My family was able to spend 7 days during Christmas at Disney World. This was my 7th time to Disney World and I’ve stayed on-property and off-property. It was also the first time I have stayed there over a holiday. Many of you may think we were crazy to go over Christmas as the crowds are much heavier. Due to various reasons, Christmas was the only time our family could all travel together. We slowed down a bit and just went with the flow and had a wonderful time. Here’s my Disney World trip report:
Is Christmas a zoo at Disney World?
The answer is – yes and no. With a bit of advanced planning you can have an incredible experience. I did a lot of things right as far as planning ahead. We arrived late on Dec 22nd. Dec 23rd we went to the Magic Kingdom and it was manageable. The crowds increased greatly from Dec 25th on. So if you can arrive a few days before Christmas, I strongly recommend it. We also got park hopper tickets so if the crowds were annoying in a park, we could skip on over to another one. If you’ve never been to Disney World, there are 4 main parks – The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Plus, there are 2 water parks and a shopping area called Downtown Disney. It’s huge!
Buy Your Park Tickets in Advance & Pre-Book Your Fast Passes
We bought our park tickets in advance. When you buy your tickets in advance you can reserve 3 fast passes per day in advance. If you’re staying at one of the Disney properties, you can book your fast passes 60 days in advance. For the non-Disney resort guests, you can book fast passes 30 days in advance. The wait times for the rides and shows can be considerable and so by having a few fast passes booked you get to take a separate line at the rides, which cuts down on your wait times a lot. I recommend this for travel year round at Disney World.
Book Fast Passes for late morning to afternoon. – Try and get to the parks when they first open and hit up the popular rides first. The waits won’t be as long. Then schedule your fast passes for later in the morning or afternoon. This is when the crowds peak and the wait times are the longest. With your fast passes booked during these times, you’ll be much happier.
We avoided the Magic Kingdom Park on Christmas Day. – Traditionally this is the busiest day of the year at Disney World. We opted to visit the Animal Kingdom Park on Christmas Day and the crowds were very manageable there. Our bus from out hotel to Animal Kingdom passed by the Magic Kingdom and the traffic trying to get into the park was backed up for miles. We later heard that at 10:10 am on Christmas Day, the Magic Kingdom had reached capacity and they were not letting anyone else in. So glad we weren’t there! We found the crowds increased a lot between Christmas and New Years. If you can plan to arrive a few days before Christmas, hit up the Magic Kingdom park early on and you’ll get more bang for your buck.
Book Special Restaurants in Advance
Every trip we try and book a few special dinners and some of the popular restaurants are by reservation only. For this trip we booked the Cape May – at the Beach Club as we love their seafood buffet. We also booked Benihana (off-property) for Christmas Eve as we couldn’t work out anything better for a Christmas type dinner.
Where Did We Stay?
For this trip, we opted to stay at an off-property hotel near Downtown Disney. In fact we were just across the street and our hotel had a private walking path to take us to Downtown Disney. We got 2 regular adjoining rooms. Each room had 2 queen beds and a small refrigerator in it. The hotel was nice and is the only non-Disney hotel that allows you the extra-magic morning hours usually reserved for Disney resort guests. Bonus! Talk to me as I’d love to help you set this up.
Our hotel uses the Disney buses to take us to all the parks, so we saved money by skipping the rental car. We also took a shuttle van from the airport to the hotel and back. By skipping the car rental, we saved money on both hotel parking and the parking at all the parks.
The Weather Was Perfect
We checked the forecast many times before traveling so that we knew how to pack. It was supposed to be around 65-73 degrees. In actuality it was 73-85 degrees and was perfect and sunny. 🙂 My brother and his wife drove up from Miami and joined us for a few days. They thought it was chilly at times. But, where we’re from Utah, we loved the temps and wished we had packed more shorts.
Buy a Disney PhotoPass Card in Advance
The pictures here with the special effects were taken by Disney’s PhotoPass Card photographers. When you buy the card, you can use their photographers to take all of your pictures at the best locations in the park. There’s no need to carry a heavy camera around. They scan your card after they take the photo. This also gives you access to all photos taken of you on the rides. When you return you get to put the special effects like the words on the photos and then download them all. You know you want to share your photos on Facebook and make all of your friends jealous. 🙂 When you buy the PhotoPass card in advance it saves you money. It think we paid about $150 and we saw it in the park for about $200.
Is it Better to Stay at a Disney Resort vs. Off-Property?
This is the big question and it all depends. Our budget for this trip only allowed for off-property and we had a great time! In the past we have stayed at some on-property resorts and enjoyed it more – especially the resorts that are close to the parks as we didn’t spend as much time traveling back and forth to the park. When we had really young kids it was nice to return to our resort in the middle of the day for a nap. We certainly couldn’t do that this trip due to the travel time. Some Disney resorts are still quite abus ride away from some of the parks, so they are not all equal in my opinion.
You Don’t Need a Rental Car
You don’t need a rental car if you are spending the entire time at Disney World. Seriously! If you’re staying on-property the Disney Resorts have a shuttle. If staying off-property, I can get you a shuttle that will take you and your family from the airport to your resort and back. This will save you a lot of money on hotel parking fees and fees for parking at the parks. Also, the shuttle will stop at the grocery store on the way for a 15 minute stop. Run in and get a bunch of snacks and drinks. If you have a mini-fridge in your room you can even get yogurt, milk, string cheese and fruit, and donuts for your breakfasts. This is what we did and it saved us a bunch of money vs. eating in the parks. For lunch we ate at casually in the parks and then ate better for dinner. The shuttle can be a car, van or even taking a limo is affordable!
Overall, we had an amazing vacation! I love Disney World! It’s one of my favorite places to take my family. I can talk about it all day. Please give me a call to discuss your next Disney World Vacation.