If you’re visiting Walt Disney World during the 50th Anniversary Celebrations or the holiday season, there will be crowds. Lots of them. In the parks, at the bus stops, at rides, at restaurants, and in gift shops. They will drive you crazy, and you’ll wonder where all these people came from. Luckily, some good problem-solving can give you options regarding what to do when it’s Crowded at Walt Disney World. Here are our best suggestions.
With a slew of holiday activities at Walt Disney World, it’s no surprise that people show up for Christmas Vacation at Walt Disney World in droves. Events like Epcot’s Festival of Holidays, Disney’s Merriest After Hours Party, and all the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, naturally find Disney crowds at all-time highs. Even during non-holiday times, the parks can become busy.
Head to the Parks Early and Stay Late
And by early, we mean to be at the park gates really early. Think 7 AM. Check the Walt Disney World Parks Calendar for opening times. If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you have access to Early Theme Park Entry, which allows you access to the parks 30 minutes before other guests! This is a great way to get a head start on your day. And tackle those must-do Disney rides ahead of time. Throughout the holiday season at Walt Disney World hours vary, but crowds tend to die down after 10 PM. Check the park hours and plan to stay late if you can, just grab another cup of coffee and keep going.
Invest in a Disney After Hours Party Ticket
We’re not big on suggesting you Pay More for anything. But hear us out. As Disney After Hours events can range between 129-199 dollars a ticket, this Crowd Avoidance Strategy may not be for everyone. BUT, hear us out! You can skip the busy parks during the day and head to Disney Springs, do the Disney Resorts Christmas Decorations Crawl or take some much-needed resort downtime. Plus your time during an After Hours Party at Walt Disney World usually starts at about 7 pm and gives you about 3-4 hours of low wait times, hardly any crowds, and the chance to experience the parks like never before. For the holidays you can grab tickets to Disney’s Very Merriest After Hours Party. This Disney After Hours Event offers limited tickets on select nights and is a great way to enjoy Magic Kingdom without the crowds.
Know Where to Expect Crowds
Typically all the Walt Disney World Parks are busy during the holidays. But it does make a difference if you know the Best Days to Visit Each Park, which will naturally put you in the parks with lower crowds on certain days. That said, there are also typically crowded times that you can avoid.
- In EPCOT, festivals will be busiest from Thursday- Sunday. Avoid evenings and the weekend to make the most of those events.
- Magic Kingdom is the busiest park during the holidays. And is best in the early morning before 10 am, and evenings after 7 pm. Avoid Mondays in Magic kingdom, as this is when everyone starts their vacations and is always extra crowded on Mondays.
- While Hollywood Studios doesn’t have specific events that cause crowds, you will find crowds to be heavy throughout Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land.
- Animal Kingdom doesn’t get as crowded as other parks, simply because it has a lot of ground to cover. Crowds here tend to gather in Pandora due to the Flight of Passage ride, but most other areas are safe.
Have Backup Transportation Options
We can’t tell you how many times we hear that the Disney buses are “supposed” to show up every 20 minutes no matter what. In reality, Disney transportation is complimentary and not set to timelines. During the holidays you can wait for an hour or more for a bus when the parks are busy, so build in this time. Thankfully, Walt Disney World has several transportation options to get you where you’re going. They include the monorails to and from Magic Kingdom, the TTC Parking Lot, and Epcot. The Skyliner Gondolas to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from select resorts, and buses to and from Animal Kingdom. You can also catch a ride on ferry boats to select resorts. While all transportation options will be busy and have waits remember you can always call an Uber, Lyft Minnie Van, or a good old-fashioned taxi. Disney Transportation is complimentary and as a result, runs when it can run to the best of its ability but is by no means obligated to get you anywhere based on your schedule.
Leave the Parks
Sure you’re at Disney to enjoy the parks but you also just want to enjoy your vacation. If you can’t handle the crowds, use the heavily crowded afternoons to take a break from the parks. Head to Wilderness Lodge by boat for some much-needed downtime and hot cocoa. Or bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and take part in the holiday activities and crafts they offer all day long in the lobby. Check out the Holiday Decorations at all the Disney Resorts or the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs. There is no shortage of fun, free, things to do at Walt Disney World during the holidays.
Plan your Meals Ahead of Time
Plan to Mobile Order your quick-serve meals throughout the day. Standing in line at restaurants, especially during meal times, is unnecessary. Check the My Disney Experience app for participating restaurants. Have all your Advanced Dining Reservations been made? We suggest you have at least one table service meal booked for each day of your vacation. This forces you to take the time to eat, sit down, and refresh before returning to the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Check out all our favorite Disney Restaurants in Each Park to try.
Plan your Rides Strategically
Plan rides for when people are eating and eating for when people are riding! By eating lunch and dinner earlier or later and planning to ride rides at 12 noon, you avoid the restaurant and ride lines. Aim for lunch at 10am or 2pm, and dinner at 4pm or 8pm.
Choose your Disney Resort Wisely
Stay at one of Walt Disney Worlds’ many resorts for ease and convenience. We like the Disney Deluxe Resorts on Disney’s Boardwalk to keep us close to the action and away from the crowds. Check out all the Disney Resorts at Walt Disney World to figure out which one would be best for your family. Note that the value resorts and even some moderate resorts are booked to the max at certain times of the year due to groups, and schools visiting.
Consider Using Lightning Lane
The rollout of Disney’s new planning app, Genie+, has caused a stir with its Lightning Lane options; but we wouldn’t rule it out as a ride strategy. Although it can definitely be considered a splurge, it also can be really helpful for managing ride wait times during higher crowd levels. Spending less time in line will help you enjoy more of the Christmas magic. And while we generally prefer to travel on a budget, we also value our time, and Lightning Lane may be a good option to make more of yours during the holidays.
When it’s crowded at Walt Disney World it’s simply a matter of knowing your options. When to go, what times of year are worst and which parks to avoid on certain days. Get the important planning out of the way ahead of time, and you should be good to go!