Without a doubt, Christmas at the Magic Kingdom is magical. There are special decorations, special costumes and characters, music that you wouldn’t ordinary hear, special fireworks and parades and lots of yummy only that time of year treats!
The thing is though, it’s not just your family wanting to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at the park. Alot of other families are wanting to do that too. A lot of groups of friends, or even just the single guy or gal who wants to absorb the atmosphere is going to be there.
Disney doesn’t say exactly how many guests can go into each park, but there are estimates from various sources. On an average peak day at Magic Kingdom, where the crowds will be in the 50,000’s, on Christmas day, that number is going to be more than doubled. Long before it gets to those numbers, phased closure begins.
We’ve talked a little more about that in a previous post, you can click here to read it.
A lot of the same things apply for holiday’s in general at Disney, but if you are planning to go Christmas Day, or New Years Eve, you’ve got to be extra prepared, or you might get turned away and those magical memories you were hoping to make? They won’t be of the happy kind.
On Christmas Day, it’s almost better to just relax, walk around and enjoy the atmosphere because all of the lines for everything from bathrooms, to restaurants to rides are going to be much, much longer than usual. Hopefully you’ve either been to Magic Kingdom before, or you’ve got a few more days planned to explore it.
If you have never been to Magic Kingdom and plan to go for the first time in December, keep reading!
While I would NEVER suggest someone NOT go to Magic Kingdom, I would like to point out that both Epcot and Animal Kingdom are much bigger parks. You can still have a really large number of guests in the park, but it’s not going to feel nearly so crowded. Hollywood Studios isn’t the largest of the parks, but it also might be a good alternative during Christmas through New Years so that you can experience a few more rides than you might at Magic Kingdom.
So what if you’ve got your heart set on Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day? (Or any of the days nearby). Well, you’ve got to have a plan. We talk about that a lot here, and holiday’s are no exception! Grab your notebook, and let’s get busy!
Because holidays, New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, are such popular times to visit, Magic Kingdom can reach capacity. What does this mean? A holiday at capacity happens in stages, so knowing those stages can make sure YOU get inside. Disney can change the way they do things at any time, but this is generally how it happens when it starts getting closer to capacity. Usually you’ll only need to worry about this a few days before, and after Christmas.
Guests with one day, single park tickets or those using cast member passes will not be allowed to park, they will be turned away at the toll plazas.
Any guest staying at a Disney Resort, even if they drive themselves, is allowed in. Also, anyone with a multi day ticket, or park hopper tickets, annual passholders, someone hopping in from another park, anyone arriving by Disney transportation or anyone with an existing in park reservation.
When the second stage occurs, the only ones allowed into the parking lots, or through the ticket turnstiles are:
Those staying at a Disney resort, annual passholders, those re-entering the park from earlier that day, those hopping from another park, those with in park reservations or those coming by Disney transportation.
Once it reaches the third stage (which isn’t too often, the second stage it the most common) the only ones allowed into the turnstiles, or the parking lot are:
Those staying at a Disney Resort, annual passholders, those with in park reservations.
The fourth stage, the park is entirely shut down, to all visitors. This has only happened once though, so it’s unlikely you will need to worry about it.
If you are visiting during a holiday, and NOT staying on property, you need to arrive at least an hour and a half early in order to make sure you get into the park. Remember, with the new opening procedure for the park, the hub is open an hour, sometimes earlier, than actual park opening. Once that is filled, and it will fill on a holiday, people will be stuck between the gates and the turnstiles, backing up to to the arrival areas and it will take much much longer to get inside of the park and get where you want to go. Holidays are NOT a time to get there late.
There will be crowds, but like any Disney crowd, common sense will see you through. If you’ve small children, keep them in the stroller or tightly hold their hands so they don’t get lost, or knocked over. It only takes the blink of an eye for your group to be separated when another group pushes past you, so something like matching hats or shirts can go a long way towards spotting each others.
First-timers- you will NOT be able to hear your cell phone ringing, and the person you are trying to call will not be able to hear theirs! Even on a regular park day, it’s just too loud in the park to hear it, so plan to take frequent breaks to look to see if you’ve missed a call or text from another in your group.
