Walt Disney World At Christmas
As you may have guessed, I am a huge Disney fan (I think it might be rubbing off on Mark and the kids, but I'm not sure..!) and one thing I have always wanted to do is see Walt Disney World at Christmas. I have always thought that this would be out of our reach but when we bought our 2nd Disney Vacation Club contract in 2014 they gave us 100 'bonus' points to use before February 2016. We had thought about using them over the summer holidays, but with moving house in June it just wasn't going to be feasible. I thought we were going to end up losing the points, but a little bit of Pixie Dust headed our way and after seeing flights for good prices we decided to book the week between Christmas and New Year for a quick trip to the House of Mouse. We flew out on December 26th and returned on January 2nd.
I wouldn't normally recommend going for a week - especially if you have never been before - but this was my 6th trip and our 5th as a family and we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. We knew that it was going to be very crowded (it was, but it wasn't unbearable) but we were going with a slightly different game plan to most people. This trip was all about seeing the Christmas decorations and shows, we weren't worried if we didn't make it on every ride this time as it has only been a year since our last visit. For us the week was perfect (minus a few setbacks that I'll tell you about in a minute), the weather was glorious, much to the disgust of the locals who were all complaining that it was too hot! We saw everything that we had intended to see and rode every ride, plus extras, that we wanted to ride. We met up with friends, old and new, and had an absolute blast! It was possibly the best trip to Walt Disney World that we've had so far.
Who We Flew With;
We flew with British Airways on return indirect flights from London to Miami to Orlando. We nearly always fly indirect as it is generally quite a bit cheaper. This was the first time that we had flown with BA and I have to say it will probably be the last due to a catalogue of disasters by them that they seemed totally uninterested in. On the way out they lost all of our suitcases as the person that checked us in in London hadn't checked the bags the whole way through, so we went almost 48 hours with none of our stuff - not great when you're only there for a week - but thank goodness for the travel insurance who saved the day. We arrived at the airport for our return journey only to be told that the flight was cancelled. We then spent two and a half hours standing at the desk in the airport while they tried to find us a room in a hotel somewhere and all of this was on top of them having changed our flights 4 times in the couple of months before we flew. We're not impressed BA!
Where We Stayed;
As we are Disney Vacation Club members we stayed on site at Walt Disney World. There are certain times of the year that have blackout dates where you can only stay at your home resort and Christmas is one of them. This wasn't problem though as our home resort is Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village and we love it there. We love sitting on the balcony and watching the animals wander past, especially the giraffes as they are my favourite.
We stayed in a Deluxe Studio as we only had 100 points to use this time and I didn't want to borrow any of our 2016 points. This was fine for us as we weren't in the room that much, only first thing in the morning and then in the evenings just before bed.
Where We Ate;
We didn't have the Disney Dining Plan (I really wish this was included in DVC member's perks but hey ho), so we paid out of pocket for all meals. All of our food was eaten onsite at Disney restaurants and it was all lovely - the places we ate were;
- Tusker House (breakfast, our absolute favourite!)
- 50's Prime Time Cafe (dinner, it's always so much fun here)
- Pizza Planet (lunch, the kids' favourite - the salad bowl was very nice)
- Casey's Corner (you can't beat a hot dog from here)
- The Main Street Bakery (this is now a Starbucks, we had breakfast items and they were very nice)
- Beaches and Cream (we had a Mickey Sink, the smaller version of the Kitchen Sink, it was delish!)
- Chefs De France (lunch as part of the Candlelight Processional package, the food and service was lovely, although it felt a little rushed)
- Tony's Town Square Restaurant (dinner, the kids enjoyed their meals but Mark and I weren't overly impressed - our least favourite meal of the holiday)
- The Maji Pool Bar at Kidani Village (late lunch, the kids love the grilled cheese sandwiches from here but my vote goes to the BBQ pulled pork!)
- Columbia Harbour House (lunch, nice selection to choose from)
What We Did/Saw;
- The Gingerbread House at The Grand Floridian (we found all of the hidden Mickeys)
- The Gingerbread Carousel at The Yacht Club (we found all of the hidden Mickeys)
- The Frozen Gingerbread display at The Contemporary (we found all of the hidden Olafs)
- The miniature Christmas village at the Beach Club
- The Candlelight Processional
- The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
- A horse drawn sleigh ride around the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds
- The Christmas parade at Magic Kingdom
- Holiday Wishes at the Magic Kingdom
- New Year's Eve fireworks at the Magic Kingdom (wow, wow, wow!)
Our Top Tips For Visiting During The Christmas Season;
Book your meals at 180 days out otherwise you will find it very difficult to get a table in a restaurant.
Book your FastPasses at 60 days out (30 days if not staying on Disney property). The parks are rammed during the Christmas season, often reaching capacity, so if you don't book any FastPasses be prepared to stand in very long queues.
Look around you - it's easy to get caught up in the rush to get from one ride to the next, but take time to look at all the beautiful decorations and Christmas touches that are everywhere. It really is a magical time to be in the parks.
Visit the resorts - they are all themed so beautifully at any time of the year, but when the giant Christmas trees and decorations are added they just look stunning. Each resort has different decorations so there's something different to see at every one.
Soak up the atmosphere - everybody was wishing each other Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year, it was such a lovely atmosphere despite the huge crowds.
Be nice to the Cast Members - they are working long hours and doing their very best to ensure you have the best time ever but many of them are missing time with their families, so be nice and remember to say thank you. Our American friends had little candy cane packages that they handed out to the Cast Members and they all seemed to really appreciate the thought, some even spread a little Disney magic and gave them FastPasses to rides as a thank you.
Have fun! That's what a holiday to Walt Disney World should be about. Have fun with your family or whoever you are travelling with. Be silly, goof about - it's ok to do that at Disney - don't get caught up moaning about the length of the queues or the large numbers of people in the parks. Just go with it and enjoy every second, we did and we had the best time ever!