Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day: How to Plan Your Holidays in the Happiest Place on Earth.
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
We are those people and I wouldn't trade it for a thing.
Something to know about us. We're really bad at gift giving. Not in the sense that we don't know what to get each other... it's worse than that. We will buy whatever we are getting for the other and then 3 weeks before the actual celebration - whoops- "here you go"! I have a favorite time this has happened though...
For Christmas 2017 Alex kept hinting he had something he was SO excited to give me. This was in November. I knew eventually he'd crack under the pressure but I didn't know he would literally wait until December 1st and say "I can't take it anymore! We have to do this tonight!" Sure thing honey, whatever you say. He made me search through the house for 10 minutes to find the package which was hidden behind one of our favorite photos from our first Disney trip. I opened it to find he had planned a trip for us for Christmas 2018... as our Honeymoon!! The package had the basic details - where we were staying, when we were going, and the fact that we were going to make a road trip out of it. I was so excited... only 383 days to go! Who was counting though?
How to Plan
You can find someone (like me!) who legitimately loves planning Disney vacations and they'll be happy to help out. Seriously. This is something I will be offering in the very near future if getting into the FastPasses and dining reservations isn't your thing. I could - and sometimes do- spend my day on the Disney website anyway so why not live vicariously through someone's trip?
Another way to get started with your planning is seek vacation packages on the Disney website. We've come across a lot of people who think the packages are too expensive but in our opinion, they're very wrong. When booking this trip Alex found a packages that when booked and used within a certain window came with limited edition Magic Bands that have become our favorite and we use on every trip!
Besides small perks like that, Disney will make the vacation packages worth while offering packages that come with less expensive park tickets. The normal cost of a single park day pass is $109. This can vary depending on the busy season and we've seen it go up to $124/day. The latest Disney Vacation Packages offers park tickets for $84/day as long as you're going to the park for four days. It's really an amazing deal that will save you and your family so much money!
Room rates are also discounted through the packages. Resorts in Disney are pricey, no doubt, but the perks you get by staying on property outweigh any cost. Also included in our vacation packages were coupons! Who doesn't love that?! Specifically we received coupons for 20% off any Joffrey's coffee cart purchase, free mini golf at the cutest Disney themed mini golf, coupons for 10% off merchandise, and a few others. These seem like a small gesture but they add up big time! We were in the park for 18 hours on Christmas Day and drank so much coffee! The Joffrey's coupon saved us a solid few bucks in just one day.
One of our favorite parts of booking through a Disney Vacation Package was the little keepsake they mailed us after our trip. It was a personalized, hand drawn Mickey from one of the on site animators and while it probably cost them $4 to make and mail, it was the sweetest gesture and now hangs proudly in my craft room. Every time I see it I instantly think of how wonderful our trip was. This is the magic Disney creates every single day.
On Property vs. Off Property
Ok, so this may not be a fully unbiased opinion. WE LOVE DISNEY RESORTS! The magic of the parks continues right into your hotel room with the smallest details like themed lampshades and towel hooks and that perfect sea salt smelling lotion. I still have some from our Christmas trip and every time I use it I can't help but think about strolling around the grounds at Port Orleans Riverside or hitching a ride on the riverboat ferry to Disney Springs. But this isn't just about little bottles of lotion or paintings on the wall. There are several perks to staying on property and most of these will be especially important when trying to fight those Christmas crowds.
Extra Magic Hours- If you haven't stayed on property before or haven't been to Disney this term may be new to you. These time slots will either be before the park normally opens or after the park normally closes. Be sure to check the Disney website calendar to visit the parks you want within those time frames. This can also be a good time to visit another park at their normal opening as some of the crowds have not yet made their way over.I've heard from those with kids that they use this perk to play to their kids strengths. Some have early risers so they try to hit up the early magic hours and those with night owls visit the parks staying open late. Having a game plan on park hours is crucial to a successful Disney vacation.
Free Transportation/Parking-One of our favorite parts about staying on property is the ease of getting across all 47 square miles of Disney property! You'd never know how expansive the park is by how easy they make travel. With the addition of the Disney Skyliner, Hollywood Studios and Epcot are more accessible than ever. Buses are also available to all Disney Resorts and parks and begin running at least 30 minutes before the first park opens for the day. Some think staying off property will save them money and while it may on hotel rates, taking an Uber or Lyft to the parks every day adds up not to mention the hassle if you have small kids. Most Uber drivers will not have a car seat and I doubt you want to be toting that around all day at the park. Besides, the Disney drivers know their way around so well, there's virtually zero chance of getting lost. If you do have a vehicle (we did this trip) you will get free parking at all theme park lots. This was actually a surprise to us as we drove up to Hollywood Studios and a welcome one at that!
