A Disneyland Christmas is the stuff kids’ dreams are made of! And to be honest- mine too. I love spending Christmas at Disneyland and you will too. If you prepare, that is. Please: Christmas time at Disneyland is not for the faint of heart! Here are 5 tips to surviving a Disneyland Christmas this year. Disneyland Christmas starts November 9 and runs through January 6, 2019.
Yes, it’s July, but no, it’s never too early to talk strategy when it comes to Christmas time at Disneyland.
When have I steered you wrong when it comes to Disney?
If you’re thinking about a visit, be sure to check out these tips before you go!
A Disneyland Christmas Survival Guide
I’ve been fortunate to spend some Christmas time at Disneyland. It is as magical as you might expect.
And as crowded.
And as frustrating.
And as wonderful.
Who doesn’t want to know what Christmas at Disneyland is like, right?
It’s the most popular time to visit for a reason, and I know people would appreciate hearing the frankincense (see what I did there?) version of a trip with four kids and a non-crowd loving husband in tow.
Here are 5 tips for surviving Christmas at Disneyland.
1. Time Your Disneyland Christmas Visit Smartly
Ideally, I’d suggest visiting the Disneyland Resort in the sweet spot right after the Holiday decorations arrive. Christmas time at Disneyland gets real busy real quick as the month of November progresses.
The out of town travelers tend to hold off until school is out for Thanksgiving or Christmas break.
The locals will still be around- but often not until the late afternoon/evening when school and work let out.
Or they know better and avoid the crowds altogether.
What Day Does Disneyland Decorate for Christmas?
So when do Disneyland Christmas decorations go up around the park? Typically you can plan on seeing a Disney Christmas in the parks the week leading into the Veteran’s Day holiday.
To see a Disneyland Christmas 2018, you’ll want to plan to arrive sometime between November 9, 2018 and January 6, 2019.
Hey Shenanigans, isn’t there a race somewhere around then?
WhompWhomp. Nope. Not anymore.
Our first Christmas visit, we, of course, went completely against this tip and arrived for Christmas at Disneyland on December 28 and left on January 2.
Prime Christmas time at Disneyland crowd time, y’all. But we did get to see ALL of the Disneyland Christmas decorations.
So there was that. #silverlining
The rest of the tips in this post will be in reference to that particular (crowded!) trip.
2. A Disney Christmas is About Managing Expectations
I am totally that glass half empty person.
I expect the worst and if it doesn’t happen, MAN, that’s AWESOME, right?
My point here: don’t expect to ride all your usual rides or have perfect service when you go to Disneyland at Christmas time.
It is crowded and busy- and people are human.
This tip I followed… and guess what, it WAS awesome!
I did not experience the crazy Disneyland Christmas crowds that I had built up in my mind.
The security lines were efficient but quick, and FastPasses were aplenty as long as you got to the parks early.
Space Mountain was a hard FastPass for us to nab due to the popularity, however. If there is something you must ride, make it into the parks early AND use FastPass MaxPass.
3. What to Pack for Christmas at Disneyland
During our trip, we experienced chilly mornings & evenings but rather warm daytime temps.
Most hotels are within a 10 to 20-minute walk from the Disneyland Resort so you could make the case that leaving your jackets in the room would be no big deal.
This is an important point: if you leave, you may not get back into the parks. Remember: everyone wants to see those Disney Christmas decorations!
During crowded days, the park gates can be closed to incoming guests.
Reaching capacity happens frequently.
You leave, you run the risk of not being allowed back in. No Bueno.
We wore layers and packed a bag with the change of clothing we would need for a stay at the parks the entire day.
Our first stop as we entered Main Street USA: the lockers.
They cost about $7 for all day.
It was a simple in and out process, except for New Year’s Eve. That is one crazy fun crowded time of year and you might just want to dig deep and consider if New Year’s at Disneyland is worth it to you!
4. How to Handle Long Lines During a Disneyland Christmas Trip
At the peak of the day, I took #OhLucy (who wasn’t feeling well) back to the hotel for her nap.
The older kids discovered that FastPasses were gone, and met some extremely long Disneyland Christmas time lines.
Instead of getting down, they decided to explore!
Mr. Shenanigans took them over to Tom Sawyer Island, and they had a blast.
This was all new territory for my kids and they really enjoyed it.
They also experienced the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.
Claire loved being able to go inside the castle and it’s become a favorite of hers to this day.
5. Christmas Time at Disneyland: Best Rides
Since the crowds should be heavier than normal, you would be wise to prioritize your attraction choices.
In addition to the expected Christmas decorations throughout the parks, some attractions get extra special attention.
Holiday specific overlays are in place for Haunted Mansion and “it’s a small world”.
Don’t skip them! They make Christmas time at Disneyland special.
If you are a Walt Disney World vet, it’s especially important to experience these attractions since they do not get the same overlay treatment on the East coast.
Last year it’s a small world holiday had FastPasses available: guys! This is a game changer!
This attraction is the best example of Disney Christmas decorations out there! You must ride this to enjoy your Christmas at Disneyland- it will definitely get you into the Disneyland Christmas spirit- I cannot say enough.
You. Must. Not. Skip!
And with FastPass access, you won’t need to.
Disneyland Festival of Holidays Details
If your dream is to experience a Disneyland Christmas, I hope these tips will help you plan that trip.
Was Christmas time at Disneyland easy? No.
Was it still perfect? YES!
Sure, some considerations need to be addressed, but we planned our trip on the fly.
And we still managed to have a fantastic time, I mean: it was a Disney Christmas after all. But you’ll do better than me since you have all these great tips now!
Have you been to the Disney Parks during the holiday season? What tips would you add to enjoy a Christmas at Disneyland trip?
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)