Planning Your Disney Itinerary: Busy and Crowded

We’re coming up on one of the busiest times for Walt Disney World, Christmas and New Year’s! Disney World can be notorious for its crowds at different times throughout the year, but these times often have special events that make braving the crowds worth it. If you are visiting during a busy time, take a look at some of these tips for planning daily itineraries to deal with high crowds.

First of all, the best thing you can do when visiting during a busy time is to have a plan. Know which park you will visit on each day, know what rides and shows you want to visit, have an idea of where you want to eat if eating counter-service, and make Advanced Dining Reservations for any table-service restaurants. Since busy times like Christmas have lots of special events, make note of the seasonal entertainment you would like to see. Having a plan like this will help make the big crowds less stressful, because few things are more stressful than masses of people AND not knowing where you’re going. While some times of year at Disney World may be slow enough to wing it, Christmas or the Fourth of July is not the time to go in without a plan.

Now, while you are making your plan, make sure it is realistic. It is difficult to accomplish every ride in the Magic Kingdom on a relatively slow day, so there is no way it will happen on New Year’s Eve. Overloading your daily itinerary is a bad idea at any time of year, and doing this while trying to deal with big crowds will only make everyone stressed and cranky. Make a priorities list and focus on accomplishing your must-do’s (particularly limited-time, seasonal entertainment), and don’t forget to leave space for breaks.

Because the high crowds make visiting lots of attractions in a short time difficult, be prepared to adjust your expectations, particularly if you’ve previously visited during a slow period. Don’t expect to see everything, don’t try to plan to see everything, and don’t stress about it! Just know ahead of time that you will be dealing with massive crowds, and that you should remember to bring your patience with you.

These kinds of crowds obviously mean that there will be lines for everything – long lines for rides, shows will fill up quickly, buses and other Disney resort transportation will be packed, and you will probably have to wait in line for the bathroom. With this in mind, give yourself more time than you think you need for everything, particularly transportation to the parks. If you have an ADR, give yourself as much time to reach the restaurant as possible. If the restaurant is in a park, plan for an hour at the bare minimum. If you are at a Disney resort and are trying to reach a restaurant at another resort, it may be worth it to take a cab and save the bus transfers, because there is no direct transportation between resorts.

Giving yourself this extra time will also help you see more attractions, because arriving early is one of the best ways to beat the crowds. Plan to arrive before park opening to take advantage of the slowest time of the day. If you are visiting on a special day, like Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, arrive early to the park and plan to stay there – the parks often reach capacity on days like this, meaning that the parks will close to any further guests, and if you leave later in the day you may not be able to re-enter.

Since many of these busy times have seasonal entertainment or special decorations, plan some time to enjoy the atmosphere! Christmas is an especially magical time that warrants a bit of strolling to enjoy the Castle Dream Lights and the toy soldiers and garlands on Main Street. Visiting Disney World isn’t just about moving from ride to ride, so when the lines are long, take some time to enjoy the imaginative detail of your surroundings.

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Elizabeth lives in Kansas City with her wonderful parents and sister. She enjoys long walks, happy thoughts, and Disney magic! Elizabeth first visited Disney as a child, and when she prepared to visit Walt Disney World as an adult, she foolishly thought she may have ‘outgrown’ Disney. Happily, Elizabeth was proven wrong. After planning a second trip to Walt Disney World, Elizabeth is now her family’s go-to resource for Disney. She even has her own blog,, with advice on how to plan your next Disney trip. Someday, she even hopes to be an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Elizabeth’s Disney wish list is a mile long, so she’s always ready to plan her next Disney adventure.

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