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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Category — Disney World Crowds

Disney World Summer Crowds in 2017

DISNEY WORLD 2017 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 can start well, and then build to high crowd levels.

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 as early in June or as late in August as their schedules permit. [Read more →]

July 3, 2016   No Comments

Disney World Spring Break Crowds in 2017

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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July 3, 2016   35 Comments

Pro Bowl, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras Crowds at Disney World

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS AND THE PRO BOWL

In 2017 for the first time Orlando will be hosting the NFL’s Pro Bowl, on January 29. The game itself will be in downtown Orlando’s “Camping World” Stadium, which some of you may remember as the Citrus Bowl, but Disney World–especially, but not only the ESPN Wide World of Sports area–will be heavily involved.

According to NFL.com,

“Practices will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort simultaneously with youth football events and a fan fest…There will be a Pro Bowl-themed 5K run, a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom and Pro Bowl-themed elements throughout Disney Springs, Disney’s newest entertainment and dining destination.”

This is a new thing, so there is no track record to base crowd predictions on. Wide World of Sports–and the roads near it–will be mobbed during the fan events the days before the game, as will also, I’d guess, the Magic Kingdom on the as-yet unannounced day of the parade there.

Predicting resulting overall Disney World crowd levels the weeks before and after the game is a little harder.

  • First, the Pro Bowl itself is not much of a destination event. The announced figure of “at least” $30 million economic impact on the Orlando area implies at the low end just 10,000 to 20,000 incremental people in Orlando from the Pro Bowl (based on rules of thumb about the value of an out of town visitor I learned at one of my clients), which is nothing when spread across all of Orlando’s attractions.
  • However, the Pro Bowl has never been held in collaboration with Disney World and ESPN before, so it and more importantly its fan fest might end up being a real draw to people from out of town.
  • It may especially be a draw for folks within easy driving distance–the Orlando area itself, of course, and Jacksonville and Tampa–to combine a day or two at the fan fest and at the theme parks. (The “easy drive” might even include the arc from Mobile through Atlanta to Charleston, and all of South Florida as well.)

We won’t really know until after it happens, but we can say for sure that the Disney World hotels will likely be booked solid the week before and perhaps a few days after the game, and that the parks will likely be somewhat more crowded than I’d predicted before the Pro Bowl was announced.

My original crowd forecasts for the week leading up to and the week after the Pro Bowl weekends were both 1/lowest crowds. Because the only number I have is the quite low $30 million in incremental economic impact, I’m not raising these a lot.  In my 2017 Disney World crowd calendar, I am now forecasting the week before the game as 4/low+ crowds, and the week after as 2/lower crowds.

DISNEY WORLD PRESIDENTS DAY CROWDS

Based on the comments I get on this site, year after year one of the things that most surprises people is how crowded the week of Presidents Day is at Walt Disney World.

Most schools just have one day off–the Monday holiday.

However, even so, lots of other school kids have a four or five day weekend (Thursday or Friday to Monday, or Saturday to Tuesday or Wednesday).

Even more have the whole week that includes Presidents Day off. Most of the latter are from the Northeast, and really, really need a break from the snow and cold…and thus the massive crowds that week at Disney World!

See the left side of chart, which shows the proportion of the 15.4 million kids in my 2016-2017 school year calendar database with more than a three day weekend over President’s Day:

Disney World Crowds February 2017 from yourfirstvisit.net

In 2016 Presidents Day is February 20th, shown in red.

Breaks begin the Thursday before, and continue at high levels through the rest of the week.

In my 2017 crowd calendar I have the week that includes Presidents Day rated as 10/higher crowds.  Expect the highest crowds Friday through Tuesday, and high crowds the rest of the week.

MARDI GRAS CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Mardi Gras, February 28 in 2017 and in red on the right side of the chart, is the opposite. My commentors worried about it tend to come from the very few southeastern areas that have a multi-day holiday around it. But hardly anyone else does.

So Mardi Gras has little effect on February crowds unless it falls (as it did in 2015) the day after Presidents Day, in which case it makes a lousy week even more horrible.

In my 2017 crowd calendar I have the week that includes Mardi Gras rated as 4/low+ minus. This rating combines moderate crowds at the beginning of this week from leftover Presidents Day folk, a runDisney event, and Mardi Gras itself, with quite low crowds later in the week.

(For how these charts are built, see this.)

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July 1, 2016   17 Comments

Disney World Crowds: Christmas 2016 and New Year’s 2016/2017

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2016 TO EARLY JANUARY 2017

Holiday 2015-2016 Crowds at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netDisney World sees its highest crowds and prices of the year in the later third of December and the beginning of January, in the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

This is for a pretty basic reason: kids are out of school then.

However, not every school district has the same break schedule.

In 2016, as always, there’s more kids out the week between Christmas and New Year’s week than before or after, but there’s still plenty enough on break before Christmas week to wildly crowd the parks. The week after New Years in 2017 has many more kids on break than usual, so I expect it to be crowded too, especially the first part of the week.

SCHOOL BREAKS AND DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

Most years, there two typical sorts of breaks:

  • Long breakers–districts that take at least 2 full weeks (and three weekends) off
  • Short breakers–districts that take off as close to only December 24 to January 1 as they can

As a result, the period Christmas-New Years is always mobbed at Disney World, as everyone is out of school then, but the periods before and after vary from year to year depending on what day of the week Christmas falls.