If there was a sit down place you wanted to eat, or if your little princess wanted a makeover, I hope you’ve already got reservations. You can start booking your preferred restaurant 6 months in advance. Didn’t do that yet? It’s okay, and you might still be able to get a reservation, but the sooner you start checking, the better. As time draws closer to your trip, if you haven't been able to score a table, don’t give up. Things happen sometimes with the others who hold those reservations, and it’s not unlikely, or impossible to get the restaurant you’ve been longing for, a few days before your trip. The trick is to keep trying, and not stop. Check the odd times too. It doesn’t matter if it’s quick service or not, tables are filled more from 11:30am-1pm.
This really goes along with the crowds, but you know there will already be some longer crowds. While it’s a little harder to beat the crowds on a holiday, it’s not impossible to minimize your wait time if you have a plan. If you don’t know what you want to do, where you want to go and where you want to eat, the lines are going to get longer and longer and you are going to start feeling frustrated. Disney is such a great place to visit, don’t let your magical trip be ruined by something so small like an hour per park that you’ve made at least a general outline of what order you are going to do things.
Take advantage of the great service Disney offers that’s totally free! Have the shop send your purchases to the front of the park for pickup on your way out, or even better, back to your resort! Keep in mind though, if you are sending back to your resort, don’t send anything back in the last 24 hours of your trip because it might not get to you in time.
Holidays at Disney have some extra special photo opportunities, so be sure to take advantage! You’ll find Mickey and his friends in seasonal costumes, as well as characters you might not get to see during the rest of the year. There will be special parades, music, shows and of course, lot sof special treats to sample that you can only get during these special occasions.
Disney also offers special seasonal events, such as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These have special things like trick or treating, or cookie and cocoa stations throughout the park as well as other fun surprises.
Keep in mind that if you are visiting the park on a day where one of these parties is held, the park does close early to those who do not have tickets for these events. Tickets can sell out quickly, so it’s best to get yours the moment you know you will be there during a holiday. It is very unlikely that you will be able to buy a ticket the day of the event.
Patience, patience, patience
While this is a top tip, other than planning, for any Disney vacation, it’s needed more than ever during a Disney holiday. Have patience. Patience with the family who just cut in front of you, patience with that REALLY annoying family remember who keeps slowing you down, patience with your kid who had to stop for the 11th bathroom/pretzel/pin trading moment in the last hour and a half. Don’t forget to have patience with yourself, too. You might not get to do everything you want. That’s okay. Enjoy what you can!
Remember, a little prep, a little planning will go a long way towards making the most out of your vacation. It can be a little overwhelming to plan a Disney trip, but it’s far worse to be standing there in a panic as the lines get longer and longer and you’ve no idea what anyone wants to ride! Like the old adage, an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.
Stay sane, and have fun during your Disney holiday! I wish I were there with you!
You guys know how much I love to put a little Disney into every day, especially on a budget, so I am so excited to share with you this absolute GENIUS I found on Etsy a little while back.
It was late at night, and I was getting frustrated with the lack of finding a Dory shirt for myself online with the saying I wanted. I was browsing Etsy, searching, "Dory" when up popped this!
(click on any picture to take you right to the link)
How could any Dory lover not like these? But then I made the mistake of clicking to see what else MadeByMelephant had for sale, and let me tell you....it took almost a week for me to decide on which two headbands I wanted. Yes, I'm not joking! A week! She's got so many amazing prints, and they come in different styles and it's not just headbands for sale there either! There are loads of adorable ears:
(And since the ones at the park squeeze my head too much, I'll have to buy some here before our next trip if I don't just go with my headbands and coordinating outfits!)
But she's also got skirts, and scarves too! There's even a clearance section! How awesome is that?
Her prices are so reasonable, it was actually a little bit of a surprise that all of the headbands are just $8.95 each. Shipping is good too! Here a tip! It's $2.95 to ship one, but only $3.95 to ship 2!
You can get Disney prints, Marvel prints, Star Wars, Holiday (even sports teams and Pokemon!)....it goes on and on! I have never, never seen half of these prints before!
