There is never a day at Walt Disney World when there is no crowd at all, but some days are a lot worse than others. Then there are the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter, and Independence Day are five of the busiest days of the year. The parks are going to be packed on those days. It is something that you need to see firsthand to truly understand, words cannot describe the holiday crowds.
Does that mean that you should avoid the parks if you’re in Central Florida for a holiday? Definitely not. You can still have a great time on one of the most crowded days of the year. Go into the parks with the right mindset and you’ll be able to maximize your time. That is what this list is for. Some of the suggestions here are common sense, but they still need to be said. Some of these tips come from my own personal experience. I love to hit the parks on the holidays, but I also know what to expect. I hope that this list will give you a bit of an idea of what to expect as well.
10) Arrive Extremely Early
This is a piece of advice that is given often when it comes to Walt Disney World. Never is it more important to arrive early than on a busy holiday. It will take extra time to park and then to get to the gate. (If possible, buy your ticket ahead of time, that will be one less line that you will need to stand in.) It will take time to get everyone through the front gate, even with the new system. If you arrive at the park of choice 15 minutes before the rope drops there will be thousands of people there ahead of you. Arriving as early as you can will get you and your family closer to the front of the line.
The same thing holds true for any shows that you plan to see during the day. Your Times Guide or My Disney Experience App might tell you that Finding Nemo: The Musical starts at 3:00. Don’t expect to show up at 2:50 on a holiday and get a seat. Arrive early and be prepared to wait until the theater is open. That’s the best way to make sure that you can see the show.
9) Be Prepared for Wall to Wall People
The crowds on a holiday move slowly and will engulf you and your family. Expect to be stuck in the middle of a group of wall to wall people. You will encounter many rude people on holidays. Don’t be one of them. Enough said.
8) Try Something Different
A crowded holiday is a perfect day to try something that you might have skipped otherwise. Discover a “great big beautiful tomorrow” at Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Dance along with the Tam Tam Drummers at Harambe. Help Figment annoy Dr. Channing. Take a second look at both your map and your Times Guide. or My Disney Experience App. You might find something that you have not done in the past that will become a new favorite.
7) Decorate Your Room
Whether you’re staying on Walt Disney World property or off, you are going to want it to feel like a holiday. Buy a few inexpensive decorations and put them up in your hotel room. Hang a garland and lights in the room for the Christmas season. If Easter is part of your trip, fill plastic eggs and hide them in the room for when the kids wake up. If you’re there on the Fourth of July bring a small flag and hang it where your whole family can see it. No matter what holiday you’re there for, bring or buy colored paper and take an evening off to make decorations with your children. You don’t want to miss the holiday feel because you are in a hotel room. A few simple ornaments can change that for you.
6) Check Transportation Options
Walt Disney World does not want you to have to wait forever to get to a park. This is especially true if you are at the Transportation & Ticket Center and are going to the Magic Kingdom. The line for the monorail is going to be insanely long on a holiday, you might want to take the ferry instead. That will still have a long line but they can fit a lot of people on the ferry. You also might want to ask a cast member if there is a bus running from the Ticket & Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom. If there is, that might be the fastest way to get you there.
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5) Make Dining Reservations ASAP
If you wait until the last minute to make holiday dining reservations, there’s a good chance that you will not get anything. You can make a dining reservation up to 180 days in advance. If you want to have a special holiday dinner, making early reservations is the best way to end up getting the one that you want.
You still need to eat on a holiday, even if you forgot to make a reservation. Guest Relations might be able to help you get a last minute reservation if one actually becomes available. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait in line at one of the counter service options if you stay in the park. Look at the menus here at Disney Dining ahead of time so you will know where you want to eat and what you plan to order. The last thing that you want to do is to waste everyone’s time by not being prepared when it’s your turn.
4) Don’t Expect too Much
If you are at Walt Disney World on a major holiday you will not be able to do it all. The more popular rides will most likely have wait times of two hours or more. Pick a few special attractions and make those a priority. Take advantage of FastPass whenever you can. Make sure that your kids understand that there will be things that you will walk right by that they will not have a chance to experience. If you expect too much on a holiday you will be disappointed. If you arrive knowing that you will do more waiting than riding, you will have a better time.
3) Enjoy the Decorations
This tip is meant especially for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The holiday decorations at Walt Disney World are phenomenal, take the time and really look at how incredible they are. You might even want to skip the crowds in the parks and explore the Deluxe Resorts on the holiday instead. The decorations in the resorts get better every year. A day spent admiring them is a day that you won’t soon forget.
2) Be Nice to People
Go out of your way to spread a little extra holiday cheer to the people that you meet. Thank the cast members and offer them a smile for a job well done. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line. Good moods are contagious. You will have countless opportunities to improve someone’s day while you are spending a holiday at Walt Disney World. Sometimes a kind word is all that it takes to turn someone’s day around. Be the type of person that you would want to run into if you were having a bad day. Don’t complain about the lines or the crowds, you knew that they were going to be there before you left home. Set an example for your children so that they will also want to be nice to others.
1) Avoid the Magic Kingdom
On a holiday, it is not uncommon for the Magic Kingdom to reach capacity and close to new guests until space opens up. If possible, avoid it and head to a different park instead. If you plan ahead of time to spend the holiday in one of the other three parks you won’t end up disappointed. When the park is full you are not missing anything by going elsewhere. The Magic Kingdom can hold up to 100,000 people. Do you really want to be stuck in the middle of that? Plan to spend the day in a different park and enjoy the slightly smaller crowd. Pick a different Magic Kingdom day for your vacation. If you really must see Cinderella Castle on a holiday, stop by the Magic Kingdom after the other parks close, since most likely it will be open later. Enjoy your day elsewhere and then hope that the MK crowd will have calmed down slightly in the late evening.