The rumors are true: It’s beyond busy at Disney World during Christmas. Many people want to enjoy the amazing beauty and festiveness of Disney during Christmas and a huge portion of those people only have the week off between Christmas and New Year’s so they all pack the parks during that week to try to find some Christmas Joy. But never fear… If you have your heart set on visiting Disney during Christmas (like we do every year), then here’s a few tips to help you enjoy every holiday minute while you’re there.

Christmastime crowds can be a bit shocking if you’re not prepared at Disney!

Christmastime crowds can be a bit shocking if you’re not prepared at Disney!

1 – Stay Up Late

One of my favorite things about Disney during Christmas week  is that parks are often open to 11pm, midnight or even later! For night owls like me and my girls, this is heaven. Most of the families leave the parks after the last firework show and then bam, all of the ride queues open up. You don’t need Fastpasses, you don’t need to strategize about how to optimize your time. You can just go and ride all of the rides with very little waits. The temps have cooled off and the lighting is amazing. Think of Christmas Lights on steroids. Simply spectacular!

Christmas lights and lower crowds? Count me in at night!

Christmas lights and lower crowds? Count me in at night!

2 – Or… Wake up and Go early!

If you like to get up early (and at Christmas, you’ll have to get up really early to hit the parks when they open since many times there are extra magic hours at 7am), then this is a great strategy for many of the same reasons as staying late. You’ll only miss the beautiful Christmas lights. But you’ll have cooler temps and probably higher energy and again, can ride many rides without a fast pass. And if you have little ones that don’t understand the concept of sleeping in late yet, you might as well get to the parks right away.

This is Christmas Day morning at Animal Kingdom! We rode Everest 3 times in a row until I could take it no longer!

This is Christmas Day morning at Animal Kingdom! We rode Everest 3 times in a row until I could take it no longer!

3 – Take a break from the parks

I know, I know! You’ve saved up for 5 years to enjoy every park and your time is limited so you want to be in the parks every minute you can. I do too! But, I’ve found that a little break from the crowds gives us a huge energy bump and lets us actually go longer with less patience-deprived arguments. Whether you head back to your resort for a little quiet time or out to a non-park activity (think mini golf, bowling, shopping) I practically guarantee that you and your family will appreciate a few hours away from the Christmas Chaos.

Conjure up some non-park magic by escaping the crowds for a little while and enjoy any of Disney’s many non-park amenities.

Conjure up some non-park magic by escaping the crowds for a little while and enjoy any of Disney’s many non-park amenities.

4 – Have reservations (dining that is)

If  you want to enjoy a little peace and quiet as well as escape the crowds and have delicious food, make some dining reservations instead of trying to fight the crowds at quick service restaurants (unless you like waiting for an hour to order and then not being able to find a place to sit so you stand in a corner holding your paper plates and balancing your drink on your kid’s head). We like to  make slightly late lunch reservations (around 1-2pm) at a nice sit down restaurant. It’s perfect because the crowds are really ramped up and you’ll so appreciate being able to sit down and not have a stroller bumping into your shin every two minutes. And if it’s warm out, you get some much needed air conditioning!

Be Our Guest and make a reservation to enjoy wonderful food and take a break from the crowds.

Be Our Guest and make a reservation to enjoy wonderful food and take a break from the crowds.

5 – Treat your family to something special

If you can, book an exclusive event to help you enjoy the holiday activities with a smaller group of people. There are dining packages that get you reserved seating for often crowded night shows (like Rivers of Light and Fantasmic).  Or maybe try a dessert party for exclusive seating to watch fireworks, and all you can eat desserts! These little respites can give you the fortitude you’ll need to walk through shoulder-to-shoulder crowds to get to your kid’s favorite ride for hundredth time.

Escape the crowds on a riverboat cruise with your favorite character and treats.

Escape the crowds on a riverboat cruise with your favorite character and treats.

6 – Get a Park Hopper (and an Express Bus pass)

The Park Hopper allows you to go to multiple parks in a day while the express bus pass lets you ride a reserved bus from inside one park to the another park (You get to skip waiting in those miles-long security lines). If a park gets way too crowded for you, there’s nothing better than knowing you can escape to another park for a while. If you pay a little extra (for both the park hopper option and the express bus pass), you’ll feel more free to ditch a park that’s gotten a bit overwhelming for a possibly quieter park. I recommend checking park ride wait times on the MyDisneyExperience app before you switch parks just to make sure you’re not leaving one crowded park for another even more crowded park.

7 – Be flexible and listen to your family

If one of you is getting burned out or overly cranky, face it, it’s probably going to affect the whole family. Be respectful of each other’s limits and be prepared to change plans or split up (if possible) when someone needs a break. It won’t ruin your vacation if you don’t get on every ride at Magic Kingdom or visit every country at Epcot World Showcase. Be prepared to shift your plans at a moment’s notice. We’ve even skipped a dining reservation along the way and have accepted the $10 cancellation fee to help a family member get the rest she needed. Much worth the $10!

Enjoying Disney at Christmas involves a bit of a tightrope walk between planning ahead like crazy and being flexible. But we wouldn’t miss it for the world. There’s no better place to be than Disney at Christmas!

We never say good-bye to the castle. We just say “until we meet again.”

We never say good-bye to the castle. We just say “until we meet again.”

Will you visit Disney World at Christmastime this year?