Always dreamed of being a Disney princess? Attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and you can do just that. Live somewhere warm where it never snows? Attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and see it snow on Main Street U.S.A. There are so many magical experiences in Walt Disney World during the Holiday season making it the perfect time to visit.
There is nothing more magical than spending the Holidays in Walt Disney World. Whether you are looking to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years, there are plenty of pixie dusted events to entertain the entire family. Traveling to Disney during the Holidays can be difficult as the crowds and prices are at an all-time high. We want you to enjoy every aspect of Disney during the Holidays so we have put together 10 things you need to know before heading to the Mouse House.
1. Holidays are Crowded in Disney – Try to be Flexible in Travel Dates
There is no way to sugar coat it. The Holidays are a very popular time to visit Walt Disney World. The kids are out of school for extended amounts of time and most adults have vacation time. If you are flexible and can avoid traveling during the peak Holiday weeks, this is ideal. Those of you planning to visit during Thanksgiving week or anytime after the 17th of December, prepare for crowds, large crowds. Touring Plans‘ Disney World Crowd Calendar predictions for the 2016 Holiday season show crowds at a level 10/10 (it doesn’t get any higher) for the following dates:
Thanksgiving Week: November 21 – 26, 2016
Christmas Holidays: December 18-31, 2016
While Thanksgiving Week is crowded, it is nothing in comparison to the Christmas crowds.
DIStracted Tip: Pack your patience and some games/items to entertain the family while waiting in line. My family loves playing Heads Up, Pokemon Go and searching for Hidden Mickeys.
Avoid traveling the week between Christmas and New Years at all costs. This is the busiest week of the year. Over the past several years the parks have reached capacity and have turned people away. If you are wanting to give the kids a trip to Disney World for Christmas, consider giving it to them a week early, or waiting to arrive on New Years Eve. The crowd levels on New Years day drop to a 7/10.
2. Consider Booking a Resort Residence
Resort reservations tend to book quickly. Very quickly. I always recommend booking Disney World vacations six (6) months in advance to secure all of your must-have reservations. But let’s be real for a minute. Not everyone knows that far in advance if and when they can travel. If you decide at the last minute you would like to visit Disney World over the Holidays, have no fear, you still have great options.
Considering a last minute trip to Disney World to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? While it may be difficult to secure on-site reservations in Disney, there are still resort residences available through Vacatia for Orlando vacation rentals.
Vacatia is a company that offers over 500 resort residences in different vacation destinations, including Orlando. Larger families will enjoy the extra space provided in the 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom condos that will fit all budgets. Imagine the money you can save cooking your own meals in your full kitchen. After spending a day in a crowded park think of how nice it will be to stretch out in a spacious condo. Planning a visit for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day? Book a resort residence through Vacatia and have the space to prepare your Holiday meal in your own room.
3. Purchase Park Hopper Tickets
You will thank me later. Clients tell me all the time they do not need to spend the extra money for Park Hoppers since they will only visit one park per day. If you are visiting during peak seasons (which the Holidays are most definitely peak), consider the Park Hoppers an insurance policy if you will. You are going to want the flexibility to be able to move to another park if the crowds become overwhelming.
Another perk to having Park Hoppers is for last minute dining reservations. For example – You tried to secure a dinner reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table and were unsuccessful for months. You are in Epcot and notice on the My Disney Experience app that dinner reservations suddenly became available for later that evening. Without Park Hoppers you cannot enter the Magic Kingdom to dine at the Royal Table. Make sense? Personally, I never travel to Walt Disney World without Park Hoppers for these very reasons.
4. Book FastPass+ in Advance
Book your FastPass+ attractions as soon as your reservation window opens. Seriously, book them the minute they go live. If you are staying on-site in a Disney resort your reservations will open at 7:00 a.m. ET 60 days in advance of check-in. Guests staying off-site may book their reservations at 7:00 a.m. ET 30 days in advance. Several attractions I would recommend securing a FastPass+ for include Frozen Ever After (Epcot), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom), Soarin (Epcot), and Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom).
