disney world at Christmas – visitor’s guide

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Happy Monday friends! Today I’m recapping our Christmastime Disney World trip, sharing a few highlights and some visitor insights. We’ve been to Disney World a handful of times, and this was our second trip there during Christmas break. Each and every trip holds a special place in our memory banks, but there really is nothing more magical than a Disney World Christmas vacation! If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend adding it to your family’s vacation bucket list.

Disney World at Christmas - visitor's guide

1. Why Christmastime?

Disney World at Christmas - visitor's guide

Is that really even a question?! One reason we love this time year for a Disney vacation, apart from the fact that literally every hall is beautifully decked for the holidays, is that the whether is so much more tolerable in Orlando in December as compared to the summer months. The weather in December could range from the 40’s to 80’s, but you most definitely will not have to deal with crazy high humidity or scorching hot temps. And for a vacation where you will be outside walking around for most of it, that is something to consider. Second, both times we’ve gone at Christmastime as compared to spring break or the summer we’ve found the parks themselves to be a bit less crowded – coincidence? Maybe? But we’ve found the week before Christmas to be a good time traffic wise. Yes, it’s still crowded, but not as bad as summertime. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, there really is so much extra magic added in during the holidays. Disney World does not skimp on the decorations, not at the parks or their hotels! I could have literally taken pictures of the grounds and decor the whole time we were visiting and still not have captured all the gorgeousness.

This snowman made from dusty miller is my all time favorite, and I’ll be filing this idea away for next Christmas!

Disney World Christmas - Snowman made from Dusty Miller
Disney World Christmas Vacation
Disney World Christmas Vacation

Oversized red plaid bows? Yep, love it!

Disney World Christmas Vacation

Many of the parks also have special holiday concerts. *The candlelight processional at Epcot is quite beautiful, and I would highly recommend attending!

2. Where to Stay

We’ve stayed at a number of different Disney hotels including the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, French Quarter, and the Boardwalk Inn. While we really loved the grounds of the French Quarter and the Polynesian, our favorite place to stay at Disney is in the Boardwalk area so this time we decided to stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. I loved the New England style decor, and basically this door’s moulding had me at hello.

Disney World Christmas Vacation - Where to Stay - Door at the Yacht Club Resort

And the room size was great as well. Though what we loved most was that this resort is walking distance to Epcot and a short boat ride to Hollywood Studios. In addition you could easily see Epcot’s and Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the beach area out in front of the pool. We’re not huge fans of Disney’s bus transportation. In the past we’ve found it to be really slow. However, the monorail and boat system are quite nice and very quick! I would stay at any hotel along the boardwalk area again in a heartbeat just for the convenience factor of being able to get around so easily.

3. Dealing With Crowds

Yes, the parks will be crowded. However, the majority of your wait time really all depends on how well you plan your itinerary prior to your visit. When it comes to a Disney World Vacation there is no such thing as “too early to make a reservation”. So as soon as you book your trip start planning your itinerary. And don’t do yourself the disservice of trying to do it all, unless you want to be running around like a mad person. Get the My Disney Experience App to make planning a breeze. You make and manage reservations and fastpasses via that app; it’s awesome! Get your fastpasses for the things you definitely don’t want to miss then plan your day around that. It’s amazing how much easier and more enjoyable a Disney trip is with fastpass. Whoever thought of that idea is a flat out genius. This trip we decided to forego the “park hopper pass” which allows you to bounce around from park to park, and instead chose to stay at one park each day. And honestly I don’t know why we haven’t done that before. We felt like it was a much smarter use of our time and money.

Our favorite rides/activties at each park: (Our kids are 9 and 11 to give a little frame of reference.)

Magic Kingdom:

Disney Christmas Vacation Planning

Disney Vacation Planning

Space Mountain

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – My favorite ride in the history of ever!

Splash Mountain

Mickey’s PhilharMagic – I’m not ashamed to say this is one of my favorites; and you don’t really need a fastpass for it as it’s a theatre experience, and the line moves pretty quickly.

Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train is fun, but I personally don’t think it’s worth waisting a fastpass on. The ride itself is pretty quick but the wait time is usually really long. Your best bet if you really want to ride is to get in line during one of the parades.

Speaking of parades, the Electrical Parade is a do not miss! But maybe I feel that way because I grew up 20 minutes from Disneyland, and that parade brings back such wonderful childhood memories.

I hope it holds fond memories for my own kids someday.

Disney Christmas Vacation
Disney Christmas Vacation

Don’t hate me, but I’m not a fan of The Small World ride or The Haunted Mansion – never have been. The lines are always ridiculously long for them too.

Epcot: – is our favorite park!

We just love walking, eating and drinking through all of the countries in the world showcase. The shops are great, and there’s lot of music and street performances throughout the day.

Soarin’ and Test Track are our favorite rides.

And without a doubt, Epcot has the best fireworks, in my humble opinion.

