Have you ever considered visiting Walt Disney World during the month of the December to enjoy all of the Christmas festivities, but then decided against it after getting overwhelmed by thoughts of the crowds and all the planning that’s required? Well, not to worry, it really isn’t as difficult as it might seem to enjoy a joyous and simple Walt Disney World vacation during the holidays, and I’m going to show you how. I will soon be traveling to Walt Disney World for a few days to soak up as much Christmas spirit as possible before coming home to spend the holidays with my kids. In this post, I will share with you all of my plans, and in a couple of weeks, I will share a trip report post, letting you know how it all worked out. So grab yourself some Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and let’s begin!
First thing’s first, managing expectations is so important. When planning a visit to Walt Disney World during the month of December, we have to be realistic about our expectations. This time of year is going to be busy, there is no way around it, so if we start each day expecting short waits and no crowds, we are going to be very disappointed. Also the weather could potentially be a factor, the temperatures could vary from the 80s to the 40s in a single trip, possibly in a single day, not to mention in Florida it could rain at any moment, so we need to pack accordingly.
Think about your trip as a project or business. You wouldn’t begin an important project or start a new business without having a mission statement. What is the purpose of your vacation? What is your hope for this trip? For us, we would like to enjoy as many of the Christmas offerings as possible. Knowing that this vacation is all about Christmas, helps tremendously when making plans from what to see, where to go, and even what to eat. When things change, or a curve ball comes your way during your stay, remember the purpose for your trip and that will help you make quick decisions without stress.
For this trip, I will be traveling with a friend, so for most of the time, we will be making dining reservations, Fastpass+, and plans for just two people. However on one evening, we will be meeting up with two more friends for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Getting last minute Fastpasses and dining reservations is always easier with fewer people, so this is something we’ll want to keep in mind during our trip.
I am a procrastinator, so I tend to pack just a few hours before heading to the airport. To make this bad habit easier, I have a small basket in my closet that holds all of the important things that I take on every trip to Walt Disney World. So when it comes time to pack, everything I need is in one place and all I need to add is clothes. My travel basket has items in it like my MagicBands, raincoat, umbrella, sunglasses, drawstring backpack, and travel wallet. For this trip, I will also be taking my new Mickey Mouse buffalo plaid Santa hat with ears that I got specifically for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
As for clothes, because the weather forecast is up and down while we’re there, I will be taking my favorite Mickey Mouse short sleeve shirts, with some long sleeve solid color t-shirts that I can wear underneath them for the cold evenings. (Think Sheldon on Big Band Theory.) I live in Colorado, so we deal with cold and snow eight months of the year, but keep in mind, due to the humidity in Florida, it can feel a lot colder than you might expect. A sunny 60 degree day in Colorado feels a lot hotter, than a 60 degree evening in Walt Disney World. With that in mind, I will also be bringing a jacket, scarf and gloves.
There are so many choices of where to stay when visiting Walt Disney World it can be a little overwhelming to choose. Depending on when we go and who we’re traveling with, we have stayed at a variety of places including onsite and offsite, from value resorts to vacation homes with private pools. One thing we always try to look for is a bargain. For this particular trip, we had booked four nights at Pop Century in a standard room with an Annual Passholder discount for approximately $899 total including taxes and fees. We chose Pop Century this time around, because the rate was fantastic and we were looking forward to using the Disney Skyliner. Sometimes we find that the crowds and noise levels at the value resorts can be a lot after a full day in the parks. Of all of the value resorts, Pop Century is by far my favorite, but if I’m looking for a relaxing place to unwind or just a quiet walk around the resort at the end of a busy day, Pop wouldn’t be my first choice in locations. Knowing that on this trip, we are planning on focusing on Christmas, which means our time in the parks will be different than one of our normal trips, we decided we would check back with Disney to see about an upgrade.
Remember Disney allows guests to cancel up to five days prior to arrival without penalty, so if you’re looking for an upgrade start calling about 7 to 10 days before your trip to see if anything opens up as other guests change their vacations. On my first try, a King bed studio room in the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs was now available, but even with the passholder discount it was still $1800 for the four nights. As much as we love Coronado Springs and Gran Destino specifically, we couldn’t justify the high price tag. The next day, I tried again, and as luck would have it, a King bed standard view room had opened up at Caribbean Beach Resort. With the passholder discount applied, our new rate was only $1006 total including all taxes and fees, which was just a little over $100 more than Pop Century, so of course, we jumped at it. Even when changing your reservation and switching resorts, there are no worries, because you keep the same reservation number, so all of our dining reservations and Fastpasses were still in place and ready to go.
Now that we have all of the basics out of the way, here’s the plan…
Day 1 – On Our Way
We always fly out at night, so I will spend most of the day wrapping up last minute things on my To Do List and packing. We have a tradition of going out to dinner and checking out the Disney Store before we leave town, so we’ll get the suitcase and backpacks in the car and head out at about 6:30pm for our 7:00pm reservation. We’ll spend a couple of relaxing hours enjoying a nice dinner and browsing our local Disney Store (shout out to Cast Member Cory that knows us well from all the times we’ve stopped in), before making the drive to the airport. Right now, the forecast looks clear, so hopefully the drive will be a smooth one. It takes us about an hour to get there and drop the car with the valet. If you’ve never looked into valet parking at your airport, I highly recommend it. Believe it or not, it isn’t as expensive at you might think. For example at Denver International Airport, where we fly out of, it is $35 a day for the first three days, but then it drops to $14 a day. It is definitely worth doing the math, especially if you live someplace like we do where you can expect to come home and find your car buried under a huge pile of snow.
