This was the big question on our minds when I booked the Ultimate Disney Christmas package. How crazy was I? Was it going to be slammed? Why am I crazy? Why am I doing this? What have I done?
I had a lot of worries, you guys. Erin had to reassure me through all of them that it was going to be ok. I’m going to give you a break down of each day, but if you want the “too long, didn’t read” version, skip down to the bottom where you can see my overall impressions.
So our package officially started on December 21st. We opted to go to Magic Kingdom that morning and then that afternoon head to Animal Kingdom to get some photos with our favorite billionaire duck and his faithful pilot. This is the day Erin saved my trip, by the way. The day was fairly cloudy and maybe that contributed to keeping locals away, but in general Magic Kingdom was no more crowded on this day that some of the trips we’ve taken in May- or October for that matter. I was shocked! We had a wonderfully magic moment in which Anastasia and Druscilla came to interact with folks ahead of us in line for the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Imagine my surprise when I turned around after we were all seated and situated and saw…
We rode a few less busy rides (like the Carousel), used up our 3 fastpasses (and scored a few others), grabbed a leisurely lunch at Be Our Guest and then rode more rides! I finally got to do Astro Orbiter, which I’d never ridden- and I loved it! It’s definitely going to be a ride we do more often.
We took Miss Bongo to get a hair cut around 3:30pm, then we headed off to Animal Kingdom! I will say the lines weren’t too bad here either-unless you wanted to ride Flights of Passage, of course. Unfortunately the bottom dropped out of the sky while we were eating dinner and continued on like that for several hours. Sigh, good times. It did further clear out the park ahead of the special Christmas Package Only event that night, but Animal Kingdom is definitely not the most fun park to be stuck in during a downpour. The lines for characters really weren’t too bad- we waited about 15 minutes for Scrooge and were third in line to see Launchpad return after the break- about a 10 minute wait. I have to tell you though, seeing Launchpad was one of the highlights of our trip. The cast members were feeling joyful, Launchpad was silly and we got an honest 10 minute encounter with LP- and over 50 photopass pictures. At times we were doubled over laughing. We also spent some time seeing Donald, Daisy- and did you know Santa Goofy greets at Animal Kingdom in Dinoland? I didn’t! We sheltered from the rain by waiting in his line and got a great interaction!
Overall, the 21st was pretty calm- we’ve definitely had higher crowds earlier in December, in late May and in mid-October. No worries!
December 22nd: MK and last MVMCP
Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day. More rain and I was ready to cry. I cancelled our Tony’s Parade package because I was so worried the parade wouldn’t happen. Thankfully the rain mostly held off…until we rode Splash Mountain, just before lunch. Yeah, nothing like being stuck on a ride with the bottom drops out. Crowds picked up a bit after lunch and at times it was crazy going through the Fantasyland area past Small World & Peter Pan’s Flight- let’s be honest though, if you hit it wrong that area is usually kind of a nightmare no matter when you go. Once you got to the Carousel, crowds scattered again and it was easy to forget we were so close to Christmas. We never had an outrageous wait for anything (30 minutes or under) and we were able to roll our fastpasses pretty consistently through the day.
The party was incredible. It was less crowded than the mid-October MNSSHP that we participated in back in 2018. Lines for the party food and drinks moved quickly, although sometimes there were 5-10 minute waits. We managed to score fantastic Christmas parade viewing- we were “second row” back and we arrived literally five minutes before the parade kicked off. I could have cried. This was the thing I most wanted to see of the Christmas party and it worked out perfectly. My heart.
We also had FRONT ROW viewing for the Minnie Fireworks Show- with only a 25 minute wait. I still don’t even know how that happened, but sure enough, we did it! I think it was just pure Disney magic. I know the cast member we chatted with during the wait was sent by Mickey himself. She was absolutely incredible and I sent off the most glowing email I’ve ever written to guest services. She was my joy.
We left the party early because Miss Bongo is only 4 years old, but we were able to do plenty, from rides, to gathering snacks- we even dropped into Club Tinsel for some dance party fun. There were a few rides I wanted to do that we didn’t get the opportunity to- but that’s how Disney parties go, am I right? Too much to do, not enough time to make it all a reality. Overall, this last party of the season was a lot of fun and fairly uncrowded, even though it was a sold out party.
The crowds, both during the regular day and at the party, weren’t too bad. Again, we’ve fought crazier crowds earlier in December.
