Of all the times I’ve visited Disney World, my favorite was during the Christmas Season. Even with very high crowd levels, the decorations, lights, and special events make this an even more magical time of the year.

Planning your Disney vacation carefully is always important, but it’s even more important during the busiest times of the year. Here’s what you need to know about planning to accommodate large crowds.

Stay on property

First, I would suggest staying on property and taking advantage of all that Disney World Resorts have to offer. Complete your Online Check-in up to 60 days before you arrive so you can skip the lines at the front desk. Don’t forget to link a credit card to your account so you can easily and quickly pay for food and souvenirs with your MagicBand. Magical Express will get you from the airport to your Disney Resort Hotel safely even in the busiest traffic. Finally, the Disney World transportation system can shuttle you around property for free. Although the buses will be quite full, arriving at the bus stop early will get you on a bus and to the parks quickly.

If parks close due to capacity, guests staying in Disney Resorts will have priority for entry over day guests.

Rope Drop

Always arrive before rope drop during busy times. Many people will not be awake this early, and you’ll be able to walk on to many of the most popular rides. The welcome shows also have a special Christmas theme.

Mickey and the gang puts on a good show at Rope Drop, and it's even more special during the Holidays!

Mickey and the gang puts on a good show at Rope Drop, and it’s even more special during the Holidays!

At Magic Kingdom, there will even be a second rope drop since Frontierland and Adventureland don’t open until regular park hours. Since you’re already in the parks for rope drop, head to Liberty Square before the second rope drop. There will be other people waiting, but you can experience the rides in these areas with very short and sometimes no lines.

Conversely, if you are not an early riser, park crowds often thin out after the last fireworks show.  Stick around late!

Extra Magic Hours

When Rope Drop is combined with Extra Magic Hours, you’ll get an extra perk. Magic Kingdom can open as early as 7:00 AM during Extra Magic Hours, so you’ll get an extra couple hours in the parks before many other guests arrive and before the parks are open to the general public.

FastPass+

FastPass+ is a great service when it’s not busy, but it’s invaluable during the busy times. Be sure to schedule your FastPasses up to 60 days (30 days for non-Resort guests) in advance for mid-morning hours when crowds are starting to build. Even though FP+ lines can still be long, they will be much shorter than stand-by lines.

Don’t forget that you can get a fourth FP+ reservation after you’ve used your first three. Try to get this early in the day since many of the most popular reservations will be taken by the afternoon hours.

Advanced Dining Reservations

Advanced Dining Reservations are essential when crowds are at their highest, especially if you want to visit a table-service restaurant. Make these plans on MyDisneyExperience up to 180 days before you travel. If you plan to visit a quick-service dining spot, try eating during off-peak hours, which are before and after the lunch rush and before and after the dinner rush.

Mid-day Break

The crowds at Disney during the Holiday Season are the most intense during the afternoon hours.

The crowds at Disney during the Holiday Season are the most intense during the afternoon hours.

I always like to take a mid-day break, but it might be even more important during peak crowds since you’ll have an overall accelerated pace. What’s more, it’s not just the parks that have amazing Christmas decorations. The Resort Hotels and shopping districts are beautifully decorated, and missing them would be a shame.

Take a break in the afternoon. Use this time to resort hop, visit Disney Springs or the Boardwalk, or just go back to your resort and enjoy the beautiful weather.

What is your best tip to manage the large crowds in Disney World?

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