30 Essential Tips For the Best Disney World Trip At Christmastime

30 Essential Tips For the Best Disney World Trip At Christmastime

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.

Here we’ll share what Christmas in Disney World is all about. From Walt Disney World Christmas events to the best tips to navigate crowds and costs for Disney World at Christmas time. Because Christmas at Walt Disney World means tips. Lots of holiday tips. Lucky enough to leave the 29-degree weather in Ohio for a quick visit to Orlando we were eager to hunt down fresh Christmas decorations at Disney World. With our Holidays at Walt Disney World Checklist in hand, we were ready for all the Christmas cheer we could find. But we weren’t ready for the crowds, cost, and chaos! Therefore, we thought we’d do a roundup for you so that you can get prepared for Disney at Christmas.

What is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World During the Holidays?

So we’ve talked about the best days to visit Disney World before. And the lesson we learned here was that if you can swing it, the third week in November and the week right after Thanksgiving, are the best times to visit for early Christmas decorations and low crowds. This gets you there the first week that the Christmas decorations are up, but before the crowds start to arrive for the holiday break. As expected, Thanksgiving and Christmas week are always busy, so avoid those at all costs. Know that through the holidays it’s best to stick to the weekdays and try for mornings and afternoons instead of evenings. The least crowded evening in any park is Tuesday. And the parks are always less crowded before 4 p.m.

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 our best Disney Christmas 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.

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.

Make sure your hotel is linked to the My Disney Experience app so you can get your Lightning Lane and Genie+ plans in place, restaurant reservations, party tickets, and more.

Book Your Reservations Before You Visit

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   Disney World Christmas Hours and the app for everything from Park Hours for each Park to event times and performance times.

Hollywood Studios Christmas Snacks

Visit Hollywood Studios on a Monday

While other vacationers head to Magic Kingdom on Mondays, we recommend heading to Hollywood Studios. Since Hollywood Studios is the smallest park it will naturally feel more crowded, plus it will hit Disney’s Maximum Capacity Limit faster. And it’s a great way to kick off the holiday season! You can watch Sunset Seasons Greetings, and take in the flurries on Sunset Boulevard. Check out our whole post on why you should visit Hollywood Studios during the holidays.

Arrive at the parks early

It’s worth it to get to the parks at 7:30 a.m. if the park opens at 8 a.m. While this may sound ludicrous, you would only do this with the promise of an afternoon nap or break from the crowds. The early morning hours will get you access to the main part of the park if you’re a Disney Resort Guest because you can take advantage of Early Morning Entry. This gives you a chance to get pictures, maybe some breakfast and coffee, and allow you to settle into your morning. This will also allow you to be pretty close to the first in line at your favorite rides.

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  20 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.

Be Prepared For Sketchy Wi-Fi at Christmas

Dare we say Turn Off your Wi-Fi? While you will be on your phone almost nonstop in the My Disney Experience App, using data will make everything go faster, and not drain your phone battery. Wi-Fi will be intermittent if you’re on Disney Guest Wi-Fi. Why? Because there will be a ton of guests all trying to be on it at once. If you have a child dependent on Wi-Fi for a phone connection, be sure to make plans ahead of time in case they go off on their own and you need to get in contact with them. Also, be aware of your family data plans and plan accordingly. Perhaps don’t bring all the phones to the park, this should help you keep your data usage in check. Remember a phone searching for Wi-Fi can also drain the battery, so bring a charging cord as well and charge it at the Tangled Bathrooms near Haunted Mansion.

Disney Christmas Shirts

Dress Festive for the Holidays at Disney 

We love a good Disney Christmas Outfit. Yes, it’s Florida, but in November and December, it’s strangely breezy, a little chilly and it still rains. Bring the poncho, bring pants, and definitely pack a hoodie or cardigan for the evenings and maybe a beanie too. We like layering with our Disney Holiday Shirts from the shop.  Be sure to pack those fluffy cozy socks too, because there will be puddles and your shoes and socks may get wet.

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 Animal Kingdom 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.

The Disney Holiday Transportation Situation

There are more people at Disney in November and December than at any other time, so transportation is slower. Now, Disney is pretty good about this. They do accommodate the crowds but there will still be a wait time. There is no guarantee on bus times or waits and even Disney has limited drivers, a limited fleet, and traffic to deal with. Note: Your drivers have no control over how long you’ve waited at the bus stop- please don’t yell at them. The Real Lesson? Don’t try to leave the parks an hour before you need to be at the airport, leave earlier.

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 Resorts Christmas

Tour the Disney Resorts with Gingerbread Displays

Many of the Disney Resorts have lobby trees, but only certain resorts have Gingerbread Displays. The Grand Floridian Gingerbread House, the Beach Club Gingerbread Christmas Carousel, and the miniature historical buildings at the American Adventure building in EPCOT.  Check out all the Gingerbread Displays at the Disney Resorts through the holidays.

