Visiting the Walt Disney World Resort at Christmas time can be one of the most magical and memorable vacations you have ever taken. There are all of the normal Disney World attractions, plus all of the Christmas decorations, special events, and lots and lots of people like you trying to enjoy their own magical vacation.
In order to make sure that your Disney World Vacation memories are positive ones a little planning can go a long way.
Here are the top planning tips for your Christmas vacation at Disney World:
1. Make your Dining Reservations Ahead of Time! – This cannot be stressed enough. During busy seasons it is important to make reservations for meals that you would like to eat at sit-down restaurants before you get to Disney World.
Although it may sound crazy to make dinner reservations days, weeks, or even months ahead of time, it is much worse to spend your vacation time going from restaurant to restaurant only to be turned away because they are full. Remove the stress and make the reservations now. You can either make the reservations by phone (407) WDW-DINE or on-line.
If you are unfamiliar with the Disney Restaurants you can check out the official Disney World menus, or you can visit AllEars.net which has menus for not just the sit down restaurants, but also the counter service restaurants as well.
I would recommend not having more than one meal each day scheduled at a sit down restaurant. Although they are wonderful, making too many reservations limits your flexibility and can tie up your day.
2. Make a tentative schedule for which park to visit each day. This may be partially decided by where you get Dining Reservations each day. Since Dining Reservations can sometimes be difficult to come by, that is why it is the first step. If you do not have Dining reservations in one of the 4 Disney Theme parks, you should look at the park hours and Extra Magic Hours list to help you make your choice.
As a rule of thumb people flock to the park that has Extra Magic Hours for that day. If you do not have the Park Hopper option on your tickets, I would recommend that you avoid the parks with Extra Magic Hours, especially during this very busy holiday season.
They all will be crowded, but these may be a little less crowded.
Here is a link to the Disney World Park Hours.
3. Plan on getting to the parks at opening. This is sometimes difficult when you are on vacation, but it goes a long way towards keeping your stress level down.
After the initial surge of people that enter the park when it opens, there is a lull for the next hour or two. These first two hours that the park is open is your best opportunity to ride the most popular attractions. Once you get towards the middle of the day, the parks will be extremely full and lines will be long. By riding the most popular attractions during this low crowd time, you will be free to enjoy the other attractions while the crowds wait in line at the ones you have already been on.
4. Use the Disney World FastPass system. This is a free perk and you should take full advantage of it. Plan on getting FastPasses for the most popular attractions to avoid standing in line over 20 minutes. Do something more useful with your time instead of waiting in line. Your day will be much more enjoyable. Here is more information about FastPasses if you are not familiar with how they work: FastPass Details
5. Take middle of the day breaks. Don’t be afraid to leave the parks during the middle of the day to get away from the crowds. This is a great time to take young children back to the room to get a nap, or to explore the various Disney World resorts to check out the fantastic Christmas Decorations.
There are over 700 decorated Christmas trees at the Walt Disney World Resort during the Christmas season. Most of them have interesting or unique decorations. I would highly recommend visiting all of the Deluxe Resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Villas, Yacht Club, & Beach Club) to check out their decorations.
While visiting the resorts you can also grab a leisurely lunch away from the crowds at the parks.
6. Return to the parks in the evening to check out the night time decorations. The decorations at Disney World are spectacular and at night the added effect of all of the lights is amazing.
7. Visit the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios. With over 4 million lights, this is a must see during the Christmas season. It is a walk through attraction that occurs in the Streets Of America section of Hollywood Studios. For more details visit: Osborne Lights
8. Watch the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. Three times each evening at Epcot a celebrity narrator tells the Christmas story along with a choir of Disney Cast members and an orchestra. There are dinner packages available to get a guaranteed seat or you can wait in line to watch for free. Either way, it is worth your time and effort to see. The Candlelight Processional is a truly memorable experience.
9. Be flexible. Don’t let the crowds stress you out. Some times you need to adjust your plans. Just go with the flow and let the family vote on the options that you have before you. There are always plenty of good alternatives to see and do at Disney World.
10. Remember to take lots and lots of pictures. You will be surprised how fast your time at Disney World will pass by. Take a lot of pictures and you will be able to remember all of the great times you had during your Disney World vacation. Also remember that Disney World cast members are usually happy to take a picture of your entire group, on your camera.
11. Remember to watch the live entertainment and shows. Grab a guide upon entering each park to find the show times. Disney World is filled with amazing live entertainment that many people never know even exists, because they are so focused upon getting from one ride to the next. If you don’t see the parades and live entertainment you miss a lot of the magic that Disney World has to offer.
12. Visit Santa and themed storytellers from around the world in the Epcot World Showcase. Hear about holiday traditions in each of the 11 World Showcase countries. Pick up a park guide to find the times that they are available.
13. Visit Santa and see the decorations at Downtown Disney.
Although there are even more activities that are special during the Christmas Season (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party, Sleigh Rides, etc.) all of the ones listed above are included with your normal park tickets, so it is possible to enjoy all of these extras without additional expense.
By doing some planning ahead of time and following these tips, you can reduce some of the stress and make your Disney World Christmas Vacation one that you will remember forever.