Since the Walt Disney World theme parks reopened a few months ago, we’ve seen various changes including the introduction of systems like the Park Pass Reservation System and the suspension of Fastpass+.
The holiday experience at Disney World has also changed significantly. Just recently, we shared some updates with you about the upcoming Christmastime entertainment and offerings that will be available at Disney World this year, but there’s also quite a few Christmas staples that guests won’t be able to experience.
If you’re thinking of heading to Disney World this year to celebrate some of the holiday season, things will definitely look different. Here are the top 3 things you need to know before you head to Disney to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year:
1. It’s Still Pretty Expensive
Since the parks reopened, there have been significant changes made to the Disney experience, including the inability to park hop, and the continued closure of certain restaurants. While there are some discounts available for Disney Resort hotels, ticket packages, and tickets alone for Florida Residents and others, they are not as significant as they could be given the restrictions in place.
For example, even if you’re a Florida Resident and you take advantage of the Florida Resident Disney Magic Flex Ticket offer, a 3-day ticket is still going to cost you $174 plus tax ($58 per day, plus tax) per ticket.
Last year, Disney offered Seasonal Flex Tickets to Florida Residents, subject to some similar block out dates and a 3-day ticket was $249 plus tax ($83 per day, plus tax). So, that’s a difference of about $75 compared to the tickets available this year. But, last year’s Flex tickets were actually available for use for a much longer period of time — all the way until February of 2020 — as compared to this year’s Flex tickets which must be used by December 18th.
So, while there are discounts available, they may not be as much as you would expect given all of the changes that have been made to the park experience. Overall, Disney still remains a decently expensive experience and it’s still something you’ll want to appropriately plan and budget for.
2. It’ll Be More Crowded Than You May Expect
When Disney World first reopened, we saw some very low crowds, but, over time the crowd levels have changed. Although Disney has been utilizing Park Pass reservations to limit the crowd levels in the parks and promote social distancing, we’ve seen crowds gradually increasing and wait times getting longer, and one park in particular — Disney’s Hollywood Studios — has consistently felt more crowded to us.
On Labor Day weekend, Park Passes were completely booked for all four parks for all types of guests for a period of time, although some availability opened up right near the end. When we visited Hollywood Studios during that holiday weekend, we found that the park was definitely better than a “normal” high capacity day pre-park closures, but it was definitely not a ghost town.
Overall, from what we’ve seen since the reopening, the crowds tend to slow down after the morning rush is over. The crowds also seem to vary depending on what area of the park you’re in.
Based on our experience, it’s been possible to keep your distance from others, but you may find places where crowds are heavier, so you’ll just want to keep that in mind. During the holiday season, we expect Disney World will likely be more crowded. We’re already seeing Park Pass reservations filling up for some guests and certain parks for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
We anticipate a similar situation will occur with dates surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Eve. So, if you’re planning to visit during the holiday season, we highly recommend that you book your Park Pass reservations as soon as possible!
Over at Disney Springs, where a reservation is not required for entry, and we’ve also seen crowds steadily rising.
So, while we anticipate that crowds will not reach the levels they normally do during the holiday season (hopefully we’ll avoid that shoulder-to-shoulder, sea of people experience) they will likely be more crowded than you expect.
You’ll likely find pockets of space as you walk around the parks, certain parks or certain areas within them may be emptier than others, and crowd levels may lessen in the afternoons, but you can likely still expect to see some pretty high crowds during the morning hours at the parks and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios especially.
3. It’ll Be Missing Some Holiday Favorites
If you had your heart set on munching on some cookies while enjoying Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, unfortunately, you won’t be able to experience that this year. Certain special Christmas events including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom and Candlelight Processional in EPCOT have been canceled for this year.
While some holiday events, like EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays will be returning, MANY of the special Christmas entertainment we know and love will be on hiatus. First, the Castle Dream Lights will NOT be returning this year. Instead, the Castle will be “transformed with a rotating series of designs” through projections and video mapping technology.
Additionally, the GIANT gingerbread displays will not return to the Disney Resort hotels this year. That means no giant displays at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, or Disney’s Beach Club Resort. So, if checking out that incredible gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club was a must-do for your holiday trip, you’ll want to keep that in mind.
While Disney has announced some holiday entertainment that will be coming to Disney World, some of your holiday traditions in Disney may have to change this year. We’ll still be able to celebrate Christmastime in Disney World, but it will look and feel a bit different. We’re on the lookout for more information about the upcoming holiday season in Disney World, so be sure to come back for all the latest updates!
Want to celebrate Christmas early? The Sven sipper has returned to Disney World — check out where we found it!
Will you be heading to Disney World this year for the Christmas season? Let us know in the comments!