No question, a Disney Park vacation is magical. And if you can believe it, taking a holiday vacation to a Disney Park offers even more pixie dust!
However, the holidays are a popular time to vacation at Disney Parks — so here are 9 helpful tips to help you navigate the crowds.
1. Know Before You Go
There are definitely a few things you can expect at the Disney Parks during the busy holiday season – there will be seasonal shows, parades, and ride overlays. Expect special treats and holiday décor. Also know that there could be large crowds and potentially long waits for everything from dining to the diaper changing station in the bathroom!
2. Pick Certain Days for Your Holiday Vacation
Guests can still receive all the holiday magic without actually visiting on a holiday. After Thanksgiving and before the week of Christmas will still present holiday seasonal offerings in the Parks but without the big crowds.
3. Arrive Early and Stay Late
Arriving for “rope drop” is easy if your baby is an early bird! By arriving about a half hour before the Park opens, you’ll have prime opportunity to avoid some of the lines that will soon build.
Just after the fireworks spectacular at night, throngs will leave the Parks as well. If Baby can stay out late (or can sleep in her stroller) consider staying in the Parks until closing to take advantage of the lighter crowds.
4. Have a Plan
Study the Park maps ahead of your trip and roughly plan out your day. When crowd levels are high, walking through the Lands can sometimes be a challenge. Be sure to plan for the rides and attractions you really want to see!
When visiting Walt Disney World, resort guests with pre-purchased tickets can also schedule their FastPass reservations in advance. This will definitely shorten your line wait for popular attractions.
Inside the Disneyland Resort, I recommend that guests take advantage of the new MaxPass system (additional cost to the Park ticket). This system allows guests to use their mobile device to schedule their FastPass reservation remotely. Such a time saver!
5. Make Advance Dining Reservations
If you’re planning on eating at any full-service or Character dining experiences, you’ll need to make Advance Dining Reservations. Pre-trip, you’ll book your restaurant reservation for a set day and time. This will definitely minimize wait time on your vacation. Make sure to include your baby in the guest number for the reservation, so they’ll have room for a high chair at the table!
6. Pre-Plan Your Holiday Shows and Entertainment, and Arrive Early
The seasonal shows, parades and live entertainment are not-to-be-missed! Check the entertainment guide on the Disney Parks website pre-trip to schedule the shows you want to see into your plans. Walt Disney World guests can use the My Disney Experience app to add entertainment into their daily vacation calendar.
Also, make a point of arriving early for shows to secure seating. For parades, keep Baby in his stroller and “park it” at the curb so he has an unobstructed view!
7. Make a Break for It — with Caution
Are the crowds so thick you can’t even move the stroller? You could leave the Park to take a break back at the hotel or use your Park Hopper to visit another Park.
If it’s a wildly busy holiday (in particular, New Year’s Eve) and you’re thinking about leaving and returning later, think again. It’s best to stay put inside one Park and not do any Park Hopping, in case the other Parks have reached maximum capacity.
8. Explore the Resorts
You don’t even need to be at the Parks to enjoy all of the holiday offerings that the Disney Resorts have during the holidays.
In California, the three hotels at the Disneyland Resort have uniquely themed holiday décor inside each lobby. My favorite is the enormous gingerbread house inside Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa!
At Walt Disney World in Florida, plan to visit the deluxe resorts located on the Monorail line. From stately Christmas trees, creative gingerbread designs, and special Character meet n’ greets, there’s lots of holiday magic to experience!
9. Sit Back & Soak in the Spirit!
When taking a Disney vacation, you have enough going on with keeping Baby content. Things don’t always go as planned. Dealing with extra crowds and long lines may prove additionally frustrating.
In those moments, take the time out to just soak in the spirit of the season. Find an out-of-the-way area to sit back and indulge in a holiday treat (peppermint bark, yum!). Take the time to look at the detail and beauty of the holiday décor. Slow down and savor the moments with your family. These magical memories are what the holidays are all about!