I haven't even gotten to the best part through. MadeMyMelephant has the BEST customer service of ANY Etsy shop I've ever bought from. Usually, I like to browse Etsy, and I want to support the creativity of individual artists, and "buy local" if you will, but I've not had good luck with the actual buying. There have been the sellers who took weeks to mail out something, the sellers who never replied to questions, or, the sellers who never sent items. Even though I love Etsy, it's been a little while since I've bought there. I admit, I was holding my breath a bit, but even though the headbands were coming all the way across the US, they got to me, custom made, in just a week's time! My headbands were carefully packaged in tissue paper, then inside of plastic to protect them.
Mel was also very understanding and quick reply and to help when I asked her about custom sizes and wondered if I could get the headbands made a little larger. She helped explain the differences between the two different styles of headbands she sells. (The ribbon looking elastic is much stretchier!) I placed another order, and quick as anything, I had custom sized headbands! They are perfection and really help bring the Disney into my day! Do you see how well they fit? The perfect shape, too! (And isn't my just turned 10 year old great with a camera!?)
What's really exciting to me, is that there is a headband for everything! There's a seasonal print for almost every holiday, like the recent Halloween print, but also more Christmas prints that you could possibly choose from. I'm desperately wanting to get some new ones, but again, I'm looking and can't figure out which ones I want the most! Do you see what I mean? How can you favor one over another? What a terrible choice to have to make, when you just can't buy them all!
I have been rotating my headbands nonstop over the last few weeks, and they have held up incredibly well! The elastic is still stretchy, the seams on the fabric are still tight, and the shape is still there, despite my usual habit of tossing them into a drawer. Not a bit wrinkly. I feel confident that if I needed to, I could even wash them and all would be well!
The quality of these headbands are outstanding, and I am so, so happy I found this awesome little shop! Go there, browse around, and try one for yourself! The products and care put into each order, are absolutely second to none! I promise you, you will not be disappointed in the product, or the quality. I also can't think of a single person who'd be unhappy to get one of these wrapped up for Christmas!
Click the picture below to browse her entire shop!
A few weeks ago, I got to hear part of a talk by Phap Huu, a very wise, though very young Vietnamese monk. He was talking about FOMO, and after his talk since I realized I'd been seeing that several places lately, I googled it and realized that FOMO is bigger than I realized.
FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. We all experience that and are exposed to it in just about every aspect of our lives but it struck me how easily FOMO can be felt when planning a Disney trip, especially if you don't get to go to those Magical Lands often.
Everything is so expensive, there's so much to see, so much to do, and you don't want to waste a moment, a dollar or anything at all at Disney, you just want to absorb it all, and not feel like you didn't get your money's worth. By golly, if it's possible you are going to cram a month's worth into a week. If there's a normal person that goes there, or is planning to go there and doesn't feel that way, I would be surprised. Unfortunately, that leads to expectations being a little higher than what the reality is.
Sometimes your perfect vacation isn't perfect, but sometimes we just plain expect too much.
Planning a vacation is hard. The traveling isn't always much easier, no matter how you get there, then you arrive tired, but wanting to see and do it all. Totally normal. Where it starts to get stressful is when we try and do more than we can, because we are afraid that we can't do it all. We've got that FOMO mentality.
I'm a planner by nature, but even I usually try and cram more into a day than I should. Ever make a to do list around the house? There's a ton of stuff you want to or need to do, but as the day wears on, and most of it's not crossed off, you feel a little more discouraged, than energized by all you've achieved.
Along the way, and throughout the planning of our trips I've learned a few things that makes each trip go smoother than the last. Maybe a few of these tips will help you next time FOMO rears it's ugly head.
Set realistic expectations on trips
This last trip was going to be our first time ever at EPCOT. Three months out I had every minute from 730 am at the bus stop until 9 pm planned. Even then, I had to rework my plan over and over because there wasn't enough time in the day to do everything I knew we were going to want to do, afterall, every blog I read, in every forum, people were talking about EPCOT being a 2 day park, and it all HAD to be done. I was determined we weren’t going to miss a THING. But then... our perfect vacation wans't so perfect, and quickly things had to start getting crossed off the plan.
