I love all your tips and tricks for Christmas! I just applied some of your tips to my vacation in May and they applied! We have friends going to Disney during Christmas (December 20-26.) I have an interesting question. What are some myths about traveling during Christmas week?
What an interesting question! I think that Christmas week at Disney World carries a lot of stigmas. One simple internet search will return tons of blogs about the crowds and how “terrible” it is to spend Christmas at Disney. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book – to fight those assumptions. Sure, some will travel and say “never again.” To each their own! Some people just don’t like crowds and frankly, I can’t blame them. As a New Yorker who commutes to work in Manhattan five days a week, the crowds never bother me! But you asked for myths, and the crowds are certainly far from a myth…
The Christmas Parade takes place on Christmas Day.
Myth. Like clockwork, every year I’ll receive a text asking “are you there?” Am I watching the Jonas Brothers perform?!? Did I just see Ariana Grande belt out “All I want for Christmas is You!” No, I didn’t, because the Christmas Parade is pre-recorded early in December. Disney usually records the nationally televised Christmas Day Parade within the first few days of December. If you visit Magic Kingdom during November, you’ll realize that Magic Kingdom does not have a Christmas tree. That’s because the Christmas tree does not go up until after the parade is taped.
Disney gets so crowded during Christmas that they close the parks.
Myth – kind of. One of the major reasons keeping guests from visiting Disney during Christmas is the crowds and the fear that the parks will close due to capacity. Disney implements phased closures based on the amount of guests in the park – it won’t simply “close.” As an on-site guest, my family has never been turned away. Albeit, we usually arrive at Magic Kingdom for Rope Drop or the morning EMH; but we usually skip the parks on NYE day and head to the parks around 8 or 9pm. We’ve never been turned away the night of New Year’s Eve, but I’m sure I just jinxed it!
Christmas is the most crowded day at the parks.
Myth. I’m not going by numbers, I’m simply going by the overall “feel” of the parks. Christmas gets very crowded at Magic Kingdom (the only park I’ve visited on Christmas Day,) but it pales in comparison to New Year’s Eve day. On New Year’s Eve, you not only have families and guests visiting Disney, but locals and people from around the area making the trek to Disney to ring in the new year. It’s the Times Square of the south, and rightfully so. The fireworks display on New Year’s Eve is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t imagine celebrating the holiday anywhere else!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party goes through Christmas
Myth – I fell for this one. On our first trip, I didn’t really understand Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I thought it was the name of a parade (not a party.) I made my family search the park for the “free” cookies and hot chocolate. We finally asked a cast member and she looked at us like we had ten heads. She then said “oh! you mean Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!” Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a separately ticketed event that takes place select days November 8th through December 18th.
It’s impossible to get on any rides during Christmas week.
Myth. I continue to preach this – plan your day and you’ll do fine. Will you see and do everything – no – but with the proper planning, you’ll be able to get in a good amount of rides. Use FP+ and Extra Magic Hours to your advantage. We do Magic Kingdom every year for Christmas. We usually arrive at 7:45am for the last 15 minutes of morning EMH. Between 7:45am and 10am, we’re able to ride Space Mountain, Small World, Buzz Lightyear, the Jungle Cruise, and still grab a quick breakfast. By 10am, the park starts to fill up. We’ll usually book our FP+ for 10am, 11am and 12pm and leave the park shortly after our 12pm FP+.
I won’t get any of my ADRs if I book my vacation too late.
Myth. Will a lot of your favorite restaurants not be available? Yes. But the belief that you’ll be completely shut out is false. We’ve booked our Christmas vacation as late as August. If you can’t get your first choice, book your second or third. Keep an eye on the ADR website. Some people cancel their reservations for one reason or another. Keep plugging away and there’s a strong chance that your desired ADR will open up.
I have to spend all my time at the parks.
Myth. This is a year-round myth. If it’s your first time at Disney, you should try and milk as much time at the parks as possible; but you probably shouldn’t take your first trip to Disney during Christmas week. Our family friends did it, but they were with us – and admitted that they’d be lost and overwhelmed without us as their “tour guides.”
There’s so much to do at Disney. You can spend an entire day shopping at Downtown Disney, you can go golfing, or even spend some time at one of Disney’s spas. There’s a ton of different things to do at Disney that aren’t just at the parks. During Christmas, there’s even more. Downtown Disney is a great spot to do some Christmas shopping. It’s wonderfully decorated and has plenty of places to shop or eat. I definitely recommend taking a break and touring the resorts. Each resort is decorated based on its theme.
The Deluxe Resorts are a must-see! Take a break from Magic Kingdom and ride the monorail to the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. The Contemporary and Grand Floridian each have a life-size gingerbread display. After touring the World Showcase at EPCOT, head over to the Yacht and Beach Club and the Boardwalk Villas, which are also wonderfully decorated. My favorite of the Deluxe Resorts is the Wilderness Lodge. It’s based on the Pacific Northwest and decorated to match its theme. I love grabbing a drink and sitting in front of the massive fireplace. It feels just like a ski lodge, only you can step outside (most of the time) without a sweater! Head over to the campgrounds in the evening for a horse-drawn carriage ride. Tons of campers decorate their campsites with amazing jaw-dropping decorations. Some people go all out – with tons of inflatables and figurine villages, while others go with simple multi-color lights. Regardless, the carriage ride is a nice way to relax and take in the holiday decorations.
You won’t enjoy your vacation.
I’ll end with the biggest myth of all. Is Christmas week at Disney for everyone? No. But it’s ridiculous to assume that you won’t enjoy the vacation because of the crowds. It’s a vacation! Can I guarantee amazing weather? No – the weather in Orlando during December is extremely inconsistent. I’ve been there when it’s sunny and 80 degrees, and I’ve been in Disney when it’s been in the 30’s! More times than not, the weather is gorgeous. If you can’t stand the crowds, enjoy the pool and the nice weather. If you’re like me and from the Northeast (or simply up north,) the Florida weather is a nice change and break from the cold weather.
Vacationing in Disney is work – plain and simple. It requires planning – and for some people, they’d rather not plan out every hour of their trip. That’s fine, but it pays off. Plan your FP+, plan your ADRs and plan your days at the parks. Use the EMHs to your advantage and take advantage of downtimes (like going on rides during the fireworks or heading to the park for rope drop.)
Editor’s Note: Just to clarify, the parks will often see phased closures during very crowded times. Very rarely does the park close to all guests, but it is possible.