By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Disney World Spring Break Crowds in 2017



By Dave Shute

DISNEY WORLD SPRING BREAK CROWDS IN 2017

Spring Break Crowds at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netWalt Disney World Spring Break crowds are typically governed by two and a quarter factors:

  • Public school Spring Break calendars, which are still largely framed around Easter but vary more than you might think
  • The demand of snow-belters for a break from winter weather, which peaks in March, and
  • The quarter factor, the date of President’s day.  Later President’s Days (which can range from February 15 to February 21) tend to make the first part of March better

An early Easter combines the first two factors, making for more than the usual horrible crowds in March but a great April; a late Easter can spread the first two factors out, yielding some good early March and early April weeks.

Easter 2017,  on April 16, is late in its possible range. President’s Day 2017–covered in more detail here–is also late, February 20. As a result, my draft 2017 crowd calendar had one good early April week in it.

Now that I have the full set of 2017 spring breaks from almost 280 school districts with more than 15.4 million kids in them, I can see that I was wrong, and in fact there will not be a good spring break week in 2017 from March 11 through the week beginning April 15–although some weeks are better than others.

2017 Spring Break crowds at Walt Disney World will be

  • Bad Presidents Day Week
  • Fine the weeks beginning February 25th and March 4th
  • Bad the weeks beginning March 11, March 18 and March 25
  • Moderately bad the week beginning April 1
  • Very bad the week beginning April 8
  • Moderately bad the week beginning April 15
  • Fine April 22 and later.

2017 PUBLIC SCHOOL SPRING BREAKS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON WALT DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

Although more and more school districts are moving away from an Easter-centered Spring Break, the plurality of kids still have the weeks before Easter or following Easter off.

As a result, the single biggest factor determining better and worse Spring Break weeks at Walt Disney World is the date of Easter–which can range from March 22 to April 25.

A later Easter has a couple of different effects: first, it spreads out the dates of breaks for school districts that don’t frame their breaks around Easter, and second, if particularly late, will push districts that typically take the week after Easter off into the week before Easter instead, to keep from compressing their May academic calendars.  

An earlier Easter has the opposite effects.  Districts that traditionally try to take the week after Easter off will be able to do so, and districts that don’t base their calendars on Easter will be largely compressed into a couple of March weeks.

The date of President’s Day–which can range from February 15 to February 21–also has an effect. Because many districts both have a spring break and also take the week of President’s Day off, the later President’s Day is, the better early March will be–as parents avoid taking their kids out of school the weeks after a long President’s Day break.

The effect of the various dates in 2017 is to spread most 2017 school spring breaks into six consecutive weeks beginning March 11 and continuing until the end of the week beginning April 15.

ACTUAL 2017 SPRING BREAKS

Disney World Crowds Spring Break 2017 from yourfirstvisit.net

The chart above illuminates this.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including almost 280 of the largest relevant US public school districts.

(For how the database is built, see the second half of this. Weekends are in black, except Easter, in red. Click the image to enlarge it.)

From my updated 2017 Disney World crowd calendar:

  • The week beginning March 4, 2017 has very few kids on break, and I’m classing it as 3/low crowds
  • The week beginning March 11 both has a ton of kids on break (thanks, Texas!) and is also attractive to snowbirds. It gets a 9/high crowd rating.
  • The weeks beginning 3/18 and 3/25 have slightly lower numbers of kids on break, but are attractive to snowbirds. They get rating of 8/high-minus crowds.
  • I had though that the week beginning 4/1 would be OK, but the actual data suggests not.  Less attractive to snowbirds, it gets a crowd rating of 7/moderate+.
  • The week before Easter will be a zoo, as it usually is, and gets a crowd rating of 11/highest.
  • The week after Easter, even with its alignment with many New England spring breaks, will be a little better than I had thought, and gets a crowd rating of 7/moderate+.
  • The rest of April–after the 22nd–will be just fine.
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35 comments

1 Jennifer { 07.03.16 at 4:30 pm }

On behalf of Texas, sorry about that. 🙁

So the week of April 1, you’d personally be comfortable going? This will be our 6th trip, and the first time we’ll be visiting when it wasn’t a week in your top 20. Thanks to your fabulous website and books, plus experience, we know how to navigate the FastPass+ system, but I was really hoping the crowds would land a 5 or 6 rating. Thoughts?

2 Dave { 07.04.16 at 7:50 am }

🙂 Jennifer!

For a returning visitor, having a good plan for the day– incorporating FastPass+, rope drops and what to see at rope drop, and if eligible (and ideally accompanied by a park hopper) morning EMH can–make even 9 level crowds manageable!

3 Jennifer { 07.04.16 at 12:03 pm }

So unlike first time visitors, you recommend repeaters take advantage of morning EMH? We will have Park Hopper; would you suggest using a combination of the morning EMH park plus your recommended park for that day in the afternoon/evening?

