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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disney World in December
Last Minute Tips for Disney World at Christmas
December is such an amazing time to visit Walt Disney World. The theme parks and resorts are all decked out in their full Christmas glory and there is special holiday entertainment in each park. When something is this amazing, you know that people will be coming from every direction to see it; in fact, the week between Christmas and New Years is when Disney World is at its most crowded. Don't worry though, we've compiled a few tips to help you have an incredible Disney vacation.
All photos are my own. (c)Stephen Johnson.
Tip 1: Have good Disney World theme park touring plans.
Touring plans will literally cut hours out of the time you spend in line each day. Since your trip is coming up quickly, we recommend A subscription to TouringPlans.com - the subscription is only $12.95 and you can print their excellent touring plans at home or use their smart phone app.
Tip 2: Arrive at the Theme Parks at least 15 minutes prior to park opening!
Get FASTPASS+ reservations for the most popular attractions right away.
The parks are at their least crowded in the first hour or two of the day. It is so much better to arrive early and take a mid-day break than to arrive late and get in line behind everyone else.
You can make FASTPASS+ reservations up to 60 days before you arrive if you have a Disney World vacation package that includes tickets or 30 days prior to arrival if you prepurchase your theme park admission tickets. If not, you can make FASTPASS+ reservations at conveniently located kiosks throughout the parks once you arrive.
Get a FASTPASS+ reservations for these attractions:
- Disney's Animal Kingdom / Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari
- Disney's Hollywood Studios / Toy Story Midway Mania or Rock 'N Roller Coaster
- Epcot / Soarin' or Test Track
- Magic Kingdom / Space Mountain, Enchanted Tales with Belle or the Anna and Elsa (Frozen) Meet-and-Greet
The FASTPASS tickets will all probably be completely distributed by 11:00AM or Noon for these attractions. Remember that there is no extra cost for FASTPASS tickets, they are included in the price of admission.
Tip 3: Avoid early morning Character Breakfasts
I don't want you in a restaurant when the crowds are low, just to leave and get in line when the crowds are building. Get a late (brunch) seating or, better yet, book Character lunches or Dinners - you'll enjoy the lower morning crowds in the parks and then sit down to eat when you're ready for a break. Remember that character breakfasts are now confirmed with a credit card and subject to a $10 per person "no show" penalty - another big reason to avoid early morning reservations.
Tip 4: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom & Disney's Hollywood Studios Will Open to Everyone at 8:00AM on Select Mornings
For most of the year, the Disney theme parks open to the general public at 9:00AM so it is important that you know about special days where the parks open to everyone (not just Disney resort guests) an hour earlier - at 8:00AM. These early mornings mean Disney expects crowds so get there when the park opens and enjoy short lines, then take a mid-day break when the crowds build.
Disney hasn't announced the dates that they'll open to the general public at 8:00AM but we'll update this section once they do. In past years, they opened the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios at 8:00AM over Christmas week.
Disney World resort hotel guests can participate in a program called Extra Magic Hours where one or two parks may open an hour earlier to those guest than it does to non-Disney hotel guests. During the above dates, the morning Extra Magic Hour will begin at 7:00AM. Lines are incredibly short so take advantage of this, if you can get up that early, and come back to your resort for a mid-day break later in the day. If you don't want to get up that early on vacation, you may want to select a park that does not have an Extra Magic Hour.
Tip 5: Avoid Extra Magic Hours like the plague during peak travel times (when schools are out for Christmas)
The Extra Magic Hour park will be the most crowded park of the day and that morning extra magic hour means getting up painfully early for a vacation day. It may make sense to go to a less crowded park where you'll enjoy more attractions with shorter waits. Remember that the park hours are very long during the holidays - the Magic Kingdom is open to the general public from 8:00 to 1:00AM during Christmas week - do you really think you'll enjoy being there at 7:00AM or 1:00 - 3:00AM? Exhaustion may become a very real factor.
Having tried to discourage you, I'm going to turin around and say that adults and teens with park hopper tickets can enjoy the evening extra magic hours but know that there will be crowds and know that you'll be tired the next day. Remember our tip about arriving at the parks prior to opening to enjoy the lowest crowds and consider the cost if extra Magic Hours will cause you to enter a park late the next day when it is getting crowded.
Tip 6: Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade Tip
This wonderful nighttime parade is not offered every night and the Magic Kingdom will be more crowded on days featuring a Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade. The Disney's Main Street Electric Parade is not currently scheduled for December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, & 19, 2014.. When there are two parades, the later parade will be less crowded than the earlier. Frontierland is the least crowded place to watch this parade although it isn't necessarily the best place to watch the Wishes Fireworks, though you will have a decent side view of the fireworks any place with a view of the top third of the castle.
Want to see the afternoon Festival of Fantasy or Christmas parade? Here's a viewing tip: Watch the parade near the Emporium Gift Shop & the Fire Station near City Hall on Main Street. This part of the park is not crowded mid-day and you get to see the characters twice - once as they approach and then a second time when they turn and wave before exiting the park.
Tip 7: Tip for Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios will at least one performance per evening in December.
There might be three Fantamic performances on Christmas week. The first performance will always be the most crowded - the second performance will be less crowded and, when offered, the third performance will generally have the lowest crowds.
Tip 8: Heavy Crowd Warning - Avoid Magic Kingdom and Epcot on Christmas & New Year's Eve.
Go to Disney's Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom Instead.
If possible - avoid Magic Kingdom and Epcot on Christmas & New Year's Eve. These parks will be busy those days. Animal Kingdom or Disney's Hollywood Studios will be less crowded. Disney's Hollywood Studios will have fireworks on New Year's Eve.
If you do go to these parks on the holidays, have a good Touring Plan and arrive before park opening. TouringPlans.com offers special "Holiday Plans" that are worth their weight in gold.
Tip 9: Go to Quick-service restaurants at non-standard times
During Christmas break, try to eat lunch around 11:00AM and dinner around 4:00 - 4:30PM; you'll enjoy shorter lines at the counter and have an easier time finding a table.
Tip 10: Book your December Disney vacation through Build A Better Mouse Trip
Using a Disney-focused travel agent will really help you have a great trip. We eat, sleep and breathe all things Disney and will help with your itinerary, dining and touring plans to help you have a great vacation. We are a fee-free agency so you never pay more than if you booked the trip yourself.
Toll free: 877-815-6515
More Helpful Disney Resources...
You can receive this excellent Disney World guidebook at no extra cost when you book your Disney vacation through www.buildabettermousetrip.com
I keep a copy of this book on my desk at all times - tons of excellent information for anyone with a special need, whether it is big or small.
You can receive this excellent Disney World guidebook at no extra cost when you book your Disney cruise through www.buildabettermousetrip.com