Walt Disney World’s Festival of Holidays at EPCOT is one of our favorite ways to ring in the holiday season! If you’re heading to EPCOT for the holidays, then get ready for seasonal foods, decorations, performances, and a brand new scavenger hunt game with Olaf. BUT… if you’re battling crowds, blowing your Disney budget, or don’t know the best times to visit, your holiday experience at Walt Disney World will be a whole less magical. Here are all our Festival of Holidays Tips to help you make sure you have the best Christmas vacation at EPCOT.
When is the Walt Disney World Festival of Holidays?
This year the Walt Disney World Festival of Holidays runs November 27 – December 30, 2020 at EPCOT. This event runs from park open to park close. Festival of Holidays includes outdoor kitchens in each country of the World Showcase, and Future World. You can also see performances, play a scavenger hunt game, and experience different cultures for the holidays.
Best Time to Visit Festival of Holidays
The Best Time to Visit Festival of Holidays is Dec 1- 14. As noted in our Cheapest and Most Expensive Times to Visit Walt Disney World post, December 1- 14 is Adventure Season. These first two weeks of December have less crowds and cost less than right before Thanksgiving or too close to Christmas.
Disney Holiday Crowds at EPCOT
Dealing with International Festival of Holidays Crowds. Ahhh, it wouldn’t be Christmas at Walt Disney World without the crowds. Crowds at Walt Disney World during the holidays are crazy! Starting the week of Thanksgiving guests can plan to see long lines, frustrated families and delayed transportation. You can take advantage of the free Disney transportation to get you anywhere. But don’t plan for it to be “on time”. With 10 times more guests than usual buses, monorails and the Disney Skyliner gondolas fill up fast. Disney Pro Tip: If you’ve booked anything involving a reservation plan to drive yourself or walk if you can. Waits at the bus stops can sometimes be an hour or longer. And with additional Covid restrictions, busses are only seating several family groups at a time on Disney transportation.
Florida Weather in Winter
It’s important to Dress for the Florida Weather. You may not believe it but Florida in the winter gets chilly at night. So bring a lap blanket or a hoodie if you plan to stay for the evening shows. And plan for a cup of hot cocoa or two. Check out our entire Winter Packing Guide for Disney, to get an idea of all the things you may need during the chilly season. Disney Pro Tip: Use the gift shops to get in out of the cold. This will give you time to browse the holiday merchandise and warm up before your next holiday storyteller or show.
Best Disney Resorts To Stay Near Epcot
If visiting Walt Disney World specifically for the festival consider staying at the Boardwalk Inn or The Beach Club. Both have walking access to the Epcot International Gateway Entrance and offer a great way to make the most of the festival by avoiding transportation chaos and being able to take breaks throughout the day at leisure. Disney Pro Tip: We also like the Swan and Dolphin Hotels if you’re looking for something cheaper you can grab on hotels.com and still get close to the action.
Disney Transportation Tips
Have we mentioned it’s busy at Walt Disney World during the holidays? If you’re staying at a Disney Resort on the Disney Boardwalk in walking distance to EPCOT then you’re golden. But, if you’re not staying close to EPCOT, then you’re best bet to get to and from Festival of Holidays is to stay at a Disney Skyliner Resort and take the Disney Skyliner Gondola to the International Gateway. This stop at EPCOT brings you to the entrance near the UK area in World Showcase. Using the gondolas will keep you out of bus lines, the busses, and monorail. While driving to Walt Disney World is always a safe bet this time of year, so you have a little control over your transportation and wait times, if staying on site the Disney Boardwalk Resorts or Skyliner Resorts are a must. Disney Pro Tip: We LOVE the Caribbean Beach Resort on the Disney Skyliner line. By far one of the most budget-friendly Disney Resorts you can find beaches, food, access to Disney’s Riviera Resort and a general sense of calm.
Disney Festival Budget
When we talk about the importance of Planning a Disney Budget, that becomes double important if you’re visiting during a festival. At Festival of Holidays there are 16 food kitchens, and in general one treat at a food kitchen is gonna cost you on average 5 dollars. So, while you may not want a treat at each booth, chances are you will go through money like nobody’s business. So you should definitely have a Festival Food Budget. Your best bet is to decide ahead of time what snacks on the Festival Menus are on your must-try list. And base your budget off that. Maybe it’s 5 snacks per person in your group. Or less or more. Maybe you can skip lunch the day you go to the festival and just have a collection of foods from the kitchens instead. Disney Pro Tip: We highly recommend loading a Festival of Holidays gift card with your food budget for the day so you can keep track of your spending along the way. They come in a special Festival edition that has a wrist cord, for easy spending.
Make Time for Fun
As Disney Vacationers we are often guilty of going with a Disney To-Do List. While planning ahead is great for your budget, and sanity, it can also feel like you’re just checking things off. So, to help keep things fun we usually like to play the festival scavenger hunt game, grab coffee and take a break to find Hidden Mickeys, stroll the gift shops, watch a performance and visit the Epcot Experience in the Odyssey Events Pavilion. The Epcot Experience is charting all the coming changes to EPCOT Park as it transforms over the next few years and is fun to browse. Disney Pro Tip: Let chunks of your day go unplanned. It will help you take notice of the things around the park that are happening. Disney Character Holiday Promenades at EPCOT are new this year. Make sure to stop and watch one!
Go with a Plan
Make your Festival of Holidays Must-Do List ahead of Time. Much like the Disney Budget you’ll need to pull together, knowing what is available during your vacation will make it that much easier to plan out if you want 1 or 2 days at the festival. If you’re eating at the outdoor kitchens throughout the day, or just picking up a few treats. Deciding if you’re going to see the performances, grab souvenirs, or playing the Olaf Tradition Expedition game are all things that you should know before you go! Disney Pro Tip: Check out everything to do at the Festival of Holidays so you can be prepared for your visit.
Ride Attractions at Meal Times
EPCOT festivals can get busy. Very busy. And while you can bet to find lines at the outdoor kitchens you’ll find even longer lines at the rides. So plan to eat at off times and ride while others are eating breakfast, lunch or dinner. Key times for low ride lines are 12-1pm and 5-7pm and any time there is an event happening like a parade or a performance. Making sure your time isn’t spent waiting in line is key. Disney Pro Tip: You can use this same strategy to avoid lunch and dinner lines too. Eat at off times- like 2-4pm or 7-9pm to make sure you’re not waiting in lines.
Plan Two Days
Sure, an EPCOT ticket is pretty expensive, but if you can swing it, this event- like all EPCOT Festivals– really needs two days. Mainly because the Festival of Holidays is mostly about food. And it’s difficult to just keep stuffing your face with everything you want to try into one day. Add in the fact that there are things you will want to do like Olaf’s Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt Game and the Cookie Stroll. At one point you’ll realize adding 15 more treats to try plus rides, plus performances won’t fit into your one-day plan. While you can smash it all in to one day, we prefer to go slower and savor the season, so we can really take it all in. With beautiful decorations in each country and cute seasonal items in the gift shops, just strolling through World Showcase is one of our favorite things to do this time of year. Disney Pro Tip: If you’re planning lots of things, 2 days can still feel rushed. Grab our Disney Printable Planner to keep track of it all.
Top 10 Tips for the Festival of Holidays at Walt Disney World
Hopefully these 10 tips can help you maximize your festival time this year. From all of us to all of you we hope you have the very best holiday at Epcot this year. The Festival of Holidays offers so many holiday things to do and so many memories, you and your family are sure to want to make this a holiday tradition. Have a happy and safe holiday.