And one last question, thinking specifically of the Hollywood Studios day and getting my son signed up for Jedi Training. We’re going to stay at POR, and I know what the buses were like during low crowd periods. If we’re there during a 7 crowd period, should I go ahead and plan to Uber on the HS morning, just to be on the safe side?

Thanks a million, Dave!!! 😀

4 Jennifer { 07.04.16 at 7:04 pm }

Updated: I saw the week of 6/3 is rated one notch higher in your rankings than 4/1. It would save me about $160 at POR but we’d miss Flower & Garden, which I really love. But then I saw that in your week ranking descriptions, you think 4/1 could get worse in terms of crowds. Help me hedge my bets here: which would you choose?

5 Dave { 07.06.16 at 1:56 pm }

Jennifer I don’t have experience with Uber on higher crowd days, so can’t comment on that. I’d just be at the bus stop nice and ealry. Returning visitors know what the late evenings can be like, and how hard it is to get their particular families up and moving, and how far apart the parks are. So yes, they can use morning EMH and then a hop quite productively, especially if they had planned an afternoon break anyway

6 Dave { 07.06.16 at 2:00 pm }

Jennifer, the June date is indeed less at risk of being worse than forecast*. On the other hand the April weather is likely to be so much better that I’d go with it.

*Higher than usual Gay Days attendance (because of the Pule horror) may drive the weekend crowds up)

7 Jennifer { 07.06.16 at 2:49 pm }

Then April it is! My other concern was the weather, too, and I know the temp difference between the two months is significant. Thanks so much, Dave, yet again! Don’t know what we’d do without you!!!

8 Luis { 07.06.16 at 3:29 pm }

I’ve been looking forward to the update, as I’m one of those Massachusetts families with April break lining up with week after Easter. We went on 2015 April vacation with level 4 crowds.. it was just our speed. We have been very concerned about going in 2017, and have been considering waiting until the April 2018 vacation (with Easter April 1 and our break week of April 15). I see you post the week after Easter at a 7. Is that the level you expect the whole week? (or is it skewed due to the crowds Easter weekend/Monday?) On our case, we would be traveling in Tuesday 4/18 and returning Sunday 4/23 (or maybe even shift that by one day later). Thanks!

9 Luis { 07.06.16 at 4:47 pm }

And.. if it’s not a level you expect the whole week.. what would you expect mid-week and the following weekend?

10 Dave { 07.07.16 at 4:06 pm }

Luis, it will be worse Sunday and Monday and better (but not 4) Tuesday and following. Returning visitors who know the importance of a plan, FastPass+, of arriving early, etc. should be fine!

11 Anonymous { 07.12.16 at 3:18 pm }

Thanks Dave.. so you think about 6-ish? (come mid-week). Regardless it certainly looks like the forecast moved from ‘avoid’ to doable. A few months ago when I realized our april break week would coincide with Easter we started considering going this fall (fly in Saturday Oct 8, full park days Oct 9-12, back on the 13th). How would you expect the two to compare? (4/18 to 4/23 vs. 10/9-13)

12 Luis { 07.12.16 at 3:25 pm }

(comment above was by Luis – thanks for all the help, the family appreciates it!)

13 Dave { 07.13.16 at 8:09 am }

Luis, that’s a tough call. Prices will be better in October, but dining may largely be gone, and I have heard of people having a tough time finding hotel rooms. This summer crowds are light, and there is much speculation that people are shifting to this fall and it will be heavier than anyone is currently suspecting. I have no facts to support that, but it is a risk–although there is also the risk that my 4/23 forecast is wrong.

In your shoes I’d pick April… but don’t feel strongly about it

14 Luis { 07.20.16 at 8:18 pm }

Dave, just to clarify my situation. Actually, we already have reservations (lodging and dining) for October (just no flight). Specifically, arriving Saturday October 9 (during Columbus Day weekend), returning Thursday October 13. (we had originally planned the week of April 15, 2017 – but steered away from it when we realized it was the week after Easter). Issue is that there may be some logistical ‘challenges’ on our end. With the new crowd forecast I’m now re-considering instead going April 18-23 (less logistical challenges). April cost aside, and assuming October reservations are not an issue, would you still recommend April?

15 Dave { 07.22.16 at 8:07 am }

Luis, it’s a tough call, so do what’s easier–April. A good plan, by the way, beats a crowd every day…

16 Luis { 07.22.16 at 11:49 am }

Thanks much Dave. With your revised forecast, it does really look like a wash crowd-wise.. and after looking at lodging+air it looks like costs will be a wash also.. so I’m now leaning towards April. (I’m real glad you do that deep dive into school calendars and found this year is different.. otherwise I would have avoided week after Easter like the plague – I hear you on the good plan beats crowds, but after getting used to 4-5’s, I don’t think I could stand 9-10 level crowds regardless).

