Holidays at WDW: Crowds, Celebrations & Planning

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Kristen K.'s picture
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Holidays at WDW: Crowds, Celebrations & Planning

I must admit, I avoid Disney during the holidays. I'm not talking Christmas season, I'm talking any actual calender holiday. Though my past couple of trips have had a minor holiday or two land during them. Disney's fantastic at celebrating all the different seasons, but the fact is that when there's a holiday, the parks are packed!

What do you do when you're planning a trip that includes holidays? Do you just head to the park and make the best of it, or do you plan to do things away from the bulk of the crowds? Do you do anything special to celebrate the holiday, or is being on vacation for it enough?

How do you spend your holidays at Walt Disney World?

Ollie's picture
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Hi Kristen!

Because I am a teacher, my trips have often been tied to major holidays! Those times ARE frustrating and maddening - bordering on insane - so we decided on one of our first trips to NOT create and follow any sort of commando plan.

Of course we learned that after our first summer trip when we DID tour like beasts, fighting heat, crowds, and thunderstorms! silly

Now we truly go with the flow, sleeping in when we want, getting to parks early when we want, and making some plans on the fly. Of course we are veteran enough to have seen everything more than once, so we get to focus on the big things we MUST do, and leave lots of time for all the little magic that is hidden everywhere.

For us, the little things ARE the best things ... Grey Goose Slushies lagoonside in France, coffee and cupcakes at Starring Rolls, walking down Main Street in the early AM or late at night at the end of extra hours, sitting on a bench, playing Stoopid Shoes while savoring (insert favorite snack here - dole whips for us), fireworks anywhere, Downtown Disney and our Kindles ...

Magic! awesome

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Melissa W's picture
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We have never spent a holiday at Walt Disney World. We always go during "off season" except for one time during the summer and it was terrible with crowds. I do have to say, I would love to spend Christmas there one year! I'd love waking up Christmas morning in my happy place! crossfingers

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I went to the parks yesterday and at first we went to Epcot, which wasn't very crowded at all...Then we went to MK. That was a mistake. It was packed! We could barely ride anything and the lines for food were really long. And I waited about 1 1/2 hours after Wishes was over to get out of the park, get on a ferry, get to the TTC, get on a tram, and get to my car. I'm never going back during a holiday again. (unless I have to work that is!)

Kristen K.'s picture
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Aww Jessi, I'm so sorry! Do you think that it would have been better if you had stayed away from the Magic Kingdom?

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I went a few years ago to Magic Kingdom on New Years Eve....brutal! We went right at park opening and by 10 they had shut down the gates because the park was at capacity. There were soooo many people you could hardly move anywhere. Forget going in the shops. Worst of all, since it was New Years they were giving out those party noise makers so every 2 feet there were kids blowing them. We also were in hats and mitts because it wasn't one of the warmest days either.
Personally though, a day like that at Magic kingdom is better than nothing Wink I am glad i got to experience it on New Years but now i think i'll stick to watching the clips on tv!

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Kristen K. wrote:
Aww Jessi, I'm so sorry! Do you think that it would have been better if you had stayed away from the Magic Kingdom?

Definitely! I begged the friend I was with to just stay at Epcot, but he was dead set on going to another park to ride more rides. I was fine with just staying at Epcot and relaxing, even if it meant no more rides. HS had Star Wars weekends, so we knew it would be packed. But even AK would have been better than getting stuck in all those people trying to leave MK.

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This 4th of July will be my first holiday at Disney, mainly because the 4th is my youngest son's birthday. Our oldest son turned 5 at Disney last year so of course little brother wouldn't have it any other way! We're going to MK on the 3rd and HS on the 4th. Wish us luck!!! That being said, I definitely plan to do Christmas at least once while the boys are still young.

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Kristen K.'s picture
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My Birthday is the 3rd! Think of me while you're celebrating and have fun!

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Of Course!! Party

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Is Thanksgiving week at Disney really ugly crowd-wise?

Kristen K.'s picture
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That's a great question! This Year Thanksgiving is on November 22nd. I stopped over on Touring Plans and popped that date into the crowd calendar, this is what I got.

MON 11/19/12 Overall Crowd Level: 9 out of 10
TUE 11/20/12 Overall Crowd Level: 10 out of 10
WED 11/21/12 Overall Crowd Level: 10 out of 10
THR 11/22/12 Overall Crowd Level: 10 out of 10 **Thanksgiving
FRI 11/23/12 Overall Crowd Level: 10 out of 10
SAT 11/24/12 Overall Crowd Level: 10 out of 10
SUN 11/25/12 Overall Crowd Level: 8 out of 10

So Yes, I would say that it gets pretty crazy.
However, if You can wait until 11/27/12 the Overall Crowd Level drops down to a 2!

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I try to avoid the holidays at all costs. When I was a teenager, we were at WDW for New Year's and I swore that I would never do that to my children.

However, I am in nursing school right now and the ONLY time we could get away was during Thanksgiving week. I am really not looking forward to that! I was hoping to go the week before or the week after, but no such luck! My plan for Thanksgiving day is going to EPCOT. We have an ADR at Coral Reef, but if we get to the park in the morning and it is crazy, we will just go relax at the hotel until dinner time and head back to EPCOT for dinner!

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I usually avoid holidays. Last year, due to my sister's preference, our last weekend coincided with Veterans Day and the end of the Food & Wine Festival. I spent most of the day at Hollywood Studios, which wasn't too bad. But I park hopped to Epcot for an ADR lunch and saw THE LARGEST WDW CROWD I HAVE EVER SEEN. After that experience, I'll continue trying to avoid holidays.

