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  1. #1
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    Default Please Advise-Christmas Trip Newbie

    Hi All-

    I took my kids for their first WDW trip in 2009 and we just booked a trip yesterday to go over Christmas. My husband has never been so we are really excited. I know Christmas is the busiest time of year to be at Disney, but between our work schedules, we just couldn't find another time to go.

    We decided to stay off-property (last time I was at POFQ) in Orlando. We managed to book a 4 star resort for seven nights for less than $550 which is what swayed us to go in the first place. I realize that staying off property will make this an entirely different trip for us, but again, it was that or not going at all.

    Our kids are 11 (girl) and 5 (boy) and our 11 year old has cerebral palsy. I'm very familiar with the GAC, but I'm wondering if you have any advice for us on how to plan our time given that we'll be there at a time of year when the parks are so incredibly crowded? Our dates in Orlando will be 12/22-12/29. We plan on purchasing five days worth of park tickets (just the base, not the hoppers--I bought hoppers last time and we never went to more than one resort per day so I'm choosing the base ticket this time around).

    Last time we also did the dining plan which we won't be able to do this time around since we're off property. We plan to do breakfast in our hotel, but any ideas for lunch and dinners at the parks?

    Finally, is it worth it to purchase tickets for the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party? What's so special about it?

    This board was tremendously helpful when I planned my 2009 trip as a newbie so I'm hoping the same will be true now.

    TIA,
    Marieke

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  3. #2
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    I don't have any tips, though I'll be interested to see what others say 'cause we'll be down there for our first WDW Christmas, too!

    However, the Christmas party will have ended by then, so that's not an option during your trip. I've heard positives and negatives, but I'm kind of glad it doesn't happen during Christmas week because I don't want to feel like I have to either pay more $$ or miss out on MK hours.

    I hope you have a great trip!

  4. #3
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    I've never gone during the Christmas holiday season. However I remember listening to one particular Intercot podcast where they were talking about how crowded it was: people were literally stopped dead in the streets because you couldn't walk ANYWHERE. You couldn't go forward, you couldn't go backwards. It was like a giant traffic jam! I think one of the problems was that people were stopped dead looking at Christmas lights or something -- it was a while ago -- maybe one of the podcast folks will be here to give you a more accurate story! I sincerely hope it's not like that this year for you guys though...

    I was there over Easter one year and it was pretty close to being a traffic jam; we were able to make our way down Main Street USA very, very slowly, but we made it eventually and just had to take our time!

    My only advice is this: you definitely won't see as much as you normally do. Lineups will be tremendously long, and you'll just have to be more patient. Eat at the restaurants during off-times to avoid crowds. Even though you're not on the dining plan, I REALLY suggest trying to get dining reservations as soon as possible, but understand that most people will have booked theirs 6 months ago so you might not be left with many options for particular restaurants or particular times. See what you can get though -- I'd rather have some reservations than none at all.

    I would also leave myself open to adding the park-hopper option to my pass. If you get to a park and it's unbearably crowded, you're giving yourself the option to try somewhere else that day. There are a number of apps for cell phones (if you have one) that can tell you what the lineups are at each park, at any given time of day -- it might be handy to have that on your phone so you can check what lineups are like and plan accordingly.

    I don't want to sound like a Debbie Downer here! Sorry if I sound like that! As I say, I haven't been during Christmas in particular, but I was there during Easter which is the 2nd busiest time of year, and if Christmas is supposed to be worse than that, the more preparations you can make now, the better!

    Make sure you write a trip report when you're back because I'd be totally interested in hearing how it went! And have a Merry Christmas at WDW, you lucky duck! I'd take a busy day there than a boring day at home anytime!
    ~ Carolyn ~ aka "CANADA!"
    Every year since 1979! Annual Passholder in CANADA!

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  5. #4
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    Staying off-site for THE busiest week of the year? Probably not the greatest idea. The parks (MK and Epcot at least) will probably hit some level of closure which starts with impacting off-site guests. I believe phase two is where they close the parking lots.

    So, get there early and plan to stay all day! MK and Epcot will be shoulder to shoulder. Epcot not as bad.

