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Your Disney World at Thanksgiving Survival Guide

by Mommy Frog on November 23, 2016 21   Video

Mommy Frog's Note: Hi frog friends! As we head into Turkey Day, we wanted to let you know that we'll be bringing you some very hoppy Green Friday and Cyber Monday hotel and ticket offers. So check back later this week. Now onto today's post ...

It's no surprise, really, with the kids out of school for at least part or all of the week that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest weeks of the year at the Orlando theme parks and the Walt Disney World Resort in particular. After all, who wouldn't want to spend Thanksgiving at Disney World? But if you're planning a trip between Nov. 19-22, 2016, you should plan on longer waits for attractions and larger crowds everywhere you go.

Disney World at Thanksgiving - Pumpkins at Living with the Land

Despite the crowds, Disney World at Thanksgiving is a decidedly low-key affair as far as the actual holiday is concerned. Don't expect to see window fronts decorated with cornucopias and pilgrims everywhere you turn. All of the parks will be decorated for the holidays — just not the Thanksgiving holiday — and that's fine by us. Those of you visiting during this time will be eased right into the Christmas spirit. The one exception to this is the Land Pavilion at Epcot, where pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows are usually on display in Living With the Land and the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot. Here are the Frog Family’s best tips for making the notoriously busy Thanksgiving holiday week an enjoyable one.

Top Tips to Survive Disney World at Thanksgiving

1. Pick Your Park Wisely

Yes, if you're headed to Disney World the week of Thanksgiving, you want to pay even closer attention to our Crowd Calendar, so you can pick the best park each day. While this week isn't as crowded as the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, it will still be very busy. In fact, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be especially busy. It's entirely possible that some of the parks will reach capacity at some time during these days. We generally don't recommend park hopping when the parks are this full because of the risk of parks reaching capacity and the extra amount of time it takes to get in and out. If you are staying on-site, however, you might consider hopping, only so that you can take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours and then hop to a less-busy park.

2. Arrive Early

Disney World at Thanksgiving - Welcome Show Opening ceremony at Magic Kingdom

The MOST important thing to do on a busy day at any of the theme parks is to ARRIVE EARLY! This is especially true for Disney World at Thanksgiving. Try to be at the gate at least an hour before the park officially opens. This will ensure you have a few hours of low wait times on rides and fewer crowds.

3. Have a plan

The NEXT most important thing to do is to already have a plan in place. Is your goal to go on as many rides as possible or do you want to take your time and enjoy the atmosphere? Do you want to get a front row viewing spot for the shows and parades or take advantage of the shorter lines at the attractions? Maybe the holiday sights and sounds are your top priority? Don’t wait until you get inside the park to figure out what everyone wants to do. We always put together a short list of priorities by family member, that way we can best strategize and make sure no one, especially Tad and Lily, are left out. Be sure to check out our Touring Plans for Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld before you go and download our Orlando Planning App, which allows you to follow our touring plans or customize your own.

6. Make sure to utilize Fastpass+

Disney World at Thanksgiving - Toy Story Midway Mania!

We highly recommend that those of you visiting Disney World at Thanksgiving use FastPass+. Make sure you book your FastPass+ reservations as early as you possibly can. For resort guests, this is 60 days in advance. For non-resort guests, this is 30 days in advance. FastPass+ reservations for the most popular attractions, such as Toy Story Mania! at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Frozen Ever After at Epcot are likely to be gone even at the 30-day mark (if this is a must for your princess, make sure to read Elsa and Anna post). For those of you who are unfamiliar with FastPass+, we explain the ins and outs of it in our Guide to Disney's FastPass+ and MyMagic+.

4. Dine before or after regular mealtimes.

You'll save time waiting in line for food if you eat during off-peak times. Eat an early breakfast and have an early lunch at 11 a.m. or eat a big breakfast and wait and have a late lunch. Be sure to check out our list of all the restaurants in the Orlando theme parks that will be serving up Thanksgiving dinner and a few places where you can find a turkey leg. If you want an ADR for a sit-down meal, be sure to keep checking in the days leading up to your visit for cancelations.

5. Review Your Safety Plan

Large crowds and small children can make parents' anxiety levels skyrocket! Have a family meeting beforehand to review your safety strategies like where to meet in case the group gets separated. On Thanksgiving day, dress everyone in the same bright color and take a picture of your children that morning so you have a recent one with what they’re wearing. Read more on our Theme Park Safety Strategies.

7. Pack Your Patience

It will be crowded, really, really crowded inside Disney World at Thanksgiving. Adjust your expectations going in and remember to give thanks for all the fun you're having in the Orlando theme parks.

Here are Leap’s Top 10 Time-Saving Tips that are extremely useful for Disney World at Thanksgiving and other busy days. And don’t forget to check out our When to Visit Orlando page inside our Orlando Planning Timeline for more tips. Wherever and however you spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we hope you stay safe and have fun!

