Spending Christmas at Disney is a truly wonderful experience for the whole family. We are firm believers in the lasting memories of Disney vacations in general, but particularly around the Christmas holiday season. As a former Disney “Magic-Maker” myself, and having spent numerous holidays at Disney, I’ve put together some practical tips to help you plan (and survive) your Disney vacation over the Christmas holiday season!
1. Disney at Christmas Will Be Crowded, Just Deal With It
You are not the only person that wants to experience Disney at Christmas. In fact, some people would be surprised to hear that the week of Christmas is probably the busiest day of the year! So unfortunately, there will be incredibly long lines and lots of crowds. If you plan to visit on Christmas Day, get there early and don’t plan on leaving…there will be a line waiting to get it in because the park may close to capacity – yes, capacity. And that is a ridiculous amount of people!
Visiting Disney over the holidays is less about riding all the rides and more about soaking up the ambiance and spending time with friends and family. So go into it with that mentality, and that will go a long way in setting your expectations so that you aren’t disappointed. You may not be able to see and do everything there is, but you will have a wonderful time!
2. Avoid the Massive Crowds by Visiting Earlier in December
If you are flexible in your travel plans, then you can actually avoid the massive Christmas at Disney crowds by visiting a few weeks earlier in December. Thanksgiving week is typical very busy as well, but the week following Thanksgiving up until the week before Christmas really calms down. Of course, this is because most people have to work and the kids are back in school. But if you are able to get around this, the weeks in early December are the very best time to visit. You will still get to experience all the Christmas festivities at Disney, without the crowds. It’s a much more enjoyable experience, and is really when we prefer to visit ourselves.
Also, if you have never been to Disney and you are planning to save your money for a once-in-a-lifetime visit over Christmas, the week of Christmas is NOT the time to go! I have been to Disney so many times, that the long lines and crowds don’t bother me as much because I’ve seen it already. But I would never recommend this to a first time visitor. So if it is your first time to Disney, definitely go earlier in December. You will enjoy it much more!
3. Stay at a Disney Resort – Regardless of the Cost
If at all possible, stay at a Disney Resort if you are going to visit over the Christmas holiday. It will go a long way in enhancing your experience because of the convenience, and the ambiance. The Disney resorts actually have a lot going on over Christmas. They are decorated beautifully and often have special activities or attractions. Plus, it gives you an escape if the parks are busy — but you still feel like you are getting a special Christmas at Disney experience. Well worth it, but a great deal if you go in early December too!
Lastly, if you stay at a Disney Resort then you can enter the parks early and stay late after regular guests leave. These “Extra Magic” hours will allow you to see much more of the parks without the mass crowds. How would you like to ride Space Mountain at 2 am with no line?!?!
4. Plan, Plan, Plan Ahead!
You don’t have to plan out every minute of your Disney vacation over Christmas, but definitely take time to review all the time schedules and special events before your visit. Make note of things that you want to do and shows that you want to see. If it helps make a chart for each day, putting it on paper might help. Get input from all the family members so no one feels left out.
Do your best to arrange a Disney Christmas visit schedule that everyone is happy with. Disney parks have made it easier to do this in advance, and even book your Fastpasses weeks ahead of time! If you plan on dining at any of the nicer restaurants while at Disney at Christmas, definitely be sure to make reservations well in advance. Restaurants will fill up, especially the character dining. You may also want to look into the Disney Dining plan, which can be very convenient if you family likes to eat and snack throughout the day. It’s also really helpful for budgeting your expenses during the trip.
5. Take Advantage of Special Events or Packages to Maximize Your Time
One event that we always attend is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a separate ticketed event that is held outside of the typical Magic Kingdom park hours. The reason we enjoy attending the party is that they only sell a limited number of tickets. So we can experience all of the special Christmas shows, parades, etc. (even more than what they do at the park during regular days) with less people! It is totally worth it for what you get out of it!
You can see the entire Magic Kingdom park in an evening, and spend the day relaxing at the resort pool ahead of time! Shows such as the Candlelight Processional are hugely popular. People line up for hours prior to this show just to get a seat. And it is a truly amazing show! But that’s a long time to wait in line, especially when there are so many other things to see and do. For this show, they do offer a dinner / show package that you can purchase in advance. So it may be worth it to book the package so that you can have dinner and be escorted in to your reserved seats. It’s better than standing for 2 hours!
BONUS: Don’t Spend ALL Of Your Time Inside the Theme Parks!
The good thing about visiting Walt Disney World in Florida over the Christmas holiday is that the resort complex is huge, and there are many other things to do at Christmas besides just the theme parks. Spending an evening dining and shopping at Downtown Disney is always a fun way to get your Christmas gifts. We also enjoy visiting the water parks and playing some mini-golf. If you are a true golfer, then make a tee time for one of the championship Disney golf courses around property! If you aren’t a golfer, perhaps you would enjoy visiting the spas at some of the resorts, or maybe even just do some resort “hopping” to see some of the unique Christmas decorations at the various resorts.
There are also many other activities to do at the different Disney resorts, which is why it’s beneficial to stay at them (see #2 above). From the famous Hoop de Doo Revue show (which has a special holiday version) to boat rentals, fishing, kayaks, etc. you will have a lot of other things you can do to relax and get some quality family time without being in the theme parks everyday.
Okay, It Was Actually 6 Tips to Survive Disney at Christmas
So here are our top tips to help you plan and survive your vacation to Disney over the Christmas holiday. We really love Disney and can’t wait to return for Christmas ourselves. But we’ve also seen our fair share of disappointment over the holidays at Disney too. If you keep these tips in mind and plan accordingly, then you should be able to maximize the fun on your Disney Christmas vacation!