Christmas at Walt Disney World – Extra Crazy, Extra Crowded, Extraordinary

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Our family always spends Christmas at Walt Disney World.  We have been told we were crazy, out of our minds, and even downright stupid. Ouch. That’s the one that hurts.

Christmas Tree at EPCOT

EPCOT Tree

Why would we intentionally go to Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays? Do we know it’s the busiest time of the year? Are we unable to go ANY other time? Is there no psychiatric treatment in New Jersey that would prevent us from making such an insane decision?

Simply put, we go during Christmas because we love it. From the massive Christmas trees at the theme parks to the beautifully decorated wreaths at the resorts, there is holiday magic in the air. We do know it is the busiest time of the year. We have rubbed elbows and bumped shoulders with tens of thousands of our closest friends for many years now, and we still love it. And yes, there is psychiatric treatment here in New Jersey, but Christmas week at Walt Disney World does more for my heart, head, and soul than any doctor’s office.

Themed Bay Lake Tower Tree

Bay Lake Tower Lobby Tree

So what are the tricks to surviving the busiest time of the year at the Most Magical Place on Earth? Here’s what works for us:

PLAN: We did this year’s trip with four weeks of planning, and despite what some people believe (yes, Jim, I’m talking to you), there was tremendous effort put in. No matter when you decide to head to Disney World for Christmas, make sure you have some plan in place – book FastPass+ options, book dining reservations, and check times for extra magic hours, rope drop, and park closing.

Rope Drop at EPCOT

There is an actual rope at Rope Drop

UTILIZE YOUR MORNING:  I know. It’s your vacation. You can’t even deal with the idea of getting up at 6 AM. If you want to make the most of your time at Disney World during Christmas, the early bird gets the worm. My family can get more done in a morning extra magic hour than we can in a full day at the Magic Kingdom Christmas week. We do more getting there at rope drop in our first hour or two than we will the rest of the day.  Sleep when you’re dead!

EPCOT's famous Geosphere

Spaceship Earth in the morning

RESIGN YOURSELF TO NOT SEEING IT ALL: You won’t. This is not the time for a once in a lifetime trip, where you want to do and see everything. You can’t. A Cast Member told us that if you see seven or eight things a day at the Magic Kingdom during Christmas week, you’re winning. Know this is your fate and roll with it.

USE DOWNTIME FOR BONUS MAGIC:  Now is the time to visit the resorts.  Enjoy the holiday decorations, gorgeous trees, delicious gingerbread, carolers, and characters.  There is more to Walt Disney World – especially during Christmas – than just the theme parks!

Grand Floridian Lobby

Lifesized gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian

We have never left a Walt Disney World Christmas vacation disappointed, and I doubt we ever will.  Plan, keep expectations realistic, and just go with it!

Disney Holiday Weekends – Worth the Trip?

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As if I’m EVER going to say there’s a time when it’s NOT worth the trip!

People ask me, especially during the school year, when you don’t want to yank the kids out of school, if they’ll have time to see and do what they want on holiday weekends during the school year.  With the Martin Luther King day holiday coming up next week, I wanted to just give you a resounding YES!!

Will it be busy?  Yes.  But nothing like the crowds you are going to see during Christmas and Easter week.  You’ll see a surge in crowds that will make you want to use the FastPass system, but it’s rare during holiday weekends like this that you could expect park closures or two hour lines.

Tips for making the most of your holiday weekend and for maximizing your time?

– Use FastPass – This complimentary “ticket” will give you a window of time to come back to the busier attractions.  Instead of waiting in line, grab the pass at the kiosk, then go do something else.  For these busy weekends, as soon as your window opens up, head to another FastPass attraction and get another pass (which you can’t do until your window opens up).  That way, you’ll always have something to look forward to, plus you won’t stress over making it to your favorite attractions!

– Make Dining Reservations – I you want to eat somewhere special or you are specific as to where you must have your meals, book ahead of time.  You can almost always find SOMEWHERE to sit down and eat – even at the table service restaurants – but if your heart is set on Chef Mickey’s or Le Cellier, book in advance.  Reservations can be made up to 180 days ahead of time.

– Consider Park Hopper Passes – I have to admit that we almost never park hop.  And you might think that on a busy weekend, you’re better to stay put where you start.  However, if I know that the parks are going to be busy, I’ll try to hit the morning Extra Magic Hours (which you are entitled to as a Walt Disney World resort guest) at whichever park they are offered, then move to another park after spending that early morning hour.  I might do my top attractions at the next park, move on to a third, then head to a fourth for dinner.  If I’m going to go for dinner, I like to see about doing the park that has extra magic hours in the evening, then I stay put there.  That gives you a longer day in the theme parks, allows you to see some of each park (which can be tough on a three day weekend), and gives you a chance to eat breakfast in one place, lunch in another, and dinner in a third.

Will you find bigger crowds on a holiday weekend?  You will.  But the crowd is manageable if you go with a strategy, and you really can see quite a bit of all four Walt Disney World Parks if you head in with plan in hand.