We have our packing down to a science now, so we never check a bag. Once we drop off the car, we’ll head inside and go straight to the security line. Luckily, Denver security moves fairly quickly, especially later in the evening, so we should be through and to our concourse in no time. We almost always fly Frontier, and this time will be no exception. Frontier is one of those airlines people seem to either love or hate. For the most part, we’ve had pretty good luck with them, and when something has gone wrong, they’ve been pretty good about compensating us with some sort of travel voucher. Before we board, we’ll make our regular stop at Hudson News to grab a water and a diet Coke for the flight, and we’ll download a couple of things to watch on Disney+ if we can’t sleep. Before we know it, it will be 11:30pm and time to board for our midnight departure, and with any luck, we’ll sleep until we land at 6:00am Orlando time.
Day 2 – Hollywood Studios
Once we land about 6:00am, we’ll head straight over to hop aboard the Magical Express, and if the wait isn’t too long and traffic moves smoothly, we should be arriving at the Caribbean Beach Resort around 7:00am. It never hurts to stop by the front desk to see if a room might be available for early check in. I would say about 75% of the time, we are able to get our room right away. If you have made several requests such as location, floor, etc., the chances of checking in early goes down, but we normally have no special requests, and are happy to take whatever they have ready. Worst case scenario, we’ll just change our clothes in the lobby restroom and drop our bags with the bell stand before heading to the Skyliner. If the ride goes as planned (fingers crossed!), we should be at Hollywood Studios in about 5 minutes or around 7:30am.
Now once we arrive at Hollywood Studios, anything could happen. The park is scheduled to open at 8:00am, but as we all know, it has been opening as much as three hours before the posted time to accommodate the crowds for Rise of the Resistance. Our hope is to get into the park and secure a boarding group for later in the day before they are gone, but realistically that might not happen. Before our Fastpasses open, we’ll try to sneak in rides on Slinky Dog Dash and Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster. We have a 9:35am Fastpass for Tower of Terror, a 10:40am Fastpass for Star Tours, and an 11:45am Fastpass for Muppet*Vision. Between attractions, we’ll probably check out some of the holiday decorations and merchandise, maybe try a Cinnamon-Apple Lunch Box Tart at Woody’s Lunch Box, and take some festive photos. Before heading back to Caribbean Beach Resort for a break, we might try to squeeze in a stop to see For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, to add to our holiday spirit with a little snow. Then it’s back to Caribbean Beach for a nice long nap and maybe a snack of empanadas and key lime pie at Sebastian’s Bistro. We’ll plan to wake up to return to Hollywood Studios later in the day, possibly to ride Rise of the Resistance if we were lucky enough to snag a boarding group, and also to see the holiday decorations at night. We definitely want to catch Sunset Seasons Greetings and Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Then it’s time to catch the Skyliner back to Caribbean Beach for a good night’s sleep!
Day 3 – Magic Kingdom
Contradictory to all Walt Disney World planning advice, we will be sleeping in. Remember the focus of our trip is Christmas and relaxation. So for us, we’ll be sleeping in, staying up later, and enjoying the holiday decorations and offerings each evening. We’ll get up in time so that we can take a bus to Magic Kingdom, and then a monorail over to the Grand Floridian Cafe for our 1:00pm lunch reservation. If you haven’t eaten there, give it a try sometime, especially the Mickey Mouse waffle with the toppings…sugar cookie crumbles, whipped cream, and strawberries…YUM!
After lunch, it’s back to Magic Kingdom for Fastpasses on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain before Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. For the party, we are meeting our dear friends, fellow Disney blogger and social media queen, Krista Joy of Disneyways and the incredibly talented Elvis tribute artist and former Jungle Cruise Skipper, Peter Alden. We plan on riding attractions, stuffing ourselves with tasty treats, enjoying all of the entertainment, and laughing the night away!
Day 4 – Epcot
After closing down the Magic Kingdom the night before, we’ll be sleeping in again this day, before heading over to Epcot in the afternoon. We plan on hitting our 1:15pm Fastpass at Spaceship Earth, our 2:15pm Fastpass at Soarin’ and our 3:15pm Fastpass for Living with the Land, before making our way to the World Showcase to enjoy the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. We’ll take our time soaking up all of the special holiday entertainment and decorations. And when we get hungry, we’ll be sure to stop by the Holiday Kitchens for some delicious snacks. I’ll definitely be saving room for the Holiday Cookie Stroll, this is must-do on my list this trip! At the end of the night, we’ll catch Epcot Forever, before taking the Disney Skyliner back to the Caribbean Beach Resort to sleep.
Day 5 – Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs
One more morning of sleeping in before we make our way to Animal Kingdom for our Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR Fastpasses, and our Restaurantosaurus Dig Site Sundaes and Gourmet Burgers dinner which looks yummy!
Day 6 – Going Home
And of course, the saddest day of all, going home day. Our flight leaves crazy early, so we’ll be making our way to the “tragical” express bus stop at the ungodly hour of 2:30am. But at least that way, we can sleep on the four hour flight home if all goes smoothly.
Be sure to check back next week, for my follow up post where I will share lots of photos and details on how our plans went. If you would like to follow along in real time, you can find me on Twitter @DWEnthusiast or over on Facebook. And if you happen to see us in the parks, be sure to say hello and stop to take a picture, we hope to see you there. Merry Christmas!