Ride Tips for Disney World at Christmas

Disney World at Christmas brings with it extra long lines just about everywhere. As such, if you’re visiting during the busiest time of year, then you should have a plan for riding rides. Every park has an extremely popular ride that will always require a longer wait or Lightning Lane pass.  So if any of these rides are on your Disney Christmas List get ready to either pay, wake up early, or stay up late. Here are some of the best Strategies for Rides at Walt Disney World during the most crowded times of the year, and the rides for which you may need them. If you’re using Genie+ or Lightning Lane, choose these popular rides FIRST, and choose the earliest time available to you in the app, so that as you complete them, you can choose more ride selections.

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.

Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Increase your Budget for the Holidays

Christmas at Walt Disney World is all about extra magic. Plan to spend a little extra money on treats. With all the unique snacks during the holidays, you don’t want to be too tied to a budget that you miss out on the magic. Check out our post on building a Disney Budget.

Plan for at Least One Souvenir

Promise one souvenir to any kiddies you have in tow. Yes, Christmas is coming up and yes, they’ll be getting plenty of presents, but you don’t want them to remember that they didn’t get anything they wanted on this trip because it was too close to the holiday. Check out our favorite Free Souvenirs at Disney if the money is tight.

Disney Christmas Gift Guide

Shop Disney Holiday Merchandise at the Gift Shops

The holiday merchandise is magical, Santa can be found in select gift shop locations and everyone will be shopping. For gift shop browsing and shopping avoid the late evening hours if you can manage it. As you probably guessed everyone will be trying to grab those last few items before the park closes. And if you’re trying to save suitcase space be sure to check shopDisney.com first. As they often have many of the new Disney Christmas Merchandise online.

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.

So Much Extra Family Time

Let’s face it, through the holidays if you’re blessed with a family in any shape or size, there will be drama! At Disney especially there are always a lot more emotions in play. Do you really need that 9 dollar ice cream sundae if you’re getting a 50 dollar Christmas gift from me in a week? Why don’t we skip the souvenirs this time? We need just one more picture for uncle Frank! Why aren’t you smiling? Whatever your family dynamic it will be tried during this vacation, mainly because every single person at Disney during the holidays is in the same situation.

Think about that for a second. Everyone is trying to spend less, no one likes waiting in lines, we all have a crapload of stuff to do when we return to real life. And if you’re an adult, you’re probably trying to eat healthier or are on a diet, which means not being able to eat those special holiday whoopie pies will just make you cranky. Lesson: Do what you have to do. If it means taking a break from the family for an hour, do that. Or grabbing that milkshake with little baileys, do that. If it means canceling a holiday obligation at home you won’t have time to plan, do that. Do what you have to do and try to enjoy your family time together.

Take Breaks!

Build in a little downtime. Our favorite getaway time is often at the resorts. Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge offer a calm atmosphere and some resorts like Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, and Grand Floridian have special Christmas decorations you’d want to see anyway. Regardless of your age, or if you have kids or not, everyone needs a little time away from the chaos.

Be Ready for Disney Crowds During the Holidays

At Disney World, there are so many people visiting for Christmas. So, so many. Be ready to wait in lines and experience a faster Peoplemover than you ever have before. We’re actually quite sure rides actually speed up when the park is dealing with higher capacity. Our best advice here is to plan ahead, by making sure your Dining Reservations are booked ahead of time. Disney World Crowds will hold you up in the ride lines, at restaurants, and at the buses. It doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. Consider this your heads up.

Be Extra Kind to Staff and Other Guests

“What can I say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery,” ( National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.) This is a true statement and we’re always reminded of it when my expectations for a perfect holiday get too out of hand. Whether you’re visiting around Thanksgiving or Christmas your expectations for the perfect vacation will be sky high! So will everyone else’s. There will be lots and lots of people just trying to make it through the day without spending too much money, eating too many treats, and keeping track of the kiddies. You will see the meltdown on the bus, the angry guests yelling at cast members, and more than your fair share of rudeness. Just breathe and be kind.

Your Life Back Home after the Holidays

No matter when you’re visiting Disney if it happens to be in November or December, you will no doubt have a ton of “stuff” to do when you get back home. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pinning Thanksgiving recipes or planning Christmas activities or buying gifts while waiting in line for rides or food on this mini trip to Disney. Do we regret this? Not really. It’s keeping my mind falsely “in control” whereas ignoring real life would no doubt have me in whirlwind breakdown mode as soon as I stepped foot back in my house. That said, bring a small notebook to jot your ideas down to get them out of your head… and try to enjoy the holiday!

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!

everything you should know about christmas at disney

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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