  6. #5
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    We went two years ago from 12/18 - 12/22 because my daughter is a teacher and we accomodated her schedule. We left the afternoon of 12/22 and the crowds had picked up considerably. My only advice is to not have high expectations, just go with the flow. The crowds are going to be intense. You need dinner reservations, so keep calling you may get in, but it may be 9:00 at night. I have to say I stayed off property once and never again. We became members of DVC in 1998. The driving back and forth is hard, especially at night when you're tired. I might re-evaluate the 5 day pass. The party is worth it especially with young kids. I love it and I'm 52. When our daughter was young it was go, go, go. Now we're empty nesters we go slower and stop and smell the roses and I have to say it's less stressful. Also, the parks close very early because of reaching capacity especially around Christmas (and I mean early) so bear that in mind. Ride the monorail and look at the hotels, they are dressed up. Think of things like that. Have fun with your children, they grow up fast.

  7. #6
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    This time of year is extremely busy so a little planning will go a long way.

    If you do plan on eating TS meals, you MUST make some ADRs now. I have checked our dates the week before Christmas and a lot of restaurants are already booked, so I would call and see what's available for what times you would like to eat. Eat CS lunch kind of early like 1130 before lines get long to save time.

    We found that it pays to be at the parks when they open and ride the most popular rides first (Big Thunder, Splash and Space Mountains, Expedition Everest, Safari, Toy Story Mania, Soarin). Grab fast passes for what you don't ride first thing so you can get through later. We found that after lunch sometimes lines for rides were 2 hours. Save shopping for afternoons when rides are busy.

    Most of all don't expect to be able to do everything you want it will just be too busy. Take time to enjoy the decorations and explore the resorts. They are lovely this time of year. Avoid MK on Christmas Day because it will be just too crowded. I suggest going to Epcot that day because it is large and handles crowds well. Have a great time

    2019????
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  8. #7
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    Like I said in the initial post, I didn't have a lot of choice when it came to dates. I'm a teacher and literally only have vacation when the students do. I could have gone in January, but my husband works at a non-profit camp and he works every weekend in January. If we didn't go at Christmas, our next option would be spring break and I don't have the same break as our kids do which then puts us at summer.

    We are foster parents and have been fostering twins that were born at 28 weeks gestation since July. They are six months old today and will be moving in with a relative some early in December. We felt like we just needed a break.

    It was $100/night to tent it at the Disney campground and that was just way out of our budget. Hence the reason we are staying off property. So while I understand DisneyRox, that staying off-property is not ideal, we are just not the family that is willing or has tons of money to spend at this point. Traveling to FL we decided to do instead of Christmas gifts. We're trying to do our vacation for a family of four for less than $3K. The only way we could do the vacation at all was staying off property.

    Because the parks are open until 1 or 2am during the week we will be there, perhaps it would be better to just not even head over to the parks until 6pm? Or maybe we're better off skipping WDW altogether and enjoying other things Orlando has to offer? Is it really just that bad that it's not even worth it?

    Our hotel reservations are made. That's not something that is changable so we either have to find a way to make this work, or skip it. So far, I've had a really difficult time finding any positive reasons to go to MK during the time that we have booked down there. However, if that many people attend every year, somebody must feel like it's pretty great, right?

  9. #8
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    I'd suggest going to the Magic Kingdom at the beginning of your trip. It will be crowded but not as crowded as it will be once Christmas actually rolls around. Do get to the park early. If you find you can no longer tolerate the crowds and don't want park-hopper passes, then return to your hotel or consider alternate places to visit.

    Epcot usually handles heavy crowds quite well. The one year we actually went for Christmas, we started our day in the Magic Kingdom (They did the holiday parade live back then). By time the parade was finished, the park was extremely crowded so we went over to Epcot and spent the bulk of the day there. We found that park to be quite manageable - even on Christmas day. Our only mistake was returning to the Magic Kingdom that evening and that is were we experienced being in a crowd so thick that it was impossible to move in any direction (This was during the evening parade). Once we were able to move again, we got out of there!

    Plan on taking things more slowly than you might usually do. The lines for the popular rides will be really long but it's still possible to enjoy the attractions that many tend to skip over - take a train ride around the Magic Kingdom; take a trolley car up or down Main Street etc.