5. Purchase Tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an absolute must-do. This special ticketed event is held on select evenings in November and December. While the tickets are a bit expensive (approximately $86/per person) they are worth every single penny. Imagine sipping a cup of hot cocoa while watching it snow on Main Street U.S.A. The only way to see this happen is with a party ticket. In addition, guests will enjoy snacks, dance parties, special character appearances, the amazing Holiday Wishes, watching Anna & Elsa perform in a Frozen Holiday Wish, and more!
DIStracted Tip: Purchase party tickets for a weeknight to avoid larger crowds. Many locals attend the parties over the weekends making for much larger crowds.
6. Thanksgiving Dinners require Advance Dining Reservations
Many of the Walt Disney World Resort table serve restaurants serve traditional Thanksgiving Day meals. These are highly sought after and require Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). One of the most popular Thanksgiving Day meals offered is at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. If you can score a reservation here, you won’t be sorry. Of course, you always have the option of grabbing a turkey leg and calling it a day.
Those of you (like me) who would prefer to have a more traditional meal should consider traveling off-site to one of the many Orlando area restaurants. Cooper’s Hawk Winery, located on International Drive serves a special Thanksgiving Day menu that will not disappoint.
7. Attend the Candlelight Processional
The Candlelight Processional in Epcot is another absolute must-do during the Holidays. Each night a celebrity narrator tells the biblical story of Christmas alongside a 50 piece orchestra and choir at the America Gardens Theater. Epcot admission is required. Guests can purchase a Candlelight Processional Dining Package for guaranteed seating, however, there is usually seating in the back. The Candlelight Processional shows take place 3 times daily: 5:00 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:15 pm.
The 2016 Celebrity Narrators include:
- Steven Curtis Chapman: November 25 – 27
- Neil Patrick Harris : November 28 – December 1
- Whoopi Goldberg : December 2 – 3
- Meredith Vieira: December 13 -15
- Joe Morton: December 19 – 21
- Cal Ripken, Jr.: December 28 – 30
DIStracted Tip: I have attended the Candlelight Processional twice. The first time we stood in the back of the theater and the second time we purchased the dining package. If you are physically able to stand, you will get the same experience without having to pay for the dining package.
8. Plan to Arrive at Rope Drop
Make plans to arrive at Rope Drop. What is Rope Drop? This is the time when the parks officially open for the day. There are many benefits to being one of the first people in the parks:
- If you are driving to the parks you will have the better parking spots.
- Your chances of being selected as the Family of the Day are increased.
- You can head directly to the more popular attractions and have much shorter wait times.
- The temperatures are cooler. (Yes, it can actually be hot in November/December in Orlando.)
- The crowds are a lot lower as many guests sleep in.
- You have an opportunity to take Crowd-Free Photos!
- You can ride more attractions without a FastPass+.
- And, important to many, you can be first in line at Starbucks!
9. Resort Hop to View the Decorations
Set aside time to resort hop to view the amazing Christmas trees and decorations throughout the Walt Disney World Resorts. One of the best parts about being in Disney World during the Holidays is being able to see all of the magnificent decor. Here is a brief list of my must-see resort decorations:
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Victorian Christmas tree and Gingerbread House
- Wilderness Lodge – Christmas tree standing at 4 stories tall
- Contemporary Resort – 17 foot tall Gingerbread tree
- Animal Kingdom Lodge – My favorite tree in all of Walt Disney World!
10. New Year’s Eve Activities
There is no shortage of activities offered for guests wanting to ring in the New Year Disney style. The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be open until 12:00 a.m. with Epcot remaining open until 1:00 a.m. (Animal Kingdom will be closing at 8:00 p.m.)
The Magic Kingdom will be hosting “Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks” just before midnight. Those guests who can’t quite make it until midnight can watch Illuminations in Epcot at 6:00 p.m. An encore performance will be held at midnight.
“Disney Countdown to Midnight – A New Year’s Eve Celebration” is a new hard ticket event starting at 8:00 pm on December 31, 2016 in the convention center at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
In addition, many of Disney’s Signature Dining locations will offer special New Year’s celebrations. Make sure to book Advance Dining Reservations as soon as possible.
The holiday season is the most magical time to visit Walt Disney World. Yes, the crowds can be overwhelming, but following these 10 tips will help eliminate unnecessary stress.