Being away from home for the Disney College Program during the holidays while working crazy hours and living with at least a few other people doing exactly the same thing can be stressful. Holidays give us a certain sense of comfort and routine, and none of this exists during the DCP. The holidays can be some of the most difficult weeks of a fall program, but there are ways to make the most of the season and still allow for an incredible experience while completing this must-do internship.
Decorate your apartment
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend getting a Christmas tree, unless you really want to, but a couple of dollar store pieces or even handmade pieces you can work on to de-stress after work can help brighten up CP housing. During my first Disney College Program, one of our roommates took it upon herself to get a live tree. I probably would not go this route again, but you could get the a similar vibe with the right less expensive decorations and Christmas tree-scented room fresheners or winter-inspired essential oils… or candles (but remember to hide them during inspections/you didn’t hear this from me!)
Set aside time to celebrate with friends or roommates
As I’m sure you’re aware, CP work schedules are intense around the holidays. This means planning to celebrate on the actual day of the holiday is very unlikely, but you can always check to see what you friends or roommates are doing in the weeks leading up to the holiday and have an impromptu celebration then. I spent one day during my fall program with a friend going around to see the Christmas decorations at the resorts and seeing that evening’s performance of Candlelight Processional. We dressed in our holiday best and snapped tons of photos in front of the different trees around property and had a blast–certainly an nontraditional way to celebrate Christmas, but when in Disney!
Don’t feel like you need to be in the parks
The parks are super crowded during this time of year and if you’re looking to get away for a bit to celebrate after work chances are the parks are not where you’ll want to be. I can’t recommend taking your own holiday resort tour enough. All of the resorts are beautifully decorated for the season, and many of them even come with special photo ops or sweets and treats you can buy to celebrate. The Epcot Area Resorts and the Magic Kingdom resorts on the monorail loop are the easiest to get around, but don’t forget about the other resorts too. Each one has something special to offer, and my personal favorite decorations are actually in the lobby at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Discuss gifts with friends/roommates beforehand
If you’re not sure who you should be getting gifts for, discuss it before the holiday. Chances are as a CP, you’d rather not spend the extra money if you don’t need to. If that’s the case and you have friends thinking about doing gifts, suggest spending some time celebrating the holiday (which you can essentially do for free if you hop on the bus to one of the parks or stroll through the resorts) in lieu of doing gifts. You can also do a Secret Santa, which helps curve your budget as everyone would only buy and receive one gift.
Use your holiday discount
Holiday discounts are one of the best perks of being a Disney Cast Member! If you’ve been eyeing certain merchandise in the parks or have been procrastinating on your Christmas shopping, now is the time to get moving! With discounts of up to 40% off merchandise and 60% off dining with your holiday celebration booklet, there are so many opportunities to get those Disney gifts you’ve been thinking about. To save even more on your holiday shopping, visit Cast Connections, where authentic Disney parks items are already discounted. I’d also suggest using your holiday discounts for dining wisely. I saved my 60% off voucher for when my family came to visit, and we really planned around which restaurants would get the most value out of it.
Keep in touch with family at home
If this is your first holiday season away from home, being away from family can be hard. It can be difficult to stay in touch when your schedule is all over the place and likely very different from everyone at home, but this time of year it’s really important to get in touch with your family. Especially on the day of the holiday, calling to wish your family well and talk about how your day is going can help your own holiday move along more smoothly even if you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Spend time with family before or after the holiday
Some CPs plan to go home around Christmastime or they have their families come visit. This is one instance when you should put the family visits on hold and either see them well before the holiday or plan a get-together for the couple of weeks after. Your work schedule will be so hectic during the holidays, and travel expenses tend to be at their highest this time of year. On top of that, the parks will be at their most crowded and you can encounter block out dates for your own or guest passes. Even if you avoid the parks by planning a trip home for the holidays, coordinating getting the time off from work without calling out while arranging your airfare or other travel arrangements can be a real headache during this time of year.
If you happen to be off from work, host a “Friendsgiving”
One of my roommates prepared a Thanksgiving dinner one night when we were all off from work around 10:00 pm. Sure it was late, but it was worth it to sit down together and truly feel like we were having a real holiday meal. I somehow managed to be off from work on Christmas (totally just by coincidence, no idea how that happened!) so I made a Christmas spread that was easy to replenish and add to throughout the day so that my roommates and neighbors could have a Christmas meal before or after their shifts. It was exhausting to do all of that by myself, but so worth it in the end because I got to spend the holiday with so many different people and help make their day before or after they had to work.
Check on your friends
It’s not easy to be away from family for the holidays and everyone takes this feeling differently. You may be totally fine not spending the holidays at home, but some of your friends and roommates may not be taking it as well. Since their family may not be close by, if you notice someone having a rough time check in on them and let them know you’re there to support them and spend the holidays with them if they want to.
Don’t self-term without a legitimate reason
So many CPs who end up self-terming from the Disney College Program do it during the holidays. While there are certainly plenty of legitimate reasons to self-term too many CPs who do so during the holiday season do it for the wrong reasons: They’re tired–it’s the end of their program and they’re just feeling done. Or it’s the end of their program so they’ve had themselves a good experience and would just rather get home for Christmas (note–if your mental health would be significantly better off self terming and getting home for the holidays that wouldn’t fall under this category…)
Or worse, they make some stupid decision that causes them to get termed rather than self-term because they’ve stopped caring (I guess? I don’t know the logic for that one, but I’m speaking from experience as a coworker was let go on his second to last shift on New Year’s eve!). If you’re thinking of self-terming because of a school obligation, see if you can get an early release, and if you have a family emergency, unexpected illness, or anything of that nature then of course self-term. But if you’re just feeling up for the work you signed up to do, try to get through the holidays and finish out the program instead.
Hope this post helps you make the most of the holidays as a CP! & as always if you have any questions feel free to leave them below or email firstname.lastname@example.org 💕