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by Disney Diva

Tips for surviving Disney World during Christmas through New Year's and other times the parks are packed.

In late September I received a phone call from Dave, who is a DEAR friend of Disney Dad’s and mine. Dave was calling with a Disney question. “We are thinking of taking the girls on a surprise trip to WDW from Santa. What do you think?”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, I screamed into the phone as if he was giving me news that they were moving away.

Let me be clear when I say that you’ve gotta be 34 flavors of CRAZY to go to Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Years or the fourth of July weekend. I mean, nuttier than the fruitcake you’re getting from Aunt Edna. Think of Walt Disney World during that week as a sequel to the most insane Black Friday experience you have ever had and multiply it by a thousand. If the picture above (notice the wreath on the lamp-post) doesn’t make it clear to you, nothing I can say will.
And although our dear friend is normally a completely rational human being, he’s decided to buck the Diva’s advice and make a go of it. I figure he will at least be able to do some reporting back to me about how bad the waits were and what times exactly they closed the gates to new people, so I’ve not kicked him out of my Disney lovin’ cult of friends, but I’m worried about the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome effects when he returns.

I have tried to minimize the stress to his family by, once again, planning his trip. However, its hard because its basically going to be insanely crazy no matter what.  But know that I was expressly told to keep it a bit loose as the other family going with them doesn’t have the desire to be driven like cattle from ride to ride the way I normally design my plans.

But I thought if you’ve decided to make a go of it I’d give you a few important tips.

1. ALWAYS BE THERE AT PARK OPENING. Fact: Once a park reaches its “capacity” for the day they “close” the park to any guests coming later. Yeah, so this means that parks are REACHING capacity and often mid-morning/early afternoon. Nobody knows what “capacity” actually is because Disney does not release it, but its rumored to be around 69,000 for Magic Kingdom. They’re opening parks at 8:00 am Dec 26- Jan 1 this year  and MK is open until 1 am almost every night that week, so they’re obviously TRYING to accommodate the psycho amount of people, but… well… think sardines. The earlier you’re there the shorter the lines will be (although they’ll still be longer than what you’re use to).

Crowds at WDW

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FASTPASS SYSTEM. Hopefully you have already made Fastpass reservations for your favorite attractions or “must do’s”. If not, you can still check back, but don’t expect the popular attractions to have much to choose from (if any). The lines will still be long, but a fastpass will at least make your wait in line a little more bearable (and hopefully dramatically shorter).

3. GO TO THE RIDES YOU WANT TO DO MOST IN THE MORNING! Normally I don’t have you crossing parks EVER because it wastes valuable energy. However, when you’re doing WDW during THIS week you want to do the rides you want to do MOST FIRST THING and try to get them out of the way, because the lines and the fast pass returns will only lengthen. Have a plan, but realize that your plan may get killed depending on how many people are coming in the park that day.

4. TAKE A DEEP BREATH! Ready for the straight talk portion of this post? You are not entitled to act like a jerk to anybody else in the park just because you paid a lot of money to be there, even if it’s a “once in a lifetime trip”. It is not acceptable for you to yell at total strangers, jump over strollers or stop short with people on scooters and then have the nerve to yell at them. Shut it! Everybody’s semi-miserable. Just take a deep breath, realize you chose to come during this time and make do with what you’ve got.

5. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS You need to seriously lower your expectations of how many attractions you will be able to get done from Dec 26-Jan 1. As in SERIOUSLY LOWER THEM!!! Most of you will have never dealt with crowds quite like this before, so you need to just realize that its not like any other trip you’ve done before (even if you’ve done WDW at other times of the year) and that you just need to have as much fun as you can during that time. Don’t miss out on the great stuff happening still OUTSIDE the parks, like the great gingerbread decorations at the Beach and Yacht Club. Take the evenings off if you need to, the parks are going to be nutso anyway. So just go with the flow and do your best to soak up the atmosphere and don’t be concerned with crossing things off to-do lists.

Ok, well there’s are my top five tips for surviving that week. I understand that because of vacation time for some of you this really is the “best” week you can go, but as you can see from the picture above, its also THOUSANDS of other people’s best time to go. So just do the best you can and remember that a BAD day at Disney is still better than a good day anywhere else.

Good luck!