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.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







Category — 6. The Christmas Season at Walt Disney World

Basic 2016 December FastPass+ Itinerary

This Walt Disney World itinerary is designed for the three weeks following Thanksgiving 2016.

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   2 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

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“MVMCP”) in 2016

DISNEY WORLD’S SPECIAL CHRISTMAS PARTY IN 2016

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in 2016 from yourfirstvisit.netWhile Christmas itself is December 25 of course, Walt Disney World provides a special Christmas celebration at the Magic Kingdom many nights in November and December.

This celebration is called “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or “MVMCP” for short.

At the party, many of the Magic Kingdom’s rides are open, and cookies and hot chocolate, special events, and different Christmas parades and fireworks, and even snow (!) are offered.

The official Disney World page for this event (where you can also buy tickets) can be found here. For a review of the 2016 version of MVMCP, see this.

MORE ON MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY

This party occurs from 7p-12MN on certain evenings at the Magic Kingdom in November and December.

The 2016 dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are as follows:

  • November 2016:  7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
  • December 2016: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 22

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party from yourfirstvisit.netYou need to buy a special ticket for this party. This ticket is different from regular Walt Disney World park admission tickets.

  • The special party ticket does not allow you to enjoy the rides and attractions of the Magic Kingdom before the the Party starts–you need a regular ticket for that (note that you can usually enter and enjoy the rides as early as 4p–although your ticket will say 7p)
  • Regular tickets used to enter the park earlier the day of a Party do not give you access to the Party–you need to have the special Party ticket

Mickey and Minnie at Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP 2014 from yourfirstvisit.net_

The party tickets are expensive, so why would first-time visitors be interested? A couple of potential reasons

  • Evening fireworks shows are rare this time of year, so going to one of the parties is a way to guarantee you can see them
  • Operating hours at the Magic Kingdom are shorter this time of year, so the Party allows you more time there within the same visit
  • Walt Disney World sells only a limited number of tickets to each party, so the evening can be less crowded, particularly compared to whenever the Magic Kingdom is doing evening Extra Magic Hours that week

Many families go the first time for one of these reasons…and then going becomes a tradition!

On the other hand, families following one of the standard 8-night itineraries on this site will see the fireworks and evening parade, and have plenty of time at the Magic Kingdom. For that reason, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is not designed into this site’s pre-Thanksgiving itineraries.

It is, however, built in to this site’s Christmas-oriented Basic Itinerary, which works for the three weeks beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

For details on what the party offers, suggested approaches, etc., see this!

Here’s the 2016 brochure–as always on this site, click to enlarge:

2016-mvmcp-brochure-side-1

2016-mvmcp-brochure-side-2

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March 25, 2016   8 Comments

Review: The 2015 Edition of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“MVMCP”)

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY: A REVIEW

Review Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.netMickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“MVMCP”) is a special event that takes place during the Christmas season at Walt Disney World.

It requires its own ticket, which is entirely separate from regular Disney World tickets, and is only shown on certain nights from early November through mid-December.

(For more on MVMCP tickets and show nights, see this.)

Even though it is expensive (tickets for a family of four will cost over $200) it’s been part of this site’s Basic December Itinerary since the site opened, for a couple of reasons:

Going to it lets people save a lot of time. 

Disney limits the amount of tickets it sells to each show of MVMCP.  As a result, waits for the rides are low–most typically 10 minutes. For just how low, see Josh’s post here. Going to it and seeing some really popular rides with hardly a wait saves a ton of time that can instead be spent sleeping in or at the pool.

Waits Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

For example, above is the Space Mountain wait at a little after 9p at the November 8, 2015 party that I attended.

The Castle Transfigured Frozen Holiday Wish from yourfirstvisit.net

Going to it guarantees seeing an evening parade and fireworks. 

At the time of year the Basic Itinerary covers, the evening parade and fireworks at the Magic Kingdom may happen just a couple of times a week on non-MVMCP nights.  Sending people to MVMCP guarantees your family will have the opportunity to see an evening parade and fireworks.

