Survivor’s Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World

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xmas

The magic of Disney is somehow extra special during the holidays.  There’s just something about the tall Christmas trees, the sparkling lights, the wreaths, and the overall feeling of the season that adds to the experience.  I mean, who can resist Santa Goofy or a super special Christmas version of Jungle Jingle Cruise?

But it is a well-known fact that Disney World plays host to thousands of families during the holidays, and there are days, particularly between Christmas and New Year’s, when the parks are filled to capacity.  Touring the parks will require planning, patience and perseverance (what other P words can I add to this alliteration?) in order to make the most out of your visit.  Here are some handy tips to consider so you can survive (and enjoy!) your holiday trip to Disney:

Tip #1: Know that there will be crowds.  Yes, the parks may be filled to capacity.  Yes, there will be long lines – for rides, for food, for character meet-and-greets, and at the stores.  Prepare yourself mentally for what’s ahead.  Know that despite the long waits and the overall size of the crowds, being at Disney for the holidays is still going to be an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Tip #2: Stay at a Walt Disney World resort.  As the parks reach capacity, there are certain Phased Closings that may be put in place.  As a guest staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you can still enter the park at certain phased closings while other non-resort guests are turned away.  Here are the phased closings:

  • Phase 1 Closure: entry is not permitted for guests with 1-day, 1-park base tickets, guests without an admission ticket (and are looking to purchase upon arrival), and guests using Cast Member passes.  You can still be admitted into the parks if:
    • You are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort
    • You are an annual pass holder
    • You have a park hopper ticket and are park hopping from another park
    • You are re-entering the park from an admission earlier in the day
    • You have a reservation or appointment in the parks (i.e. for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates League)
  • Phase 2 Closure: during a Phase 2 closure, you can be admitted into the parks if:
    • You are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort
    • You are an annual pass holder (certain categories apply)
    • You are re-entering the park from an admission earlier in the day
    • You have a park hopper ticket and are park hopping from another park
    • You have a reservation or appointment in the parks
  • Phase 3 Closure: during a Phase 3 closure, you can still be admitted to the parks if:
    • You are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort
    • You are an annual pass holder (certain categories apply)
    • You have a reservation or appointment in the parks
  • Phase 4 Closure: the park is closed to all guests entering the park.

Tip #3: Plan in advance.  If you are looking to just go with the flow on your vacation, holidays at Disney may not be the best time to do it.  Since there will be large crowds, lines will be long for the vast majority of rides.  If you have your heart set on going on a particular ride or doing a particular activity, plan accordingly.  Know which activities are must do’s, and which ones can be done for a different trip.  Use FastPass+ to go on your favorite rides, and make appointments well in advance for your favorite restaurants.  This also goes back to Tip #2 – if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you can plan more in advance compared to non-resort guests.

Tip #4: Arrive early to the parks.  Phased closures can happen as early as 10:00 am,  so it pays off to be at the parks right at opening or earlier.  This gives you the best chance to ride the rides with the least wait times, and it also reduces the possibility that you won’t be able to enter the park due to closure.  This also goes back to Tip #2 – Disney resort guests can enjoy the added perk of Extra Magic Hours, where the parks open exclusively for resort guests an hour before the posted park opening times on certain days.  If you are not an early bird, you can also…

Tip #5: Stay late at the parks.  If getting up early on vacation is not your thing, maybe staying up late is!  Crowds generally diminish as you get further into the evening hours, so you can also do most of your activities then.  There are also Extra Magic Hours in the evening where resort guests can stay at the parks past the posted park closing times for the general public.

Tip #6: Consider eating at off-peak hours.  Dining at the park restaurants, whether it is table service or quick service, will take longer than usual during the holidays.  To avoid the rush, try going at off-peak hours (before 11:00 am or after 2:00 pm for lunch; before 4:00 pm or after 8:30 pm for dinner).  Bringing snacks and drinks into the parks is allowed, so you can always have a stash handy to get you through the day as well!

Tip #7: Use your resources.  If this is your first time going to Disney during the holidays, use all of your resources here at Chip & Co.  We have members at our Facebook groups who have done this trip many times over and can give useful advice.  There are also lots of articles on our site so you’ll know everything you need to know before your trip.  If you are using one of our travel agents from World of Magic Travel, pick their brain!  They will be able to tell you the tricks and tips to enable you to have a wonderful vacation.

Tip #8: The Disney holiday spirit is alive and vibrant outside the parks, too.  If you are not able to get into the parks, or don’t want to craziness of the crowds, there is plenty to see and do at Disney outside of the four theme parks.  Did you know that there is an amazing Gingerbread House and other edible displays at the Grand Floridian, Beach Club, and BoardWalk Inn?  Or have you ever seen the larger-than-life Christmas tree at the Wilderness Lodge?  All the resorts have something unique to offer, so it’s a great time to go resort hopping.  And don’t forget Downtown Disney, which also has some amazing things to offer during the holidays.

Tip #9: Enjoy being at Disney during the holidays!  Yes, it will be crowded, and you probably will have less personal space than you’d like, but at the end of the day, you are at Disney!  You can look at the castle with its twinkling lights, enjoy the decorations and atmosphere, feel a chill in the Orlando weather, listen to stirring Disney scores that will give you goosebumps, and celebrate the holidays with those you love.  I guarantee it will be an unforgettable experience!

With that, I will turn it over to you, our dear readers.  What tips do you have for guests going to Disney this holiday season?  Tell me what I’ve missed!  Sound off in the comments below!

Hi there, I’m Myra and I’m a huge Disney nerd and addict!  I’m also an Independent Travel Agent at World of Magic Travel, the preferred agency of Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts.  I’m happy to help you plan your upcoming holiday trip to Disney, at no cost to you!  It’s not too late!  Please visit my page or send me an email at myra@worldofmagictravel.com to get started!

Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World

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Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World Survivor's Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World
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