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The “Happiest place on Earth” can also be the busiest place on Earth. (<137>GENE DUNCAN<137><137><252><137>)
The “Happiest place on Earth” can also be the busiest place on Earth. (<137>GENE DUNCAN<137><137><252><137>)

Is Disney too much of a zoo to visit in December? Add to ...

The answer

In a word: yes. As is spring break, Easter, Independence Day and any other holiday periods where the kids are off school. The Magic Kingdom may lose some of its pixie dust when you’re sweating it out with cranky kids in two-hour-long waits for Space Mountain. But there are ways to keep that “happiest place on Earth” mood.

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Go off-peak

The slowest day of the year? Super Bowl Sunday, says Bob Sehlinger, one of the creators behind the long-running The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. While there never is going to be a day where tumbleweeds are blowing down Main Street, U.S.A., if you’re looking for fewer crowds, he suggests November before American Thanksgiving and the first three weeks in December. “If you don’t want to take the kids out of school, go the week after school adjourns for the summer or the week before it resumes.”

Teresa Pitman of Guelph, Ont., who just returned from her 27th visit to Disney, suggests you consider the weather to make sure it’s not too humid or too cool.

“Early December is one of my favourite times, because the holiday decorations are up, crowds are usually low and the weather is generally mild,” says the freelance writer and self-confessed Disney geek.

And there’s a bonus to going in slower times: deals. (Check out the special offers page at disney.go.com and mousesavers.com.)

 

Have a plan

Sehlinger has worked it out to a science. Frustrated by an initial visit, he put his background in stats and research to find ways “to move counter to the flow of the crowd.”

His website, touringplans.com, uses a patented algorithm and a team of data collectors and child psychologists to offer directions that keep visitors to Disney World and Disneyland on the rides and out of the queues. (Among the dozens of touring plans is “Dumbo-or-Die-in-a-Day,” if your kid must ride the flying elephant.)

The key, says Sehlinger, is to arrive early – 35 to 40 minutes before the park opens with your admission purchased – and hit the most popular attractions first, even if it means backtracking. And try these time-saving tips.

Use the FASTPASS system, which lets you get timed-entry tickets for most of the popular rides. “Fast Passes do run out on busy times, so get yours early,” Pitman says.

If you want to sit down and eat – especially with Cinderella and friends – make reservations now. We’re talking hot New York restaurant early.

Gain access to “Extra Magic Hours” – where the resort opens early or stays open late – by sleeping at one of the Disney resorts.

 

Embrace the crowd

So you’re still going during school holidays? It can be fun. The parks know that millions of visitors are heading their way and it’s during the extra-busy times that they make sure more rides, restaurants and characters are in operation. “Disney is great at planning for the crowds,” Pitman says.

Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith.

We want your advice

A reader wants a Hawaiian vacation that’s laid-back and culturally aware instead of one in a big bland resort.

Karan Smith reports next Saturday, but do you have any recommendations? Send them to: concierge@globeandmail.com.

 

 

 

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