    If you have not made dining reservations, you'll likely need to eat at quick service establishments. If possible, eat at off hours to avoid the "normal" meal time rush. A lunch around 11 or 2 p.m. usually means fewer crowds. Likewise, an early dinner or a late dinner is more manageable.

    You might also want to peruse the section of the boards on Guests with Special Needs.

    A big part of enjoying your vacation is to go with the right attitude. If you know you will have a good time, you'll find a way to make it happen!
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  10. #9
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    We have done it over the holidays twice...once, for 3 nights at SoG right after Christmas, and once for 7 days at Dixie Landings (POR), checking out on the 26th.
    In typical Disney fashion, the extra touches make it a special time. Decorations alone are worth the visit. We did get to do all we wanted to do...although the 3 night trip made us make some decisions ahead of time what to skip. The year we stayed at POR, we really did everything...just took our time...
    Also remember, you can add one or two days to your tickets for a small amount...about $3 a ticket after the 4th day..would allow you to manage revisits to parks you weren't able to do all you wanted to on the first several nights.

    Parks tend to be open later...and most of the visitors aren't prepared for the late evening chill...be ready, stay around, and watch the crowds thin out! Still have the great Christmas Mickey sweaters we bought to tolerate the late evenings at MK and EPCOT during our Christmas week visits.

    We did DHS on Christmas Day...crowd was manageable...Did EPCOT Christmas Eve...most of crowd was in World Showcase, so we were able to do most of the rides in Future World. Some of family were in MK on Christmas Eve, and were able to do most of the attractions...with some waits....FP's are important! And in case you are not aware of it, Fast Passes are available to anyone with a ticket...so your base tickets will get you fast passes.

    For Christmas Day, consider getting to your park that day at opening...and consider leaving the park by early afternoon....find a good place for your Christmas Dinner...off site...Many of the major hotel chains host Christmas buffets....make a reservation for mid to late afternoon...eat, relax, enjoy the evening together...and plan for your last several days.

    Do try to make some ADR's for places you really want to do...Try for at least one Character meal...In spite of my recommendation above for Christmas Day, (or maybe even to increase the experience) consider a breakfast Character meal on Christmas...see if you can get into the Safari Breakfast at AK, and make that your AK day....make a slightly later evening Christmas Dinner reservation offsite.

    We also have always enjoyed our meals at 1900 Park Faire, in the Grand Floridian resort....any time of the day...gets you away from the park, and the decorations there are considered an absolute Must See...check with Disney Dining for availability on one of your MK days...Remember, with the base tickets, you can enter and leave your park of the day several times...do some of MK, split for dinner, return to the park, and stay for the late evening..parade, fireworks, and late rides.

    Note on those late evenings, with large crowds, Adventureland seems almost empty by comparison....Pirates, Jungle Cruise, the Tikiroom, Aladan's Carpets essentially are walk on's...and short lines for Dole Whips....
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  11. #10
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    Well, I wouldn't go as far as saying don't go to the parks. I just want you to be prepared for the crowds. I would suggest getting up and going early vs. going late. If you get overwhelmed by crowds leave after lunch and explore the resorts and other area attractions.

    However, I can say if you've never been at Christmastime you need to go see the decorations at least once! You will be awestruck. It can be a magically wonderful experience if you plan well and know what to expect.

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  12. #11
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    I haven't read all the above posts, but i'm assuming that your son could qualify you for some special accomodation that would make the trip easier? I don't know much about it, but I'm wondering if you will be able to get on rides a little easier? If not (or even if), make sure to get to the parks very early - in line before they open. That might be the only time of day you really get to ride.
    Aside from that - just really enjoy the Christmas atmosphere - it is SO gorgeous and the decorations are wonderful. If you can get around to some of the deluxe resorts, that is worth a trip - particularly during times of the day when it is REALLY crowded in the parks. And since dining reservations may be hard to get, going to a deluxe and eating in one of their Quick-Service locations can really feel like a treat all by itself (we did that at every single deluxe on our last trip, just to do something a little different ;-) If (knocking wood it doesn't happen) it does get busy enough to close the parks, consider a trip to Seaworld. It is a must-do for us, and very accessible if you are already staying off site - and I don't think it attracts the same crowds. It is a different experience - a couple awesome rides, but the shows are a whole different thing - watching the dolphins and the Orcas while sitting in the warm Florida sunshing surrounded by Christmas decorations....I'm dreaming of it right now since I'm in the middle of a blizzard ;-) Plan ahead for the few show or rides you feel you really MUST do, and then go with the flow for everything else. Watch the parades. Watch the fireworks. Wander the stores and buy some tree ornaments. It'll be a "different" trip, but it will be magickal

