Ahhh, the holidays are almost upon us, bringing with them warm cheer and good tidings from family and friends. If you'll be spending your holidays at Disney World or any of the Orlando theme parks, you will also likely experiencing a level of closeness you've probably never known before with perfect strangers. Because while the holidays are an amazing time to visit Disney World with their holiday decorations and special events, they are also packed. If you're heading to the parks this season and know you'll be there on a "red" day, this post is for you! Here are the top 10 sanity-saving tips for crowded theme parks during the holidays.
Tip #1 – Arrive early and stay all day.
The most tested time-saving tip is to arrive early, but this is especially true during the busy holiday season. Arrive at the Disney World parks about 45 minutes before rope-drop and ride your favorites in the first hour or two before the lines get really long. Park hopping is not recommended during exceptionally busy times; if a park reaches capacity, you won’t be allowed re-entry. Plus, moving between parks takes up a lot of time.
Tip #2 – Bring snacks and drinks with you.
Bring your own snacks, drinks and even a full picnic lunch. The restaurant crowds can be busier than attraction lines when the parks are packed, and a picnic lunch in a calm spot in the park is a great way to regroup. Save the line-waiting for the fun stuff.
Tip #3 – Review your safety plan
Crowds + tadpoles (children) = sky-rocketing anxiety levels for parents. Review things like “what happens if we get separated” beforehand. Take a look at Lily’s Safety Strategies for more safety tips.
Tip #4 – Know the parade & show schedules.
The special holiday versions of the parades and stage shows draw large crowds so save a viewing spot an hour before show time. Use Undercover Tourist’s iPhone app or grab a times guide at the park entrance. A common mistake (and a sure-fire way to miss a parade or show) is to underestimate the time it takes to get from point A to point B.
Tip #5 – Book FastPass+ reservations before you arrive.
As soon as you're reservation window opens (60 days in advance for resort guests and 30 days in advance for non-resort guests), make sure to book FastPasses for the most popular attractions such as Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Test Track and Soarin’ at Epcot, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Elsa & Anna in Princess Fairytale Hall at Magic Kingdom, and Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Tip #6 – Don’t pass up a restroom break.
If you pass a restroom and the line isn’t too long, GO! Even if you think you can wait…GO!
Tip #7 – Set a souvenir budget.
It’s easy to get carried away especially during the holidays. We give Tad and Lily a souvenir allowance to spend as they wish. My wife and I also surprise them with souvenirs we purchase in advance at a much lower price. And it’s not just the kiddos who hate hearing, “No dear, you can’t have that.” I think I may have the hardest time of any of the frogs passing up the goodies!
Tip #8 – Take a break from the parks.
If you or your little ones are completely frazzled by the afternoon, take a break from the parks completely. One alternative is Downtown Disney’s Festival of the Seasons. There are Toy Soldier and Reindeer stilt walkers, live holiday music, dining, shopping…and SANTA!
The Frog Family also really likes strolling along Disney’s BoardWalk Entertainment District. There are shops, restaurants and carnival style games.
Another fun thing to do around the holidays is to take a tour of the Disney World resorts. You can take in all of the holidays decorations and oversized Christmas trees decorated to the nines. You definitely don't want to miss Disney's Contemporary Resort this year, which has created a "Frozen" and "it's a small world"-inspired, gigantic gingerbread castle. It took 212 eggs, 311 pounds of honey, 514 pounds of flour, 222 pounds of icing and 423 pounds of chocolate to create this confectionary masterpiece!
Don’t forget you can watch fireworks shows from spots outside the parks. Magic Kingdom fireworks shows are viewable from the Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the beaches at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Grand Floridian Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and on the boat ride between Magic Kingdom and Fort Wilderness. Epcot's fireworks can be seen from the bridge that connects Disney’s BoardWalk Entertainment District and the Yacht & Beach Club. (They’re also viewable on Undercover Tourist’s YouTube channel !)
Tip #9 – Pack your patience.
The Grinch™ is great as long as he stays in his place at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Don’t let him take over your vacation. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and maybe a five-minute “time-out.” It’s very important to bounce back from a melt-down…yours or your kids’.
Tip #10 – Be flexible.
While I love when a great plan comes together, I know when it’s OK to alter that plan and change course. Take occasional “temperature” checks of everyone’s energy levels and attitudes. If you have to cut something short or go to a different park than you planned, don’t sweat it. It’s about quality not quantity.
Have a tip for navigating the parks during the busy holiday season? Spread some joy and share it in comments below!
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