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By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Disney World Crowds in 2018



By Dave Shute

2018 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The chart lower on the page shows my forecasts for 2018 crowds by week at Walt Disney World.

Dates in it are the beginning of the week, and the forecast covers the recommended Saturday-Sunday 9 day stays.

(For 2019 crowds at Disney World, see this. )

Crowd levels are ranked by week from 1-11 in the following way:

1: Lowest of the year

2: Lower

3: Low

4: Low-plus

5: Moderate-minus

6: Moderate

7: Moderate-plus

8: High-minus

9: High

10: Higher

11: Highest

HOW TO INTERPRET THE 2018 DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR

Dates are the beginning of the week.

As is the case in every good Disney World crowd calendar, the forecasts are about wait times on rides–not about how crowded the areas outside the rides might be.

The “low crowd” weeks–those colored green, and rated 1-4–represent the only crowd levels a family visiting for the first time, and unsure if it will ever return, should consider.

However, lower crowds, especially lowest crowds, do not always mean a better week. The lowest weeks are often best avoided by first timers who may never return because they are in the peak hurricane or the ride closure seasons.

The “moderate crowd” weeks–those in black and rated 5-7–have crowd levels I would not particularly recommend to first time visitors, though the crowds can be managed with careful planning. However, I’d go during such weeks myself with no hesitation, and think these levels are OK for returning visitors who don’t need to see everything and already know how to work Walt Disney World.

The “high crowd” weeks–those in red, rated 8-11–should be avoided by everyone. They aren’t, which is why they are so high.

MY DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR GOES UP TO “11”

The influence of the Unofficial Guide  and TouringPlans.com has led almost all Disney World crowd calendars to top out at 10.

However, I’ve always thought that the really nastiest weeks of the year deserved an 11 for emphasis.

So, in homage to Spinal Tap, I assigned 11 to “highest.”

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190 comments

1 Lisa { 02.28.18 at 6:43 pm }

Thanks, Dave! I originally told my kids we weren’t going to even do the Magic Kingdom because of the overlap but got push back from my daughter who wants a picture in front of the castle. Also, I see that you told someone else to avoid AK on Sat. 4/7. I’ve got a few FP+ booked for that morning already. We will have arrived on a red eye that day so we were planning on heading back to the hotel in the afternoon to try and nap. Is it worth going back to AK at night or should we just chill at the hotel? We were planning on doing AK again on 4/11 before we leave.

2 Dave { 03.01.18 at 9:16 am }

Hi Lisa, with FP+ and sound expectations you will be fine on the 7th. Play the evening by ear…

3 JackSparrow { 03.17.18 at 9:47 pm }

No offense, but we came across your very official looking guide to crowd intensity at the Disney World parks, and we actually booked our week based on your forecast. We hit that 3/3/18 date and half of the prior week. It was our fifth trip there (family of four) in the past 19 months. Yeah, I guess we are Disney junkies, or we just love seeing our kids laugh and smile. (Or both!)

Disney was packed, all the parks, the hotels were at capacity, it was crazy busy! We have actually been there for thanksgiving, and while we will never ever ever go for thanksgiving again because it was bananas insane busy…we also wouldn’t go during the weeks that you forecasted to be slower due to the ‘timing of Presidents’ Day and Easter’ or the full moon or whatever other Tarot card’esque methodology utilized. Your forecast was wrong, and like so many meteorologists these days, your forecast was so off, we actually weren’t able to do a lot of the things we typically book without issue.

Just make sure to put a nice big disclaimer on the top of this page letting people know this isn’t in any way endorsed or affiliated with Disney and it is a speculative guess at best…maybe just recommend to people instead to ‘use their head, if you go during a holiday or a school vacation week, it’s going to be busy. Disney is crowded, but it’s magic so it’s worth it. Don’t base your “firstvisit” on the recommendations of a non affiliated site that isn’t based on fact.’

You can also get the daily gate counts for the year by calling Disney and plug them into an excel sheet and calculate out fact driven data sets of crowd depth. It’s pretty simple and will allow you to make your own decision as opposed to following this innacurate posting. Hope this candid and brutally honest review of mine helps some folks and makes them realize how just plain silly it would be to base a $10-$15k vacation on some nonsensical calendar and advise they read on the internet!!

4 Dave { 03.18.18 at 12:53 pm }

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed criticism. I am so sorry that you had a lousy experience. Responding to some of your points:

“You can also get the daily gate counts for the year by calling Disney and plug them into an excel sheet and calculate out fact driven data sets of crowd depth.”

This is not true. Disney is famous for releasing nothing on its attendance—annual, quarterly or daily—other than some percentage US-wide increases in its 10Qs (see e.g p29 of this) and its quarterly earnings press releases, and a little more illumination sometimes in its quarterly analyst calls (like “Most of the increase was at Disney World”). The various sources (like this) that estimate Disney World attendance do just that—they estimate it.

