Sunday, December 27, 2015

Walt Disney World at Christmas

Walt Disney World and Christmas combined, what could be better? We thought the same thing and headed back to Disney December 18-24 this year to enjoy the holidays.

I have to admit that even after 25 trips and lots of experiencing planning magic for myself and all my Disney clients I was still apprehensive because of crowd levels.

We were more than pleasantly surprised by the ease of this trip. However, I have to admit having a lot of experience, choosing the right resort and working to avoid crowded times made all the difference.

Here's my tips!

Location, Location, Location

  • If you can swing it, stay on the monorail. Yes, I realize how expensive this is but it is a sure fire way to avoid major crowds and congestion. We never got stuck waiting for a bus to Magic Kingdom or EPCOT. This saved a lot of headaches.
  • We chose Polynesian for this trip because of the recent refurbishment and because there are only a few resorts we haven't stayed at previously. We all enjoyed the resort. I liked it as much as I did Grand Floridian. I would look at price in determining which one to stay at in the future.'s a requirement, not a request
  • HONESTY Alert: Parent fail...our son never napped on request.  When our kids were little and should have napped we never chose to return to the resort because it would take a 45 minute bus voyage each way and then getting them to nap would take an hour and might not happen at all.  If you are a superior parent (high five) and can be confident your child will nap this is the plan for you.
  • We traveled this time with 7 people. Four were adults and the other three were 14, 16 and 17. We had no trouble getting everyone to take a break. 
  • We went to park opening which by the way, was 30 minutes EARLIER than the published time even in addition to magic hours. So, when park hours were 9am-1am, then early magic hours stated 8am for Disney resort guests, the gates were wide open at 7:30a.m.
  • Much to the chagrin of my teens we woke up by 6:15 and got on the monorail after pop tarts in the room at 7:15.  We immediately went for Space Mountain (another valid attempt is to head for Adventureland or Frontierland.
  • We stayed until about 2p.m. Then returned and napped until 6:30p.m. Cleaned up and headed to a scheduled meal in our resort at 7:30pm
  • We returned to Magic Kingdom at about 9p.m. and the parks were deserted after fireworks and the first electrical light parade.
  • We walked on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad three times in a row with no wait. This was also the case with every ride in the park other than 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.
Plan your fastpasses intentionally
  • There is not one master fastpass plan. I'm sorry I know you wanted a game plan that is perfect. I can't give you that.
  • However, let me tell you some things that went really well for us and my rationale behind them.
  • If you stay on property you can make your fastpasses 60 days in advance for your entire length of stay.  You will get to select 3 fastpasses for each day but they must all be in one park.
  • Once you use each of those 3 you can go to an in park kiosk and get additional fastpasses.
  • During busier times of year (anytime school is out): the fastpasses left after you have used your first 3 (which will be around noon) are not fastpasses you need.  Initially people thought it was best to make your fastpasses early in the morning so you could get more. I disagree.
  • Get to the park at park opening and you will ride several rides quickly without fastpasses as long as you head LEFT at the castle.
  • Have your fastpasses start around 11am. By then the slower risers are up. ANOTHER advantage is that you can leave a grouchy teen in the room to join you at 11 for fastpasses.
  • By 1:30 you can stop to eat then head back to the resort.
  • LAST NIGHT by our last day we have been to every park and we will just be going to do whatever we want to see one  more time. So, I made our FIRST fastpass the Fireworks viewing area at Magic Kingdom. We all loved it and it was a great way to finish our week.  Once the fireworks ended at 8:30 we had 3 fastpasses then the park was once again empty!  During this day everyone could pair off and go to whatever park they wanted to visit again or see shows they missed. (of course you have to have a park hopper for that)
Hopper Passes
  • I'm generally not pushy about hopper passes. In fact, I discourage them when traveling as first timers or with young children because getting between the parks is a hassle.
  • HOWEVER, it was really nice this week to start in a park with extra magic morning hours then leave once the crowds came.
General Tip
  • The  park with Extra Magic Hours will be the busiest park on property each day.

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