We are going to Disney from December 18 - 21 and the crowd calendar says all days will have a level 10. What's the best way to get the most out of our trip?
I'm sure others will have some great advice but the first thing to remember is that WDW is a massive place and CL10 is a lot of people so you will not be able to do and see everything. You'll need to pick out the things that are important to you and your family, do those, and if there's time left, get to the not as important things. The other advice I would give (even on non CL10 days) is to plan on waiting in lines and be okay with that. It gives you times to rest from the walking, talk to your family about your day, and maybe even talk to those around you. If this is your first time, you'll find that a lot of people are willing to talk to you about where they're from, why they're there, or how many times they've been.
There's so much to do, I don't know if you could see everything if you were literally the only people there.
Heres my personal, unprofessional opinion. I'll be there those days as well. I think the crowd calendar is too high based on when Christmas falls this year - particularly for MK. Part of the reason I suspect this is because MVMCP is continuing until 22 Dec this year. Last year the party ended 20 Dec. I think the party days will keep most people away from MK so my touring plan is do be in MK on party days, even though I'm not going to the party those days.
Rope drop, rope drop, rope drop!! Plug it all in a touring plan. Adjust on the fly when necessary. I would start fast pass times after lunch. Book your must dos as your fast passes, and fill in with the extras in between.
Mostly what I can offer is "standard Liner wisdom"
RD every day. This is not an option. Be at the gates 45 min prior to opening time. Try to use AM EMH whenever possible; if you cannot be at the gates 45 min prior to the start of EMH, go to a different park that day. You are likely to get on as many rides in the first3 hours as you will the rest of the day (especially at MK).
Use a TP, either a "standard" one (I'd go with the "Holiday" plan) or a custom one. Even if you are adverse to following a plan once in the parks, creating one can be a good "reality check" so you can temper your expectations.
Have realistic expectations. You WILL be standing in a lot of lines (rides, shows, QS meals, bathrooms, transportation, etc.); there's no way around it. You WON'T be able to do everything. With 4 days, that's basically one park per day, and even on a CL 1 or 2 it's a challenge to complete a park in one day.
Decide which 3 attractions are MOST important to you, and get your FPPs for those. There is a whole science of choosing the "best" FPPs that deals with line wait distributions over time of day, crowd dynamics,etc (basically the algorithm used by TP to recommend specific FPPs), but I use the subjective "which rides would I be most disappointed if I didn't get to ride them" guide.
There is a palpable "energy" or "spirit" or "magic" in the air in the weeks leading up to Christmas thatis not always there at other times. The parks are all beautifully decorated, and there are a lot of "extra"things going on. Don't be so focused on rides that you miss out on everything else that makes WDW unlike any other theme park in the States (except DLR).
I could keep going (and maybe I will at a later time), but for now, I have to get some work done at work
Rope Drop. Strategic fast passes. And don't try to eat at peak times. Lunch at counter service will already be slammed by 11:15 in the parks, don't even attempt to eat at noon at Magic Kingdom.
I love love love this advice. Especially # 4.
@Tate you could benefit greatly from this advice right now too.
I've just read it, thanks @bswan26, at least when every park is CL10 it doesn't matter which one you go to.
I agree with the advice above. On thing that has not been mentioned is to have your meal breaks earlier than the masses - lunch no later than 11:30, and dinner as early as you can make the ADR. That way you will be getting in and out before the crowds, and will be hitting up attractions while many people are standing in line for food. Zig when they zag,,,
My MO is lunch ADR 1100-1130 and dinner 2000-2030. This avoids crowds, and as I almost have TS lunches and dinners, it gives me time to walk off lunch before dinner. If I get hungry in the middle, I get a snack somewhere.
One thing I would add to the great advice already given, if Magic Kingdom is having very late PM EMH (for example 1 am - 3 am) take advantage of these. The parks tend to clear out around Midnight and many times you can just walk on rides or have a minimal (15 minute) wait, or at least that was how it was Christmas week of 2014, with crowd levels of 10. Learn to survive on naps, so you can rope drop and do the late EMH. Have a strategic plan for your fast passes. The way I approached it was my fast passes were the must do attractions and I only planned on 2-3 attractions otherwise each day. That way I wasn't disappointed if I didn't get to everything, because anything on top of what I planned was just extra. Now, I don't know if you can afford to do this, because it definitely adds up costwise, but if there are any nighttime shows or fireworks you really want to see, you might consider doing the dessert parties with reserved seating so you don't have to worry about staking out your seating area well in advance, giving you a little extra time for touring.