Do you have any tips for a family of 5 for going the week of Thanksgiving? We have been to WDW 4 other times always the first week in December and love the no crowds!!! What should we expect this time??
This will still look the same – Photo by Tom Bricker
Dad’s Wall-to-Wall Answer
You’ve been lucky in the past to visit Walt Disney World during the first week of December – and you’re right, there are low crowds at that time! The week of Thanksgiving on the other hand, is another story – you should expect wall-to-wall crowds. But, Dad’s got a few tricks up his sleeve to help you cope with the crowds and even have some new experiences at the most magical place on earth!
On your last few visits, you’ve likely encountered the same light crowds for the first week of December that Dad predicts this year: little to no wait for most attractions, and 30 minute wait for the “big” rides. During Thanksgiving week, you’ll need to be prepared to wait up to an hour for all attractions, 2-3 hours for the “big rides” and even half hour waits at counter-service restaurants.
That’s a pretty big difference in crowd levels! Dad’s best tips to combat the crowds are to be prepared with an excellent PLAN and to take the change to enjoy Walt Disney World outside of the parks.
Step one is to get yourself a PLAN that ensures you spend as little of your time waiting in lines as possible, while making sure that you get to see and do everything that is most important to your family. This is not the time of year that you can expect to see every show and go on every ride, but it is the time to prioritize. Making smart use of FastPass or FastPass+ will help, as will arriving at the parks before opening each day to take advantage of lighter early morning crowd levels.
You should definitely consider getting the pros involved here. The folks at Touringplans.com have a planning tool that can help you find a recommended touring plan, or you can even customize your own based on the attractions most important to your family. They’ll also help you monitor the specific crowd levels for each park each day of your trip so you can make informed decisions on the best parks to visit.
Once you have clear expectations about how much you’ll be able to see and do in the parks due to the increased crowds, it’s time to consider what you can do outside the parks, enjoying all that Walt Disney World has to offer. Dining, shopping, and recreational activities throughout the resort are often overlooked but they are lots of fun and shouldn’t be missed.
Since you’ll be visiting during the Christmas season, all of the resort hotels and Downtown Disney will be decked out for the holidays! You can spend an afternoon touring the monorail hotels to see their amazing décor. Shopping at Downtown Disney, you can find most items that you’ll see in the parks and some unique items as well to stuff those stockings with souvenirs.
Dining outside the parks at Downtown Disney, the resort hotels, and Disney’s BoardWalk are all great options for unique restaurants, and you’ll be more likely to get an Advanced Dining Reservation at many of these locations than you will for restaurants within the parks. Even quick service dining outside the parks provides a break from the crowds with some great menu options.
There are loads of recreational activities outside of the parks as well: boating, biking, parasailing, Segway tours, golfing, Nascar racing, and more are available to guests at many of Walt Disney World’s hotels. Mini golf is popular too: Fantasia Gardens and WinterSummerland each have two courses you can play.
You might also want to consider watching Wishes from the beach at the Polynesian, or viewing Illuminations from Disney’s Boardwalk to see these firework shows without the crowds. Most Disney resort hotels also offer Movies Under the Stars nightly – a great, free activity for families!
Dad’s Bottom Line
Katy, the best advice I can give you is to make a great plan, and prepare your family’s expectations for this trip to be a different experience than your previous visits. Take advantage of the crowds in the parks to explore everything else WDW has to offer and have some new experiences that you might not have considered before. Have a new adventure, and a very happy Thanksgiving!