15 Tips for Visiting Disney at Christmas

15 Tips for Visiting Disney at Christmas

The most wonderful time of year at Walt Disney World is Christmas! But with the ho ho ho and holiday cheer, comes great responsibility to not get caught in ride lines, bus lines, or without a meal you forgot to reserve. As such, we’re making this list and checking it twice for all the Tips for Disney at Christmas we could come up with. While the Holidays at Disney World bring Christmas decorations, seasonal events, and festive foods to try, it also brings crowds and a bunch of reasons you’ll want to go with a plan this year. Here are all the things to know before you go if you’re visiting Disney World for Christmas. 

Disney World at Christmas Tips

Celebrating the holidays at Disney Parks is always magical, but it’s also the most crowded and most expensive time of year. So how can you ensure that your Disney at Christmas time experience is everything you hoped? Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your holiday visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth, during the most wonderful time of the year. Here are our Top 10 Tips for Disney at Christmas.

christmas castle

Make a Daily Plan

Plan. While we love the magic of the season, nothing is better than knowing where you need to be when. Especially, when faced with the chaos in the parks that is most likely to ensue. Therefore, we ALWAYS recommend Planning Each Day of Your Disney Vacation ahead of time. Which Park are you Visiting? Where are you getting Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner? Do you need to make a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation? Or plan on being up early to join the Virtual Queue? Perhaps you’re considering grabbing tickets to a Dessert Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. 

Whatever your plans, take the time to figure out each day of your vacation. And be reasonable with your expectations. Disney at Christmas is always busier than you think, and everything will take more time. Having a plan for alternative transportation, or a backup plan, if things get overwhelming is also important. Leaving the parks to head to nearby resorts, or taking a break in nature at Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, is always a good idea, and can help during busy times.  

Book Your Reservations Before You Visit

Through the rest of 2023, you still need a Park Pass Reservation. As such plan to book your passes as soon as you know your vacation dates. This will give you your best chance at being able to get into the parks of your choice. Additionally, if you’re looking for any hard-to-get dining reservations at Disney, you can make restaurant reservations up to 60 days before your vacation. We highly recommend you have at least a few Disney Restaurant Reservations for your Christmas Trip to Disney World. Because, believe us, at one point you’re really going to want to just sit down, in a nice place, and be fed something amazing. As such you can peruse our favorite Disney Restaurants on a Budget. 

Hollywood Studios at Christmastime Santa Claus Merry Motorcade

Check Park Hours

During the holidays Walt Disney World not only has early morning entry and extended hours but they also have events at each park that could ruin your best-laid plans. As such, check the hours as you’re planning! You can take advantage of extended hours by arriving early or staying late to maximize your time in the parks. And plan to avoid days with parties in the evenings, unless you’re attending, so that you don’t have to leave the park early.

Therefore we recommend checking out our post on  2023 Disney World Christmas Hours and the app for everything from Park Hours for each Park to event times and performance times.

Keep Track of Show Times in the My Disney Experience App

At any time you can pull up the My Disney Experience App and check bus arrival times at your resort, performance times in the parks, ride wait times, event times, park hours, and more. Check out the  17 things you can do on the My Disney Experience App, to help make the best decisions on your Disney Trip. 

Disney during the holidays

Use Genie+ Lightning Lane and Virtual Queue

Disney’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane may cost money, but they can be a godsend if you’re hoping for shorter wait times, especially during the holiday season. Once purchased, be sure to choose the EARLIEST times for each attraction you choose, so that you will have time in your day to add more lightning lane passes, once your initial rides are completed. Be sure to check in with your family for their highest priority rides in each park. This will make it easy to determine which rides need Lightning Lane, and if you will need to arrive early at any parks, to head to your favorite attractions throughout your stay. Check out our Disney Ride Strategies post for tips and tricks. 

And if you’re hoping to ride TRON in Magic Kingdom, or Guardians of the Galaxy in EPCOT then you will have to grab a Virtual Queue Boarding Pass. Available in the My Disney Experience App, at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. ( for Disney Deluxe Resort Guests). This means you’ll have to be on the app at those times, in the park, to claim a place in line. 

Dress in Layers

One of our best Tips for Disney at Christmas is to dress in layers! In November and December, Florida weather can be unpredictable, so dress in layers. It can be cool in the mornings and evenings but quite warm during the day. And of course, it’s Florida, so you can also expect rain. We’ve been surprised in the past by how chilly it can get in the evenings. So if you’re planning to stay for the Fireworks shows, or late-night parties, bring layers! Check out our Disney Winter Packing list for our best recommendations. 

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life at Christmas

Arrive Early for Parades and Shows

Popular Disney Christmas parades and shows can fill up quickly, so be sure to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot. Whether you’re watching the Frozen Holiday Surprise Castle Lighting or waiting for the Tree of Life Awakenings Holiday Edition, arrive early. If you want to make the most of your time, have a person or two reserve your spot, while the others in your family grab snacks or drinks. That way, it won’t feel like time wasted. 

Avoid Park Hopping

On the busiest days at Disney World, the last thing you want to do is spend time traveling between parks. Whether it be the long lines at the Bus stop the Monorail or the Skyliner, all forms of travel at Disney during the holidays take time away from being in the parks. Skip the Disney Park Hopper ticket if you can, to avoid unnecessary waiting in lines during the busiest time of year. 