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Trisha wrote:
My plan for Thanksgiving day is going to EPCOT. We have an ADR at Coral Reef, but if we get to the park in the morning and it is crazy, we will just go relax at the hotel until dinner time and head back to EPCOT for dinner!

That is assuming that you can get BACK into the park. They frequently shut down the parks when they reach capacity and do not let anyone else in, so be careful. Maybe having ADRs will get you back in.

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We avoid going during holidays. We will be arriving there on Sunday November 25th. We may just avoid the parks all together for that day.

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scrappy wrote:
We avoid going during holidays. We will be arriving there on Sunday November 25th. We may just avoid the parks all together for that day.

We will be there the same time as scrappy and Mr.hub...and we looked up on touring plans just like Kristen did...Sunday and Monday look bad but the rest of the week is a 2 so I will take it. We are never there during a holiday...we are usually there the week before Thanksgiving which is not bad at all. This year we will be there the week after Thanksgiving and it's turning out to be pretty nice as well Smile

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Jess wrote:
scrappy wrote:
We avoid going during holidays. We will be arriving there on Sunday November 25th. We may just avoid the parks all together for that day.

We will be there the same time as scrappy and Mr.hub...and we looked up on touring plans just like Kristen did...Sunday and Monday look bad but the rest of the week is a 2 so I will take it. We are never there during a holiday...we are usually there the week before Thanksgiving which is not bad at all. This year we will be there the week after Thanksgiving and it's turning out to be pretty nice as well Smile

To be honest... The week after is usually when we go. It started alternating when we got DVC. Growing up... It was always after thanksgiving.

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I would avoid the holidays if at all possible. Crowds and long lines just don't seem that fun. This year, we'll be heading to WDW Dec 13-20. I think the crowds will be manageable but I do expect to see a noticeable uptick as we get closer to Christmas. Plan to hit RD every day and utilize FP as much as we can.

In 2010, we visited DL for the first time a few days before Christmas. I was bracing for huge crowds, but a monsoon decided to station itself over So Cal for about a week which left us with wet clothes and short lines. awesome

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Vettelover wrote:
Trisha wrote:
My plan for Thanksgiving day is going to EPCOT. We have an ADR at Coral Reef, but if we get to the park in the morning and it is crazy, we will just go relax at the hotel until dinner time and head back to EPCOT for dinner!

That is assuming that you can get BACK into the park. They frequently shut down the parks when they reach capacity and do not let anyone else in, so be careful. Maybe having ADRs will get you back in.

Yea, I'm almost certain that having an ADR isn't a guarantee to get you back into the park. Because when they close the parks down, its because they've reached capacity and it just isn't safe to let anyone else in.

I'll more than likely be working the turnstiles at MK on the 4th of July, so I'm gonna have to deal with this all day. eek

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Molitva wrote:

In 2010, we visited DL for the first time a few days before Christmas. I was bracing for huge crowds, but a monsoon decided to station itself over So Cal for about a week which left us with wet clothes and short lines. awesome

I'm all for Monsoons if it means short lines!

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If you had to guess, would you guys think Spring Break, on either side of Easter Sunday, is more crowded or less crowded than Thanksgiving Week?? I'm weighing my options as I plan my next trip...

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I would think Spring break would be more crowded then around Thanksgiving....I've never been there during Spring Break so I can't say this from first hand knowledge...just an opinion

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Spring Break is more crowded than Thanksgiving. Christmas is the most crowded time at Disney and Spring Break is second!

Kristen K.'s picture
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The thing about Spring Break, is that it's a whole season, not just a week. I've had decent luck during spring break season (at the end of Feb and in early - Mid March) while still avoiding Easter it's self.

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I am trying to plan a trip for next spring. I'm definitley going to check the touring plans site Kristen K mentioned for the dates. We went to Mk this past NYE and had a great time.

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This year we went the week after Easter weekend and found the crowds to be moderate.

A big thing to keep in mind is that ALOT of schools are having year-end class trips - middle school, band, high-school - so they are everywhere! It's not as bad at Disney because most of the parks are pretty big and can handle it (though HS can get really busy because it seems to be one of the more popular parks and the smallest), but we once hit up Universal around the same time and it was busload after busload after busload, and it was soooo crowded.

But that was also before Harry Potter came to town.

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yay yay yay
Jeff, I just noticed your banner!!!
I of course have to say I think you made a very wise choice.

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We will be in Disney Thanksgiving week this year...I'm worried now...lol. In 2010 we went the week after Thanksgiving (but arrive the Friday after Thanksgiving) and there were practically no crowds. We have a plan based on the day we want to relax at the Resort and go to DTD...and then park visits are based on ADR's for the day. We'll be at MK on 11/21 and 11/22, but we plan on going to the park in the afternoon that Wednesday and then in the morning on Thanksgiving Day and leaving late afternoon. Hopefully it works out *fingers crossed*.

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scrappy wrote:
yay yay yay
Jeff, I just noticed your banner!!!
I of course have to say I think you made a very wise choice.

Hee hee - in the end I just have a hard time imagining me anywhere else that day Smile

Plus the prospect of MNSSHP, the new FantasyLand, and a few other goodies possibly thrown in.....that's the only one that makes me scream like a little schoolgirl...no offense to little schoolgirls everywhere mickey

Meg
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My family always tries to go every few years the first weekend in December. We have never had major crowd problems and a few years it has even been warm enough to still swim! We love seeing the Christmas decorations without the crowds. Though I am going in August this year for a celebration, if I can help it I will lobby to go that week for any future family vacations.

One of the worst crowds I ever ran into was when I took a girls trip with my mom for spring break. We didn't realize that Mardi Gras was the week that we were there and it was super packed for a few days!

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