Moreover, the parade and fireworks are unique. The fireworks are tied with those of the Halloween party as best of the year, and the parade has a fun Christmas theme!

I recommend people go to Walt Disney World in the early part of the Christmas season…so how can I not send them to this show?

It’s silly and fun!

In early November 2015 I had a chance to see it again, for the seventh time. The rest of this entry is the review of that visit. (Note that some of the photos are from my 2014 visit, as they turned out better that night…)

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY

There’s a couple of components to MVMCP.

Noted already are the parade and fireworks, both in special Christmas versions.

Parade Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade, called Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, happens twice each night, at 8.15 and 10.30p.

Saving a Spot for the Parade Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

I strongly suggest you go on rides during the first parade, and watch the second parade–crowds for the second parade will be much lower, and you won’t have to save a spot like the little guy above.

Characters Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade begins with a bunch of characters…

Mickey and Minnie Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Mickey and Minnie Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Minnie and Mickey.

Anna and Elsa Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Anna and Elsa Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Frozen comes next with three floats, beginning with Anna and Elsa…

Olaf Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Olaf…

Kristoff Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…and then Kristoff.

Wreck It Ralph Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Next is Wreck-It Ralph…

Clarabelle Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Clarabelle Cow and Christmas cookies–I wonder why no resort is themed to Clarabelle?…

Goofy Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Goofy and Christmas candy.

Next up is a sequence of princess-themed floats.

Snow White Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Snow White Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Snow White and Cinderella get their own floats.

Cinderella Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Cinderella Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Review Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

A closer shot of Cinderella.

Princesses Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

One large float is fronted by the Beast and holds a passel of princesses.

Woody Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade then shifts to a toy theme, including Woody and Jess…

Toy Soldiers Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…and toy solders.

Santa Claus is on the last float.

Santa Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Santa Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Fireworks Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 from yourfirstvisit.net

The fireworks, called Holiday Wishes, happen between the parades at 9.30, preceded by a special holiday version of Celebrate the Magic at 9.15p.

Also noted already are the rides.

  • Not all rides are open, but all of the most popular ones are (there’s a list of what’s open on the brochure below).
  • Because of the limit on tickets sold, the rides are pretty easy to get on to without major waits. The park will feel very crowded on Main Street and near the Castle, but this is because of all the people lining for the castle shows and the parade route.  Away from Main Street and Frontierland the park opens up and ride waits are quite short.

There’s some shows, some unique to this event.

Celebrate the Season Holiday Show

Castle shows Celebrate the Season…

Elsa Making Snow Frozen Holdiay Wish from yourfirstvisit.net

…and A Frozen Holiday Wish are the same as on regular MK evenings. The first is OK but not worth seeing at the mobbed 7.30 showing (the 10.05 or 11.20p show is the better choice), and the second skippable.

Totally Tomorrowland Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Only shown during the party are A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas in Tomorrowland…

Phineas and Ferb at Club Tinsel at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

…and a dance party in Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland.

(The dance party formerly held at the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland was not on during my November 2015 visit.)  The first of these is quite lame, the second a cute way for your kids to burn off energy if they need to.

Voiceplay Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

New for 2015 is “Voiceplay,” showing on the same stage as A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas at 8.10, 9.05, 10.10 and 11.05p.  This will please you in direct proportion to the joy you take in slightly thuggish boy band a Capella gestures towards Christmas songs.

Treats Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s some fun other business: free cookies, free hot chocolate (locations on the map, and marked by candy canes), and snow!

Snow on Main Street Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Bear Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s also character encounters, some rare. My first reaction to the bear was “that scarf must be warm.” Yes, my first reactions are often stupid.

Aladdin Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Reindeer Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

You can spend a lot of time waiting in lines for characters–go for it if that’s your thing, but for most there’s much better ways to spend your time given the cost of this party…

Tuba Guy Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

I am a member of The Tuba Guy fan club, and am sorry I did not get a better shot…

Both sides of the 2015 MVMCP brochure are below–as always, click them to enlarge them.

