way across the resort.

This was not good.

My Mom freaked out just a little bit. (It was all internal, but I could tell).

This was also not good.

As it turns out someone on the Disney side of the resort booking messed up . I verified with my travel agent, that she had made sure we were all “travel with.” She had even called earlier that week to make sure the reservation was all set and we’d end up together. So, it was entirely on the part of the Port Orleans Riverside folks.

We had specifically chosen the Port Orleans Riverside because we had a couple of families with five, and didn’t want to go up to either the Art of Animation or a Vacation club resort based on price. The trouble was that two of our five families have three children, making for a family of five but only one of them was seen as an “actual” family of five. The second family of five had a two year old as the fifth. At Disney,under three only counts as half a person in resorts and free at park entry. So, the family with three kids over three was placed in Alligator Bayou somewhere, and the rest of us were in the Magnolia bend section.

This was not at all acceptable to my Mom.

Thankfully, there were two lovely cast members working the check in at the resort, and they worked with the back office (I don’t know what to call reservations, but they had to do a lot of calling to some folks off site) to get us all together.

They offered an option (and I think at this point, it was our only option) where my family and my Mom (my step dad was joining us later because he couldn’t get the whole week off of work) had to rooms in one section of the resort (the Magnolia Bend) that first night, then we would move our stuff over to Alligator Bayou the next night, where we’d be joined by the rest of the families as they arrived. They didn’t have rooms all together until the next night.

That is what we ended up doing. It was hassle for us, because we had to wait for our bags to be picked up in the morning before heading to the parks, then wait for them to be redelivered when we returned from the parks. But in the end, bell services saved the day and managed to get everything where it needed to be.

For the rest of my siblings, they arrived and checked in, then found us in the Alligator Bayou section, never knowing anything had been amiss. In fact, we were all together on the same floor of the same building. The cousins spent every morning, running from room to room as they all woke up. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Everyone enjoyed the resort, and loved the theming over in the bayou section.

Hitch one successfully handled. Much love and thanks to the kind cast members at Port Orleans check in who helped me to keep my Mom from having a very bad day and managing to get her kids and grandkids all together.

Day one down.

Stay tuned for more Disney magic.

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My Multiple Family Disney World Vacation was a success.

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As I’ve posted here, I have been planning a DIsney World trip for multiple families as a gift to my Mom for the past couple of years.  It’s been her dream for some time to take all of her kids and grandkids down to Disney. We totaled five families in all (myself, my three siblings, my Mom and Step Dad).

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and it is hard to believe but that trip is now in the past. We went the second week of December; all 19 of us aged 2 to 70 something.   It was a most awesome time.

We made it there and back again, with nary a meltdown (well not a complete meltdown anyway). It was a most magical vacation. Everyone had a better time than I could have possibly hoped for.  There were some rough patches at the beginning, but it all worked out by the time all of the families were in attendance.
I caution anyone who ever plans a multiple family trip to Disney World, that you set the appropriate expectations. Not everything will go perfectly. It’s impossible to do that, even with the best of circumstances.  But roll with the little things, and work with Disney. They will do what they can to fix things. If they don’t, keep talking to a new cast member until you get someone who can.
I need to go through our trip and summarize the things that went great, not so great and what I learned.
All in all, I hope that we actually do this again in a few years when the youngest ones are a little older, and the baby that didn’t end up coming (and his Mom) have a chance to enjoy the magic.
Stay tuned for the trip report installments!

Planning a multi-family trip to Walt Disney World: Where to Stay

As I have mentioned on this blog, I am trying to plan a multiply family vacation, in answer to a request from my Mom, for my siblings and all of our husbands, wives and kids. I started the planning by sitting down with everyone to fill out a questionnaire asking what were their priorities. As it turned out, cost was the number one thing everyone is concerned about.

With that in mind, I’ve started the process, with the help of a travel agent at Mousefan travel, to look into locations and get pricing on rooms. It’s proving to be challenging because some of the travel group are changing or altering their focus and priorities mid-planning, but as with planning for any big group, the person researching has to remain flexible, as well as patient or she will simply lose her mind. 🙂
In a trip to Walt Disney World, there are only two choices in where to stay: On property or off property.