Hollywood Studios:

There was a lot of fun Star Wars related stuff going on while we were there this time being that the movie had just opened. And since we’re huge Star Wars lovers that was very exciting for us. The fireworks show set to Star Wars music probably takes the cake for best in show this trip, and there’s no doubt taking a family picture with Chewbacca was the main highlight.

But even when they aren’t promoting the movie, there is lots of fun Star Wars related stuff throughout the park. You may even see an ewok running around. πŸ˜‰

Definitely get a fastpass for:

Star Tours – it’s still a favorite for all of us, and they’ve revamped it a bit for the new movie.

Rockin Roller Coaster

Tower of Tower

You probably don’t need a fastpass for but will enjoy:

Path of the Jedi – it’s new, a theatre type experience and the line moves pretty quickly.

One Man’s Dream – It’s not as kid-centric, but I think it’s really inspiring.

Hollywood Studios shows are really great! We love Beauty and the Beast and Fantasmic. Indiana Jones is pretty cool as well, and for young padawans Jedi Training is a really fun experience. To our utter shock and surprise, the hubs and I were pleasantly surprised by the Frozen Sing Along. We thought it was going to be one of those “grin and bear it” parenting situations, but we kind of LOVED it! It was actually pretty hilarious.

Animal Kingdom:

It’s my second favorite to Epcot. I just love the grounds so much and the food…….oh the food is pretty great. But we’ll talk about that more in a bit.

Selfie sticks aren’t allowed in, so you end up with this. πŸ˜‰ #selfiefail

Disney Vacation Planning

Favorites Include:

Expedition Everest

Disney World Vacation Planning
Gotta love a photo bomber. πŸ˜‰

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kali River Rapids

We also love the Festival of the Lion King and Flights of Wonder shows.

4. Navigating Gluten Free Food

Now, let’s talk food. As you know our family is gluten free. I think that may be one of the many reasons a Disney vacation is so fun for us as they do such a wonderful job of accommodating food allergies.

Disney World Gluten Free

Most breakfast buffets will make and bring gluten free waffles and/or pancakes to your table. Our favorite place for breakfast is still Ohana at the Polynesian where the food is great and you get to meet Stitch (and Lilo, Mickey and Pluto), who is one of our favorite Disney characters. This is a popular place for breakfast so make your reservations way in advance!

Planning a Disney Christmas Vacation

We’re also big fans of the beignets that can be made gluten free over in the food court at the French Quarter, and they count as a snack on the dining plan.

Gluten Free Beignets at Disneys French Quarter

Personally I think the food at Magic Kingdom, for those that are gluten free, is the worst. The selection at that particular park is kind of limited.

Animal Kingdom has the best variety of choices, in my opinion, with lots of gluten free options. We loved Tusker House which is buffet style with lots of great gluten free options. The Yak & Yeti Restaurant, which is Chinese food, also had a nice selection of safe choices.

We really loved Raglan Road Irish Pub at Disney’s Springs (formerly called Downtown Disney). They have the best gluten free fish and chips I’ve ever had!!! We ate there twice this trip.

Without a doubt, the best surprise we stumbled upon this go around was the Italian restaurant at the Boardwalk, Trattoria al Forno! Their gluten free menu was impressive, to say the least and the food was deliciously outstanding! If you’re gluten free, you must eat here!

5. Disney Family Vacation Tips

– Bring a lightweight backpack to carry in some extra layers, in case it gets colder as the sun goes down. A rain poncho is also not a bad idea and even when there’s zero chance of rain it will come in handy on any raft/water rides.

– Kids will want to buy stuff. Disney does a great job of having all kinds of merchandise everywhere. It’s every parents dream really. πŸ˜‰ We navigate all of that by having a set amount of money each child has to spend on vacation. And they are fully in charge of how they waste spend that money. If you’re planning a trip around the holidays, I recommend encouraging the grandparents to give “spending money” as a present. My mom sent our kids their Christmas gift before we left for our trip so they each had their own equal amounts to spend on vacation. And the hubs and I didn’t spend a dime outside of what we had already paid for our vacation.

– Do not ever wear new shoes to an amusement park. Make sure everyone in your party is wearing a good comfortable pair of worn in shoes. In my opinion, Rainbows are the best flip flops for walking around all day.

– Last but not least, continue the fun and have your kids record their vacation memories in a scrapbook once you get home. Check out the ones they made of our New York City Christmas trip last year.

All in all we logged some serious family fun into a fun-filled four days and made memories that are sure to last a lifetime.

Disney World Christmas Vacation Planning

Family vacations are so special no matter where you go, but if you’ve never done the Disney World thing I highly recommend doing it at least once. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if planned out in advance I promise it can be just as enjoyable for an adult as for a kid. Really, Disney World is not just for kids!

Nevermind, my hideous-unconditioned-in-desperate-need-of-a-haircut hair. This was not a bad way to spend a Monday. πŸ˜‰

Disney World Vacation Planning

And really, there is just nothing better than the smiles this mouse brings to everyone’s face.

#weselfiedwithmickeymouse

Back to the usual design talk tomorrow friends!

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