How to Get the Most Out of Your Disney Christmas Vacation

Nov 20, 2018

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Christmas at Disney provides a breathtaking display of festive food, magical entertainment and Christmas decor. The Disney parks go all out for the holidays, making it a must-see time of year for fans of all ages.

But which resort will best fit your merriment needs this holiday season? And when should you go? And how can you get a discount?

Here are some insider tips from to help you save money while you and your family experience all that Disney has to offer this Christmas season.

Choose a Disney park

While traveling logistics and costs may help steer you to one Disney park over another, it’s important to know what each one offers so you can map out the best trip for your family.

Disneyland Christmas

Disneyland, located in Southern California, has history on its side, with seasonal offerings like the historic hand-pulled candy canes that have been a park tradition since 1968.

Disneyland also boasts some attractions that get a complete holiday makeover, like the Haunted Mansion’s transformation into "The Nightmare Before Christmas" movie theme and the display of “It’s a Small World” holiday lights. Other highlights include the Christmas Fantasy Parade, favorite characters dressed in their holiday best, festive treats and a holiday fireworks show that ends with snowfall over Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The Disneyland Resort’s second theme park, Disney California Adventure, hosts a celebration of the diverse ways cultures observe the holidays around the world. The Festival of Holidays showcases a wide variety of cultural entertainment, food offerings and musical performances.

Also not to be missed at Disney California Adventure are the seasonal decor and holiday-themed rides in the popular Cars Land themed area, which will make you feel right at home in Radiator Springs.

» Learn more: 10 ways to save on your first — or next — Disney vacation

Walt Disney World Christmas

Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida, has size on its side with four parks, compared to Disneyland's two. The three main parks that focus on holiday celebrations at Disney World are the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

The main celebration at Magic Kingdom is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a ticketed event. Among the perks of attending: Even in the busiest time of year the crowds will be small, rides will have low waits and festive food items are included.

Over at Epcot, you can expect a diverse holiday celebration at the Epcot International Festival of Holidays, which offers a variety of cultural foods, entertainment and fireworks.

At Hollywood Studios, the main event is the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party, with appearances from favorite characters and holiday special effects. All the parks will have holiday decor, Christmas shopping and seasonal food options.

Choose your dates

Due to the popularity of the holiday celebrations at the Disney parks, this is a busy time of year. If you have flexibility when it comes to your travel dates, it’s best to arrive before schools are on winter break so the crowds will be more manageable; shoot for early to mid-December or after New Year’s.

» Learn more: Landing the best airfare is a matter of timing

If you don’t have that flexibility, don’t let it deter you. Even when crowded, the Christmas season at Disney is a memorable time to visit.

Plan in advance

There is plenty of holiday entertainment at both parks. Here are six ways to make sure you get to enjoy it all.

1. Utilize FastPass options and learn the system of the park you choose. FastPass is a virtual way of holding your spot in line for attractions at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Less wait time means more time spent enjoying your vacation.

2. Arrive early each day. Even during the busiest times of the year, the morning hours are always less crowded, allowing you a chance to focus on the popular attractions before things get busy.

3. Buy your tickets in advance online for a discount. You needn't always pay full price. Do your research and hack your way to a cheaper family adventure at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland.

4. Allow enough time. Decide what you want to see and do, and that will help you determine how many days to stay. Disney insiders often recommend three days for a Disneyland trip and four to seven days for Walt Disney World.

5. Make dining reservations in advance. Both parks offer advance dining reservations options, so you can ensure your seat at a memorable Disney meal.

6. Make a list and check it twice. Make a list of your top Disney priorities with your group; that way you can ensure everyone has magical moments this holiday season.

Image by Matt Petit/Disneyland Resort

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