  13. #12
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    We go at this time of year every year because my husband and I both teach. I agree - don't expect to see and do it all, but it isn't THAT bad.
    Well, New Years Eve is awful. I'd stay away and just hang at the Boardwalk street party. But other than that, it's do-able. New Years Day morning is actually EMPTY and our favorite time to race around and hit everything while people are still sleeping off the night before!

    We usually have the kids make a list of 3-5 "must do" things on the way to Disney, and we make sure we get those. Anything else is considered a bonus!
    Next trip - New Years 2018!

  14. #13
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    Just make sure you are at the parks 30 minutes before they open. You can still do at least 2-3 major rides per park with little to no wait if you are there right away. If not, plan on long lines for every ride.

    Also, do some research and plan on seeing some shows and rides that don't have lines. See the movies and different musical acts at Epcot. See the Auto stunt show at Disney Studios as that can hold thousands of people. Spend more time in the shops, and look at all the Christmas decorations. You can still have a great time. Enjoy.
    30+ trips; DCV owner at Beach Club Villas; 4 Disney cruises; 2 trips to Disneyland

  15. #14
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    I've skimmed over the previous posts but, here are my suggestions ... forgive me if they are repeats:

    1. Get to the parks early. If they do close the park because of peak attendance levels, who knows what time they will reopen the gates for you to get back in.

    2. Conside the hopper this time since you are staying off property. While you may intent only to do one park a day, you may find yourselves needing to get out of a park and wishing you were able to go to another park for the remainder of the day.

    3. Find creative ways to spend your time outside of the parks. Have dinner at a monorail resort and watch Wishes from the beach at the Poly or GF after dinner (parking at the resort of course!)

    4. Maybe split your day up to do park things in the am, resort hop and dinner in the late afternoon and then back to a late closing park for the pm if you can handle it.

    5. At this time of year, make sure to take a break and go back to your resort if you need to. Even though you are staying off property, go back for rest at times is just what your vacation may need. With the crowds being one of the highest of the year, it is more important to listen to the thresholds of your family. It's ok not to spend every possible minute at the parks. Rest and QUALITY family time are just as important as anything the parks can offer you.

    6. Pick 3-4 things at each park that is a must do for your family. Plan for those 3-4 things and go prepared w/ a plan for just those things. With that mindset, everything else will be icing on the cake and you'll come home from your vacation feeling fulfilled and not failed.

    We have stayed off property 3 times. Each time was a great vacation. Sure, it's easier and IMO better to be on property. But, going to Disney no matter the location of your resort is better than not going at all. It will just make your next, next trip more enjoyable and meaningful when you do stay on property again!

    Have a great time! You aren't only on vacation. You are at DisneyWorld during one of the most joyous holidays of the year. Remember your there during Christmas and whether you observe Christmas or not, it is a time of love, family, giving and good will to all.
    Jennifer - Proud DVC Owner
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  16. #15
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    We love Christmas time at WDW. We will actually be there Dec.30-Jan 5 this year. We have been for Christmas but never New Years and we are expecting unbelieveable crowds for our trip as well.

    We have never stayed off-site and I can't imagine fighting the traffic during that week as it can get very frustrating, so I would take the advice of others and get there VERY early.

    Also as others have mentioned I have seen the parks close very early during the day and if you are not staying on property it may be hard or even impossible to get into the park you are wanting to. The earlier you get there the better your chances.

    I guess the biggest problem we have encountered with crowds during Christmas has been the counter-service eateries. They get impassable and finding tables is really hard and you have people sitting EVERYWHERE. The Table service restaurants don't allow that so I would recommend ADR's for as many meals as possible.

