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Sue Holland

Holidays – Stay home or go to Walt Disney World?

Friday, March 8, 2002
Text and photos by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

The Lights of Winter at Epcot
The Lights of Winter at Epcot

No doubt about it, the major holidays are some of the busiest times at Walt Disney World! Some people make their annual trek to the vacation kingdom during Christmas or Easter, while others would sooner undergo painful gum surgery without anesthetic. To be fair, there are pluses and minuses to visiting Walt Disney World during any time of year, and the holidays are no exception.

There are many holidays that barely make an impact on Walt Disney World at all, and if the holiday means an extra day off from work, it can create a wonderful opportunity for a short getaway.

Generally, although holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Memorial Day, and Labor day, do create larger-than-normal crowds on the weekend, even with the extra people it is still relatively easy to tour the parks and find a good rate at the resorts. Holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day make even less of an impact - and at times they may be doing a little something special, such as giving a flower to moms. If mom or dad's favorite place is Disney, then there would be no better place to celebrate that special day.

Thanksgiving is a fairly major holiday, with large crowds arriving for the long weekend. The most crowded holiday period though, is the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Depending on what day of the week these holidays fall on, the massive crowds can continue for several days into January. During this time, expect waits of an hour or more at the popular attractions starting very early in the morning! As someone who can visit Walt Disney World often, I will not be returning during this period again!

Easter is the second busiest holiday period, and is two weeks long, with Easter Sunday right in the middle. Just like the Christmas-New Year's rush, crowds are huge, park hours are extended, and depending on your perspective, it can either be wonderfully festive or downright miserable. During these periods, meandering into a park around 10 or 11 a.m. would be foolish, as the lines would be approaching their longest at that time. Some people successfully arrive very early, leave for the afternoon, and return around dinner time to spend the evening hours in the park, and claim they miss the worst of the crowds and waits by following this strategy.

Easter Decorations dress up the Land Pavilion
Easter Decorations dress up the Land Pavilion

Beyond the crowd issue, there are other factors to consider when thinking about spending a holiday at Walt Disney World, or anywhere away from home. For many, holidays mean family. It is a common tradition to share those days with extended family, and it may not be possible for the entire family to take a trip together over a holiday. However, a holiday vacation can be a wonderful new tradition to start, whether it is just immediate family or a broader group. Some visitors have an early holiday with family, prior to the trip, while some simply skip the family holiday entirely that year.

Children can complicate matters further - does Santa follow them and deliver gifts to the hotel, or does he deliver them back home, forcing your children to wait to open their gifts? When my son was young we usually shipped or brought most of his gifts with us, and shipped them back home. The extra expense was worth it to have the excitement of Santa. Now that he is older, we bring gifts that are relatively small or those that can be used during the vacation, and leave the rest at home.

Main Street Decked-Out for Christmas
Main Street Decked-Out for Christmas

The parks and resorts are decorated during the major holidays, particularly for the Christmas season. While it is possible to see all of the decorations with far fewer people by vacationing earlier in December, work or school schedules may make that impossible. Extra activities are scheduled right on the holidays, and, and can include Easter egg hunts, Halloween cookie decorating, visits by Santa, and storytelling. Not all resorts will have activities--in general the lower the price of the resort, the less likely there will be anything special-check your Disney resort for current information.

People seeking a traditional holiday meal need to be prepared to pay a premium. Unfortunately, Disney takes advantage of supply and demand by arbitrarily raising prices for some of the fixed-price meals on a holiday without adding any extra items to the buffet. In the past, this has been done without any notice to the guest until the check arrives, so it is important to confirm your price in advance if it matters to you.

Also, be aware that some restaurants do not have their regular menu on major holidays, instead offering a turkey or ham meal for around $25 per person. You may be disappointed if you have booked a certain favorite restaurant looking forward to something from the regular menu. Also, because it will be harder to get into most restaurants on the holiday, making priority seating arrangements is even more important (call 407-WDW-DINE 60 to 120 days in advance).

The non-Disney parts of a holiday trip can also be more expensive, from airfare, rental car prices, and of course lodging. Discounts are harder to come by, but in the past year or so they have been more plentiful.

Decorations at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge (Photo by Pat Edaburn)
Decorations at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge (Photo by Pat Edaburn)

Spending Christmas or New Year's at Walt Disney World is a welcome respite from the cold and snow back home for people living in colder climates, despite the big crowds. Easter almost always has perfect weather, which guarantees great pool time. With the parks open for extended hours during these busy holidays, it is a good time for extended family to visit together. There are enough hours in the day for the group to spend some time both together, as well as apart in smaller groups, doing different activities and then meeting up to share experiences later.

The Magic Kingdom's Town Square Christmas Tree
The Magic Kingdom's Town Square Christmas Tree

Would I routinely plan my Disney vacation for a major holiday? Probably not, assuming I was able to visit some other time. However, doing so for a special reason, such as meeting friends or family, would get me there occasionally. If it was not so crowded, spending the major holidays at Walt Disney World would be a regular occurrence for me! Instead, we tend to spend those holidays at a Disney resort not located on WDW property, such as Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. Spending the holidays at Walt Disney World can be successful, though, provided you have a realistic idea of what to expect and do your homework before arrival. The trip can be the source of wonderful family memories for years to come!

Cinderella's Castle is Beautiful Year-Round
Cinderella's Castle is Beautiful Year-Round


Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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