Staying on Property
By on property, I mean to stay in one of the Disney World resorts located on the Walt Disney World resort property. These resorts are arranged in Value, Moderate and Deluxe classed in order of increasing price. There’s also the Disney Vacation Club resorts, but for my purposes, those can be considered deluxe because to pay cash for them is not a way to save money.  If you say in the value or moderate resorts, you get a hotel room, themed with Disney theming, access to Disney transportation and pools, food courts, etc.  What you don’t get is a lot of space, a kitchen, multiple bathrooms or bedrooms that you could get if you stayed off property.

A couple of the families going in this group have three children. In the lower cost resort category, the only moderates that sleep a family of five are the Port Orleans Riverside resort Alligator Bayou section. These rooms are nice, and the refurbishment and theming are really cute. The bed for the third child is a fold out of the wall type of trundle bed. The only trouble is that with a family of five in them, these rooms can feel a little small.  For a family with the dates next year that we’ve previously chosen, the room cost is: $1200(rounding). This is the rate in a combined ticket/room package. Note that this is not a discounted rate. At least I don’t think that it is. Perhaps there are discounts yet to be had.  That is more than we had estimated way back when we had started to plan this whole trip and might actually be a bit too high for the sacrifices to be made in a smaller room.

On the first trip my husband and I took together to WDW, long before we had kids, we stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside resort (then called Dixie Landings). We loved it, but now having kids and all that comes with traveling with them, it will be hard to step down to a room without a kitchen, and cramped quarters.

If cost isn’t an option, and you want to stay on property, then the suites at the All Star resorts or the new Art of Animation resort are a great idea. However, for the group of folks I am helping to plan for, cost is an option, and I just don’t know if they’d be wiling to go up in price.

Staying off property

If you want to keep cost low, you can always stay at a regular hotel somewhere off of the Walt Disney World property. But this won’t get you more space. It might also add to the cost because not you have the need to have a car to provide your own transportation to and from the parks.

An alterate would be looking at one of the vacation homes available for rent located near the parks. Through Mousfan travel and the WDW themed podcasts I listen to, I’ve heard a lot about the All Star Vacation homes. So I logged onto their site and got some on the spot quotes for our dates.

The homes come in 3, 4, 5 star ratings based on amenities and location, and sleep 8, 10, 12 people depending on # bedrooms and beds. I don’t have a good handle on what the difference is between the star ratings, but there must be more stuff in the five star over the three to justify the increase in cost.

Since in total, we are a group of 20, I looked up sets of two houses that sleep 10 people each in the 4 and 5 star categories above for our dates (rates change through the year and are most expensive in the busy times of the year.)

1. Two sets of 4 bedroom 4 star houses, sleeps 10 per house for the week we are looking at, including taxes, deposit, cleaning fees: $862 per family. (note this will be a total of $4314 for the two homes, divided between 5 families).

2. Two sets 4 bedroom 5 star houses, sleeps 10 per house for the week we are looking at, including taxes, deposit, cleaning fees: $1106 per family (note this is $5534 for the two homes, divided between 5 families).

Bottom line: You can save some money by staying off property if you are willing to provide your own transportation to and from the parks. It’s just not as much money as I had hoped.  My mother has been telling me anecdotal stories of friends of friends who stayed in 6 bedroom vacation homes for $1200 total per week. I haven’t found those numbers yet.

The issue with the cars is a sticking point for me. Some but not all of the families will be flying. Those that drive could get stuck providing transportation to those who flew. My main goal was that this be a vacation and as hassle free as possible.

At this point, we are taking a pause in the planning so we can reassess what our goals are for this trip before I continue down one path or another and have to backtrack. We still have some time before next fall (our target trip date) and I’d rather everyone be happy with the planning than someone be upset with me for making one decision or another.

What would you do? Where would you stay?

Pixie dust

RSM