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 Walt Disney World Resort in particular. After all, who wouldn't want to experience Thanksgiving at Disney? But if you're planning a trip between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1, 2019, you should plan on longer waits for attractions and larger crowds everywhere you go.
Despite the crowds, Thanksgiving at Disney World 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, and there are already plenty of Disney holiday events already hoppening in the parks. 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 at Disney World an enjoyable one.
Top Tips to Survive Thanksgiving at Disney World
1. Pick Your Park Wisely
If you're headed to Thanksgiving at Disney World, you want to pay even closer attention to our Crowd Calendar, so you can pick the best day to visit. 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. It also adds an extra amount of time 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
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 experiencing Thanksgiving at Disney World. Whatever park you pick, 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 have a plan when experiencing Thanksgiving at Disney World. Is your goal to go on as many rides as possible? 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 Park Plans for Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld before you go. Also, make sure to download our Orlando Planning app to follow our touring plans or customize your own.
4. Make Sure to Use Fastpass+
We highly recommend those of you spending Thanksgiving at Disney World 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 Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom and Frozen Ever After at Epcot are likely to be gone even at the 30-day mark. If meeting characters is a priority, hop over to our Disney World character tips to see which characters you should use FastPass+ for. For those of you who are unfamiliar with FastPass+, we explain the ins and outs of it in our Guide to Disney's FastPass.
5. Dine Before or After Regular Mealtimes
Thanksgiving at Disney World brings in extra crowds, which means restaurant queues will also be extra long. 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. Alternatively, eat a big breakfast and have a late lunch. Take advantage of mobile ordering. Be sure to check out our list of all the restaurants 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. Check out our ins and outs of Disney's ADR for hopful tips.
6. Review Your Safety Plan
Large crowds and small children can make parents' anxiety levels skyrocket, especially Thanksgiving at Disney World! 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. Plan Some Downtime at Your Resort
Whether it's taking a midday break or getting in some early zzz's, try to find quality time with the family back at the resort (either on Thanksgiving Day or anytime during the busy holiday week). We know it's tempting to crank out long days at the parks, but give yourselves plenty of rest to keep that energy up. Take advantage of the fun amenities at your Disney Resort.
8. Pack Your Patience
It will be crowded — really, really crowded — when spending Thanksgiving at Disney World. 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 Thanksgiving at Disney World and other busy days. And don’t forget to check out our When to Visit Orlando page for more tips. Wherever and however you spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we hope you stay safe and have fun!