Family of 16 trip at CHRISTMAS TIME?! Advice?

Planning a trip for our family of 16, ages 7- 64. We have been about 10 times, mostly together but NEVER during peak season. (Used TP since 2011!) I am a Disney fanatic but even I have said you couldnt pay me to go when its busy! But, this is when everyone can go. Will probably be our last trip for several years. Disney is outpricing us and we probably wouldnt be going this time if we hadnt already told the kids 4 months ago.
We were there in January and thought that the crowd level was a lot heavier than we were used to. So, my question is … the crowd calendar is projecting an average of 5 the whole week before Christmas. Really??? I thought I had remembered the last 3 weeks of Dec being 10s every year. No? Have the comparisons changed so that maybe the 5 from 6 years ago is different from the 5 today?

Any tips on getting through with a family of 16? We have almost doubled in size since our last trip together. We will have the handicap pass to use so hopefully that will help some. Staying off property at Reunion Resort.

Any advice is appreciated, especially regarding the crowds!


What are your dates?

We went December 14-20, 2019 and I was shocked at how NOT crowded it was. We typically go the first week of October for fall break and it was way less crowded in December with much cooler weather. We’d been to the parks multiple times before so our goal for the December 2019 trip was strictly to see the Christmas specific stuff. Also Rise of the Resistance had just opened a few days before we got there and we wanted to take in the whole Star Wars area since it was new. Before we left for the trip, we decided what we absolutely had to do. We wanted to see the Storytellers in Epcot, the Deluxe resorts gingerbread displays, a gingerbread cookie at each of those resorts, park Christmas decorations, Jingle Cruise, Rise and MFSR and Ogas, and Storybook Dining. Everything else was gravy. We also decorated our room window with lights which was fun.

We easily did everything we wanted plus much much more and it was the best trip ever. We were actually back in our rooms each night fairly early–like by 9:00 most nights. We had 6 day hopper tickets and a flight that landed on Saturday morning at 8:30AM. We dropped our bags at Pop, got coffee and a quick breakfast and were at Epcot a little after 10:00. We did MK on a party day and went to Ohana for an early-ish dinner around 4:30-5:00 and then did went to GF. The gingerbread display and tree were better than imagined. They had a huge choir singing Christmas carols and then a brass band playing music as well. Hollywood Studios had the best park decorations. It “snowed” both nights we left there. We saw the Gingerbread displays at GF, Poly, Contemporary, WL, Beach Club, Yacht Club, an Boardwalk, and the trees at Animal Kingdom Lodge, AoA, and Pop.

We were expecting high crowds but were pleasantly surprised at how much we got done in less time than our fall trips and without all the heat. I’d suggest having a list of ‘must dos’ and be sure to do the things that are only offered during the holidays. We loved our trip and are planning another trip for the same time frame in 2024.

As a side note–my kids were 11 and 16. DS11 was starting to doubt Santa. Our elf Bob showed up in our room with a note to both kids. You want to talk about Christmas and Disney magic…it was amazing. Santa gave permission to touch Bob and a list of things Bob wanted to ride and characters he wanted to meet. We have tons of pictures of Bob at the parks, on attractions, and with characters. We got to share that magic with other kids in the parks as we got to explain that Santa said it was ok. BEST TRIP EVER!


I think predictions for THIS year are not likely accurate yet. We aren’t close enough. But I would expect this December to look similar to December of 2021, since that is when things most resemble what to expect in 2022.

I also think that the days leading up TO Christmas (or, well, a few days prior) tend to have relatively lower crowds than Christmas through New Years, so that aspect is normal. I think it probably more accurate to say the last TWO weeks of December are typically very busy (in particular the final week). If you are going the week BEFORE Christmas, you should see very busy crowds, but not nearly as busy as the week after Christmas.

Having said that, it is hard to fully judge crowds at this point, with APRs still in place “controlling” crowds as Disney sees fit. Revenge travel is still in full swing as well.

Ultimately, temper your expectations during busy trips. It shouldn’t be about trying to get everything done, but focusing on being in the moment and the things you most want to do.

I think the bigger problem with a group that large is not the overall Disney crowds, but coming to some kind of agreement as to what you all will want to do/accomplish. In an effort to please everyone, you might end up unable to please ANYONE! :slight_smile:

I’d survey everyone who is going, and ask them what are the top 2 or 3 things they want to do in each park, and then make a plan that accommodates as many of those top choices as possible, focusing on the overlaps as much as possible. (You could make an attraction ranking spreadsheet, for example, that determines priorities for you based on first, second, and third place choices for each person.)

Dining will be another thing that will be tricky for a large group. It is hard enough getting ADRs for small groups…but a group that large, you’ll probably need to either plan mostly on counter service, or find less in-demand restaurants at odd times of day! You’ll probably have to book 2 or three separate reservations…maybe even call to book them if need be.


We were there over last xmas holidays and crowds/wait times weren’t bad, and are planning to go again next holidays. I wouldn’t worry about “peak” season so much anymore. Disney’s park reservation system lets them adjust capacity, hours, and staffing to meet demand. While that means that traditionally low season times like January aren’t as good as they used to be, the flip side is that holiday periods aren’t as bad.

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the predictions are just random throws at this point. I would look at 2021 data instead and even take that with a grain of salt.

Having been there just before christmas in 2021 (dec 19th - 22nd), it felt like a 8-9 at pretty much all parks.