Related: A Mickey-Inspired Thanksgiving Craft for Your Little Turkeys

Related: Where to Find Thanksgiving Dinner at Disney World

Hoppy Planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Comments
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Planning for Walt Disney World in November Nov 1, 2012 at 12:47 p.m.

[...] more information on this in the coming weeks or you can get a look at last year’s information here now. There are a ton of other events going on this month, and we list a number of them [...]

Reply
When to Visit Nov 6, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.

[...] Thanksgiving [...]

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 6, 2012 at 9:27 p.m.

Hi everyone!

Please share if you have any tips for surviving Thanksgiving week at Disney World, SeaWorld or Universal!

-- Mommy Frog

Reply
Disney & Parks News: Star Wars Miniland Opens, Festival of the Masters Heads to Downtown Disney Nov 9, 2012 at 7:31 a.m.

[...] The pastry chefs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have created what Mommy Frog is calling “the most scrumpt-a-licious cupcakes ever” and they’re themed for the holidays. Yep, even Thanksgiving. [...]

Reply
Amy Kennedy Nov 14, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.

I just want to thank you for all of the helpful advice you share. We are having a family trip to WDW next week and I am so excited. For several in the family, it will be their first trip. Your information and advice have already been invaluable and we haven't even left our home state. Again, THANK YOU!!

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 15, 2012 at 1:49 p.m.

Amy,

You're welcome. We love being a resource Have a great trip!!

-- Leap

Reply
Where to Meet Santa at Disney, Universal and SeaWorld Orlando Nov 15, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.

[...] Related: Thanksgiving Survival Guide for Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando [...]

Reply
best apps for health and wellness, iphone ipad health apps » Disney World Dining Nov 16, 2012 at 6:16 a.m.

[...] Best Disney World RestaurantsThe “DFB Guide to the Walt Disney World Holidays 2012″ Grand Launch and Discount!News! Temporary Closure in 2013 for Disney World’s California GrillDisney Dining PlanDisney Gift Guide: Cookie Season is Here!Thanksgiving Planning for Disney World, SeaWorld & Universal [...]

Reply
Disney & Parks News: Test Track Gets Closer to Launch; Will Universal Get More Simpsons? Nov 16, 2012 at noon

[...] [...]

Reply
katherin3 Nov 22, 2012 at 2 a.m.

Having just left Magic Kingdom I will reiterate it is crowded. Long lines and lots of people. The upside is you can take food and drink and we were prepared. The kids enjoyed it but we are all exhausted.

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 26, 2012 at 4:13 p.m.

Hi Katherine,

Thanks for sharing!

-- Leap

Reply
Disney World, Universal & SeaWorld Planning for November Oct 29, 2013 at 12:44 p.m.

[...] … or at least a turkey leg at the resort. If you’re visiting the week of Thanksgiving, here is our survival guide (including where to eat). There are a ton of other events going on this month, and we [...]

Reply
chelle belle Nov 16, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.

I've visited WDW Thanksgiving the past 5 years and the crowds were just fine for my family of 6 (2 adults 4 children 15,7,6.3) Yet I've never thought about a special turkey day dinner - we're at Disney enjoy the memories :) Arriving on the 22nd and leave on the 30th #teameeyore #teamolaf

Reply
Dan Nov 19, 2014 at 7:32 p.m.

I am planning a vacation for my family the first week of December, 11/30 - 12/6. How are the crowds then??

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 20, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.

Hi Dan,

Should be a good week. Here is the Crowd Calendar.

Leap

Reply
Jennifer Sep 17, 2015 at 10:10 p.m.

Hello,

Our kids have always wanted to see Disney at Christmas time. We are thinking of going Thanksgiving week as that is the only time we can get away. Will the parks be decorated for Christmas? Will characters be dressed in Christmas outfits? There isn't a Christmas party scheduled the days we will be there, will there be any Christmas themed parades or shows? Thanks so much. We hate to spend all the money for the trip and miss out on Christmas events, decorations, music etc.

Reply
FrogBlog Sep 23, 2015 at 11:34 a.m.

Hi Jennifer,

The parks will be decorated, and some of the characters will be in Christmas attire. Don't miss The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and you can take part in Epcot Holidays Around the World and the Candlelight Processional the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jared Mar 23, 2016 at 1:04 p.m.

We are thinking of going to Florida/Disney during the week of thanksgiving. We are only planning on 2-3 days in the actual amusement parks. Would it make sense to pick the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday leading up to thanksgiving? Is it still crazy packed?

Reply
FrogBlog Mar 28, 2016 at 9:41 a.m.

Hi Jared,

Those days are better, but it will still be crowded!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jennifer Oct 27, 2016 at 5:40 p.m.

We are visiting the week after Thanksgiving. Would it be better to visit MK on the Sunday after Thanksgiving or Monday?

Reply
FrogBlog Nov 3, 2016 at 1:09 p.m.

Hi Jennifer,

It's really a toss up with the crowd levels and park hours. I would pick the one that works best with your schedule.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
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