Walt Disney World Crowds in 2014: What’s Up, and What’s New
By Dave Shute
PREDICTIONS ABOUT DISNEY WORLD CROWD IN 2014
I published a revision of the 2014 crowd calendar earlier this summer—the last revision needed, barring typos or unanticipated events—after the full set of public school calendars I analyze (about 180 this year) became available.
The 2014 calendar revision includes both some changes in approach and in specific week rankings—though only a couple of weeks changed crowd class–e.g. from “green” (lower waits) to “black” (moderate waits)–or week class, e.g. from “recommended” to “not recommended.”
The purpose of my Disney World crowd calendar is to indicate (especially for first-time visitors who may never return, but the math is true for everybody) better weeks, which are marked in green; not so good weeks, marked in black; and bad weeks, marked in red.
Because my recommended itineraries are 9 days and 8 nights, “weeks” as I define them begin on Saturdays and end 9 days later on a Sunday. That is, they include two weekends and the weekdays between. I’m not like other people, but I am consistent to myself…
Each week gets a crowd rating, from 1 to 11, where 1 is lowest crowds. In a bold step, for the 2014 crowd calendar I added “4” and “8.” There’s a long story behind that, which I’ll skip so that I keep my one remaining reader.
These ratings are ordinal, not cardinal. A week rated “9” is not three times worse than one rated “3”—but it should be better than a week rated 10, and worse than one rated 8.
Ok, with all that preamble out of the way, here’s some comments on 2014 crowds at Walt Disney World, focused on weeks that got revised but also including some general observations on each month.
DISNEY WORLD CROWDS IN 2014: NOTES AND CHANGES
New Years crowds are driven by school holidays, which are profoundly affected by the day of New Years. A midweek New Years means many kids are off that whole January week, with massive crowds continuing through the Saturday after New Years. That’s what we see in 2014, with crowds extending to Saturday January 4th.
The rest of January tends to be low-crowd, with exceptions over the Marathon Weekend and Martin Luther King Weekend. The week beginning January 11 has the Marathon at one end and MLK weekend at the other (though with great days in between), so I bumped its overall rating from 3 to 4 to reflect the weekend effects.
Crowds are high in February beginning the Thursday before Presidents Day through the Saturday after.
Most kids get just a three day weekend here, but a ton of kids in the snowier New England states have the whole week of President’s Day off—and other kids are taken out of school. So crowds this week are massive.
Other kids get a longer weekend beginning Thursday or Friday at the end of the week before Presidents Day, and Disney also has a dance competition that begins late that week, and another running event—the Princess Half-Marathon– at the end of the week of President’s Day.
To reflect the impact of earlier-beginning long weekend holidays and the dance competition, I changed the week rating of the week beginning 2/11 from 3 to 4. This week will be fine until Thursday, but then crowds will build.
The week beginning 2/22/14 had its rating changed from 2 to 3, to reflect the weekend crowds at the beginning of the week from President’s Day and hangover effects from the running events the weekend of the 22nd.
The rest of February is great from a crowd point of view.
March and April are the hardest times to forecast. Crowds are affected by the date of Easter, traditional school break dates in districts that don’t tie their spring breaks to Easter, and the need of northeasterners to get away from the snow. I can quantify the impact of spring break dates, but not so well the ebb and flow of those escaping the snow.
Unless Easter is very early, typically the first week of March is fine—and I’m forecasting it as such in 2014. However, I’m a little worried about the impact of visitors from the massive HIMSS conference (which ends 2/27) and for that reason have bumped the crowd rating for the week beginning 3/1 from 3 to 4.
The rest of March looks pretty bad to me…
In my draft 2014 crowd calendar, I had thought that the week beginning March 29 would be pretty good, but the school calendar analysis showed more kids on break that week than I had expected. (I’ve figured out how to get this closer for 2015.) So I’ve changed my crowd rating of this week from 3 to 5, moving it from the “low” to the “moderate” class. It may be worse—but in my dataset, 80% of districts with this week off also have another major spring break.
The week that begins two weeks before Easter typically has few US kids on break (many UK kids are off then, but not enough to profoundly affect crowds), and this is true for 2014 as well. The week before Easter is always the worst week for kid’s breaks—and will be so in 2014 as well. The week after Easter is never good, but it is better in years–like 2014–with a very late Easter. Based on actual break schedules, I’ve lowered the crowd rating for the week after Easter from 9 to 8—still bad, but not as bad as some years.