Instead of exploring each of the pavilions at the World Showcase, shopping along the way for snacks and meals, once we got there with a bored preschooler in tow and a badly limping Mr. Disney, my perfectly arranged plan on both paper, and digital copy looked like too much. What did we do? We focused on the things that were most important, and ended up leaving around 4pm, having gotten to see almost everything we wanted, and already talking about what we would do, or do differently, on our next trip in a few years.
I realized that even though we didn't do it all, we did enough. Next time we go, we will be more prepared, but in my planning stages, I'm going to know next time that stopping at each Kidcot station isn't really practical, or even desired (by the adults, and said preschooler) and that really, just hitting the amazing shops in China and Japan are going to be enough to satisfy my oldest and I for shopping in the World Showcase. Your kids might be experts at staying out all day without the crankies, my kids don't have that gene, so be sure not to expect too much from them, or even the adults. Be reasonable with what you think everyone can do. It's better to have a good trip, than to do it all and be miserable.
Stop being envious of others
Next time you are ages away from another trip, and someone mentions how they are getting ready to go, don't be jealous. Don't be mopy, don't be sad or irritated or say things to try and ruin their fun. Find your enthusiasm, be excited, and do your part to help make their trip more exciting, and more fun. Sour attitudes really come from a place of envy, and a Fear Of Missing Out but if you are truly friends or love the person going...shouldn't you be happy for them?
The same applies while you are on vacation, when the family in front of you for Dole Whip Floats are turning up their nose at the “poor people” who packed their lunches, or the ones “eating slop” at the Quick Service restaurants. Sure, they might be dining on steak that night, but who cares? Everyone makes their own choices. Maybe you'd rather bring some food in from the parks and have a little extra money for something else, or maybe you know your kids just aren't going to sit still long enough to make a table service meal relaxing for anyone. Maybe you just love the atmosphere and food of the better restaurants Disney has to offer and save up extra hard for it. Who knows! People act a lot differently on vacation sometimes, and usually they forget to pack their manners.
We can't see who saved up and sacrificed in other areas to afford those character meals, or who's putting it all on plastic and hoping the bills don't pile up too much. It could be someone is only there for one day and wants to do it all! Or it could be they get to go often, and sacrifice in other areas. We never know someone elses circumstances, so while it's so easy to feel envious, and have a Fear Of Missing Out, but don't! Don't spoil your good time by letting negativity creep in!
It should be a crime how easy it is to shop online. How very temping it is to browse online stores or groups to try and capture some of those memories and happy feelings of a vacation you just came home from. It's also very easy to pull out the credit card but that's just going to cause more problems for you. Instead of feeling that FOMO feeling, spend intentionally, and save with focus so that you can get yourself back to your Dream Destination all the sooner.
In this age where Facebook, Pintrest, Instagram and all the others are only a click away, it's so easy to see the picture perfect lifestyle that others are living. But are they? So much is staged, it's posed, it's made as perfect as can be before it's posted, and it's just not genuine. Where is the joy in that? Could you really be comfortable in that world? Not me! If you can remember that, and enjoy the things that are real, silly candid photos, cooking mistakes, waaay past bedtime kids giggling, your awesome red sectional sofa peeling like it's got a bad sunburn, then you might just realize that your life is pretty awesome with ton's of it's own things going on, and there's just no reason at all to worry about someone else, or the FOMO.
What do you think?
This Spotlight Sunday is another guess who! Can you guess before I've finished giving the clues?
This person , at age 16, dropped out of school to join the Army, but was rejected, for being too young. He then joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver and was sent to France, after lying and saying he was 17. (Kind of makes me think of Young Indiana Jones under age and joining the Belgium Army!) He drove the ambulance for a year, before he moved back to the United States with the desire to make a career as a newpaperman.
Can you guess? Yup! It's Walt Disney, himself!
A bit of a rascal running off like that, but as patriotic as they come, even at such a young age, wanting to do his part for his country.