Early Access Fastpass+ and Dining Reservations- This is easily one of our favorite perks and an absolute essential if you're looking to ride some specific attractions or visit that restaurant everyone is going on and on about during your Holiday stay. When staying at a Disney Resort you gain the ability to plan these out 60 days before your arrival date. This is a full 30 days before anyone staying off property. I'm not going to say you don't still don't have to work at it. I still set my timer for 7am 60 days out from our trip but I managed to Fastpass all the rides I wanted to AND was able to book our Christmas Day dinner at Be Our Guest, which is one of, if not the hardest reservation to get. I have no doubt this would not have happened had we tried to book only 30 days out. If you have kids and want to book character dining (highly recommended!) look into what meals you'd prefer and go from there. These reservations will go faster than normal dining so be on your A game!
Magic Band Purchases- Magic Bands have changed the game as far as Disney World travel. These fun little bracelets pack a big punch as far as convenience not to mention they can be customized to fit you and your family. Magic Bands can be used not only to get you in the park and hotel room ( who needs to worry about keys) but they're also how you save your memory maker photos AND how you can pay for food and merchandise without having to get in and out of your bag or wallet. This is my favorite thing about staying on property. I can't tell you how many times something has fallen out of my purse or I've had to dig into my wallet to find my cards which always holds up the line. With magic bands connected to your room, you just scan the band and pay off the balance before you check out. It's so great. It can also lead to some pretty embarrassing moments as I did in fact try to use my Magic Band to pay for my coffee at a gas station on the ride home. Nice.
** Speaking of resorts, there are most definitely better ones to stay at if you're bringing little ones along. Disney's Art of Animation is visually stunning. Adults love the resort but kids go absolute bananas. The bright colors and large character statues bring you and your kid's favorite movies to life! Another wonderful and definitely more budget friendly option is All Star Movies. Alex and I actually stayed there during our first trip and we loved everything! There are giant toy story characters when you step inside Andy's room, a 101 Dalmations area with Pongo and Perdita, and a Herbie the Love Bug section. This resort is super fun for kids and adults alike and eases the strain on your wallet. If you have a family who loves all things wildlife you have to check out Animal Kingdom Lodge! The resort is situated next to the Savannah of Animal Kingdom which gives you and your family the chance to see wildlife up close and personal. The theming of this resort is everything you'd wish for and the lobby itself is breathtaking with its beautiful woodwork and 4 story high ceiling, making it tempting to sit and relax just a little while longer.
Be prepared for crowds... even if you don't have any
Alex and I knew what we were getting into going during Christmas week. We've heard the horror stories of hitting capacity for the day but honestly, we just wanted to knock being in Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day off our bucket list. We told ourselves over and over again, "it's going to be busy, it'll be ok". Of course we were right. This is where the extra magic hours come into play though. We arrived at MK by ferry boat at 6:01 am which is insane, we know. BUT this allowed us to snag some amazing photo pass photos (that castle shot!) before the park was crowded. We even got to ride Space Mountain twice! This was something we didn't even pull off in a less busy September trip. Planning ahead really allows you to enjoy yourself so much more.
Speaking of being prepared for crowds, we really recommend looking into dining ahead of time and at least reserving one meal a day. Even if you're not traveling during the holidays- breakfast, lunch, and dinner can get pretty busy. A few of our favorite restaurants to book ahead are 50's Prime Time Cafe and Sci Fi Dine-In Theater both located in Hollywood Studios and of course. Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. As far as quick service food goes, if you're looking to stay healthy(ish) while in Disney, check the menus ahead. Satu'li Canteen is our favorite quick service in Animal Kingdom. The food is fresh and didn't leave us feeling sluggish after. Alex and I have perfected how to comfortably eat our way through Disney and for us that means splitting meals. This allows us to try more but also not feel sick or overfull, especially when those Florida temps spike. If you have kids, we hear the dining plan is really useful. We personally wouldn't get one just because we do like to split meals and do more snacks throughout the day but time and time again we hear from families with kids that as long as you have a kid who eats easily, the dining plan is the way to go!
Our last and most fun way to beat the crowds is to do the attractions that are off the beaten path or at least don't seem to be overrun. This sounds like a no brainier but if you take time to sit and relax at a show (especially if you find one inside in the AC!) you'll be reenergized and ready to attack the rest of your day. On our first trips we didn't take time to do shows because we thought it would take too long and our feet regretted it. On busy days sometimes finding a random place to sit in the parks is a luxury so take advantage of seating and shade!
Ask for help.
If sitting in front of your computer or phone planning out fast passes and dining reservations doesn't sound like a fun way to spend your time you're in luck. I covered this in the beginning of this post but take advantage of the fact that there are people out there (hi!) who live for this. I truthfully want to share our love and amazing experiences with anyone who needs the help and we live vicariously through any one we know going! So my advice is this... if you are a big planner and want to make sure you have everything down to a T, take the first part of this blog post and go wild! If you're not normally a planner and don't geek out over every little detail, have someone help or do it for you. Disney is definitely a place where you need to have some sort of a game plan.
If you have any questions or want some 1 on 1 help planning your magical vacation email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org I would LOVE to help or even take care of all the planning for you!
Until next time,