“Quiet seasons” at Disney parks have been dwindling in recent years, and with varied work and school schedules, fluctuating airfare, and more it isn’t always easy to plan a Disney vacation outside of some of the busiest weeks of the year. If you find yourself planning your next Disney trip during school vacation week, or a busy time for holiday getaways like Christmas week or 4th of July, we’ve got you covered with tips to get the most out of your vacation.
Before your trip
Make reservations early
It probably comes as no surprise that during school vacation weeks and holidays, everything tends to book early at Disney resorts. From hotel rooms to FastPass selections, and of course, advanced dining reservations, many of the planning aspects of your Disney vacation may fill up early, so getting on the My Disney Experience app or contacting your travel agent as early as you’re able to is always recommended. Don’t see the reservations you want? Book an alternative in the meantime, but keep trying. Other guests cancel and change plans all the time so the reservation you’re looking for may open up later.
Use an authorized Disney vacation planner to book your trip
Even seasoned Disney guests can benefit from booking with a travel agent, and this is even truer during crowded weeks in the theme parks. Navigating the planning side of a Disney trip during peak seasons can be more challenging than booking your trip during other times of the year, so using an authorized Disney vacation planner (we recommend Academy Travel) can take out some of that stress.
Add some extra cash to your budget
Travel in general during some of the busiest weeks at Disney parks will be expensive. Whether you find yourself factoring in gas prices or airfare or hotel rates both on and off Disney property, you are likely to discover that busy weeks in Walt Disney World and Disneyland tend to be more expensive. With ticket prices tied to select dates and seasonal dining hikes, you’ll also find that simply going about your day during the busier times of the year in the parks will end up costing more. To plan for this, have a larger budget in mind from the beginning- that way you’ll be prepared for whatever price hikes you encounter and if you end up not needing the extra wiggle room in your wallet you may even come home with more cash than you thought!
Get out the door early
Whether you’re flying or driving, heading out early on your departure day during busy weeks never hurts. Lines could be longer at the airport, you may find extra traffic as you drive through major cities, and you may even just want the extra time to make sure the kids are ready to go. Don’t worry about getting to Disney early– if your resort room isn’t quite ready you can always drop your bags at bell services and head off to enjoy the parks!
At the parks
Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours
If you are staying at a Disney resort, Extra Magic Hours will get you some extra time in the parks on select days in the morning before they open or after they’ve closed to day guests. While Extra Magic Hours will still have crowds during peak weeks, the lines in the parks during this time will not compare to how they’ll be in the middle of the day when all ticket types are able to be inside.
Arrive early or stay in the parks late
Even though rope drop crowds at Disney parks can seem intimidating, arriving right when the parks open will save you some of the time spent waiting in line for popular attractions as the majority of guests will still opt to sleep in. If you don’t mind spending some late nights in the parks, crowds may be slightly smaller then as well (though “smaller crowds” is certainly a subjective term during these weeks). And as long as you are in line for a ride before the park closes you’ll be able to get on- Once the FastPass line stops going through, the standby line will move quickly so this can be a great strategy for popular rides you weren’t able to FastPass.
Bring your patience
Just because you know the parks like the back of your hand does not mean other guests will have the same familiarity. People will stop in walkways, not know which way to steer their stroller, and block merchandise in crowded stores. Additionally, you’ll need to get your “spot” earlier for everything from fireworks to parades and even select show attractions and live performances simply because of the increased crowds. And with longer lines for attractions that typically have little to no wait, you’ll need to adjust your expectations for how much you can fit into one day. Still, whether it’s school vacation week or Christmas week, any Disney trip makes for a magical vacation so don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on having a great time in the parks.
Use mobile ordering or eat at off times
Eating at regular lunch and dinner times in Disney parks on a regular day can really bring out the crowds, but during some of the busiest days of the year, this can seriously take up some time better spent doing something else. Instead of waiting in long quick service restaurant lines, use the My Disney Experience app to mobile order your food. Alternatively, you can always book a reservation for a table service restaurant so you’ll have a guaranteed table (and break from the crowds) when you need it.
Stay in the parks on days when they usually hit capacity
You should not have to worry about this during times like holiday weekends and school vacation weeks, but certain days (like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and sometimes 4th of July) you’ll want to get into the parks and stay in the parks. When the crowd levels are at their heaviest, the parks will go into phased closings which means depending on your ticket type you may not be able to enter. If you’re hoping to stay for the fireworks and want to take a midday break without leaving, head to a long sit-down show style attraction or grab a drink or a snack at a quick-service restaurant for a bit.
After your trip
Start planning your next Disney vacation! Whether you’re ready to brave the Christmas crowds again next year to see everything from Christmas Tree Trails to resort gingerbread houses or your next trip will break you out of the school vacation week cycle, the best cure for that post-trip sadness is to start planning your next one! Our preferred Disney vacation specialists at Academy Travel can help with any kind of Disney vacation from the parks to Disney Cruise Line and even Adventures by Disney trips. Click here for a free, no-obligation quote and start planning your next Disney trip today.