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.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Coping with Disney World Holiday Crowds

By Dave Shute


In later December–beginning around December 20, but really rolling in on December 22–the 2012 holiday crowds will begin to slam Walt Disney World.

Unless of course the world comes to an end on December 21.

Multi-hour waits will be common on the best-loved rides (waits crossed 3 hours at times last year), senior managers will be bussing tables, and park closures are possible.

Yes, there will also be a wonderful Christmas program and fun stuff on New Years Eve, but all in, because of the crowds and waits, this is a lousy time for a Disney World vacation.

But for the hundreds of thousands of you who will be there then, here’s some thoughts on how to make the best of it!


The approach to the holiday crowds is the same as that for any day, with a couple of added twists.

Follow the basics:

  1. Stay up-to-date on opening times and morning Extra Magic Hours–including checking the evening before…
  2. …so that you can arrive at the parks well before opening
  3. At open, head for the rides that build lines quickly first. FASTPASS one, and ride others
  4. Continue to pull FASTPASSES until they run out, filling the time between FASTPASSES with non-FASTPASS rides
  5. When the FASTPASSES are out and the lines cross 90 minutes, head back to your hotel, planning to return for evening celebrations at MK, HS or Epcot

Consider some added twists:

  1. At this time of year, FASTPASSES disappear quickly.  There’s an effective–but expensive–solution to this issue here.
  2. Be open to very late night visits, especially post-midnight evening Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom
  3. Be willing to skip some rides.  For example, Under the Sea: The Journey of the Little Mermaid, as a new ride, will be mobbed at the Magic Kingdom, and the newly re-done Test Track will be mobbed at Epcot. The first of these rides is a little lame, and, based on the reports of others, I’m skeptical about the Test Track redo (I’ll have more on this next week, after I’ve ridden it). Skipping these rides will save you either a FASTPASS or a couple of hours in line.

None of these suggestions will make the crowds go away. But strictly following the basics, and incorporating some of the added twists, sure will help!



1 Roseann { 11.13.13 at 9:09 pm }

Hi Dave,
A BIG Thank You for the salute to our Veterans! And special thanks to your family Veterans!
I have a few questions, hopefully you can offer some good suggestions; my husband and I are staying at Wilderness Lodge, for the 1st time, I have difficulty walking (asthma), which room would you suggest that I put in a request for? ; For the week of January 5 thru 10, we want to see the Castle and Osborne Lights, what sort of itinerary would you suggest?; When is the last day to see the Castle lit up and the Osborne lights?; Would you suggest California Grill or Artist Point for dinner? I had a problem with indoor kitchen smoke at the Flying Fish (our favorite restaurant) in 2012 🙁 and the manager could not have done more for us to make me comfortable 🙂 And should we take horse drawn carriage in Fort Wilderness?
Thanks, Roseann

2 Dave { 11.14.13 at 10:34 am }

Hi Roseann and thanks!

The last night for the Osborne lights is Jan 5. The Castle is lit up every night, but the Xmas lights may be down by then.

If you have difficulty walking, I would get a scooter. Even with a request for a room near an elevator, there is still a ton of walking everywhere at WDW including within the Lodge itself.

Either the Grill or Artist Point would be a great choice. Artist Point will be simpler for you to get to.

I don’t really have an opinion on the carriage ride….

3 Roseann { 11.16.13 at 4:22 pm }

Thanks Dave! I was thinking about getting a scooter. Could you suggest a company to contact?
Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

4 Dave { 11.18.13 at 7:17 am }

Sorry Roseann, I don’t have any worthwhile opinions on scooter companies…

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