DISNEY WORLD SPRING BREAK: THE PRINCIPLES
Walt Disney World Spring Break crowds are governed by two and a quarter factors:
- Public school Spring Break calendars, which are still largely framed around Easter
- 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 spreads the first two factors out, yielding some good later March and early April weeks.
Easter 2012, on April 8, is right in the middle of the possible range. President’s Day 2012, on February 20th, as almost as late as it can be.
As a result, 2012 Spring Break crowds at Walt Disney World will be fine the first week of March, but bad from March 10 through April 15, with the peak crowds (rated 11 on my 2012 crowd calendar) happening the weeks beginning March 10, March 31, and April 7.
2012 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 week before 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. We saw this in 2011.
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 compression point partly comes from only just so much March to go around, but also from the fact that such school districts don’t like taking the week before the traditional Easter break off, as it will lead into a set of political discussions (“If we could take that week off, why not slip it a week and take before week of Easter off? What do you have against Easter??”) that they don’t want to revisit.)
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 2012 is to compress 2012 school spring breaks into three weeks: those beginning March 10, March 31, and April 7.
ACTUAL 2012 SPRING BREAKS
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.)
More kids are on break the week before Easter than any other week; the week after Easter and the week beginning 3/10 are the next highest break weeks. I’ve rated each of these 11/highest crowds in my 2012 crowd calendar.
Next to no kids are on break between the week after President’s Day and March 10. I rate the week beginning February 25 2/lower crowds and that beginning March 3 3/low crowds. Both of these are recommended weeks.
The later March weeks–especially the week beginning March 24–have fewer kids on break than the three weeks rated highest/11. However, because of the snowbelt effect, I’ve rated both of these 10/higher crowds. The week beginning March 24 may turn out better than this…but I wouldn’t bet on it!
Worth noting is that the peak 2012 price season has its first period 2/16 to 2/25, and then restarts 3/9 going to 4/14.
Price seasons aren’t crowd calendars–they are more subtle than that–but do provide a little confirmatory data…