The week between Christmas and New Years is one of the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World. However, WDW busy, is not the same as Disneyland busy. I'm from California and I don't remember a time in recent memory when Disneyland wasn't absolutely packed, including mid-week/ mid-winter. It's just always busy. I'm not saying that WDW wasn't crowded, but it was certainly manageable.
Magic Bands, Fast Pass Plus, and the My Disney Experience App, were all a huge help in beating the crowds. I had not visited WDW since 2009 and things have changed. As soon as we purchased our tickets, we downloaded the My Disney Experience App. Through the app, we could book up to three fast passes in advance, with the ability to cancel and rebook as much as we liked, and the ability to book more fast passes, if any were available after we had used our initial three. If you're staying off-site, you can book these fast passes thirty days in advance, and it's an even longer window if you stay at a Disney Resort. However, we found that we easily grabbed prime fast passes for popular attractions just a few days in advance, even some on the same day. With the app, we were also able to see wait times, find characters, and make dining reservations. It's a game changer.
We opted to purchase Magic Bands. Magic Bands are included for guests staying at a resort property and they come with the purchase of an annual pass. We bought basic versions, but the bands are customizable, with characters and names.
Rather than carrying around Fast Pass tickets, they are loaded on the bands and you just swipe your bands at kiosks in the queues. It's so easy. If we were staying on-site, these bands would also work as room keys and for charging purchases. The bands are secure, comfortable, and convenient. We picked ours up at the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Next, we caught the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom is even more magical with its Christmas tree and holiday decorations.
The first ride of the trip?
For a ride that rarely has any wait, the Peoplemover queue was nearly an hour.
Luckily, it was our longest wait of the day. Through using fast passes and good timing, most of our waits were under thirty minutes. See, not so busy.
Dining at Disney is one of my favorite parts of trip planning. During this busy time, reservations were essential and they were very easy to make with the My Disney Experience App. Using this app is also great if you don't make advanced reservations, as it allows you to check what is currently available and grab a last-minute reservation. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, make sure to book in advance. If you do use the app for a last-minute reservation, don't hesitate, as the reservations disappear quickly. Just because you see it in the app, doesn't mean that someone else hasn't just claimed it!
Disney has instituted a new policy (New since my previous trip in 2009), of taking a credit card to secure reservations and charging a $10.00 per-person, no-show fee. I think this is fantastic, as it gives guests a consequence for being a no-show, and it seems to have cut-down on people just holding reservations. Cancelations can be made up until midnight the evening prior to avoid the fee.
For our first Disney restaurant, I picked Liberty Tree Tavern, a place that I had always wanted to try. Located in Liberty Square, the theming is colonial America, with the restaurant divided into six themed rooms, such as Paul Revere and Betsy Ross. Although the food is hardly authentic, (hello Ocean Spray sponsored slushy drink), it is hearty and yummy. We shared a crab and lobster dip with warm bread to start, and I ordered the pot roast for my main. It's always nice to have a sit down meal planned during a busy day in the parks. Here are some pictures of our experience.
After lunch, the Magic Kingdom seemed to be at its peak for crowds. We beats the crowds by mostly doing less-crowded activities, like The Country Bear Jamboree ( one of my favorites) and The Hall of Presidents. We used our fast pass for The Haunted Mansion, which has added some very cool interactive queue elements since my last visit. We ate Mickey ice cream bars and simply enjoyed the atmosphere of the park.
I'm a huge Jungle Cruise fan. The Jungle Cruise gets a holiday overlay and a new temporary name, the Jingle Cruise. I had been on the Jingle Cruise at Disneyland and it was very well done. The storyline for the Jingle Cruise, is that a plane has dropped cargo containing Christmas decorations and it has landed all over the jungle, so the entire ride is blanketed in holiday decor and several of the animals have taken an interest in the decorations. It's really well done in California, so I had high hopes for the Florida version. Unfortunately, it wasn't as intensely themed, almost like it was an after-thought, rather than a true over-lay. I hope they add more next season.
I was most excited about the Magic Kingdom's newest attraction, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This very popular Fantasyland attraction is a fast pass must. The waits are always long. As evidence of the crowds, this was the first time I have ever seen an over-flowing trash can in a Disney park. This was at the attraction entrance.
Even with our fast pass, the wait was long. Luckily, the queue is heavily themed and interactive.
One of the best memories from this trip came from meeting a mom and her son in the queue. They only spoke Spanish, so we communicated with them via a translation app on our phones. The kid was so, so excited to be going on his first rollercoaster. His enthusiasm was infectious. He was screaming, giggling, and smiling the entire ride. It made me even more excited for our upcoming summer trip with my step kids. I knew that they were going to love this ride. We got a big high-five from the little boy as we exited the mine train.
We ended the day with a ride on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, where as usual, Dan pummeled me. He's just too good at these games. I stand zero chance.
And some shots of Cinderella's Castle all dressed-up for Christmas. So pretty and romantic.