by Jerry Taylor
Our vacation is about to hit a snag. We’ve planned and re-planned our vacation and now the details are firm; a 4-day park hopper (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios) for the week of December 17th – 24th 2011 (we have a friend with a timeshare). Then I looked at past attendance records and my jaw hit the floor. I can’t believe the Christmas crowds at Walt Disney World.
I don’t want to spend my entire vacation waiting in long queue lines (I haven’t been on a vacation in about 5 years). Please help me make the most of this trip for my family. What park should I go to on what day/time to minimize crowds? Any helpful schedule you could suggest. What crowds can I expect – is it really as packed during Christmas as they say? Are certain times better than others? Any info you could provide would be very appreciated!
Dad’s remember to stop and smell the poinsettias Answer
I just love Christmas at WDW – Photo by Rich Ramos
Oh boy, this is going to be a doozie! Dad loves talking about Christmas at Disney World at any time of year but since we’re so close to the holidays, you’re in for one heck of a read. You might want to grab a cup of cocoa to get into the spirit of the season and get comfy….
Okay Jerry, I hear your pain, I really do – no one wants to spend their well-deserved vacation waiting in line to have fun. At Christmas time especially, you want your time to be filled with the magic of the season and special moments with your family. I know, I know, you’re thinking “But Dad, HOW is that going to be possible when the parks are packed to the rafters!?”
Take a breath and remember that you’re going to the Most Magical Place on Earth at the most wonderful time of the year…. Christmas is, in Dad’s humble opinion, the best time of year to visit Walt Disney World.
Sure, there are going to be crowds – but with some careful planning you can do your best to avoid them, make sure you visit most of the attractions, enjoy all of the special seasonal touches Disney adds to the holidays, and most importantly – spend time making special memories with your family.
First, if you have time, I suggest doing a bit of research before you go – you can get the whole family involved in this! Make a list together of the rides and shows you absolutely have to see, so that no one leave disappointed – you may not get to everything in 4 days, but you can sure do an awful lot.
Second, make a plan. The folks at Touringplans.com are the experts at this, and you might want to consider checking out their website – for a small subscription fee you’ll get top-of-the-line info on crowd levels in each park throughout your stay, plus they provide suggested touring plans to make the most of your time in each park. You can even download a mobile app to keep track of the lines instead of sprinting around the parks!
Since you have 2 travel days plus 6 full days with 4 days planned in the parks, make the most of those days! The closer you get to Christmas, the worse the crowds will be. I’d suggest touring the parks on your first 4 days to maximize your time in the parks with the most manageable crowds.
Even though you have Park Hopper passes, I’d recommend you stick to one park a day to avoid wasting valuable time in transit. The exception here might be the day you select to tour Animal Kingdom – since that park closes fairly early, you might wish to hop over to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom to take in the evening festivities!
Hard as it may be, being at the park BEFORE opening each day is the best way to ensure you have the lowest crowd levels to contend with. For more ways to beat the crowds visit…
If it were my vacation, I’d opt to spend the 17th-20th in the parks. I’d do Epcot on the first day, staying late to catch the Candlelight Processional. Next, I’d head to Disney Hollywood Studios, making sure to catch the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. I’d spend the third day at the Magic Kingdom.
And for the last day, I’d visit Animal Kingdom in the morning and return to the Magic Kingdom for dinner – or I’d spend the evening taking in Holiday Wishes from the beach at the Polynesian resort…. ahhh… heaven!
As far as those other days go, perhaps you’re planning to visit some of those parks outside the World (Shhh! Don’t tell Uncle Walt!). But there are loads of great activities for the whole family outside of the parks – Downtown Disney, water parks, mini golf (the Winter Summerland course is perfect at Christmas!), and the holiday displays at each resort are truly something special!
Dad’s Bottom Line
Jerry, don’t forget to “stop and smell the poinsettias.” Christmas is a magical time at Disney World – don’t let crowds dampen your spirits. Make a point of enjoying the special touches of the season. As long as you’re with the ones you love, you’ll have the time of your life!