This is the first part of a blog series that will look at the different steps of planning for an upcoming Christmas trip to the World. I’ll explore some reasoning for some of the decisions (for example, why I picked the resort I did), and how I’m hoping this plan will help us deal with the most crowded week of the year. And then, after the trip, I’ll share what went well, what could have gone better, and any major mistakes I made in planning. We’ll find out together if my approach to planning makes sense. Feel free to add comments on things you’d consider, or different approaches you’d take.
I didn’t expect to be in this position… not yet anyway. I mean, I’m certain Christmas at Disney World is magical- but I figure it takes an brave expert to enthusiastically take on the most crowded week of the year. It happen on an unexpected August night that a decision was made by my wife, our friend and myself to take on this challenge. We had been trying to plan an extended weekend trip to the World, but both, my wife and our friend are school teachers, so our dates weren’t very flexible. We had been hoping for a weekend in November, but our friend is also an actress, and her performances schedule had suddenly eliminated the November plan. Anxious to figure out a time when school would not be in session and our friend wouldn’t be on stage, reality set in… there was only one option for the rest of 2012… Christmas week.
Anyone who has ever planned a trip to the World can tell you that it’s fun, but slightly stressful. There are a huge amount of details to coordinate: lodging, food, and travel- just to list a few. But Christmas is the most crowded week of the year in the World, and that is a significant factor that needs to be accounted for. So there I was, in August- well past the 180-day point for which I could make ADRs. Time was of the essence, and planning needed to start immediately. The situation is this: we will be arriving in the World on Christmas night (so that we can spend Christmas morning with our families), and staying at the World through New Year’s Day. But now is where the planning would start to get tricky…
The first major decision was where to stay. My immediate thought was since this week will be so crowded, staying on Disney property is a must. We don’t want to deal with traffic getting to and from the World, nor the reality that this week will have days where the parks reach capacity, and Disney will stop people from entering the parks- staying on site helps to assure we won’t be denied entrance to a park.
The next thought was that even Disney transportation is going to struggle against the crowds- especially the bus system. As a result, the best resorts to stay at might be the Magic Kingdom resorts on the monorail loop, or the Epcot resorts which are within walking distance. This debate went on for a while. Eventually, we decided that we wanted to be closest to the Magic Kingdom- since it will have the greatest number of extended hours. So, we had narrowed in on the three monorail resorts: The Grand Floridian, The Contemporary, and The Polynesian.
The other factor in my mind is that our friend has never stayed at a Magic Kingdom resort, and she hasn’t been to the parks for a rather long time, so my wife and I wanted to pick a resort that would have a bit of a “wow” factor. My personal preference is the Poly. It’s a great resort with an incredible atmosphere. Additionally, the Poly has a walking trail to the TTC for catching the monorail to Epcot. However, that also meant that for us to get to any park, we’d be at least a monorail ride away. So, we finally made our decision and decided to go with an atrium room at the Contemporary.
Choosing the Contemporary helps us to be more certain with our decision not to rent a car, since traffic will be heavy as well. And, staying at the Contemporary will give us easy access to the monorail, as well as the option of the short walk to the Magic Kingdom in the event that the monorail is overflowing. The location is what really made us select this resort. Though, I still struggle with this choice because I hate paying rack rates. But it does seem to make the most sense in light of the crowds, and there should definitely be a “wow” factor for our friend who has never stayed at the Contemporary before.
What do you think? Have we made the right choice? Will staying close to the Magic Kingdom be a major pay-off in the end? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments. In my next post, we’ll explore the daunting task of making ADRs for Christmas week well after the 180-day window has opened.