2021 CL’s according to TP:

dec 19th: MK 7, EP 9, HS 8, AK 9
dec 20th: MK 9, EP 9, HS 8, AK 9
dec 21st: MK 5 (closed early), EP 8, HS 7, AK 7
dec 22nd: MK 8, EP 9, HS 8, AK 9

Not all of these were accurate though. At the time I posted that the wait times in the park did not match those on TP for example on the 21st. I was at AK on that day and the times on some major rides were in fact longer than what was posted on TP.

So in conclusion, I would be cautious about any predictions and even somewhat cautious about reported wait times. It’s christmas time, I can guarantee it will be busy. If you want to put a number on it, I would guess christmas week is in the range of 8-9.

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My #1 advice for a group this large is to not try to keep everyone together the whole time! Plan 2-3 events per day that you will be together for, and then split up the rest of the time.

If you insist on sticking together, pack three suitcases with nothing but patience. You’re gonna need it. Take it easy, don’t try to rush, anchor your day around meals, have buffers in your schedule for breaks and bathroom stops, etc.


We are going the same dates! Woohoo! Praying we have the same experience you did with the crowds.
Thank you!

I should add to my earlier post:

I would (and probably will) go again about a week before christmas, but I would prepare for high crowds and wouldn’t pay too much attention to TP CL’s because they’ve been way off recently. I also wouldn’t rely much on pre-covid CL’s because the dynamics have changed. IMO If you go in expecting 8-9 crowds, at least you shouldn’t be shocked, badly :smile:


I have to start supper now but my first advice is to bring me along! Please and thank you.



I’ve only been once over a holiday, but I would focus on enjoying the atmosphere, watching shows and parades, and mostly do rides at rope drop. The advice to temper expectations and split up is also excellent.


I don’t recall exact dates for our December 2020 trip tho I know we left Disney on 20 December.

Crowds surprised us - it wasn’t super busy. Not long line waits but we chalked up some of that to many still not traveling due to covid.

The key thing is will you be touring as all 16 together. We traveled to WDW for several trips as extended family and always traveled as a big group. Nobody ever wanted to split off. We did occasionally have one or two who wanted to hang out at the resort. Everything takes longer with more people. Restroom visits particularly. :smile:

Next key thing is realistically, how early can you be at the parks. Are some early risers who will need to rope drop? How many stragglers are there? Those that have to sit in a daze while they wake up. And do you have drivers and vehicles to accommodate the early risers separately from those that need a faux-early time to leave so they’re “on time”.

Whether I’m trip planning for Disney or a multi week multi national park road trip I try to travel in my imagination, keeping the people who will be on the trip in mind. This helps with expectations. And then, lower expectations some more.

Meals are another key thing. In our extended family they must be planned for. We’re not grazers. We can’t wait til we’re hungry. We need to anticipate and have a set time, which makes mobile order for counter service a great thing.

If your main focus is making memories, meal times are great for that. 50s Prime Time is a prime location for memories tho it could be difficult to secure an ADR. Biergarten is another fun dining experience. With tables for 8, you can have littles at one table with adult time at another.

There’s also memorable counter service possibilities like the dining areas near Flametree BBQ. We like the one right down by the water. We’ll order a combo from Flametree and split it while others bring their Yak & Yeti orders so we eat together. Last week we got to watch the kites flying while we ate. Idk if the kites will be flying in December.

Another key thing is be flexible. Perhaps your plan is to leave MK at 11:30 for lunch somewhere, but the Dapper Dans are performing near Casey’s. Send a couple of competent folks into the ice cream place for a half dozen dishes of ice cream with extra spoons for sharing, and enjoy the quartet.

Taking photos!


I find that you are traveling with a group of 16 much more daunting than crowds. I wouldn’t worry too much about CLs. With so many changes within WDW, changes in the economy, Covid, etc. I don’t think there is any consistent data to really predict things. Just assume that it will be crowded and temper your expectations. Most of my trips are solo and occasionally with one or two others so I have no practical experience touring with a group of 16 - but I wish you luck.


Its like you know us!!! Thank you for the advice! Traveling in my mind is something I had not thought of. We are used to eating 1 sit down a day but Im thinking this time we may do mostly quick service and I will take orders ahead of time to save time at the park.
PS. I am that one that is in a daze until noon. Lol.

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Some meal possibilities:

Have a sit down meal your first evening in town. Especially if y’all can arrive by mid afternoon. If your resort has fridges, you can use this evening’s meal leftovers as snacks, breakfast, etc.

We usually plan a fun last breakfast, usually at a WDW resort restaurant. Kind of a little bit of Disney to take you home.

These “bookends” work nicely with counter service meals during your stay.

I don’t for WDW but for road trips I have an index card for each day. I have certain info in particular places on each card - date, location, restaurants with phone numbers, maybe miles traveled, maybe even major roads. I like having the physical paper in my hands.

For WDW I usually have a week’s calendar - some on this forum use spread sheets. On our recent trip everyone was linked into my MDE but still had photos of the paper calendar in their phones. When we had a big birthday bash with 19, each individual family had a week’s calendar.

This [insane] level of planning is fun. :upside_down_face:

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Yes yes yes. We’ve done lots of big family trips (12-20 people) and this is key: plan a few events for everyone, and split up for everything else.


We’ve been there the week after Xmas, and yes, it was crowded but it was also full of Disney Christmas magic and we had an awesome trip.

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