The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most crowded at Disney Parks. Here are 10 tips to help you roll with the crowds and still have a magical vacation:
1. Get There Early
During the holidays, you’ll never avoid the crowds completely, but arriving at your park of choice at the crack of dawn will give you your best shot. This is especially true for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where arriving at or before park opening will be your only chance of getting on the epic new ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
2. Make Dining Reservations
The parks may be bursting, but if you have a reservation, you’re guaranteed a place to sit and eat—plus a nice escape from the masses. Even if advance dining reservations (ADRs) are scarce, keep checking the My Disney Experience app because people change and cancel them all the time—even on the day of!
3. Don’t Try to Do It All
There’s no way around it—you just won’t get to ride everything if you’re visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland during the holidays. Rope drop and take advantage of short early-morning standby queues, use your three advance FastPasses (at Walt Disney World), and then monitor My Disney Experience for additional FastPass+ availability and rides with short standby wait times.
4. Take a Break
Save your sanity during a crowded park day by giving yourself some time away to decompress. Head back to the hotel for lunch, a dip in the pool, or a nap. A refreshing break will restore your patience and renew your energy to head back out in the evening.
5. Hope for Rain
Pack those ponchos and do a rain dance, because when the skies open up, the crowds go running for the exits. But, with the right gear and a good plan, a rainy day at the parks can be tons of fun and a great way to avoid the crowds during the busy season.
6. When You Have to Wait, Choose the Best Standby Queues
We hate to break it to you, but you will have to spend some time in long lines at Disney during the holidays. So, when you do, make sure to pick standby queues that feature interactive gameplay or immersive details. Here are nine Walt Disney World queues that make the time fly by.
7. Mobile Order
An ever-increasing number of quick-service dining locations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland now offer a mobile ordering option. Skip the long lines by ordering and paying for your meal from the My Disney Experience app. Just head to the mobile order pick-up window or counter, grab your food, and be on your way. Mobile order isn’t just for meals either—from Blue Milk to Dole Whips to beer, you can even mobile order your snacks and alcoholic drinks, so step away from those lines!
8. Explore the Resorts
Many Disney resorts are destinations in their own right, so when park crowds become too much to bear, hop a bus, monorail, boat, or Skyliner and explore a resort you’ve never been to. Marvel at wild animals on the Savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, play carnival games and catch a magician’s act on the Boardwalk at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort, or cozy up with a hot chocolate and admire the breathtaking Christmas tree in the lobby of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
During the holidays, many of Disney’s deluxe resorts feature stunning gingerbread houses or other holiday displays, so you can even make an afternoon of it by visiting a few. Or, head over to the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness to check out the elaborate holiday decorations—it’s become an annual tradition for campers to deck out their campsites and each year the “show” gets more impressive.
9. Book a Dining Package or Dessert Party for Fireworks
If you’re hoping to enjoy Epcot’s Candlelight Processional or any of the parks’ nighttime spectaculars during the holidays, booking a dining package or dessert party is a stress-free way to score a prime viewing location. No need to stake out a spot hours in advance—with the purchase of your dining package or dessert party, you’ll be given access to a VIP viewing location.
10. Slow Down and Be Kind
Instead of getting frustrated with crowds moving at a glacial pace, try slowing down, looking around you and taking it all in. From the music and decorations to special treats and character costumes, the holidays are a magical time at the Disney Parks. You’re all there to celebrate and spend time with friends and family so try not to let the stress of crowds get to you. Instead, feed off everyone else’s excitement—you’re on vacation, after all!
And remember, Disney Parks and Resorts would be nothing without the cast members who keep things running seamlessly day in and day out. These are the people who transform what might otherwise be an ordinary theme park vacation into something truly memorable.
If you find yourself frustrated by the large crowds or long lines, don’t take it out on the cast members. Remember that they’re working hard during the holidays to make your time more magical. Be polite, smile, say thank you—you never know whose day you might make by sending some pixie dust their way.
What are your top tips for beating the crowds at Disney? Let us know in the comments!