17 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 07.22.16 at 6:07 pm }

Luis, if you ever need help planning your vacation, just let me know. I\’m the dedicated Destinations in Florida travel agent for YourFirstVisit.net. All my services are free when you book a qualifying vacation. Contact me today at KellyB@DestinationsinFlorida.com or 980-429-4499

18 Luis { 07.29.16 at 12:08 am }

A question. My understanding is usually they extend park opening to 8am for much of the week before and after Easter. With this forecast (of the week after Easter not driving park to capacity), would you expect them to extend hours in the mornings or stick to a more usual schedule?

19 Dave { 07.30.16 at 10:10 am }

Luis, Easter in 2014 was 4/20, and saw no 8a opens the week after–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/04/18/next-week-april-19-through-april-27-2014-at-walt-disney-world/

20 Luis { 07.30.16 at 3:52 pm }

Awesome. I think April it is. Now to figure out if I should book something now.. (rack rates! want to stay at Boardwalk Villas again but .. expensive… at peak rack rates), or wait until discounts come out (late in the year?). Any recommendations as to how to best approach this?

21 Dave { 08.02.16 at 8:45 am }

Luis, booking now will have no effect on any later discount. If/when one comes out, you will “compete” for it on the same terms as everyone else, so already having a booking neither helps nor harms.

22 Mia { 08.03.16 at 12:19 pm }

We had a trip planned for aug 20-29th that we just had to cancel due to a medical emergency. We are now trying to reschedule our trip and the week of April 15 2017 over Easter is a strong contender. We keep hearing how terrible the crowds are during Easter break but in all honestly all of the crowd calandars were showing heaving crowds anyway for our original aug 2016 trip. With a good plan do you think Easter is doable? I should mention that this will be our 6th trip to Disney.

23 Dave { 08.04.16 at 7:37 am }

Mia, any day a good plan carried out by experienced visitors trumps crowds!

24 Jim { 10.21.16 at 8:35 pm }

Dave/Kelly,

Great info on this site. We are considering a trip to begin either Easter Sunday or Monday. No park visit on the first day. This will be our 3rd trip with a 5 and 7 year old. It appears the Spring Break crowds will be lower this week than most in March/April . We will stay at SOG therefore cant plan FP until 30 days out. Do you think crowds will be too crazy for such young children?

25 Dave { 10.22.16 at 9:29 am }

Jim, it will be quite crowded, but since you are a returning visitor and know the value of early mornings and FastPass+ it shoudl be more manageable.

One caveat: MK has morning EMH every day except Thursday, so things will be rough if you aren’t staying on site.

26 Craig { 10.25.16 at 3:04 pm }

We are heading down the week of April 8 and this discussion has me freaked out lol….we are veterans of the parks and I was wondering if anyone could compare the Spring Break crowd to say a crowd in the middle of July? We will utilize EMH and FastPasses but I was just curious about what to expect in comparison. Thanks everyone!!

27 Dave { 10.26.16 at 9:20 am }

Craig, it’s a little rougher than July, but for returning visitors nothing that early mornings, judicious FastPass+, and good plans can’t fix!

28 Lanez { 01.05.17 at 9:36 pm }

We got breakfast reservations at Hollywood and Vine so that as soon as the park officially opened, we ran and we’re the first to sign up for Star Wars.

29 Dave { 01.06.17 at 8:42 am }

Cool, Lanez!

30 Kellie { 03.24.17 at 1:37 am }

Hi, We are arriving in Florida on 4/6 at 10:30 and going straight to Animal Kingdom. We leave on Thurs 04/13 in the a.m. This is our 1st trip and we are staying at the CBR in a prferred room. I’m pretty sure our plan is solid. Is it workable to do the EMH in the morning and be out of the park by 2 or 3 and then potentially hop to another park? Also, I made all of our ADR between 7:30p and 8 p, the rest of the meals will be counter service, I only planned 3 sit down lunches. 04/8 and 04/9 for the most part are resort days with the exception of a tour in the a.m. Our kids are 9 and 13. Does this sound good? I’m really nervous about the crowds.

31 Dave { 03.25.17 at 6:05 am }

Kellie, you have FastPass+, too, right? This approach then will work fine, so long as you arrive at the am EMH by 30 minutes before open.

32 Erika { 03.30.17 at 10:54 am }

Dave,
I found this calendar that lists the Oakland County, MI (target WDW visit audience!) and its holiday schedule for the next several years. Granted, some dates are only “suggested”, and districts can choose to apply for waivers, but this should give you a good idea to at least start your planning since MI publishes its actual calendars so late.
https://oakland.k12.mi.us/about-us/common-calendar/Documents/FINAL%205%20Yr%20School%20Calendars%202016-2021%20approved%20by%20OCSA.pdf

33 Dave { 04.04.17 at 10:34 am }

Thanks, Erika, this does help!

34 Kate { 04.09.17 at 7:49 pm }

We’re planning a last minute, first time to Disney, trip from 4/17 – 20 with a 9 and 10 year old. Is it too late to make any dinner reservations, etc? Should we wait another year and plan more?

35 Dave { 04.10.17 at 7:48 am }

Kate, try to make your FastPass+ (much more important than dinner) and dinner reservations. If you don’t like what you see, cancel and plan more later!

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