I know what you’re thinking already…. “I spent all this money on my vacation so you better believe I’m spending every day in those parks to do everything!”. That’s fine and dandy if that works for your family. Honestly, I was like that too. I told myself I had to go to the parks on Thanksgiving to see what the chatter about the crowds was all about.
Going in knowing we were only going to be there until we couldn’t take the crowds, we planned to hit a couple of our favorites then do whatever else didn’t have an insane wait. After reading horror stories about waits, crowds, rudeness and just mayhem, I went in expecting the worst. The first couple of hours at park open wasn’t terrible – not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Shortly after riding a couple of rides, we wound up heading back to our room to enjoy the rest of our day. Another year, we tried the opposite approach and made dinner Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) on Thanksgiving. Again there weren’t masses of people like I was anticipating but it was crazy waits for even attractions like The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It was nice going into the park to enjoy dinner then leaving because it was too crazy. We felt like locals for a day! Part of the reason we can do these couple of hour visits to a park is because we have annual passes that allow us to visit as many parks as we’d like as many times as we’d like in a calendar year. Another part is because these trips were extended trips – around ten days. During the trips, we had more than enough time other days to get our “must dos” done and experience many of the other things we wanted to try out.
For those with limited time in the parks who want to make the most of every day, here are a few tips:
- Make use of FastPass+. Learn how to use this feature and become proficient at making plans as well as changing and cancelling as needed on your smart phone. This will help you actually take part in different things throughout the day.
- Make ADRs. Yes you WILL need them over the holidays to get anything decent worth spending your hard earned money on.
- Park hop. Magic Kingdom is always busy because people associate that park with Walt Disney World. Start your day out there then hop on the monorail to EPCOT or take a bus to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios to continue the fun when things start to get crowded.
- Have realistic expectations. Disney is expensive. I get that. No, really I do! Know that it’s probably cheaper for you to not purchase park tickets for that day if you’re worried about getting the most from your ticket. Lines are going to be crazy long which leads to meltdowns which leads to angry fits which leads to no fun for anyone. So long as you’re going in understanding you might only get to ride three attractions, you should be ok.
- Bring food with you. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. Lines are going to be long. While everyone else is standing in line for lunch, you can be inching closer to the front of “it’s a small world”. By bringing your own food and drinks, you’ll be able to skip those crazy lines and find a great people watching spot to eat or just eat on the go.
The other option is to skip the parks on a major holiday and try out some of the other fun things Disney has to offer:
- Mini golf. There are always different deals on the two mini golf courses Walt Disney World has on property. Don’t be afraid to ask when you arrive to see if there are any specials going on or discounts you might be able to receive.
- Pool time. You booked a great place to stay – take some time to enjoy the amenities! Skip the water parks and spend time playing in or lounging by the pool at your resort that you’ve already paid for.
- Resort hop. This is a great time to ride the resort monorail loop and check out each of the resort’s holiday decorations or just the general theming from resort to resort. Don’t limit yourself to the main buildings either – take some time to wander the grounds. You never know what you might find!
- Get your shopping done. Use your time to pick up that coffee mug you saw yesterday or that new Mickey plush you have to have. Instead of using your valuable park time then lugging it around the park, picking it up while you’re not in the parks makes perfect sense!
- Resort activities. Many of the resorts have special activities during holidays as well. Be sure to ask at the front desk to see what’s planned so you don’t miss out!
Put that ticket money towards another fun experience to make new memories:
- Fireworks Cruise. We’ve done the Wishes cruise and loved it! The view from the water is amazing and this is something I think everyone should do once. You an share your cruise with others to help reduce the cost (you have to set up the cruise and find people to go with you, Disney won’t do this for you)
- Special event. If you’re coming during a time Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are taking place, that’s a great way to check out the park and enjoy some special experiences with a slightly smaller crowd.
- Room with a view. Upgrade your accommodations to a room with a theme park view for a night. Sitting on your balcony watching people come and go from the parks, the monorail whizzing by and even your own special spot to watch the fireworks at night! That sounds like a pretty good way to spend a day to me!
Most people are only able to travel during a holiday week due to school schedules so hopefully these tips helped to make those trips a little bit more bearable. Do you have a tip to share?