How to survive Disney during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving in a few days and Christmas and New Year’s Eve coming up quickly behind it, some of you may be heading to a Disney park soon. Visiting any Disney park during the Holidays is absolutely magical, however, it is one of the busiest times of the year.

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As I said, traveling to any Disney park during the Holidays is THE BUSIEST time of the year in the parks. Regardless if you’re headed to Orlando or Anaheim, you can expect LARGE crowds and LONG lines. Both Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park will reach capacity on Christmas Morning.

So how can you avoid long lines, big crowds, and aggravation? This is JUST the post for you!

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Here is my Guide on How to survive a Disney Vacation during the Holidays

Know what the park hours are

One of the most important planning strategies when heading to the parks during the Holidays is to know the park hours. ALL of the parks have different operating hours. Some parks open earlier than others, while others stay open later. Also, Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park will close earlier on the days there are Holiday after-hour parties. So you definitely want to have a good idea of what park you will want to head to in the evening if you’re not attending one of those parties. Also, knowing what time each park opens and how long it may take you to go there, is helpful so you know how early you need to be up and ready to leave each morning.

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Take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry & Extended Evening Hours

I cannot stress these next few points enough. Getting into the parks first thing in the morning is going to be your most productive time during the day without having to pay any extra to do so. Again, knowing the time the parks open is very important. Early Theme Park Entry is for Disney Resort hotel Guests, which allows guests entry into all four Walt Disney World theme parks 30 Minutes before regular park opening hours. These 30 Minutes will allow you to hit a couple of those super popular rides that will later have 60, 90, or even 120+ minute waits!

Rope Drop is always the most efficient, “free” way to accomplish the most in a short amount of time. “Rope Drop” is a term for hitting the parks right as; or slightly before, the parks open. Now with Early Entry being available every day at all four theme parks, it’s a little hard to rope drop if you’re not staying at a Disney Resort hotel. But if you are staying off property and want to attempt to rope drop, I suggest getting to the parks before park opening, that way you can make your way to the entrance and be some of the first off-property guests to enter once you are allowed to do so.

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Another way to survive those long waits is by taking advantage of Extended Evening Hours. Unlike Early Entry, Extended Evening Hours are just for Disney Resort hotel Guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts and Disney Deluxe Villas. These evening hours are on select nights at Magic Kingdom Park & Epcot. If you are traveling with older children or are on an adults only trip and staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort, this would be the way to go. Seeing that these evening hours can go pretty late and most little kids wont make it until 11pm, you might be able to take advantage of low crowds during these times.

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Rope Drop at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park!

Since Disneyland Park hasn’t brought back Extra Magic Hours rope dropping is definitely the way to go no matter where you are staying. Keep in mind that if you are staying off-property and driving to the Disneyland parking structures, make sure you account for the time it may take you to get from the parking structure to the front entrances. And again, checking those park hours you will see that the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park stay open fairly late some nights in the months of November and December.

Pay for Genie+

©Disney

This option may not be for everyone since this is a new paid add-on feature on the My Disney Experience app. The new Disney Genie+ will allow you to skip the standby line and use; what was Fast Pass, the new Lightning Lane. By using Disney Genie+ and skipping some of the super long lines, you will be able to accomplish more without sacrificing a lot of your time.

You can purchase this new feature for every day you have a theme park ticket or you can opt to pay for it for one day only. Know that you have to purchase it for each person in your party if they wish to utilize the Lightning Lane. For all the details, tips, and pricing information on Disney Genie+, click the links below for the full scoop.

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Remember to Take Breaks!

Yes! I know this might sound odd because you’d paid all this money to be in the parks, but yes. Take breaks! If you’re following my advice and hitting the parks first thing in the morning, you are going to be ready to head back to the resort come lunchtime. By lunchtime, the parks are going to start filling up. If you are going to Magic Kingdom or Disneyland Park Christmas morning, the park will likely reach capacity before Noon. Anyone traveling from off-property or those who want to get their beauty sleep, have now made it into the parks and the crowds and lines are continuing to grow. This is when I like to head back, take a dip in the pool, let the littles take a nap, or just cool off in the A/C (because in Florida it is still going to be HOT!). Then when you head back to the parks, you will be rejuvenated and have a whole new fresh set of patience.

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Disney Resort Holiday Decorations

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
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Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Another thing to do while you’re taking a break from the parks is to wander around the resorts and take in all the beautiful Holiday Décor.

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I’m not sure why but there is a huge Disney Resort misconception and it’s that people either don’t know or think that if you’re not a guest of that resort, you can’t walk around….and that is entirely UNTRUE!! You can visit any Disney Resort regardless of whether or not you’re staying there. And during the Holidays is one of THE best times to wander around and take in all the beautiful Christmas trees, Holiday decorations, and Gingerbread houses!!!

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
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Attend a Holiday Party

Disney Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park and Disney Merriest Nites at Disneyland Park are two additional ways to enjoy the Holidays while at Disney with *lower crowds. I say *lower because the parks are nowhere near as empty as they once were, but during these parties, you can still see and do a lot more than you typically would during regular park hours. These parties are ADDITIONAL and can be pretty pricey for families. One tip I always like to tell families is that if you are planning on attending an after-hours event or Holiday party is to buy one less park day (so instead of paying for a 5 or 6-Day ticket, only do 4 or 5-Day tickets) and have a relaxing morning/afternoon at the resort and then head to the party in the evening.

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During these Holiday Parties, you can expect lower wait times, special parades and nighttime fireworks, characters dressed in their Holiday Bests, specialty themed treats, and more! Know that the Holiday Party at Disneyland Park is sold out but there are still some tickets available for select nights at Magic Kingdom Park.

Enjoy Holiday Décor in Disney Springs & Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney
Disney Springs

A great FREE option to enjoy the Holiday decorations is by going to Disney Springs or Downtown Disney. Both outdoor shopping centers offer fun and festive Christmas Trees, lots and lots of garland with twinkling lights, and you might even find some holly and jolly window displays. Day or night, these decorations will definitely give you all the Holiday feels!

Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney
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I always enjoy heading to Disney Springs and Downtown Disney for a break from the crowds. Typically on the weekends, these locations can be busy but are nowhere near the crowds you will see inside the parks. You’ll be able to stay in the “Disney Bubble” while escaping the crowds and still being surrounded by all the Holiday cheer.

Disney Springs
Disney Springs
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If you are headed to the parks during the Holidays, I hope this post helps you. And that you and your family are able to have a cheerful Holiday vacation with minimal stress and a whole lot of fun!

Spreading magic one post at a time

Kristin

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