8 Tips for Enjoying Walt Disney World at Christmas

Walt Disney World at Christmas is a special time when the theme parks and resorts put their best foot forward with lights, music, entertainment, and much more. But, all of that holiday fun attracts big crowds that can cause headaches if you’re not prepared.

We’ve visited Walt Disney World around Christmas and we think these tips can help make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful. Check out our eight tips below and offer your own in the comments section.

Mickey and Minnie in the Christmas parade at Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom’s parade is a holiday highlight.

8. Plan Ahead and Make Reservations

Planning ahead might seem obvious, but it’s remarkable how many guests head to Walt Disney World during peak crowds with little or no plans. Plan out which parks you’d like to visit and when. And, perhaps most importantly, make your dining reservations as far in advance as possible. They fill up fast.

We also recommend planning ahead each day if you’re going to mobile order food from quick service restaurants. Mobile ordering is super convenient, but on busy days return times (when you can come back to get the food you ordered) may take longer than you’d expect. Keep an eye on return times and don’t be afraid of ordering lunch or dinner well in advance.

All of that said, you don’t need to plan out every single minute of your trip. Even attempting to do so might be a waste given how wait times can fluctuate and how important it is to be flexible. Have a plan, but don’t be married to it.

Jingle Cruise sign at Magic Kingdom.
The Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise during the holidays at Magic Kingdom.

7. Be Patient and Expect to Wait

There’s no getting around the fact Walt Disney World at Christmas attracts some of the largest crowds of the year. Lines are going to be long for just about everything. Attraction lines can exceed two hours (or more) as the parks fill up. It’s a sea of people all trying to do the same thing. You’re going to wait and there’s really no getting around it.

Pack your patience. It’s redundant to say, but it’s critical to practice. We’ve seen too many meltdowns by guests of all ages in the theme parks. Unfortunately, the high prices to visit Walt Disney World puts a lot of pressure and high expectations on many guests. That’s a recipe for a disappointing trip, but it can be avoided with the right mindset.

We also recommend planning ways you can kill time while waiting in line. If you’re going to brave a long standby line for a popular ride, you’ll want a way to make the wait pass as quickly as possible. Many guests will play games on their phones, ask each other trivia, or even read books. Just be courteous to the other guests around you.

Living with the Land holiday overlay at EPCOT.
EPCOT’s Living with the Land is even better with lights and decorations.

6. Don’t Expect to Do Everything

It’s impossible to do everything at Walt Disney World in one visit. That’s true whether you visit during the busiest days or during the offseason. There’s just too much to do!

We recommend picking out a few key things you want to do at one theme park each day. Maybe it’s watching a parade or riding a specific attraction. Then, once you’ve accomplished that, the rest of the day is a bonus. Avoid the feeling of missing out. You won’t be able to do everything, so it’s really not even worth trying to do everything.

The groups we’ve seen who are the most stressed are the ones who are trying to do literally every ride and show, and then implode (yelling, tears, general anger) when it doesn’t work out. Set a manageable and realistic list of must-dos.

Holiday projections on the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The Tower of Terror takes on a festive look at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

5. Allow for Extra Travel Time

Walt Disney World is a big place. It’s the size of a small city (seriously – read about it here) and it takes time to get from one park or resort to the next. Disney provides free transportation between its theme parks and resorts, including buses, boats, Monorails, and the Disney Skyliner.

As convenient as Disney’s complimentary transportation is, it can get backed up and bogged down. That can be a problem if you’re running late for a dining reservation. We recommend giving yourself plenty of time when traveling between a Disney resort and a theme park. Give yourself an hour (or more) to travel between a resort and a theme park if you’re using Disney transportation during peak crowds.

Give yourself extra time. Even if you’re driving yourself.

EPCOT's Candlelight Processional with Geena Davis.
EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional with Geena Davis.

4. Prioritize Holiday Entertainment

Walt Disney World does the holidays really well. The decorations are beautiful, the entertainment is fun, and the holiday cheer is easy to get engulfed in. If you’re making a point to visit Disney during Christmas then it only makes sense to take in all of the holiday extras.

At Magic Kingdom, the Christmas parade and fireworks show are truly spectacular. At EPCOT, the Candlelight Processional is one of those classic Christmas experiences that we highly recommend. Even Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom have some great festive decor.

We’ve waited extra time to make sure we had a great spot for the Christmas parade at Magic Kingdom rather than cramming in an extra ride. We’ve sat and listened to the Voices of Liberty in The American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT rather than rushing to the next attraction. Slowing things down and prioritizing the holiday offerings made our trip significantly better and enhanced those Christmas vibes.

Gingerbread House at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.
The giant Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is edible art.

3. Stay at a Disney Resort (If Possible)

Let’s be honest here – Disney resorts are significantly more expensive than nearby third-party hotels. Disney’s resorts also don’t offer many of the same amenities that can be found for less money at off-property hotels (like a continental breakfast). But, the perks that Disney resorts do offer can come in clutch during the holidays.

Guests staying on property can utilize Early Theme Park Entry, which allows guests to enter a theme park each day 30 minutes before its posted opening time. Even though that 30 minutes may not sound like a lot (the old perk was an hour and we wish that would return), it’s enough to knock out one of the most popular attractions at the park you’re visiting with a reduced wait.

Deluxe resort guests may also enjoy Extended Evening Hours at a theme park, depending on the operating schedule. Click here to learn more. Any opportunity to experience the parks with a reduced crowd is a valuable perk that might be worth the extra money.

An added bonus is the holiday decor at Walt Disney World hotels that ranges from really good to outstanding. The giant Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and the decorations at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are two of our favorites. Some Disney fans will even travel around the different deluxe resorts to check out their decorations. It’s a fun and affordable activity if you want a break from the parks.

Dinosaur Gertie with Christmas decorations in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Even Dinosaur Gertie is in the holiday spirit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

2. Take Breaks

Not even the most die-hard Disney fans can wade through large crowds for hours and hours without a break. Normally, we recommend guests staying at a Disney resort should plan for an afternoon break back at their hotel. But, during Christmas that strategy might not be the best due to longer travel times and crowds that will remain high throughout the day.

Instead, during the holidays we recommend taking a breather while you’re at the theme parks. This could be accomplished by planning a table-service meal (maybe lunch?) or a snack break that gives everyone a chance to sit, relax, and get away from the hustle and bustle. Recharging for even 30 minutes can do wonders, especially if you’re planning to stay in the theme parks from open to close.

Fake snow falls on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.
A snowy (soapy) scene on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA.

1. Remember Why You’re There – Fun!

A Disney vacation can be magical, memorable, and extremely fun. Don’t forget why you’re there! Even if something goes wrong or doesn’t work out as hoped, don’t let the wheels fall off the vacation. Take in the sites, enjoy the holiday offerings, and try to have fun no matter how crazy or busy it might be.

Remember, Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth. That magical feeling is multiplied during the holidays as long as you go with the flow, embrace your inner child, and follow some of our tips above.

What advice do you have for guests visiting Walt Disney World during the Christmas season? Leave your tips in the comment section below.

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David
David
David is a Disney travel expert who created Notes from Neverland in 2018 after visiting Disney theme parks countless times. Previously, David spent way too much time writing about sports, and was featured in Sports Illustrated, MSN, Yahoo!, and in many other publications. Learn more or contact us.

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