I find the most magical time of year to be even more magical at Walt Disney World. Our family’s
first Christmas visit to the ‘World and seeing it through the eyes of our 6 and 4 year old – both
Disney pros by then - is an experience I’ll never forget.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is also the busiest all year for Walt Disney
World. “Survival” is the word I hear more often from parents considering holiday trips because
of the expected crowds, but also because of horror stories they hear from their sister’s best
friend’s brother’s girlfriend who met this guy who knows this kid who went once when he was three.
Fear not, for with a little planning and a lot of patience, you’ll be able to make your Walt Disney
World holiday visit one of magical memories that will last a lifetime. Here are my top tips to
making the most of your time – and your travel dollar.
1. Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort and book early.
This is true for any time of year at Walt Disney World, but more so if you want to stay
during the holiday week. Booking in advance will allow not only more flexibility in your
choice of resort, but also generally better rates. Traditionally, there have also been
package discounts available depending on your flexibility in arrival date, so contacting
your travel agent in early spring to keep their Ears out for you will pay off in terms of
Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort also offers value-added benefits that will be
extra useful during the holiday week. Extra Magic Hours allow resort guests early or late
entry (schedules permitting) to the four theme parks. Dining reservations may be done
up to 180 days in advance and Fast Pass+ reservations for select rides and attractions
up to 60 days in advance with a booked resort package. If you aren’t staying on
property, you won’t be able to access these benefits.
Additionally, theme park closures due to crowd capacity are the most common this
week. Magic Kingdom especially has been known to begin the early stages of capacity
closure well before noon on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. As
the early stages begin, resort guests will still be able to access the parks, while those
staying off property will be turned away by the time they hit the parking booths – even if
they have already purchased tickets.
2. If you aren’t an Early Bird, become one (at least for this trip).
Early arrival at the theme parks is strongly recommended. Crowds will be relatively
lower early in the day, and you’ll be able to accomplish more “must dos” on your list.
Leverage those aforementioned early Extra Magic Hours if they are scheduled for your
main desired park, or arrive at the gate about 30 minutes before park opening for the
morning “rope drop” celebration.
If you’re planning to spend the day at Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day, New Year’s
Eve or New Year’s Day, or Epcot on New Year’s Eve, it is recommended that you arrive
early and plan to stay until park closure. Crowds are highest on those days, and if you
try to leave and come back, it may be in the final stage of capacity closure where no one
is allowed in for safety’s sake.
3. Take in the holiday magic – it only happens once a year!
Walt Disney World takes the most magical time of the year and ups the ante. If you plan
to arrive in the days before Christmas, you may be able to purchase tickets for the final
nights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. This special
admission, after hours event includes a special parade, complimentary hot chocolate
and Christmas cookies, and a special lighting of Cinderella Castle. Our family’s favorite
activity is spending Christmas Eve in Epcot’s World Showcase exploring the Holidays
around the World. Each country’s pavilion includes décor and storytelling surrounding
special holidays. Santa and Mrs. Claus in the American Experience pavilion is a
highlight, as is Father Christmas’ storytelling in the United Kingdom. This annual event
is included with your theme park ticket.
Resort hopping is also a fun (and free). Each Walt Disney World resort is unique, so
you’ll you get to see a resort you may not otherwise visit. Colossal, themed trees and
holiday decorations abound within in each of the resort hotels. My personal favorite is
located in the lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, which includes
decorations inspired by the animals and cultures of the continent of Africa. Take a
Monorail ride to visit Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to see the gingerbread
house, and a short boat or bus ride to Disney’s Beach Club Resort to view the
gingerbread carousel. Look for special “hidden Mickeys” for more fun!
4. Patience isn’t just your friend. It is your best friend.
Large crowds and longer than normal wait times for pretty much everything shouldn’t be
only expected, but baked into your planning. If you’re waiting for a ride without a
FastPass+ reservation, enjoy the amazing decorations and the interesting ride queues.
At Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Magic Kingdom, a perennial ride favorite of the little
ones, the wait queue includes a play area and pagers. Over at Expedition Everest in
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the queue is a tribute to the numerous Himalayan explorers
as well as the infamous Yeti. Search for “hidden Mickeys” anywhere and everywhere.
Make new friends. Time will pass, and you’ll be on your favorite attractions before you
know it. We’re all there for the same reason, so be patient and be kind to your fellow
What are your favorite tips to making the most of the holidays at Walt Disney World? Share
them with us below!
Jen Trinidad is a member of the Modern Travel Professionals team and an expert in Allergy-Free Food Travel. Traveling with a loved one with food allergies is scary. Jen can help you regain peace of mind so you can enjoy your vacation without worry. Whether you are planning to visit one of the Disney destinations, Universal Orlando Resort, cruising or enjoy an all-inclusive Caribbean experience, Jen is there to help your loved ones stay safe. Contact Jen today!