How to Make the Most of the Holidays at Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom autumn

One of the million + reasons that my family loves Walt Disney World so much is the fact that it goes all out for winter holidays. And I mean ALL OUT. If there was pixie dust flying in the air over the parks everyday, during the autumn and winter holiday season it’s magnified by a thousand. Add in the fact that the weather is much more moderate and you’ve got the perfect mix for a spectacular holiday season. Need some easy tips and tricks on how to make the most of the holidays at Walt Disney World? Here’s my fave ways to amp up your family fun.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle pumpkin October Halloween

Visit Before or After the Actual Holiday

You don’t need to visit on the actual holiday to have an amazing, fun-filled holiday-themed visit. WDW has holiday decorations up well ahead of time and after to help get you in the spirit- and it’s those times where you can save some serious cash! If you’re planning a visit around Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, consider visiting right before or right after to save on on-property rooms.

Here’s something else you’ll save: your sanity. Super big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas draw a ton of locals with annual passes that can’t want to hit the park- and you’ll see their enthusiasm in the crowd levels. If you’re adamant about visiting during peak holidays abide by these tips to get the most out of your holiday visit: hit the park of your choosing at rope drop, jump on as many rides and attractions as you can before lunch, take a midday break when the crowds are at their peak, and then head back to the park before dinner to catch a few shows and parades.

Score FastPass+ Selections Well in Advance

As soon as you have your on-property room and ticket reservation mark your calendar at 60 days to jog your memory. Beginning in the morning of you 45th day out you can begin securing FastPass+ reservations for you and your party members with valid admission and room reservation. You’ll be able to select for the entire length of your stay, too. Tip: make a list of the attractions that your family really wants to see and lock those in ASAP. Popular attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride at Magic Kingdom and Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will go fast!

Not staying on property? You can begin selection FP+ at 30 days out.

6 easy ways to make the most of the holidays at Walt Disney World! Planning tips, navigation tips, and hotel/condo tips!

While You’re at It, Lock Down Advanced Dining Reservations

If you know well ahead of time that you’ll be visiting WDW, so ahead and schedule your advanced dining reservations at 180 days away from the first day of your vacation. You’ll need a valid credit card to hold the reservation in case you decide to bail on it. If you do, you’ll incur a $10 per person fee. You have up until 24 hours before your reservation to cancel so you won’t be charged.

Once again, here’s anther way the early bird catches the worm. Uber popular restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest (both at Magic Kingdom!) are going to fill up quickly so score your reservations as soon as you can.

Making a last-minute trip? Check the official WDW website frequently before you go just in case someone cancels. I’ve gotten really good ressies for ‘Ohana and BOG that way!

Holiday Wishes Walt Disney World
Photo Courtesy of WDW News

Special Event Parties are Special for a Reason

My family loves the parties that surround Halloween and Christmas at Disney World. A hard ticket event (Translation? You’ll have to pay extra to attend in addition to regular park admission.), the park closes early on select nights and party ticket holders get to enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling of Christmas or the not-so-scary fun of Halloween filled with lower crowd levels, fireworks, parades, and nighttime rides on popular attractions.

Don’t want to spend the extra cash on party tickets? No worries, you’ll still get to see the decorations throughout the holiday day season. Need more great tips on the December holiday? Here’s How to Christmas at Walt Disney World.

Christmas at Walt Disney World
Photo Courtesy of WDW News

Take Advantage of Free Events

Visiting on a strict budget or want to make the most out of your visit without shelling out extra cash for party tickets? The parks are filled with free events (with paid theme park admission, of course)! All you have to do is check the Times Guides when you hit the parks each day and you’re good to go.

Here’s my faves for Christmas:

Candlelight Processional

How about a 50-piece orchestra, multiple choirs, and celebrity readers to tell the tale of the biblical story of Christmas? American Adventure Pavilion’s America Gardens Theater in World Showcase is exactly where you need to head to listen to the gorgeous retelling. Candlelight Processional is free with Epcot admission and shows the true meaning of the revered holiday.

Illuminate Your Holiday

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a beauty to see any time of year, but during the Christmas season Epcot has a special version of the light and fireworks display.

Holiday experiences at Walt Disney World
The Candlelight Processional in Epcot is a must-see holiday experience. Photo Courtesy of WDW News.

Story Tellers in World Showcase

Also in world Showcase, storytellers (most of whom are portraying that country’s version of Santa Claus) give a lively description of how they celebrate the Christmas holiday. The storytellers are around throughout the day, so check the Times guide for wheres and whens.

And don’t discount Disney Springs for winter holiday fun, either:

Disney Springs (some folks are calling it the fifth gate and I’m completely warming up to the name!) is going all out for Christmas with Santa meet and Greets, live carolers, a Hanukkah Celebration at Waterview Park, and live entertainment. The best part about visiting Disney Springs for winter holiday experiences? It’s totally free- no theme park admission required.

Chip N' Dale Halloween at Disney

Lodging: Keep an Eye Out for Specials

Lodging is something that you’ll definitely need to think ahead for if you want a great on-property deal. Start checking the official Walt Disney World website for deals and specials months in advance. For Halloween, I start checking in summer. Christmas? September is a great time to begin keeping an eye on the site.

Last-minute visit? There’s nothing wrong with planning one! Truth? We know when we’re visiting well ahead of time and I like it that way. With our busy schedules it’s much easier to plan a little at a time. But, given the choice of a last-minute WDW vacay or staying at home? I’d be all about it!

Recently, I had the pleasure of learning all about Vacatia and the fun term “resort residence“.  There’s so many amazing benefits to booking them, but my favorite has to be having more room to move! Add a full kitchen and it’s a great way to save cash by making meals right in your space. Include mention of the Halloween events at Disney, and note that while it might be tough to get last minute bookings on property at the theme parks, there are still resort residences available through Vacatia.

For instance, Halloween is just around the corner, right? Check the WDW website and you’ll undoubtedly notice a severe lack of available rooms unless you want to pay a premium price. For the price of a regular guest room, Vacatia has Orlando Vacations Rentals including 2-bedroom condos in Orlando. Need or want even more space? There’s three-bedroom condos in Orlando on Vacatia’s site. The amenities include a washer and dryer, multiple bathrooms, and the best reason, room to breathe! If you have a teen like I do, you know how important personal space and private time is for him/her. They’re happy. You’re happy. You can look back on your Disney vacation with smiles instead of winces.

Disclosure: I was given paid consideration from Vacatia for this article. All opinions are mine!

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