5 Best Tips for Surviving the Holidays at Disney
Are you vacationing at Walt Disney World this week? Congratulations! I’m insanely jealous! You’re one of the lucky ones, spending some of the 12 Days of Christmas at the Most Magical Place on Earth. It’s a dream come true, isn’t it? You should savor every moment of it, and MickeyBlog is here to ensure that you have the best possible time. Here are a few tips on celebrating the holidays at Disney World.
Brace for a Crowd
I frequently reference TouringPlans in my writing. I love their exhaustive research into the wait-times of line queues at Walt Disney World. They grade expected crowd levels based on a 10-point scale with 10 denoting the largest attendance days.
The time between December 20th and January 2nd is the most trafficked period on the theme park calendar. In Touring Plans terms, think of every day at every park as a 10 out of 10. Technically, this isn’t entirely true, but it’s close enough to qualify as accurate. TouringPlans suggests that every day from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day is at least a nine out of 10.
In layperson’s terms, a nine out of 10 means that all of the major E-ticket attractions at Walt Disney World will have a wait of an hour or more. When you anticipate this sort of crowd ahead of time, you won’t feel as frustrated while you’re at work. If anything, you’ll get excited when you see some wonderful attraction with a lower wait-time.
This perception is a mentality. Think of it in these terms. When you’re super-excited for a movie, you’re likely to be let down because you’ve set your expectations too high. Conversely, when you aren’t breathlessly anticipating a movie, you have a better chance of feeling pleasantly surprised. The same thought process applies to theme parks. Lower your expectations, and you’ll (counterintuitively) maximize your chances at a great time.
When you have tickets to a Disney theme park, the last thing that you would expect is to hear that you may not get to enter the park. It’s a distinct possibility at Christmas, though. Disney has determined the maximum number of guests that they can service at a given time. The maximum occupancy is carefully enforced.
For you, this situation is good news/bad news. The good news is that Disney won’t let the holiday mobs get entirely out of control. The bad news is that they filter traffic through sellouts. Yes, Disney theme parks can and do sell out. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that you should expect a sellout at Magic Kingdom on several days starting on Christmas Eve.
Park officials address sellouts on a tiered basis. The first tier is that they won’t allow guests with basic tickets. Then, they’ll deny admittance to annual passholders. Finally, they’ll stop admittance altogether. Generally, this process starts as early as 10:30 a.m., which means that you should try to enter your park of choice at or close to the opening bell. Also, don’t plan on park hopping, especially if you want to go to Magic Kingdom later in the day.
Appreciate Your Surroundings
One of the most important tips I give my friends who are visiting Disney is comically simplistic. I tell them to stop, breathe, and look around. The surroundings at Disney theme parks are stupendous. During the holiday season, however, they’re that much better.
I was there the day that Magic Kingdom added its yuletide decorations. I must admit that I didn’t follow my own advice that day. I was too caught up in my itinerary to stop and appreciate my surroundings. Thankfully, my wife is smarter than me and forced me to take a look around. I felt a wave of serenity sweep over me right there on Main Street U.S.A.
From that moment forward, I was much better about appreciating all of the holiday touches at Walt Disney World. Frankly, I feel a bit disrespectful that I hadn’t done so before that moment. Imagineers expended a great deal of energy to convert the Disney campus into a festive celebration of the holidays. No matter how intense things get during your trip, please remember to take a moment and look around from time to time. I guarantee that the holiday décor will relax you.
Sample the Holiday Treats
Everyone reacts to that certain favorite holiday treat, the one that takes them back to their childhood. For me, candy canes and butter cookies are reminders of those exciting nights when I’d shake my presents and dream about the wonders inside of the packages. Tastes like gingerbread and peppermint are indelibly associated with the holidays for this reason, and I’m sure you have your own like hot cocoa or white chocolate.
When you’re visiting Walt Disney World over the holidays, you’ll have your choice of dessert delicacies. These dishes will take your back to your youth, but the recipes won’t be the ones that you remember. Disney spends a lot of resources perfecting their dessert recipes. They elevate their treats in ways that will tickle your taste buds while hypnotizing your eyes.
Have you ever had a macaron? The answer is likely yes…but have you eaten a Santa Belt Macaron? Exactly. Here’s a combination of four words that seems like a word salad pulled from a random generator: Gingerbread Funnel Cake Fries. Disneyland fanatics just gave me a knowing smile. The holiday desserts at Disney theme parks are so decadent that they make regular Disney desserts look like the vegetables you have to eat before you get your sweets.
Don’t Forget the Shows!
Disney hosts several nighttime presentations that are exclusive to the December holiday season. Well, many of them start playing during November, but that’s because Disney starts celebrating Christmas on November 1st. I approve of this decision.
Anyway, you’ll have your choice of several holiday shows. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! presentation uses fireworks, digital displays, and digital projection technology to tell an adorable holiday story. Plus, it stars Wayne and Lanny from Disney’s Prep & Landing, the most underrated Christmas special of the 21st century.
At Epcot, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth starts the same as you’ve always known it. During the holiday season, however, it adds a special flourish at the finish. Peace on Earth plays as special fireworks light up the night sky. It’s a nice touch, and the next week is the last time you’ll ever get to see it.
Magic Kingdom provides an unexpected bonus opportunity. Through December 21st, you must pay extra to watch Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. It’s an integral part of the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ticketed event. Starting on December 22nd, however, the parade is available for everyone…and it becomes an afternoon show, too! The daily performances are at noon and 3:30 p.m.
Holiday Wishes works the same way. Until December 21st, you must buy a $125 ticket to watch the presentation. During Christmas week, this show replaces Happily Ever After as the nighttime display for everyone.
You’re effectively getting free stuff as part of your regular paid admission! You definitely want to watch it, as the show is excellent. Plus, it’s the only time that you can view the classic Wishes exhibition with its memorable theme song that still gives me a (pleasant) earworm a year after its retirement.
Spending the holidays at Walt Disney World is the most magical experience possible. Just follow these tips to maximize your enjoyment and get swept away in the joy of the vacation of a lifetime!