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Disney World Crowds in 2012: Summer 2012 Crowds



By Dave Shute

DISNEY WORLD SUMMER CROWDS: THE PRINCIPLES

Walt Disney World summer crowds are governed by two factors:

  • Public school summer break calendars, which have start and end dates more varied than you’d think
  • The beginning of the peak of the hurricane season, in mid-August

Pretty much all kids are off all of July. As a result, July is the busiest summer month, and during it, the week that includes the 4th of July the busiest week.

Varied dates for when summer breaks begin means June starts well, but builds to high crowd levels later in the month.

August has the opposite pattern, beginning with high crowds, but, through the combination of a trickle turning to a flood of back-to-school dates, and savvy travelers avoiding the peak of the hurricane season, it ends quite un-crowded.

Families that can only visit in the summer (for example, school teachers) should go in early June if they can, or, if their schools are not out then, as late in August as their schedules permit.

2012 PUBLIC SCHOOL SUMMER BREAKS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON WALT DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

The beginnings of summer breaks vary more than most people think.

The chart to the right illuminates this.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including more than 125 of the largest relevant US public school districts.

(Click it to enlarge it; when it opens, click it again to enlarge it more.)

In 2012, only about 10% of kids are out before June; 30% are out as of June 2, 2012, 60% as of June 9; the proportion builds slowly over the rest of the month, with essentially all kids off by June 28, 2012.

Few families plan their vacation for their first day out of school, so there’s a lag in the effect of these dates on summer crowds that I can’t precisely quantify.

But the upshot is that early June is not bad.

I rate crowds the week beginning June 2 as 5/moderate-minus, June 9 as 7/moderate-plus, and June 16 begins a string of 9 straight summer weeks rated 9/high or 10/higher.

Because of the variation noted above in when people do go vs. can go, the weeks of June 9 and 16 may be a little better than I’m rating them, but my data sets won’t let me draw that conclusion.

THE PEAK OF THE HURRICANE SEASON AND DISNEY WORLD SUMMER CROWDS

The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November.

It peaks, however, from mid-August to early October.

(Click the chart; see also Weather and When to Go to Walt Disney World.)

As a result, August crowds at Walt Disney World are affected not only by the end dates of summer breaks, but also by savvy travelers avoiding this potential weather.

Hurricanes rarely impact a Disney World vacation…but savvy travelers with choices in when they can go commonly avoid this period. (Disney knows this of course, and both drops prices and commonly offers free dining during this period to change the value and risk equation.)

As a result, I rank crowds for the first two weeks of August (arrival dates 8/4 and 8/11/2012) 9/high.  The week beginning 8/18 gets a crowd rating of 6/moderate. The week beginning 8/25 gets a crowd rating of 3/low.

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4 comments

1 Jen { 07.31.11 at 3:43 pm }

By the way, what day would be the best day to arrive? Our last trip we arrived on a Sunday and it wasn’t too bad except for the fact that Disney’s computer systems were down!

2 Dave { 07.31.11 at 5:05 pm }

I like your Wednesday arrival. That gives you Thursday to do Star Tours without the Star Wars crowd, and then the full Fri/Sat/Sun for the Star Wars weekend.

In general, most people arrive at WDW on Sat and Sun. But Disney knows this and is pretty good at staffing up to meet the check-in demand, so I don’t find it makes much difference. The deluxe resorts are not quite so good at staffing up as they often don’t have enough stations to add staff to, but otherwise any day is ok for an arrival…but for your intents I’d stick with Weds!

3 mf { 06.26.12 at 9:37 am }

Want to travel to Disney for the first time 7/23 to 7/28. Concerned about weather/hurricane season. Any advise for this period. Is this a good time to travel to Disney/

4 Dave { 06.26.12 at 11:13 am }

Hi mf! While the hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, there’s a clear peak from later august til earlier October–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/chance-of-cyclonic-storm-affecting-florida/ So far as the experts now know, there’s no correlation between the number of early storms and the pain that Debby is being for what will happen later this summer.

That said, frankly July is a lousy time to go. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/best-and-worst-times-to-visit/ and also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/12/26/july-2012-at-walt-disney-world/

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