What you can get is waits by ride every ten minutes or so. The only site I know of that tracks these and uses them to reflect on the accuracy of its forecasts is the admirable touringplans.com. Touringplans does daily forecasts, not weekly ones like mine, and there are other differences as well.

“Disney was packed, all the parks, the hotels were at capacity, it was crazy busy! Your forecast was wrong, and like so many meteorologists these days, your forecast was so off, we actually weren’t able to do a lot of the things we typically book without issue”

With more experience at Disney World, you will learn that the hotels are always packed—occupancy has been in the neighborhood of 90% quarter after quarter for several years now. It would help to know your other dates besides Thanksgiving—as Thanksgiving (while a mess!)—is the least crowded of the major holiday weeks.

On touringplans’ 1-10 scale, it forecast the week of 2/24 as 5.5 (exactly average) and the actual for that week as 5.0—a bit below average. It forecast the week of 3/3 as 5.6—a skootch above average—and the actual as 6.3, higher than forecast but not remotely in the high range.

Peak waits in the last 12 months were over 300 minutes—that is, more than 5 hours. I think we can all agree that that is high. Where to put “low” is a matter of judgment and folks will differ. For me, it is average crowds and below. You’ve been so frequently that I assume you know all the tricks—judicious use of FastPass+, arriving well before open, avoiding parks on their EMH days (especially morning EMH days), and refreshing to find fourth and additional FastPass+. If not, you will have a weak experience almost anytime. Other than a few weeks of the year, a good plan—like those in my itineraries—is much more important than picking a lower-crowd period. I should add that point to my crowd calendar page.

“We came across your very official looking guide to crowd intensity at the Disney World parks …Just make sure to put a nice big disclaimer on the top of this page letting people know this isn’t in any way endorsed or affiliated with Disney”

There are hundreds of fan sites like mine, and dozens (I’d guess) with crowd calendars. No one has ever accused me of being official-looking before—I would have put this site in the bottom third of them, in terms of elegance of design, etc. Each of the more than 3,000 pages on this site has the following words on it: “This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it.” That is for legal reasons—so Disney would not sue me. It literally never crossed my mind that someone would think this site is “official.” I am totally open to repeating those words at the top of each page, and will noodle over doing so.

“You forecasted [these weeks] to be slower due to the ‘timing of Presidents’ Day and Easter’ or the full moon or whatever other Tarot card’esque methodology utilized. …It is a speculative guess at best”

My forecasts are based on historical patterns, combined with the actual school breaks of 15 million kids. For how my work informed my nearly-accurate forecast that these weeks would be around average* (and hence low, in my calculus, which again, you can disagree with) see for example this.

*The week of 2/24 turned out as “Low-plus” by my scale, which is not the same as Touringplans’ scale, exactly as I’d forecast, and the week of 3/3 turned out between Low-plus and Moderate-minus, a little higher than my forecast of “Low.”

5 Jessica G { 03.18.18 at 1:16 pm }

Well, I was also at Disney World March 1-9 and with the exception of a Saturday at MK, everything was great. Sure, there were some long waits but we did everything, FoP, mine train x3, lots of dining reservations etc. I tracked wait times before I arrived and am still glad we went during this time. With your help and a little extra planning (arrived an hour before park opening at AK and MK) things were very smooth for my family and I. It was even a bit chilly the week of 3/5 thank goodness!

Thank you!

6 Bethany { 03.19.18 at 7:34 am }

We were also there March 1-9 which we picked 100% based on the rankings from this website suggesting that our March Break would actually slip in before the general spring break craziness. I was scared to believe it, thinking it too good to be true, but it was our best option so we took it.

I felt like the crowds were “new normal busy” and exactly what was forecast.

Our last MK day (on the 8th) was the busiest we saw and as we were walking through our 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th fastpass line I did comment on all the sad looking faces in standby saying “think how many people aren’t using fastpasses and will go home saying how awful it was at MK today”. For us- it was the best day of our trip ( did I mention 10 fastpasses? Haha!)

Thanks for everything, Dave. I found your site while planning our first trip and will always pick our weeks based on your suggestions!

7 Kelly B - Destinations in Florida { 03.18.18 at 2:18 pm }

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate Dave and both this site and his Easy Guide. The information is amazing. You make my job as a Travel Agent so much easier. Thanks!!!!

8 JackSparrow { 03.18.18 at 3:23 pm }

Thanks for the quick reply. Upon a secondary review I see that you are actually rather spot on with your estimates. Thanks for updating. I agree that the gate counts are for the rides, sorry if I put that out there wrong, duh. Yours is a very well put together assessment and it was actually useful in many ways. I will check it out again when we look to book it again. Any insight into EuroDisney or Disney Land? Thanks.

