Minimizing Stress for Seasonal Disney World Trips
No place is more magical than Disney World, especially during the holidays. When you pair a fairytale setting with gorgeous Christmas décor, swirling snow, and seasonal cheer – you’ve hit the jolly jackpot.
That being said, holidays in Orlando are also busy and crowded. Many people take their annual trips during November/December. And even more people love being in the parks on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
This makes seasonal trips tricky to navigate. Higher crowds and demand can make it hard to go with the flow.
Lines will be longer, restaurants will be booked up, and last-minute splurges will be hard to come by. But don’t fret.
Despite the opportunities for disappointment, you can be a proactive traveler. With just a little pre-planning, you can still have a blast on peak capacity days.
Check out of my tried-and-true tips for holiday trips!
Long gone are the days when I stay at hotels with bus-only transportation. Don’t get me wrong, the Disney buses are fine.
But during peak season, the wait times and lines can be quite long. And getting an actual seat is a miracle. Combat the bus crowds by staying at a hotel with alternative transportation.
For example, there are three hotels on the monorail line. The Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century, and Art of Animation all have access to the Skyliner. And lastly, several Crescent Lake hotels provide walking paths to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
No hotel offers a completely bus-free experience but eliminating bus access to at least one park will make a difference. (The Skyliner is easily my new favorite ride in Disney World.)
Make Advance Dining Reservations
This is not a time to skip ADRs. Even if your favorite places are booked, reserve at least one sit-down meal a day.
I recommend this for a variety of reasons. First, after elbowing crowds all day, you won’t want to stand in quick service lines and fight for a table.
Secondly, you’ll appreciate a guaranteed time to sit for roughly an hour. And lastly, you’ll avoid decision paralysis of “Where do I want to eat?”
If you aren’t thrilled with your options, keep checking the app until reservations open or look for day of walk-up availability. A little app stalking and persistence has gotten me a coveted table or two.
(Don’t forget that mobile ordering is a lifesaver for quick snacks.)
Bite the Genie+ Bullet
No one likes paying for Genie+, especially those who remember free FastPass+. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable.
If you don’t want to waste half your trip in bloated lines, you’ll need Genie+. (I think Genie+ provides the most benefit in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.)
You won’t skip every line, but you’re guaranteed to get on some heavy hitters.
Geni+ seasonal prices can hurt, but so can several hour+ lines. Within reason, it’ll be worth it in the end.
Visit the Parks on Party Days
Because guests must leave the parks early (unless they have a party ticket), many people skip MK and HS on early-close nights. This is a mistake.
Guests who attend the parks on party days benefit from dramatically reduced crowds. In fact, I’ve gotten more accomplished on party days than on rope-drop Magic Kingdom days.
Take advantage of party days and use the early close time to get dinner at Disney Springs or a deluxe hotel. Or you can buy a party ticket and make the day extra epic.
Just don’t discount party days. They are a hidden gem.
Focus on “Free” Seasonal Offerings
Special ticketed events are great, but they’re also expensive and crowded. Depending on your party size, MVMCP could be a stressful evening.
Instead, you can focus on seasonal offerings that are included with your park ticket. Examples include:
- View the “Once Upon a Christmastime” parade when it starts to run daily in the Magic Kingdom
- Do some deluxe resort hopping to see larger-than-life decorations, including the life-sized Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Wait in the free standby line for EPCOT’s “Candlelight Processional” concert or simply listen to the concert from the World Showcase walkway
- View all the themed Christmas trees throughout Disney Springs (no park ticket required!)
With just a little homework, you can embrace lots of Disney holiday magic at no extra cost.
Set Realistic Expectations
Last, but not least – setting reasonable trip goals will make/break your trip.
As I keep saying, Disney World is extremely popular around the holidays. (Mid-December is no longer the “off-season”.)
Unfortunately, this can mean longer lines and fewer rides for you. But don’t be discouraged!
Don’t gauge the success of your trip based on the number of rides ridden or characters seen. Take a breath and truly enjoy everything you get to do.
Being able to visit Disney World at all is such a gift, and even more so during the holidays. Taking time to stop and smell the roses (or poinsettias) is worth it.
From all of us at MickeyBlog, I wish you the happiest of holidays and a Merry Christmas!
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