December 23rd: Hollywood Studios
This is the first day we really noticed the crowds! Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge were nightmares. We expected this for Galaxy’s Edge and since you can walk from G.E. to Toy Story Land, it wasn’t exactly shocking. Once again, we had to deal with RAIN. We made it all the way to Miss Bongo’s Jedi Training before the bottom absolutely dropped out. Even though there were higher crowds all around, we were able to get good fast passes after our initial 3 ran out and for the most part it wasn’t too stressful. PizzeRizzo was a hot mess though- we made the mistake of going there to eat and I literally got trapped in a 45 minute wait for food. INSANITY. The lines just never moved! I’m so glad we had a dining reservation for Hollywood & Vine that night.
You could feel some stress among Cast Members. Folks were nice, but there was some magic lacking that we usually have in sweet interactions, short chats, etc. I think everyone was tired and the crowds and weather were getting to them.
December 24th: Epcot
Oh, hi there crowds. The picture above is a bit disingenuous. This was definitely the most crowded point we experienced, but no worries- the whole park wasn’t like this for the entire day. There were definitely some crowds to contend with that were more in-line with peak times. This was what we were expecting. It’s funny to think about the crowds now- we had maybe a 15 minute wait to see Anna & Elsa that afternoon, but Living with the Land had a 45 minute line when we were checking into Garden Grill! We got to ride Living with the Land later that evening to see the holiday overlay and though we had fastpasses, the standby line was only 15 minutes. Flexibility is key- be willing to backtrack instead of doing everything the moment you see it. I think that was why the front of the park was slammed when we arrived just before lunch.
To combat the crowds and just for the joy of doing it, we left Epcot for a bit and rode the Skyliner. We chose Christmas Eve for our special party and fireworks viewing as part of our package, so we knew we’d be back later that evening. We made sure to use our snack credits to sample a bit of the Holiday Kitchen offerings (with no lines!) before stuffing ourselves with macarons and sweets at the event!
I’m going to liken these crowds to a Saturday at Food & Wine Festival. Or a weekend evening, also during Food & Wine. High, but not unmanageable.
December 25th: Bounce Bounce
It’s Christmas Day! What to expect, what to expect? We started the morning off in Epcot. We arrived by 9:15am and got in so quickly my head was spinning. This was Christmas Day, right? We had a nice breakfast at Akershus and then called family members from Norway while we waited for the rest of the World to open. We did a little wandering, picked up a few treats and then rode the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios for a short bit- we grabbed a snack, asked a question about Miss Bongo’s droid in the fairly crowded Galaxy’s Edge area and I scored an anniversary pin for Star Tours. We didn’t do much here, because we had plans to come back that evening. It was another quick entry!
We bounced out and headed to our resort, where we just hung out in the room (and Tim napped) for a bit with cartoons playing on the TV. Then it was off to Boma for Christmas Dinner, before we headed back to Hollywood Studios. That night, we found so many great fastpasses! We rode Toy Story Mania several times, picked up a Slinky Dog (whaaaaaaaaat) and Smuggler’s Run was down to 30 minutes, so we finally got to ride that! I’d say Christmas Day/evening at Hollywood Studios was less crowded than December 23rd- and we had better weather! It was frustrating trying to get to Tower of Terror- the street was lined with folks watching the projections on the Hotel, so definitely put your game face on- and leave a few extra minutes to get where you are going if you have to head down this road.
December 26th: Disney Springs
Disney Springs was slammed. Honestly this is the stuff nightmares is made of. I can’t imagine what the parks were like but oh, my goodness, I am getting hives just imagining it. It was difficult to even get in shops, to navigate shops, there were wait times to check out (seriously, can I get a cashier fastpass?) and it was just so, so busy. Disney Springs was worse than our most crowded moment of the most crowded day in the parks at Christmas. Who knew?
Overall, we didn’t find the crowds to be very bad *pre* Christmas, and Christmas Day park hopping was a dream for us. The days were all certainly manageable and with flexibility and fastpasses, we got so much accomplished! I don’t think there was a single day where fastpasses ran out ridiculously early, though I’ve seen that happen even on late May trips. Waits varied, with the popular rides like Slinky and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train maintaining high wait times, though Smuggler’s Run went from 95 minutes on December 23rd to 30 minutes on Christmas Day. Animal Kingdom did get a little skimpy on the FPs around dinner time, but that just seems to be Animal Kingdom. We had a great time meeting characters and I think our decision to book more leisurely table service meals (thanks Dining Plan!) was the correct one, if the PizzeRizzo disaster was any indication.
The closer we got to Christmas, the more tension there seemed to be among the cast members, but we still met some shining gems of people on this trip. I would absolutely give Christmas at Disney another go- but I don’t think anything on this earth would make me be in a park on December 26th.