9 Dave { 03.18.18 at 3:28 pm }

Jack, sorry, I have nothing useful to say about EuroDisney or Disneyland–I can barely keep up with WDW. I believe that Touringplans.com has Disneyland guidance, and for both, you likely will find something helpful on Tom’s site http://www.disneytouristblog.com/

10 Jennifer { 04.12.18 at 7:53 am }

Question:

Going to WDW for my honeymoon the Sunday after thanksgiving, (I know a great time to go!). We’ll be there from 11/25-12/5 with a split resort stay (beach club/grand Floridian). We have an 8 day park hopper, we’re taking 2 days off from parks, first day off is arrival day on 11/25.

What are the best days to do certain parks? Especially with the opening of toy story?

Thanks!

11 Dave { 04.13.18 at 7:39 am }

Hi Jennifer, I’ll be able to help, but only after Disney posts its full schedule for then, which will be in early June. So ping me back then, OK?

12 Jennifer { 04.13.18 at 8:11 am }

No problem I’ll check back with you then. This is also my first time doing a split stay so I’m not sure if you recommend any strategies as far as that’s concerned

13 Dave { 04.14.18 at 11:28 am }

Hi Jennifer, the key to the split stay is as much as possible to do your Epcot days during your Beach Club visit, and your MK days during your GF visit. AK doesn’t matter, and HS matters less than it might appear, because the boat from BC to there is such a long walk form many BC rooms, is so slow, and has so many stops.

14 Elaine { 04.14.18 at 11:04 am }

So, for a trip at the end of November, Disney doesn’t release schedules until June, but we’re expected to know which ADRs we want so we can book them by May.???? Makes no sense to me….

15 Dave { 04.14.18 at 11:26 am }

Me either, Elaine! In a change, Disney for about the last year has been releasing the calendar exactly 180 days ahead, which puts you behind if you want the full visit calendar before you book your dining days. That said, there’s only a couple of venues that are hard to book at 170 days vs 180 days.

16 L { 04.23.18 at 8:47 am }

Dave, just wanted to say: you predicted my week (4/7) as good crowds and you even said that, if you were wrong, it would be better than you were expecting. While some if it had to do with weather…the crowds were amazing in the fact that there were almost none. Thank you!

17 Dave { 04.24.18 at 7:55 am }

L, that’s great, so glad to help!

18 Abbey { 05.23.18 at 11:06 pm }

Hi
We are looking at 2 options for dates in 2018 – would love your thoughts.
Either 5th, 6th, 7th October or 26th, 27th, 28th Sept. I wasn’t expecting the “peak” in demand – could you let me know what is happening to cause this???
Thanks so Much
Abbie from Australia

19 Dave { 05.24.18 at 7:15 am }

Hi Abbie (or Abbey?)!! Many US schools have fall breaks before or especially during the week including Columbus Day. That makes the days before and after it busy. Columbus Day is celebrated the 2nd Monday in October. In 2018 it is October 8, so crowds will be sizable the 5th through the 7th. Your September dates will be much less crowded!

20 Matt { 06.03.18 at 10:09 pm }

Just wondering if you’ve heard anything about how long Disney will be extending the hours at Hollywood Studios? I see that Disney has posted on their calendar extended hours and EMH every day after Toy Story Land opens through Sunday 8/26/18, but they don’t have any EMH posted after then (just the basic 9:00-9:00. We will be there the week of 8/27/18…just wondering if you’ve heard anything about extended hours that week? Thanks!

21 Dave { 06.04.18 at 8:18 am }

Matt, I haven’t, and I doubt that Disney will make its mind up for sure until it sees how things are going at Toy Story Land, particularly after 8/10, which is when the blocked dates for the annual pass types that many locals use end. If the park gets slammed after 8/10 from locals on passes, I could see them extending the EMH.

22 Matt { 06.04.18 at 12:04 pm }

Thanks Dave. One more question, do you have any thoughts (or data?) regarding whether MK will be much less full on the days of Mickey’s Halloween Party? Since the Park closes at 6:00 for the Halloween party on 8/31, I thought attendance might be light that day, even though it has EMH that morning. Trying to decide whether it makes more sense to visit MK on 8/30 or 8/31. Thanks!

23 Dave { 06.05.18 at 8:43 am }

Matt, in general MK waits are much lower on party days–see this. That’s bene true even on EMH days–although I typically tell people to avoid them unless they are certain they can arrive in the park well before EMH starts.

However, there’s not enough of a track record for August party days (which began just last year, and don’t close the park at 6p so often each week) to be as firm on this principle as for later September and October parties. Still, so long as you can make the EMH, I would go with 8/31

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