Heading the the Disney Parks on a Holiday can be incredibly magical, and overwhelmingly stressful. Here are 5 tips to make your holiday trip to the parks as stress free as possible.
- Get to the Parks Early!
If you must go to a certain park on the actual day of the holiday GO AS EARLY AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN! As many visitors learned on New Years Eve, you will get turned away at the gate. And a parking refund can’t make up for the emotional upheaval of having your Disney Dream stopped before it really starts. Because, once the parks reach max capacity, that’s it. And if you’re turned away at one, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get into another. This holds true even if you are staying on property! Now unused tickets do not expire, however once you’ve used your first day you only have 14 days to use your tickets unless you go back add the no expiration option to your trip tickets.
There’s actually a good reason why they have to stop people at the gates. There are legal codes for how many people allowed in a certain area at a certain time and no one wants to spend the holiday as a sardine, not even for a chance to say you were in the Magic Kingdom on New Years. So, if you want to get into the parks on Christmas or New Years go as early as you can to make sure you get into the park. This is the perfect time to experience rope drop at the parks.
A last note: once you’re in the park DO NOT LEAVE UNTIL THE DAY IS DONE! So make sure you have EVERYTHING you need BEFORE you go. I wouldn’t even recommend going back to the car for anything. Disney even offers lockers inside the gates for stashing all of your extra stuff if you absolutely need the space.
2. GO to the seasonal rides first
Each season and in each park there are special events set up for your holiday enjoyment. Make sure you take the time to go to those while you’re there. If it’s Christmastime, get a seat for the Holiday Wishes at the Magic Kingdom Park or the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. If it’s the Food and Wine Festival in the fall go to the demonstrations!
I suggest going to them first because they are seasonal, which means unless you only go to Disney during a certain holiday you won’t get to experience these activities and attractions. I understand if your first trip coincides with a holiday you may want to skip the extra events in favor of the classic must do’s like the mountains and Soarin’ but if you are a frequent park goer and you can stomach skipping the year round attractions in favor of the seasonal then I would suggest doing so. You won’t be disappointed!
3. Plan your food stops
Dining at Disney is one of those things that can be wonderful or completely aweful, and rarely because of the food itself. The venues are usually crowded or booked solid weeks in advance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have the joys of amazing Disney Dining experiences.
My first suggestion here is to get the My Disney Experience App. You can get reservations or update reservations directly from the app. You do need to give a valid credit card to make the reservations and if you cancel within 24 hours of your meal you will be charged $10 per person. The reason for this is that everyone wants to get into the restaurants and the fact that you got the reservation means that someone else didn’t. SO if you don’t show that means that someone out there could have been eating there instead but still isn’t. The $10 is a way to make sure that tables don’t get wasted. It isn’t a ‘got ya’ type of thing, but a way to ensure that the people who get the reservations will use them.
If you can’t get into the restaurant of your choice you can still go for the quick service meals. All menus can be found online and are updated periodically. You must keep in mind that you CANNOT RESERVE A TABLE AT A QUICK SERVICE DINING PLACE BEFORE YOUR FOOD ORDER IS MADE! So keep your group together until you get through the cashier. Then have a few members scope out a table and start setting it as the others wait for the food. If you try to scope a table before the rest of your party has gone through the line then you will be turned back by the guards (cast members) at the doors. This way the people with the food don’t have to find a curb to sit on while people without food sit and wait at the tables. If you have members of the family who are too little to wait that long then I’d suggest either waiting just outside the restaurant or using that time for a restroom break. It will take you as long to get through the restroom line as it will for your other party member to get through the food line, you can meet up at the table afterwards.
4. Tickets for the Special Events: Needed or Not
During each season Disney offers special events. Some of these events have been combined into special event nights. On those nights the park in question closes early and only people with tickets to the event area allowed to stay. If you can, you should try to get advance tickets to one of the Special Event nights such as Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
I called this tip Tickets for the Special Events: Needed or Not because in a lot of instances you actually don’t need the tickets to get to see the shows and parades offered at these parties. So if you can’t get tickets, don’t panic. Just be aware that the events also offer special extras like character meet and greets and in the case of the Halloween party, chances to dress up in full costumes with out getting odd looks (Although I have done this during the regular Disney day, it is much more acceptable during the party). In general, as the closer you get to the Holiday you are visiting on the more ‘extras’ Disney shows during regular park hours. For example: the Mickey’s Christmas Party boasts a special parade, castle lighting, and snow. Well, get closer to Christmas and you’ll see all of those things during regular park hours. However you will have to get your seat to these events almost 45 minutes early to get a good view and the crowds will be massive.
So I’d say get the tickets if you can. The amount of tickets sold for any given night is significantly less than the maximum park capacity. But if you can’t, don’t panic, but make sure you cut extra time out of your schedule to make room for any holiday events the park is offering and to counter the lines and crowds.
5. Do Not Over Plan
The one thing you do not want to do before you go to Disney during the holidays is write down everything you expect to get done on your trip. Plan for you mealtimes and have a list of preferred activities for each park but don’t plan on much more than that. The holiday’s are magical at Disney, but you won’t get to experience as many attractions as you would in other seasons. That said, even in the Off Season the chances of getting onto every ride and into every attraction are very slim so you shouldn’t expect to. Allow for a lot of flexibility in your holiday schedule or you are going to become disappointed or frustrated which will taint your visit a bit.
So relax. It’s a holiday. Don’t stress. If you take your time and go with the flow you’ll be able to handle the crowds. Check on wait times and find the places where traffic is low. Get your Fastpasses for things that you must do and be flexible for the in between times. If you are starting to stress, take a moment or two to calm down before moving on. Pace yourselves, especially if you have young children. Go in with the expectation that whatever you get to do or don’t do doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you and your loved ones are in Disney making new memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives! So happy Holidays everyone!