Disney World With Kids During the Busiest Time of Year
Scour the web and you’ll find a ton of advice that my family and I weren’t able to follow. Visit Disney World during a slow time of year! The advice says. We would have loved to but for school holiday and available work vacations. We ended up going during the busiest time of year, Christmas through New Years, two years in a row (2014 & 2013).
And almost all of the advice recommends people stay on Disney World property. That sounds great, but we have 3 kids (all above baby-age) and the budget Disney properties wouldn’t allow all five of us to stay in one room. The more expensive Disney properties could accommodate, for the cost of $700/night.
So below are 4 tips on how, with at least 3 kids, you can travel at the busiest time of year, have a cheap Disney trip and actually have a good time.
Tip 1): Stay off-property. You would be amazed at how many properties there are very close to Disney World that are a fraction of the price of staying at a Disney property.
- So much cheaper than staying at a Disney Resort! We paid under $200/night for a 2-BR townhouse 15 minutes away from Magic Kingdom with a kitchen, dining area and in-house laundry
- Did I mention the kitchen and dining area? Staying off-property allowed us to have breakfast at our place before we left, it allowed us to cook quick meals at the end of the day, instead of paying exorbitant prices at restaurants.
- It was really nice to be on vacation and get our own bedroom. These places can easily accommodate a family with 3 kids.
- A lot of these places have nice pools.
- You miss out on Extra Magic Hours (being able to enter the park before or after it officially opens to everyone) available only to those who stay at a Disney property. There are different times of EMH for different parks, so check the Disney calendar. In our case, EMH was at 7am for Magic Kingdom and we were able to enter at 8am.
- You get a shorter window of time to book your Fastpass+ preferences. Last year, those who stayed on-property got to book their FP+ items 60 days before showing up and everyone else got 30 days.
- You will need to rent a car unless the place you’re staying has a fantastic shuttle (most don’t) and you don’t plan to go anywhere besides your hotel and Disney World. We crammed our kids into the back row of a mid-size car and it wasn’t too expensive.
- I don’t think there is maid service at many of these places, as you would find in an upscale resort.
Tip 2): Go to the grocery store. Are you aware that guests can bring food items into Disney World, such as water and snacks that don’t need to be heated?
Go to the grocery store and bulk up on high-protein snacks and refillable water bottles. We bought a TON of snacks, completely filled up our backpack each morning, and by the end of every day we’d eaten everything we brought.
Regularly doling out food keeps kids satiated and saves money on the really expensive snacks you would buy at the theme parks.
(At the grocery store, we also bought easy dinner ingredients, such as box pasta, frozen pizza and PB & J, for our dinners back at our place)
Tip 3): Arrive at the parks when they open. This is more for the families traveling during the busiest time of year like us, when each day was a crowd level of 10. (If you don’t know how busy the parks will be, check out the calendar section of www.easywdw.com)
We got to the park as soon as we could each day, which was 8am on the dot. We were sure to be right up at the entrance gate by 8am every time (which meant leaving our hotel by 7am). It makes a huge difference. A day with a crowd level of 10 is more like a 5 or 6 when the doors open, and each hour gets busier and busier. You would be amazed at all the great rides you’ll get to go on when there’s no line.
Little-known tip: Magic Kingdom doesn’t have a parking lot so you have to park at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) and take a monorail to Magic Kingdom. At 7:30am, there’s a long line as people wait to get on the first few monorails.
If your kids don’t mind skipping the monorail, the TTC often has buses that quietly depart for MK and don’t have a line!
Tip 4): Avoid the pit of hell that is popular rides at Magic Kingdom in the middle of the afternoon during the busiest week of the year.
Remember the movie Independence Day, when the aliens were attacking and everyone was climbing over everyone else and creating an impassable logjam? That is what Magic Kingdom feels like between 12-4 when every day is a crowd level 10. How to avoid this?
- Try to structure your FP+ experiences so that your picks are in this time period.
- Do the less-popular activities that don’t have a long line: Tom Sawyers Island, which my kids loved, ride the train that goes around the park, Carousel of Progress (which is terrible, but nice to sit down) and Liberty Square Riverboat. The Prince Charming Carousel and Tomorrowland PeopleMover will both have lines but they move quickly.
- My kids were small, two aged 7 and a 3-year old. We left at 3pm every day. By then, we’d already been at the park for 7 hours, which was enough. Leaving at 3 allowed us to spend some time winding down at our place, enjoy the pool, cook dinner or have a cheap dinner at a local Kissimmee restaurant (so much cheaper than eating at the theme park). They were asleep by 7:30 every night.
Good luck and enjoy your trip!!