    We usually take alot of breaks and stay out late but not being on property would make that tough. So just go with the flow and prepare to have your nose in someone's backside the whole time you are in the parks.lol
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  17. #16
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    Marieke,

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  18. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    I've never gone during the Christmas holiday season. However I remember listening to one particular Intercot podcast where they were talking about how crowded it was: people were literally stopped dead in the streets because you couldn't walk ANYWHERE. You couldn't go forward, you couldn't go backwards. It was like a giant traffic jam! I think one of the problems was that people were stopped dead looking at Christmas lights or something -- it was a while ago -- maybe one of the podcast folks will be here to give you a more accurate story! I sincerely hope it's not like that this year for you guys though...

    I was there over Easter one year and it was pretty close to being a traffic jam; we were able to make our way down Main Street USA very, very slowly, but we made it eventually and just had to take our time!

    My only advice is this: you definitely won't see as much as you normally do. Lineups will be tremendously long, and you'll just have to be more patient. Eat at the restaurants during off-times to avoid crowds. Even though you're not on the dining plan, I REALLY suggest trying to get dining reservations as soon as possible, but understand that most people will have booked theirs 6 months ago so you might not be left with many options for particular restaurants or particular times. See what you can get though -- I'd rather have some reservations than none at all.

    I would also leave myself open to adding the park-hopper option to my pass. If you get to a park and it's unbearably crowded, you're giving yourself the option to try somewhere else that day. There are a number of apps for cell phones (if you have one) that can tell you what the lineups are at each park, at any given time of day -- it might be handy to have that on your phone so you can check what lineups are like and plan accordingly.

    I don't want to sound like a Debbie Downer here! Sorry if I sound like that! As I say, I haven't been during Christmas in particular, but I was there during Easter which is the 2nd busiest time of year, and if Christmas is supposed to be worse than that, the more preparations you can make now, the better!

    Make sure you write a trip report when you're back because I'd be totally interested in hearing how it went! And have a Merry Christmas at WDW, you lucky duck! I'd take a busy day there than a boring day at home anytime!



    I was at MK last year on Christmas Eve we wanted to watch the light parade so we headed to the Castle and got caught in the crowd and would up getting pushed all the way down Main street right out of the park it was horrible!!!! I would really recommend not going to the MK on Christmas day or at least staying far away from main street anytime near the light parade times. We were at Epcot on Christmas day and it really wasn't bad there.
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  19. #18
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    @mom2morgan, yes my DD will qualify for a GAC. She will have a special needs stroller that essentially functions as a wheelchair for her. That means we will have access to the wheelchair entrances for rides. In the past this has meant that we generally don't wait in lines for quite as long, but I never count on that as I realize we could be waiting just like everyone else. However, we did just find out today that she will need another surgery on 1/20/12, so that makes me want to make this trip all the more enjoyable for her.

    I appreciate all of the advice and suggestions. I looked into ADR's already, and really haven't found much that is available which totally makes sense. I realize that most people who plan to go at Christmas made their ADR's 180 days prior to their travel dates. We loved all of the amazing places we ate at last time when we stayed on property--loved it!, but I already know this trip will be much different than that. Does anyone have a good suggestion off property for Christmas dinner in the Orlando area?

    Keep your ideas coming, I'm reading them all!

  20. #19
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    Eek - sorry I changed your child's gender ;-) I really need to read more closely!! I'm really hoping she has a WONDERFUL trip. And I totally "get" your other situation as well - went in 2007 with my foster son (teenager) and while it was an awesome trip, it had certain....stressors. He's exhausting! (STILL and he's 20, LOL). You need a break to reconnect, and this seems to be perfect timing!

  21. #20
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    This is my best advice.

    Every trip is what you make of it.

    Be glad you are there and go with the flow. If you have several must sees or must dos, plan them. If not, jump in a line that is not too long, eat where you can and ENJOY!

    I will be there from the 1st thru the 4th. While I am hoping that crowds will calm down a bit after the holidays, I never count on it. It will just be great to be there.

    Also, when I stopped to think about the things I really treasure about times I have spent with my family, it is the interaction with them that is priceless. Not where we were, what we were doing or what we were eating.

    Don't get me wrong. I LOVE DISNEY WORLD. But sometimes we just need to put into perspective.

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