Late April crowds beginning seven days after Easter are just fine!
Early May crowds are fine. Later May sees a build in crowds, peaking the week that includes Memorial Day, partly because of a trend towards earlier ends to summer breaks—which leads to earlier beginnings to these breaks, and more kids out of school in late May and early June.
Star Wars Weekends clot Disney’s Hollywood Studios Friday-Sundays in later May and early June.
Early June crowds have been worse than forecast both of the past two years, and schools are out even earlier in 2014. As a result, I’ve changed the rating for the week beginning 6/7 from 7 (Moderate-plus) to 8 (high minus). Later June sees even higher crowds.
Some kids don’t get out of school til the end of June, and others go back in early August. But pretty much all kids are out in July, so it’s the worst month for crowding at Disney World (some holiday weeks the rest of the year are worse than any single July week, but overall, July is the worst month).
There may be fewer tourists from South America during their July 2014 winter break because of the FIFA world championships in Brazil absorbing some vacation time and budget. But I’m not expecting to see this affect July crowding much—though, as we’ll see, it may have an effect in September.
August crowds seem to have been getting a little better, likely for the same reason that early June is getting a little worse—the trend towards earlier returns to school.
As a result, I’ve dropped the crowd ratings in each of the first three weeks of August 2014, from 9 to 8 the week beginning 8/2, 9 to 7 the week beginning 8/9, and 7 to 6 the week beginning 8/16. However, all three weeks remain firmly in the “avoid” or “not recommended” categories…
Later August is just fine from a crowd point of view.
September is typically the lowest crowd month at Disney World. All US kids are back in school by early in the month, and parents resist taking their kids out of school at the beginning of terms (that’s why later January and early February are almost as uncrowded).
I have, however, bumped the ratings up for the week of 9/13, which went from 1—lowest crowds to 3—low crowds.
There’s two issues I see this week, which is typically spring break for South American kids (though many families take their kids out of school the week before as well, which I’ve bumped from 1 to 2).
One is that some South American families who missed their traditional July visit because of FIFA will come in September instead. Second is that the next part of Harry Potter will have opened at Universal by now, creating an even stronger than normal draw to Orlando for South American spring breakers.
I’m still classing these weeks as low—just not as low as in prior years. Note that beginning in early September and going through most of the rest of the year, which day you go to the Magic Kingdom really matters.
Other than the week that includes Columbus Day (the week beginning 10/11 in 2014) October is a great month for avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World. Worries some express about the impact of fall breaks on Disney World crowds are overblown. I made no changes between the draft and final ratings in October.
November has two problematic weeks—Thanksgiving week, and the first full week of the month, Jersey Week.
Jersey Week is not bad, but is worse than the weeks before and after it. Thanksgiving week is bad.
The month’s crowd ratings did not change.
You won’t find a sound guidebook or website that does not trumpet the period between the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the middle of December as a wonderful time to visit. The three weeks here are always my top three ranked weeks of the year for Walt Disney World visits, and are so again in 2014.
Well, people read this stuff and make decisions based on it, and every year these three weeks get a little more crowded.
So for 2014 I’ve increased the crowd rating of each of these three weeks—the week beginning 11/29 from 2 to 3, the week beginning 12/6 (Pop Warner Week) from 3 to 4, and the week beginning 12/13 from 2 to 3. These are still classed as “low crowd” weeks—just not as low crowd as they were just a few short years ago.
I worry sometimes that this is my fault…my “Weeks to Visit Ranked in Order” pages have been seen more than 2.5 million times…but then I decide that I’m just not that important.
Later December—the weeks that include Christmas and New Years—is always a mess, and the mid-week holidays in 2014 mean that all of the weeks beginning 12/20 and 12/27/2014 will be horrible in 2014 as well. My crowd calendar goes to 11 just for these weeks…
MORE ON WHEN TO GO TO WALT DISNEY WORLD
- For when to go to Walt Disney World, see this
- For the next best dates, see this
- For the best and worst times to visit, see this
- For forecasting crowds at Walt Disney World, see this
- For seasonal pricing at Walt Disney World, see this
- For weather at Walt Disney World, see this