We’re sure you’ve heard it over and over again: Walt Disney World can get crowded during the holiday season. This includes Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas seasons. It can get so crowded, in fact, that sometimes Walt Disney World parks reach maximum capacity. And even have to stop letting guests enter! Because, yes, it is that crowded at Disney for the holidays. And so it goes that just as the most magical time of year approaches, so does the most crowded time of year. But, just exactly HOW are you supposed to deal with this volume? You didn’t spend thousands of dollars to not ride your favorite ride, or wait in line all day, or not get your dining reservation, right? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with five ways to beat the Holiday Crowds at Disney World this season.
Get to the Parks Early
When we say, early, we mean really early. As in, before the park opens. Why? Because sometimes you may actually be allowed to enter before the park opens. And it’s the time of day when it will be emptiest. Arriving early ensures more time to enjoy the parks before the crowds start to roll in. If you’re not staying on Walt Disney World property, be aware of days that offer Early Theme Park Entry, or evening Magic Hours. While we love the extra hours, on days where this extra perk is offered to resort guests, you can plan on seeing the parks more crowded, earlier. Your best bet is to aim for an early morning arrival on days without magic hours. TIP: The time between park opening and 10 am is the least crowded, no matter the day.
Make an Early Morning Breakfast Reservation
One of our favorite ways to beat Holiday Crowds at Disney World is to make an early morning breakfast reservation. Not only does this get you into the parks before everyone else, but if you time it right, your breakfast can actually be finished before other guests arrive. With this strategy, you’ll be closer to your favorite rides, experiences, and shops before the crowds even start arriving! And can snag a spot in the front of the line at your favorite rides first. TIP: Restaurants like Crystal Palace and Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom and Akershus in EPCOT Norway are your best bets for breakfast reservations.
Eat at Off-Peak Times
When planning your meal times consider the benefit of eating off-peak times. Tables at Quick Service restaurants will be hard to find during peak meal times, and booking your Table Service reservation may mean crowded restaurants and waiting longer to be seated. An 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. lunch will have shorter wait times, just like a 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. dinner. Plus, an earlier or later meal can cut down your wait times for food and get you into the parks when everyone else is eating. This means shorter lines at rides when you’re ready for them and better table availability when you’re ready to eat. It’s really a win-win all around. TIP: Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom, Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom, and Spice Road Table in Epcot are great options for last-minute table-service dining.
Skip the Parades and Shows
While we are all for the fireworks shows and the parades, if that’s not your thing or you’d rather be exploring the parks, this is a sure way to cut down wait times. Ride queues and Character Meet and Greet lines drastically drop during shows and parades. With fewer people competing for a spot in line, you can plan on visiting the most popular Disney World rides, without high waits. While we wouldn’t recommend missing all the parades and fireworks, skipping a few shows will give you a much less crowded park to enjoy. TIP: Check out the shows you most want to see ahead of time, so you can make a plan. Visit the Walt Disney World Entertainment page for details of shows and parades happening in each park.
Stay out Late
We are always in awe at the mass exodus that occurs after the last show of the night. All four Walt Disney World parks actually intentionally stay open for one extra hour after closing time, so there is no need to rush out of the parks with everyone else. In fact, you’re technically allowed to get in line for any ride one minute before the official park closing time, which means by the time you wait in line and get done with the ride, you’ll be in a practically empty park. And staying out a little later will also help you avoid a crowded line at the Disney bus depot if you’re staying on property.
Holiday Crowds at Disney can mean waiting in long lines at rides, at the bus, and at the gift shop. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season ruin your vacation! If you plan accordingly, this time of year can be just as magical as visiting during the not-so-busy season. Remember these 5 tips for beating the crowds at Walt Disney World to make sure the most wonderful time of year is truly the most wonderful. Happy Vacation!
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .