By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Category — 6. The Christmas Season at Walt Disney World

Disney World Crowds: Christmas 2016 and New Year’s 2016/2017

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2016 TO EARLY JANUARY 2017

Holiday 2015-2016 Crowds at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netDisney World sees its highest crowds and prices of the year in the later third of December and the beginning of January, in the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

This is for a pretty basic reason: kids are out of school then.

However, not every school district has the same break schedule.

In 2016, as always, there’s more kids out the week between Christmas and New Year’s week than before or after, but there’s still plenty enough on break before Christmas week to wildly crowd the parks. The week after New Years in 2017 has many more kids on break than usual, so I expect it to be crowded too, especially the first part of the week.

SCHOOL BREAKS AND DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

Most years, there two typical sorts of breaks:

  • Long breakers–districts that take at least 2 full weeks (and three weekends) off
  • Short breakers–districts that take off as close to only December 24 to January 1 as they can

As a result, the period Christmas-New Years is always mobbed at Disney World, as everyone is out of school then, but the periods before and after vary from year to year depending on what day of the week Christmas falls.

In 2016, a Sunday Christmas put long-break districts in the position having to pick when to schedule their second week–before Christmas weekend, or after New Years. Enough put it before Christmas that I expect to see heavy crowds that week, even with a lot of kids shifted to the first week of January

But their’s still a ton of kids in districts that picked the first week of January for the second week of their break.  As a result, in my 2017 Disney World crowd calendar I am shifting my former forecast of that week from “moderate” crowds to “high” crowds–particularly high early in the week, and better later in the week.

ACTUAL 2016-2017 CHRISTMAS SEASON SCHOOL BREAKS

Disney World Crowds Christmas-New Years 2016 - 2017 from yourfirstvisit.net

The chart above illuminates this.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including almost 280 of the largest relevant US public school districts with almost a third of total US school kids included.

(For how the database is built, see this.)

The weekends are in black and weekdays in blue.  Click the image enlarge it.

You can see that many breaks begin Saturday the 17th, with hardly any kids on break before then. More kids go on break beginning the 21st, and by the 24th everyone is on break.

Pretty much everybody stays out of school through January 2, 2017, and while most go back to school right after, almost 20% of US schoolkids remain on break through January 8.
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June 30, 2016   6 Comments

December 2016 at Walt Disney World

December    January   February   March   April   May   June   July

OVERVIEW: DECEMBER 2016 AT DISNEY WORLD

December 2016 at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netThis page reviews December 2016 Walt Disney World crowds, prices, deals and discounts, weather, and operating hours; adds a few other notes; and ends with week by week summaries.

Early December, with lower crowds, lower prices, and wonderful Christmas decorations and events, has the best weeks of the year to visit.

Later December with Christmas and New Year’s weeks has the highest crowds and prices of the year.

Park closings to additional guests are possible in this later December period, as are 8a openings and more morning Extra Magic Hours than other weeks.

December also has a special party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a special evening event–with its own ticket–that has become a family tradition for many.

DECEMBER 2016 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Early December is one of the less crowded periods at Walt Disney World. However, because of the Christmas Party you can face higher much waits if you go to the parks on the wrong days.  See this for how to avoid these crowds.

Later December–beginning the 17th in 2016–is the most crowded time of the year at Disney World

On a crowd scale of 1-11, the week beginning 11/26 has a crowd rating of 3/ low, the week beginning 12/3 4/low-plus, the week beginning 12/10 3/low, the week beginning 12/17 10/higher, and the week beginning 12/24 11/highest.

See this for more on 2016 crowds at Disney World.

DECEMBER 2016 PRICES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Prices begin the month at the values and moderates 10% higher than the lowest of the year. At the deluxes, prices begin the month 6% higher than the lowest of the year.

On 12/11, prices increase at the values to 45% higher than the lowest of the year, at the moderates to 25% higher, and at the deluxes to 30% higher.

On 12/12, prices increase at the values to 65% higher than the lowest of the year, at the moderates to 50% higher, and at the deluxes to 55% higher, and stay at this level through the end of the month

See this for more on 2016 resort hotel prices at Walt Disney World.

DECEMBER 2016 DEALS AND DISCOUNTS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Deals are available for December 2016. Details are here.

DECEMBER 2016 WEATHER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Average temperatures trend down over December, and weather becomes quite variable.  Days can be perfect, or quite cool.

Disney World Temperatures and Percentile Distribution Click the image, or go to Weather and When to Go to Disney World, for more on temperatures.

DECEMBER 2016 SPECIAL EVENTS

December brings delightful Christmas festivities to Disney World:

  • At the Magic KingdomMickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party—a special event that requires its own ticket—runs on many nights through December 22. After that date, its signature events—a special Christmas parade, and special Christmas fireworks—are available to all guests.
  • At Epcot, the evening fireworks show Illuminations has special Christmas additions. In addition, most nights Christmas carols are sung by massed choirs in the Candlelight Processional. Many of the countries in Epcot’s World Showcase have special Christmas events as part of Epcot’s Holidays Around the World program. Epcot’s special events usually begin the Friday after Thanksgiving

The New Years Eve schedule: Magic Kingdom and Epcot will have special fireworks and celebrations on 12/31/2016, and the same celebrations will also happen at Magic Kingdom on 12/30.

DECEMBER 2016 OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Park operating hours vary by the day, and sometimes change without notice. It is rare for hours to be shorter than Disney has publicized, but Disney may lengthen them in response to unanticipated crowds.

The best way to keep up with operating hours is to check Disney’s official calendars, usually available six months in advance.

These calendars can be found by clicking the following links:

WEEK BY WEEK COMMENTS FOR DECEMBER 2016 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD BY ARRIVAL DATE

The week rankings that follow below are from 2016 weeks to visit, ranked in order, and are designed for first-time visitors who do not know whether or not they will return.

2016 Disney World Week Rankings from yourfirstvisit.net

Click the image for a calendar view of 2016 weeks (when open, keep clicking to enlarge.)

11/26/2016. Low prices at values, moderate-minus prices at moderates, low prices at deluxes. Low crowds. Crowd ranking=3. Week ranking=1. Recommended Week. Use the Basic 2016 FastPass+ December Itinerary

12/3/2016. Pop Warner Week. Low prices at values, moderate-minus prices at moderates, low prices at deluxes. Low-plus crowds. Crowd ranking=4. Week ranking=2. Recommended Week. Use the Basic 2016 FastPass+ December Itinerary

12/10/2016. Moderate-plus prices at values, high prices at moderates and deluxes. Low crowds. Crowd ranking=3. Week ranking=3. Recommended Week. Use the Basic 2016 FastPass+ December Itinerary

12/17/2016. Higher prices at values, moderates, deluxes. Higher crowds. Crowd ranking=10. Week ranking=42. Use the 2016 FastPass+ Higher Crowd Itinerary, but watch for added morning EMH and 8a opens

12/24/2016. Highest prices at values, moderates, deluxes.  Highest crowds. Crowd ranking=11. Week ranking=47. Use the 2016 FastPass+ Higher Crowd Itinerary, but watch for added morning EMH and 8a opens
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June 4, 2016   15 Comments

New Year’s Eve 2016/2017 at Walt Disney World

2016 NEW YEAR’S EVE AT DISNEY WORLD

New Year's Eve 2016 at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netNew Years Eve 2016 is on a Saturday. This makes me suspect we will see a slightly different set of Disney World New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2016 than we’ve seen for New Year’s Eve at Disney World in recent years.

What’s known so far is that New Year’s Eve festivities and fireworks will happen on December 31, 2016 at Disney World’s Epcot and Magic Kingdom theme parks, and also at the Magic Kingdom on December 30.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will show its Star Wars fireworks the 31st at midnight.

Until 2015 the Animal Kingdom park had no special New Year’s Eve show, but in 2015–for the first time–it offered a “New Year’s Eve Street Party” in Africa’s Harambe Market from 3:30p to 8:30p. I expect to see this happen again in 2016.

The schedule looks like this:

  • Epcot will be open until 1a on New Year’s Eve; Disney’s Hollywood Studios until midnight, the Magic Kingdom until 1a, and the Animal Kingdom until 8.30p
  • The Magic Kingdom will have Wishes at 7.30p and special New Year’s Eve fireworks at 11.50p
  • Epcot likely will have its Illuminations fireworks show at 6p and 11.40p, plus DJs in various pavilions
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have fireworks at midnight
  • There may be a special New Years Eve show at 8.30p at the Animal Kingdom
  • Note that alcohol is not available at the Magic Kingdom, but is available at the other three parks

The Magic Kingdom will have the same fireworks at the same times on 12/30/16. This date will likely be a little less crowded than 12/31.

DISNEY WORLD PARK CLOSURES ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

Disney closes parks due to crowding often on New Year’s Eve. “Closes” means closed to additional guests–those in the parks do not have to leave.

See this for more on how Disney World park closings work.

The Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are the most likely parks to close, and Animal Kingdom the least likely.

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June 3, 2016   3 Comments

Christmas 2016 at Walt Disney World

Christmas 2016 at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netOVERVIEW: CHRISTMAS 2016 AT DISNEY WORLD

The Christmas season at Walt Disney World includes both the best and the worst times to visit, with both prices and crowds at both lower and very high levels over the period.

Decorations, special Christmas shows, programs, and events, and Christmas trees are everywhere, making Disney World as special a place to celebrate the holidays as you can find.

THE CHRISTMAS SEASON AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

December crowds at Walt Disney World begin at lower levels. They will begin to build on 12/17, and by 12/25 will hit their highest levels of the year, where they will stay until about January 6, 2017.

AK-Christmas Mickey and Minnie at Disney's Animal Kingdom from yourfirstvisit.net

Walt Disney World resort hotel December prices at the beginning of the month are at one of the lower levels of the year.

On 12/11 they go up a lot to 25-45% higher than the lowest of the year, and on December 22, 2016, they increase to 50-65% higher than the lowest levels of the year.

December weather is cooler and variable. While the average daily high is 73, this masks tremendous variability.

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Christmas 2014 at Walt Disney World form yourfirstvisit.net
Each of the parks has wonderful Christmas decorations, and the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot have special Christmas events, which begin in early November at Magic Kingdom, mid-November at the Studios, and right after Thanksgiving at Epcot.

  • At the Magic KingdomMickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party—a special event that requires its own ticket—runs on many nights from November 7th through December 22nd. Later in December, its signature events—a special Christmas parade, and special Christmas fireworks—are available to all guests. Christmas decor is in place by the night of the first party–in 2016, November 7
  • At the Studios, the new Christmas projection show Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! kicked off on November 14.
  • At Epcot, the evening fireworks show Illuminations has special Christmas additions. In addition, most nights Christmas carols are sung by massed choirs in the Candlelight Processional. Many of the countries in Epcot’s World Showcase have special Christmas events as part of Epcot’s Holidays Around the World program. Epcot’s special events are fully in place the Friday after Thanksgiving–November 25 in 2016

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2016/2017 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

New Year’s Eve festivities will occur December 31, 2016 at Disney World’s Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios theme parks, and also at the Magic Kingdom on December 30. The Animal Kingdom in the past has had no special New Years events, but may well in 2016.

The complete schedule is not out yet, but based on what is out and on the past, the schedule will look like this:

  • Epcot will be open until 1a on New Year’s Eve; Disney’s Hollywood Studios until at least midnight, and the Magic Kingdom until 1a or later
  • The Magic Kingdom likely will have Wishes at 7.30p and special New Year’s Eve fireworks at 11.48p
  • Epcot likely will have its Illuminations fireworks show at 6p and 11.40p, plus DJs in various pavilions.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios likely may have fireworks at midnight
  • There may be a New Years Eve show at the Animal Kingdom–the first ever
  • Note that alcohol is not available at the Magic Kingdom, but is available at the other three parks

The Magic Kingdom likely will have the same fireworks at the same times on 12/30/16. This date will likely be a little less crowded than 12/31. Hollywood Studios may also have fireworks on 12/30–either in addition to, or instead of, 12/31 fireworks.

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June 3, 2016   No Comments

Basic 2016 December FastPass+ Itinerary

This Walt Disney World itinerary is designed for the three weeks following Thanksgiving 2016. A revised version for 2017 will be out by mid-May.

basic-december-itinerary-from-yourfirstvisit-net-oct

(For a PDF version, click here.)

If you aren’t going one of those weeks, see Other Itineraries for alternatives the rest of the year, which are published about six months ahead.

You can enlarge the basic itinerary by clicking it. 

A detailed To-Do List covers all the planning steps you need to undertake.
And detailed daily guidance is in the links:

ITINERARY DESIGN GOALS

The basic December itinerary was designed to meet several goals: to ensure that you

  1. See the best that Walt Disney World has to offer, including all of its special Christmas season offerings
  2. See the parks in the order that works best for kids (essentially Epcot first, as it is potentially the most disappointing, and the Magic Kingdom last, as it is likely to be the best loved)
  3. Avoid unnecessary waiting, by using FastPass+ and other tactics…
  4. Have as much time off, and as few early mornings, as practical
  5. Avoid unnecessary spending–for example, the basic itinerary does not require you to buy the “Park Hopper” option, saving you more than $200

If you can’t do the dates required for the Basic Itinerary, see Other Itineraries for alternatives for both the December week and the rest of the year.
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June 2, 2016   4 Comments

10-25% Increase in Party Prices

The prices for the 2016 Mickey’s Not-So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party came out last week, and these parties are now available for booking.

2016 Party Prices Go Up 10-25 Percent from yourfirstvisit.net

While new 2016 complexity makes price comparisons to 2015 a little complicated (the link also includes exact prices by date), especially for the Halloween Party, by comparing like months (e.g all parties in September 2016 vs. all parties in September 2015), I get the following:

  • September MNSSHP: up around 10%
  • October MNSSHP except Halloween night: up around 10%
  • Halloween night MNSSHP: up around 20%
  • November MVMCP: up around 20%
  • December MVMCP: up around 25%

(All these are calculated by comparing the weighted average prices for all parties during the period in 2016 vs all parties in the same period in 2015. I did the math for both adult and child tickets, and for each of advance purchase and day of event tickets.  The price increases by month across all four of these categories were about the same.)

These Halloween and Christmas party price increases continue the trend of very aggressive price increases that  began with the release of 2016 resort prices last summer.

In my itineraries, I’ve viewed the Halloween party as optional and the Christmas party as essential.

The price increase reinforces my Halloween take, and makes me a little skeptical about the Christmas party.  I’ll be rebuilding my basic December itineraries in the next few weeks (after Disney publishes its operating schedule for then).

I will be testing the practicality of sending people to the cheapest dates, and also have an idea or two about reducing other costs (no lighty hats for you!) to help with affordability.  I’ll go through all that and will make the final call in a couple of weeks. …

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May 8, 2016   No Comments