Trip Report – The Days Leading to Thanksgiving

disneylibrarian (NDD#270) (17 Posts)

Riley McDaniel grew up in Corpus Christi, TX in a low-socioeconomic household and one of the favorite family activites was to watch The Wonderful World of Disney (along with it's other reincarnations) on Sunday nights. Although the family couldn't afford to take a trip to Disney World made it his dream to one day see that magical world. This dream served as one of the many aspirations to do well in school and attend college. Today, Riley has a masters degree in Library Science and serves as a librarian at Red Oak High School in Red Oak Texas where he continues to give Disney as a source of inspiration to students. His family, a lovely wife, eleven year old son and seven year old daughter, lovingly refer to themselves as Disney Geeks. They can regularly be found hosting Disney parties whether it's for simply the premier of the Phineas and Ferb movie or a child's birthday party. As members of the Disney Vacation club (Wilderness Lodge home resort) the family can be found at Disney World once a year and Riley gives mini-seminars on planning the perfect Disney vacation.


Hello, fellow neurotics. Our most recent trip to Disney World occurred November 16 -21, and I thought I would give an account of our trip that led right up to Thanksgiving day because it is not to early to begin planning for next year. Many of you may ask, why didn’t you stay through Thanksgiving? Well, we, of course, knew of the crowds on Thanksgiving Day and figured to avoid those, to be home for Thanksgiving, to continue our tradition of Black Friday shopping, and all the while to enjoy the experience of Disney holiday magic by attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

First, let’s discuss Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. WOW! If you knew my son, the next statement would say it all:  my 11 year old boy was dancing in Main Street! My son doesn’t dance, but I guess it was once again that Disney magic. As is normal practice, Disney sold tickets (known as a “hard ticket” event) for this after-hours event, and from what I understand, November 16th is the only date that didn’t sell out. This being said, you should buy your tickets as early as possible because they go fast. Characters are in their Christmas regalia around the park making for some great photos for adults and children alike. You can find stations of free cookies and cocoa throughout the park. Many of the rides are open during the extended hours making for shorter waits — a gift this time of year. Last, but not least, the Christmas parade is amazing, a must see for anyone who loves Disney. Before the parade begins, there is snow on Main Street with shows and dancing led by Cast Members in the street. Did I mention a special Christmas-themed Wishes fireworks display?

For more on the Christmas Party see:  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/magic-kingdom/mickeys-very-merry-christmas-party/

 

About this spectacular night, let me emphazise, this event is worth every penny, and I can’t wait to go again in the future. That being said, Disney doesn’t do magical job of limiting it the folks who have paid for the extra ticket. I only witnessed wristband checks before getting on rides. I dare say there were a thousand plus extra guests setting up to see the parade who had not purchased the additional ticket. Snooty on my part? Maybe, but we did pay for the event and the perk of the smaller crowd. Now the question, what can Disney do better to manage this event ? My thought is to have Cast Members checking the parade viewers for wristbands. I would love to hear what others have to say on this matter.

We stayed at the Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. The resort did nothing to spoil our trip, but this location will not be on our list to visit again. Our biggest problem with Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa was the size and layout. Our kids, when staying at other resorts, enjoy walking down to the snack bar and filling their mugs. At this resort that required a 10 minute walk to the snack bar across a large and fairly dark parking lot. I also found bus travel tedious as this large resort contained four bus stops resulting in overflowing buses and a long wait to just leave the resort. Nevertheless, we found the staff very friendly and the rooms up to Disney standards. Christmas decorations were nice, not as extravagent like the Grand Floridian, but enough to give you some holiday spirit. As DVC members with Wilderness Lodge as our home resort, I think we might be a bit spoiled to its coziness, while others may enjoy the more spread out village feel of Saratoga Springs.

Onto what everyone is wanting to know — crowd levels. Remember, we stayed from the Friday before Thanksgiving up to the Wednesday Thanksgiving Eve. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were nice days in the park. Sure there were crowds but managable. I would compare those days to a summer weekday. Monday things really picked up but we still had a good time increasing our stays in restaurants, enjoying family and characters. Tuesday and Wednesday insanity hit, with shoulder to shoulder walking and a lack of oxygen for breathing (o.k., maybe I exaggerate a bit). Monday through Wednesday we participated in what we call “FastPass Surfing.” This activity entails always having the maximum amount of FastPasses, using them at the first opportunity and rushing for another.

This trip provided the first opportunity for us to try a different dining plan. Normally, we buy the Disney Deluxe Dining plan, but this time I decided to try the less expensive Disney Dining plan. The main differences are the regular plan includes one counter meal, one sit-down meal, and one snack per day, while the deluxe provides two sit-down meals and two snacks per day. I have to admit I enjoyed a much lower cost, but I also missed having appetizers with each meal and the additional snack per day. With the Disney Deluxe Dining, you spend a lot more time in restaurants – a plus for high crowd days. For this trip, we mainly ate at old favorites, but we did try one new restaurant, the Grand Floridian Cafe, and it hit the spot. I would call it homecooking with an extra burst of flavor. I recommend giving it a try, and we are certain to return.  For our next trip, in September, I believe we will purchase the regular dining plan again because with the smaller crowds we will want to spend smaller amounts of time in restaurants and more time riding.

At the time of our visit, the park began to come alive with the joys of Christmas. Decorations popped up everywhere giving everyone the initial burst of Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, Epcot’s Santas of the World and the Candlelight Processional had not yet begun, so our family will need to plan a holiday trip later in the year. If you want to see those events, you too will need to plan to stay through the weekend following Thanksgiving.

A couple of other trip highlights: 1) Visiting the New Fantasyland. Belle’s Cottage was awesome! Each child gets a part to play in the story, my son played The Beast and danced with Belle, truly a lifetime memory.  2) Photos with Wreck – It Ralph characters.

Will we return at this time of year again? Yes, but not for a while. Let me know of any of your Disney adventures during this time of year, and if you have not already gone for this experience, now is the time to plan.

Have a magical day.

  • http://twitter.com/Jennifer815 Dis Savvy Jenn

    Thanks for a great article… my family is considering a Thanksgiving trip and I was the one saying CROWD LEVELS!!

  • Bill

    Jenn, I presume this won’t be your family’s first trip so I wholly recommend going. Just keep in mind how the crowd levels begin to build and make your plans accordingly. We prepped our kids plenty in advance that this trip wouldn’t be about the maximum amount of rides but about new Disney holiday experiences. Have fun and glad you the article!