By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The Week of 12/16/17 Will Be Better Than I’d Thought

By Dave Shute


I messed up my Disney World crowd forecast for the week of December 16, 2017. I’d expected on the order of 30% of us schoolkids to be off by 12/16, like in 2016, but in fact only about 10% are.

As a result, I’ll be revising the crowd forecast for this week from “high” to “moderate-plus.”

Moderate-plus for the week of 12/16/17 represents the overall average of the nine days from 12/16 through 12/24–these dates will be better than that at the beginning, and worse than that at the end.


For the first time since 2006—well before I began forecasting Disney World crowds—Christmas in 2017 is on a Monday. I didn’t have enough experience with Monday Christmases to get it right…


Every year I publish draft crowd calendar in the fall for the year that begins ~15 months ahead, and then update it the summer before.

The draft is based on experience and judgment, and the later update is based on analysis of actual school breaks for the coming year school year.

My school break analysis is based on the actual schedules of more than 15 million kids in more than 270 school districts, weighted by state based on that state’s proportion of the 12 million visitors to this site (as a proxy for the propensity of families from that state to go to Disney World).

It comes so late in the year because so many districts don’t publish their calendars for the upcoming school year until May or even June. (BTW, because district calendars are largely not out yet, most of Michigan is still missing in detail from my datasets, but required common county calendars let me get Michigan Christmas breaks for this analysis.)

Part of Christmas is easy to forecast, and part is harder.

This is because there are two typical Christmas breaks—short breaks and long breaks.

  • Districts that take short breaks are out as close to December 25 to January 1 + a day or two as the calendar lets them be—a weekend New Year’s Day will put them back in school the Tuesday after it. Depending on the day of New Years, the shortest of the short breakers can have a break as short as 8 days. In 2017, the Monday holidays means the shortest possible break is ten days.
  • Districts that take long breaks are also off during this period—which is the easy part of the forecast, the parks will be mobbed for December 25 though December 31. They typically take at least two full weeks—with three weekends—off, and so are out a minimum of 16 days.

Here’s the distribution of actual break lengths for the 2017/2018 holidays (it’s not weighted):

If you sum, you’ll find about half of districts are long-breakers, and a tad less than half are short breakers. (The rest are in the right-side tail of really long breakers…)

The long breakers are the problem, as the day of Christmas shapes whether their breaks starts well before Christmas or not. A Wednesday Christmas makes forecasting easier—the vast number of long breakers facing a Wednesday Christmas will start their break the weekend before, on 12/21, and end it two weeks later on 1/5. A Saturday Christmas is harder to forecast, but many districts will begin their breaks a week before, on 12/18, and end on January 4 (not the third, as the holiday will be observed then).

Here’s the same point made (well, perhaps it’s made) graphically, with the long-breakers in green:

In 2016, Christmas was a Sunday, and as a result many long breaks went from 12/17/16 to 1/2/17. Thirty percent of kids were off the week beginning 12/17/16.

With the Monday Christmas in 2017, I expected a similar pattern—but as noted above, this is the first Monday Christmas since 2006, so I did not have solid data.

Now I do—and have discovered that only 10% of kids are out on 12/16/17, and the more common long break in 2017-2018 is from 12/21, 12/22 or 12/23 through 1/7.

This shows the distribution of breaks in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018:

OK so now I know better, and promise to do better the next time we have a Monday Christmas, which will be in 2023…
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!



1 macy smith { 05.31.17 at 2:19 am }

Hi, so, help….do i undesrtand you correct..will the week of 16-22 Dec be better? will it be do able?
we are coming from south africa, do not want to spend all that money and not be able to ride anything?
thank you

2 Dave { 05.31.17 at 10:35 am }

Macy, yes, with a good plan. See this for an example.

3 Brian Burke { 10.25.17 at 1:24 pm }

Once you got clarity into the Michigan dates (after this post, it seems), does that change your views on this week or does it remain still low% of school districts out, at least at the beginning of that week?

Thank you,

Brian Burke

4 Dave { 10.25.17 at 2:09 pm }

Hey Brian, no Michigan schools went on break earlier than I’d forecast they would, so this forecast stands!

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2024 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.