It’s been a while. Work has been extremely busy and my weekends have been full of travel, weddings, birthdays, etc. Things should return to normal now – I’ll get back to my countdown, foodie posts and of course, the reader emails (because my email is starting to fill up with Christmas questions!) Let’s get to one now!
My family really wants to experience Disney during Christmas, but honestly, we just can’t handle the crowds right now. We have two little ones, a 3-year old and 5-year old. My wife and I have agreed that we’ll wait a few more years before going on Christmas week. In the meantime, we’d like to spend a long weekend and drive down to Disney to see the decorations. Can you recommend the best time to experience Christmas at Disney outside of Christmas week?
Joe, South Carolina
Totally understandable! My cousin just gave birth to her second child. In visiting with her, we got to talking about when she’d finally bring the kids down to Disney. She said the same thing! She refused to go down during the summer, and while she’d love to join my family for Christmas, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle the crowds with two youngins’ just yet.
Christmas week is very crowded and with two young kids, it can be very difficult to navigate. The best time to visit Disney and experience the Christmas decorations would be the weeks between Thanksgiving and December 19th.
Thanksgiving typically sees pretty big crowds – nowhere near the crowds you’ll see during Christmas week, but crowded nonetheless. It’s very comparable to Easter weekend. If you’re looking for a long weekend, I’d recommend heading down December 4th or December 11th. December 18th may be cutting it a little close.
The crowds should be pretty low the weekend of December 4th. By then, all of the decorations should be up and you can catch Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The resort prices are also pretty low during this time. You can stay at a Deluxe Resort during this weekend for the same price you’d pay to stay at a Moderate Resort during Christmas week. December 11th is very similar price-wise, but you’d be just missing out on free dining, which starts up on December 15th.
If you go December 18th and stay at least two days, you’ll be eligible for free dining (depending on where you stay, if you add a park hopper, etc.) This is an interesting weekend to visit. It normally doesn’t get too busy, it’s sort of the “calm before the storm” that is Christmas week; but, there’s free dining. I think a lot of people are planning on arriving earlier for Christmas week to take advantage of the free dining. So long as guests check-in on or before December 21st, they will be eligible for free dining. My family even considered heading down on December 21st just to save on dining! I don’t think it’ll be nearly as crowded as Christmas week, but I do think it will be a little more crowded than most crowd forecasts are predicting. Visiting the weekend of December 18th would be a nice segue into Christmas week, and you’d probably be able to get out of there on December 21st – just as the crowds are starting to pick up.
So, I’d recommend December 4th or 11th to play it safe. You’ll save a good amount of money on your resort reservations and the crowds will be very low. If you want free dining, go with December 18th – but keep in mind that it will be more crowded than the previous two weekends and could be more crowded than crowd calendars are forecasting.