So, you’ve surprised the kids and booked a family trip to Walt Disney World for the upcoming holidays. You are going at their busiest time of the year, from Christmas to New Year’s Day. My family hit the Disney parks last holiday season. It was cold and crowded, but with some strategic planning we were able to do everything we wanted and had a great time. You are on the right path by learning from our experience and how we had a memorable trip despite the crowds. Your family can have an amazing time too! Here’s how.

2012 Holiday Attendance

walt disney world orlando christmas

Last year, Disney closed all of theme parks except Hollywood Studios by 10:30 am due to capacity constraints. Disney does have around 100,000 visitor limit to ensure the safety and enjoyment of the parks. Once sufficient amounts of guests leave, the restrictions on park entry are lifted. But, who wants to spend their vacation waiting around for a park to re-open which was typically in the late afternoon or early evening?  Better to be an early bird. I hate to say it since you are on vacation, but you should set your alarm clock, so your family doesn’t miss out. Last year, parks opened at 8:00 am. We arrived well before it opened and braved the cold morning air and found it well worth the effort and chills.

Hold Off on the Park Hopper

A Park Hopper ticket provides access to multiple theme parks on the same day and it costs more than a Single Day Pass, which provides access to one theme park per day. We passed on purchasing Park Hopper tickets, since it was likely we couldn’t get into a second park after leaving the first park. If you plan wisely, you’ll find that each park has enough attractions to entertain your family for an entire day.

Single Day Pass or Multi-Day Pass

Single Day Pass is not the best deal. Discounts begin on three, four and five day tickets, so Multi-Day Pass is a better deal. Some of the best deals for purchasing tickets come through hotel packages. Do your research, before buying park tickets online.

Must Have Disney App

Download My Disney Experience app on your smart phone. It will keep you up to date on wait times at rides, location and schedule of favorite characters, and provide times for parades and fireworks. This FREE app was a life saver for us. We used it to determine which attraction we were going to go to next.

Be realistic and just accept you might not get to do everything that the Disney Parks offer. Figure out your top priorities. Head straight to the rides, shows or characters that are most important to your family first, then work your way through the rest. Use this app, it truly helped us save precious time to get most out of our Disney vacation.

Book Sit-Down Meals

Make a daily reservation for a table-service meal. An opportunity to seek refuge from the crowds will go a long way in preserving your family’s energy. A good warm meal while sitting in a climate controlled environment gets everyone’s hunger satisfied and their feet a break from all of the walking. It’s recommended to book in well in advance, but I had a friend who called the day before she was attending and scored a reservation from a cancellation.

Outside Food

Disney does allow visitors to bring in outside food. You can save big money by bringing in water, snacks, and even lunch. Whether you are on a budget or not, it’s nice to know you can bring drinks and snacks for the family. Having a few provisions could come in handy, so you don’t have to wait in a long line to purchase them.

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Layer Up

Don’t be fooled by Florida’s typically warm, sunny days. It gets cold there, especially if you are leaving your hotel before the sun rises like we did. Last year, it was hovering around 36°when we started our day. We bundled up with layers including hats, scarfs, and gloves. We peeled the layers as the day warmed up.  It does get cold standing in long lines especially in shady areas.

Be prepared, so everyone stays warm. A few years ago, my niece went to Disney over the holidays, and it snowed while she was visiting Magic Kingdom. While this isn’t the norm for Orlando, you will be well served to check the weather forecast to ensure everyone has the right type of clothes.

Now, you are armed with some helpful tips to make your family’s long anticipated Disney trip a fabulous one. Enjoy the magic!

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