In December of 2012, my family took our first holiday trip to Walt Disney World Resort. After creating The Park Explorer's Kit and a Magical Birthday Celebration on our previous trips, I was excited to tackle holiday pixie dust. The trip was 12 days, lending itself to a really obvious holiday theme – The 12 Days of Christmas. We went at the beginning of December to avoid the crowds, but we were planning a light Christmas when we got home, so I wanted to make the pixie dust really memorable. It goes without saying that I went completely overboard.
The first thing I needed was a Christmas tree. To keep things simple and decrease the amount of luggage I needed to take, I ordered a 3′, green, pre-lit tree from Amazon Prime and had it delivered to the resort. The specific trees on Amazon vary, but they generally have 2 foot and 3 foot trees, lit and unlit, between $20 and $35. Target also generally has a nice array of accessories for mini trees – skirts, toppers, battery-operated lights, ornaments and garland. I bought a red skirt, topper and garland.
I wanted to decorate the room in addition to the tree, but, again, I didn't want anything too bulky in my luggage. I considered getting strings of lights but eventually settled on garland. I bought some cute green and red garland and I sewed gold Mickey heads onto it in place of holly berries. I used a paper punch to create the Mickey heads. This project turned out to be a lot of work, but I was really happy with the results.
Because I started planning this trip a year in advance, I was able to buy Santa Mickey and several of the presents on sale from the Disney Store after the holidays. I found a music box at CVS; they seem to have a large selection of Disney holiday decorations every year.
If you're carrying decorations in your luggage, make sure to choose something that won't get easily wrinkled or smashed. Small inflatables, for example, would be easy to transport. Also, keep in mind that you can't use tape on the resort hotel walls. I used string to tie up the garland. Command hooks are another option. If you're staying at a Value resort, the doors are metal, so magnets will work, and I've seen a lot of people use window clings if you have visible windows. I recommend keeping external decorations tasteful, as there have been incidents where guests have been asked to remove decorations. For this trip we stayed at the Disney's BoardWalk Villas and then moved to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and saw doors and balconies decorated at both locations.
Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without the presents. I wanted to have presents under the tree every day but, again, I could only carry so much in my luggage. We have a family of four, plus my parents joined us for a couple of days, so I decided to stagger the presents out so that at least two people got presents each day. It came out to about 7 presents for each person. After I selected the presents I organized them into themes. (I warned you that I went overboard!) I made a card for each day and theme. I created the cards myself using Adobe Photoshop and character clip-art.
Fortunately Disney wrapping paper and gift bags are available everywhere. However, wrapping the presents so that the wrapping didn't get crushed or wrinkled turned out to be a challenge. I ended up using a lot more decorative boxes rather than wrapping paper.
I found some cute printable gift tags at Disney Family. I printed them on inexpensive glossy photo paper and then backed them with decorative cardstock.
Most of the presents I bought were relatively inexpensive, but I splurged on a few. I was able to get a bunch of the Christmas-themed items in January on clearance. Of course, my sister made sure that I wasn't left out of the magic.
I also made sure that each person got a Christmas ornament of their favorite character so that we would all have a special reminder of this magical holiday.
Shipping packages to and from your Disney resort hotel is often cheaper than airline baggage fees and for bulky items it can be a lot less hassle. For this trip we shipped the tree and an air mattress directly from Amazon, and we've often shipped souvenirs home. For most resort hotels package pickup and delivery can be handled at the front desk. However, if your resort hotel has a business center, packages will be handled there. The following Disney resort hotels have Business Centers:
- Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's Yacht Club Resort (shared)
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
The advantage of a business center is that you can buy boxes and packing material. However, there is a handling fee for each package shipped or picked up, in addition to postage. The fee is based on weight:
- Envelope or Small Box (up to 4 lbs.): $3.00
- Medium Box (5 lbs. – 20 lbs): $5.00
- Large Box (21 lb.s – 70 lbs.): $10.00
- Pallets (per 100 lbs.): $70.00
Note: Shipping alcohol is prohibited. However, I discovered that most airlines permit boxes of alcohol to be transported with checked luggage. Imported sake can be hard to come by in our area, so we have, on occasion, used a wine shipping box with Styrofoam inserts to bring home a supply of Japanese sake from Epcot. Of course, we were fortunate enough to be traveling on an airline without baggage fees, but it's definitely an option worth considering.
After a year of planning, we finally arrived at Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas with suitcases full of decorations and presents. My husband distracted my son with a walk on Disney's BoardWalk while my sister and I picked up the packages and got the room set up for the surprise reveal.
New presents continued to arrive every night while my son slept and we opened them each morning. When we moved to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, we packed up the tree and decorations with our luggage and set them up again in our new room. Of course, the presents followed.
I do wish that I had taken more pictures of the family opening the presents, but not surprisingly, we were often in a rush to get out the door in the mornings. Even without the pictures, this will definitely live on as one of the most magical pixie-dusted trips for our family. Have you done anything special for the holidays? Share your pixie dust ideas here.