MVMCP Brochure 2015

MVMCP Map 2015

Even though the party starts at 7p, Disney traditionally lets people holding tickets for it through the turnstiles beginning at 4p. Show up early, see some of the lower wait rides, and have dinner.  If you show up around party time, Main Street will be mobbed.  If the train is still running–the last run will be 6.45p or so–take the train to Frontierland or Fantasyland to avoid the crowds on Main Street and in front of the Castle.

FastPass+ is not available during the party–but it’s also not needed, as only Anna and Elsa and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train see major waits. If you want to see these, do them as late as you can stay up.

WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE NOT FOLLOWING THE BASIC ITINERARY?

Fireworks Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

As noted, this show is expensive, but worth considering if one or more of the following apply to you:

  • You otherwise won’t see the evening parade and fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
  • Your plans otherwise leave you short on Magic Kingdom time, and/or
  • You are really a fan of Christmas

With kids old enough to be focused on rides, the right plan for MVMCP is to

  • Show up early, and eat before the party
  • Do rides until a little before 9, and then
  • Position yourselves near the Castle for Celebrate the Magic, Holiday Wishes, and the second showing of the evening parade.
  • After the parade, do more rides or see the shows!

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November 10, 2015   12 Comments

Disney World Crowds: Christmas 2015 and New Year’s 2015/2016

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2015 TO EARLY JANUARY 2016

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 week that includes Christmas, and the next week that includes New Year’s Eve.

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

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

In 2015/2016, more kids are out  New Year’s week than early in Christmas week, but there’s still plenty enough on break Christmas week to wildly crowd the parks…

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

In 2015, a Friday Christmas, and the patterning of school breaks around it, will make it easy for many families to head to Walt Disney World either week.

But the Friday New Year’s Day results in no schools re-opening between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

So almost all kids will be off all of the week that includes New Year’s Day, and unlike some years–like 2013–both weeks will be really lousy all week long.

ACTUAL 2015-2016 CHRISTMAS SEASON SCHOOL BREAKS

Disney World Christmas 2015 New Years 2016 Crowds from yourfirstvisit.net

The chart above illuminates this.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including more than 160 of the largest relevant US public school districts.

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

The weekends are in black and the two holidays–Christmas and New Year’s Day–in red.  Click the image enlarge it.

You can see that many breaks begin Saturday the 19th, with hardly any kids on break before then, but almost 30% of kids are still in school the first three weekdays of Christmas week.

By Christmas Eve, though, everyone is out, and pretty much everybody stays out of school through January 3, 2016.

A few–very few–breaks continue past January 3.

So I’ve classed both weeks as 11/highest crowds, but of the two, New Year’s week will be the worse.

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June 9, 2015   No Comments

New Year’s Eve 2015/2016 at Walt Disney World

2015 NEW YEAR’S EVE AT DISNEY WORLD

New Years Eve 2015 at Walt Disney WorldNew Year’s Eve festivities and fireworks will happen on December 31, 2015 at Disney World’s Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios theme parks, and also at the Magic Kingdom on December 30.

The Animal Kingdom has no special New Year’s Eve fireworks, but will–for the first time– be offering a “New Year’s Eve Street Parti” in Africa’s Harambe Market from 3:30p to 8:30p.

Hours may be extended, but here’s what’s currently scheduled:

  • Epcot is scheduled to be open until 1a on New Year’s Eve; Disney’s Hollywood Studios until midnight for the general public, and 2a for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests; and the Magic Kingdom until 2a
  • The Magic Kingdom will have Wishes at 6.30p, and special New Year’s Eve fireworks at 11.50p
  • Epcot 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
  • Note that alcohol is not available at the Magic Kingdom, but is available at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Magic Kingdom will have the same fireworks at the same times on 12/30. 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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May 19, 2015   61 Comments