Updated for 2017!
It seems that spring and summer are often the time planning begins for colder weather vacations. Lots of people want to visit Disney World during Christmas, and who can blame them? If you have ever scheduled a vacation during the Christmas holidays to avoid putting up holiday decorations in your own house, you might be a Cheapskate Princess! While we’re talking about scheduling, the question must be asked. Is Christmas really the best time of year for you to visit Walt Disney World?
From Christmas Day to New Years is the absolute busiest time of year at WDW. Talk with any of your friends that have crossed the gates of any Disney theme park this time of year, and they will all pretty much use the same words…crowded, insane, c.r.a.z.y. But they will then whisper, “It’s magical!” If you can only take off time from work during this week, and thousands do, should you brave the holidays in Orlando? If you just need to be in the Disney parks after Christmas, get ready to stand in long lines and be surrounded by huge crowds everywhere you go.
You see that crowd?
Can a photo do justice to the feel of the people surrounding you at Christmas? Let that soak in a moment. After-Christmas crowds took me by surprise, and I’d planned this vacation eleven months earlier, knowing full well it would be busy. OK, I expected it to be busy, but you know, busy is a relative term that varies with experience and tolerance levels. Oh they traveled all right, by the thousands. Just after I took the above Hollywood Studios crowd shot with multitudes of my closest Disney friends on December 28th, this was about 10 in the morning just standing in line to get in, three of four Disney parks soon reached capacity.
If you can calmly imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with up to 92,000 people in the Magic Kingdom at one time, then you must really want to be vacationing at Disney World. One to two-hour waits for the really popular rides, and you can guess your chances of getting any additional Fastpasses+es… yikes!
I found our best option was to leave the parks around one p.m. and go back in around six or seven. It’s still busy- crazy busy– but people start to leave after the fireworks, and lines are more manageable, especially if they offer Extra Magic Hours and you stay in a Disney Resort. However, we can’t all afford to stay on property.
Hey Cheapskate Princess, now let’s talk about cost.
A Little Mermaid standard room at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort resort, with two double beds, in August of 2016 was $132-152 before taxes. That same room during Holiday Season, from December 22, 2016-December 31 was $203 a night before taxes. That’s almost double, my friends, so understand you’ll pay a lot more for the exact same room to stay at Christmas.
And don’t forget about these little issues.
- Resort lobbies are crowded.
- Food lines are longer because there are more people.
- Shopping takes longer because there are more people.
- Transportation is a zoo, be it monorail, bus or ferry.
If you haven’t made your ADRs for the table service restaurants, you can just about forget getting in last-minute. The week before Christmas in 2016, I called Disney Dining to ask this question, “Do you have any openings for a character meal at ANY restaurant on the monorail track on December 27th from 4 p.m. until midnight?” The answer, gasp, was sorry, we are full.
We have a guide that can help you understand the crowd levels at Disney World during Christmas holidays, because when thousands of people arrive, parks will reach capacity and close the gates to certain ticket holders. Use this link:
So make no mistake, the week after Christmas is totally packed-out and really only a last resort vacationing choice, if you just can’t schedule a Disney visit any other time of year.
I’ve stood on Main Street, U.S.A., as the clock struck midnight on Christmas Eve, ushering in a fantastic Christmas Day. The Disney snow was gently falling, the holiday lights were twinkling, and people walking around were extra-Disney-magically happy. Christmas carols were playing, and I was grinning, hugging my kids and taking their picture. (Cue the scary Snow White music here.) And thousands of people were waiting to descend upon the Disney parks the very next day.
Do I recommend you go right at Christmas like we did? Heavens no. Would I go again at that time? Yes, actually. Well maybe. It all really depends on how just much you want to feel that Disney magic.
We asked some of our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans if they would travel during this time of year, and their thoughts on the experience.
Misty, “This will be our first time going at Christmas. We are doing it instead of presents. We want to do something with just us and our kids, ages 21 and 10. Prices and costs are higher, yes, but the memories will be awesome.”
Bambi, “We did the week after Christmas in ’06…. Never again! But we are going the second week of December this year!!”
Mark, “It is an awesome week- crowded, yes; forget about rides. But all the holiday decorations are still up, and you can still do almost all of the special holiday events. New Year’s Eve is better at WDW than anywhere else. You are safe and don’t need to drive etc. From the Boardwalk you can see special New Year fireworks at three parks. It is a totally different experience than any other time of year.”
Rebecca, “I have been twice in early January. Most of the decorations were still up and crowds weren’t that bad. I have also been the week before Christmas, and do not remember it being crazy. I am hoping to take my daughter this year for her 18th birthday.”
Amy, “Yes because it is SO beautiful and magical. There is nothing like Disney during the Holidays! The lights and decorations are amazing!!!”
Mendi and Nick, “As long as you don’t desire rides, it’s great. Horrible with kids but still magical!”
If you would like to see how long of a wait you are in for, we did the research for you.
So what do you think? Are you headed to Disney the week after Christmas? Are you just crazy enough to handle the crowds?!
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you planning your next holiday vacation!
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Erin and Elizabeth. You can also e-mail them at email@example.com.