If you’re traveling from place to place be sure to know your Disney Transportation ahead of time. The Disney Monorail travels from the Magic Kingdom to the Monorail Resorts and the TTC. At the TTC you can transfer to a second monorail to travel to EPCOT. The Disney Skyliner travels to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios and the Disney Skyliner Resorts. And if you’re traveling to Animal Kingdom, the only transportation available is Disney Bus Transportation. There are also a variety of walking paths that allow you the chance to Walk to Disney Parks depending on where you are. 

Disney Christmas Snacks Reindeer Mousse at Hollywood Studios

Enjoy Seasonal Treats

Once a year Disney World fills the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs with holiday treats! At no other time of year can you get gingerbread, caramel, peppermint, or chocolate to your heart’s delight! Take advantage of the special seasonal treats and holiday-themed food items throughout the parks. You can find Disney Christmas Snacks just about everywhere, but be sure to check out the post where you can find each! Even coffees get dressed up for the season at the Starbucks WDW locations and Joffrey’s too!  

animal kingdom christmas

See the Disney Christmas Decorations

Walt Disney World is beautifully decorated during the holiday season. So be sure to take time to explore the holiday displays in the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. From elaborate Gingerbread Houses at the Disney Resorts to Christmas Decorations at the Magic Kingdom, there are a plethora of holiday decorations to see. Mickey Wreaths, kitschy 50s Christmas Decorations at Hollywood Studios, and the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs are all worth the visit. We highly recommend planning at least one non-park day so you can take the time to experience all the festive fun of Christmas at Disney World. Skipping the park ticket for a day is also a great way to save money! 

Disney Christmas Character Meet and Greets

During the holiday season, you can see Mickey and Minnie in their snowflake sweaters at Animal Kingdom’s Adventure Outpost. And certain Disney Characters at Christmas even get dressed up in different outfits. Princess Belle can sometimes be seen in her Enchanted Christmas Outfit and if you’re attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the characters get fun additions like winter scarves to their outfits. As one of the tips for Disney at Christmas, we recommend you check the schedules in the app for character meet-and-greet opportunities with a festive twist. 

Festival of the Holidays 2021

Make Time for Special Christmas Events at Disney World

In addition to a variety of events at Walt Disney World, you can check out our Disney Christmas Checklists to see what’s happening in each park at Disney World for the holidays. While Animal Kingdom at Christmas includes beautiful marionette animal puppets, EPCOT Park hosts the Festival of Holidays. These events and many others are free, but if you’re up for it, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios are special ticketed events that give you an extra dose of festive fun. 

Christmas at EPCOT for the Holidays

Use Disney Mobile Order

Disney World has some wonderful Quick Service restaurants that offer Mobile Order. This means you can simply order your food in the My Disney Experience App ahead of time and plan to pick it up, without waiting in line! During the busy season, we highly recommend using Disney Mobile Order as often as needed to skip the lines. 

No matter which park you’re in, we’ve rounded up our favorite places to eat at Disney World, to help you grab a real under $15 a person. Heading to Hollywood Studios for Sunset Seasons Greetings? Grab a bite at some of the Best Quick Service Restaurants in Hollywood Studios. Or maybe you’re planning to browse all the Christmas Decorations at Magic Kingdom? If so, there are plenty of flatbreads, sandwiches, and tacos at some of the Best Quick Service Restaurants at Magic Kingdom.

And if you’re heading to EPCOT for the Festival of Holidays, be sure to take a break for a meal. The Best Quick Service Restaurants at EPCOT offer a bunch of options in cultural cuisine from Mexican to Chinese, there is plenty to try. And if you’re headed to Animal Kingdom, you can check out the Best Quick Service Restaurants at Animal Kingdom, including great places to get loaded mac and cheese, dumplings, and more. 

Skip the Lines and use Mobile Checkout

Staying out of long lines at Disney World is one of the best Tips for Disney at Christmas. And if you’re shopping in the Disney Gift Shops you can skip the line too! Simply locate the sign that says Mobile Self Checkout, scan the QR code and follow the instructions! It’s easy to scan your purchases, pay in the app, and just check in with the cast member. Head to the checkout station for a bag on your way out! 

Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Choose the Right Disney Resort

Choosing the right Disney Resort is one of our best Tips for Disney at Christmas. During the holidays you want to make sure you’re close to the action, or removed from it, your choice! If you’re heading to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, consider staying at a Magic Kingdom Area resort, like the Monorail Resorts. Or choose a Disney World resort within walking distance of the parks, for whichever park you intend to visit most. Or perhaps you’re visiting Disney World for Christmas but would choose a Disney Resort within walking distance of Disney Springs instead. There are a lot of options available. Check out the best Disney Resorts to Stay at for Christmas

Stay Patient and Flexible

Finally, just know that Disney World at Christmas is magical and absolutely worth the extra crowds, costs, and chaos. Be prepared for larger crowds and longer wait times. It’s a busy time of year, so staying patient and maintaining a flexible attitude can make your visit more enjoyable. Even the best planning will still have unforeseen issues pop up, but that doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. Stay flexible, have backup plans, and enjoy the season! 

Disney Christmas Tips

Remember that the holiday season at Disney World is one of the most magical times to visit, with stunning decorations, festive entertainment, and an overall sense of joy in the air. By planning ahead and using these tips for Disney at Christmas, you can make the most of your Christmas visit to Disney World. We hope this post has helped you get a handle on what to expect for the holidays at Disney World! Share your experience and let us know what we missed! 

top 10 Tips for a Disney World Christmas Trip

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.

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