In 2016, a Sunday Christmas put long-break districts in the position having to pick when to schedule their second week–before Christmas weekend, or after New Years. Enough put it before Christmas that I expect to see heavy crowds that week, even with a lot of kids shifted to the first week of January

But their’s still a ton of kids in districts that picked the first week of January for the second week of their break.  As a result, in my 2017 Disney World crowd calendar I am shifting my former forecast of that week from “moderate” crowds to “high” crowds–particularly high early in the week, and better later in the week.

ACTUAL 2016-2017 CHRISTMAS SEASON SCHOOL BREAKS

Disney World Crowds Christmas-New Years 2016 - 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 with almost a third of total US school kids included.

(For how the database is built, see this.)

The weekends are in black and weekdays in blue.  Click the image enlarge it.

You can see that many breaks begin Saturday the 17th, with hardly any kids on break before then. More kids go on break beginning the 21st, and by the 24th everyone is on break.

Pretty much everybody stays out of school through January 2, 2017, and while most go back to school right after, almost 20% of US schoolkids remain on break through January 8.
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June 30, 2016   6 Comments

“Fall Breaks” and Autumn 2016 Crowds at Walt Disney World

FALL BREAK CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD?

One of the things you’ll see now and then on the web is the claim that “fall breaks from school create big crowds at Walt Disney World.”

“Fall breaks” are multi-day school holidays before Thanksgiving, and, if material, would have an effect on Disney World—because Disney World is most crowded when it’s easy for kids to go.

If you check the facts, though, you’ll find that fall breaks are both uncommon and scattered across October and early November—other than Jersey Week and the weeks before and including Columbus Day.

Outside of those three weeks, you are much more likely to run into trouble in the fall by choosing to go to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot on a bad day—

Disney World Crowds Fall Break 2016 from yourfirstvisit.net

See the chart, which shows the weighted percent of US school kids in my database with more than a three-day weekend in 2016 in October and in November before Thanksgiving week. (For how it’s built out of ~280 school districts and 15.4 million kids, see the middle of this.)

In it, weekends are in black, and Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day are in red. Everything else is blue.

The first conclusion you can draw is that the only time when more than 5% of kids are having more than a three day weekend is just before and then over the week that includes Columbus Day, and Jersey Week.

These are already known to be moderate crowd weeks so as a “fall break” there’s no real news here.

Beyond those, there’s not a lot of material fall breaks.  Yes, you can see them every week shown, but not much–around 2% of kids.  There’s just not enough here to materially affect your choices as to when to go to Walt Disney World, other than Jersey Week and the weeks before and including Columbus Day.

Note: none of this is about Thanksgiving week, which is quite crowded and a lousy time to go!

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June 28, 2016   8 Comments

End of Summer 2016 Crowds at Walt Disney World

This site’s Disney World crowd calendars always show crowds dropping off in later August.

For example, in 2016, crowd rankings go from 8/high-minus at the beginning of August down to 2/lower in early September.

This page both explain how that comes about and also reviews how the site’s crowd calendars are built.

END OF SUMMER 2016 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Disney World Crowd Calendar Spreadsheet

The highest-crowd periods at Walt Disney World all have one thing in common: they are convenient times for parents to take their kids to Orlando. That is, they are times that kids are out of school and that parents traditionally can take off of work.

What’s not so clear until you do the numbers is that actual school vacation dates are much more varied than you’d think.  And there’s no good source you can go to that explains what all these varied dates are.

So usually every year about this time one of my nieces goes to more hundreds of school district websites and captures all the key vacation dates for the upcoming academic year. This year all of my nieces are distracted by babies, so I did this data collection myself.

(This time of year because you’d be surprised many districts don’t put their calendars up for the upcoming year until June, even late June–looking at you, Michigan.)

This year I collected data on 279 school districts with 15.4 million kids–about a third of the US school-age population. These include the 100 largest school districts in the U.S., plus almost 180 more of the next largest school districts mostly in the more highly-populated states east of the Mississippi–that is, the states from which in particular Walt Disney World draws its visitors.

I then create a database that shows based on district enrollment every kid who is off on every date, and weight each district them based on that district’s state’s proportion of total US visits to this website (because Disney won’t tell me actual visitation by state!). See the image above for a screenshot example.

Finally, I calculate percentage of total weighted kids on break by date and use that to inform the crowd calendars.

Disney World Crowds End of Summer 2016 from yourfirstvisit.netAbove are the results of this for when kids go back to school in 2016.

So you can see that

  • Kids don’t start going back to school in real numbers until Monday 8/8
  • More than a third are back in school by 8/17
  • More than half are back in school by 8/22 and
  • More than 70% are back in school before Labor Day.

In 2016, pretty much all kids are back in school by the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Moreover, vacation patterns typically don’t have people returning from their vacation the night before school begins, so the effect of these back-to-school dates is offset into earlier August by around a week.

Thus, in the 2016 crowd calendar, the week of 7/30 is rated 8/high-minus crowds, the week of 8/6 7/moderate-plus crowds, the week of 8/13 6/moderate crowds and the week of 8/20 4/low crowds.
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June 28, 2016   8 Comments