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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.

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Picking Disney World Park Days



By Dave Shute

PICKING WHICH DAY TO SEE WHICH DISNEY WORLD PARK

The Disney World theme parks can be roughly predicted to have higher or lower crowds on certain days of the week compared to other days that week.

These predictions come from the combination of the overall patterns of visitation and the presence in the operating calendar of various “attractors” and “repellers”—of which the most significant are variations in operating hours and evening entertainment, and the presence or absence of Extra Magic Hours.

Note that by lower crowds, I don’t mean “no crowds” or “inconsequential crowds.” Low crowd periods, as used in this site and its crowd calendars, are low when compared to other times of the year with higher–often spectacularly higher–crowds.

That does not necessarily mean that the parks will feel uncrowded compared to your expectations, as that depends on your expectations, because low does not equal empty. Not even close…

So “Low Crowds” does not necessarily mean lower than you think they will be, or a low as you wish they were; it means lower than the other choices you have.

And even on the quietest of days, if you arrive at 11a, have a poor plan, don’t make good FastPass+ choices, and target the more popular rides, you will experience long waits. A good plan with well-chosen FastPass+, arrival at the parks well before they open, and a judicious approach to which rides you will visit first, will defeat the crowds almost every week of the year. You can find such plans in my itineraries and in my book.

But even so, there is usually some value to also making good choices on which park to visit which day, and this is particularly important during the “party season” which runs from later August through the first two-thirds of December.

GOOD AND BAD DISNEY WORLD PARK DAYS MOST OF THE YEAR

Because both shorter and longer trips typically include weekends, weekends (and Mondays) are typically the times that see the most people in the Disney World parks. Operating hours are often extended over weekends, but not necessarily in proportion to demand, so crowds can be high even during low times of the year.

Days when a park has morning Extra Magic Hours will be typically more crowded later that day than they would be without these special hours. This is because these hours disproportionately attract the ~75,000 people who are eligible for them, many of whom don’t have hoppers and thus have that as their park all day. It is particularly critical for folks not eligible for EMH—or those who are eligible but can’t get to the park well before EMH begins—to avoid such parks on days they have morning EMH.

As a result, most of the year (but not during the party season, see below):

  • Animal Kingdom is typically least busy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. It’s busiest on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, particularly on days with morning Extra Magic Hours.
  • Epcot is generally least busy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Saturdays are typically busiest with most Tuesdays and Thursdays seeing longer waits than other weekdays.
  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are usually best for Hollywood Studios. Sundays and Fridays typically see higher attendance.
  • Magic Kingdom is typically least busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and busiest on Saturdays and Mondays

These patterns come from typical travel schedules, the typical ways people wish to order their visits to the parks, and the pull of the typical Extra Magic Hours schedule.

Traditionally, the most common pattern has visitors seeing Magic Kingdom first, and the Studios and Animal Kingdom last. The powerful impact of Flight of Passage, though, has been shifting Animal Kingdom visits to earlier in the week.

GOOD DISNEY WORLD PARK DAYS DURING THE PARTY SEASON

During weeks with highly varied show schedules and/or operating hours, the parks can show real variation in crowding across the week.

This is particularly an issue many weeks in later August through much of December, when because of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the Magic Kingdom often closes to the general public using regular tickets at 6p, with no fireworks available to the general public, multiple times a week.

As a result, people are both “repelled” by the 6p closings and lack of evening shows, reducing crowds those days, and “attracted” to the days when the park is both open late and showing fireworks…and those days can be mobbed. During the Halloween part of this period, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival will attract many locals to World Showcase on weekends and especially Friday and Saturday evenings, leading to (tipsy) crowds in World Showcase those nights.

The best way to handle these party season periods is to see the Magic Kingdom on days when it closes at 6p, and see its evening events on a different day, without having spent the earlier part of that day at MK except with a few select FastPass+.

Moreover, be particularly careful to avoid other parks with Extra Magic Hours on days Magic Kingdom closes at 6p, as those parks can be particularly mobbed on such days, with people repelled from MK by the 6p close and then being attracted to the park with the Extra Magic Hours.

THE JUDO OF DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

This last point is an example of how to think about crowds at Disney World.

Think about why you are drawn to Walt Disney World in general during a particular week, or to a specific park on a particular day, and whether your reasons are the same as those of the typical family with children.

If the reasons you have are also those of the typical family with children, then you will likely run into disproportionate crowds.

So as much as you can, do the opposite of the typical family–that’s the judo.

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29 comments

1 Nicole { 03.29.18 at 8:24 pm }

Hi Dave,
We have a trip planned Oct 27- Nov 3 and had initially planned my second MK day for Thursday Nov 1, thinking it would be a party day and lower early in the day crowds. Unfortunately it looks like no party on Nov 1 this year. Would you suggest moving my second MK day to a party day earlier in the week (we’re already planning MK Sun Oct 28)? Would Friday Nov 2 be a better option? I appreciate any advice you could give!
Nicole

2 Dave { 03.30.18 at 8:37 am }

Hi Nicole! 11/1 will be mobbed, because of the early closes the two days before. It’s a little hard for me to forecast the other days as the EMH calendar for then is not yet out. At the moment I’d do 11/2–but that likely will be morning Extra Magic Hours; if so your day will go best if you are EMH eligible and can arrive before EMH starts.

3 April { 04.02.18 at 4:02 pm }

Hi Dave, We are planning a trip from Oct 13-20th, and trying to decide which park to visit each day (without a hopper) is overwhelming. I was thinking a full day at MK the 14th, late half day at MK 15th, rest 16th, Epcot 17th, Hollywood Studios 18th, and either rest or Animal K on the 19th. Any comments or suggestions for me? This is our first visit and likely our only visit so I’d like it to go well. We have two princesses ages 8 and 11 who are not overly adventurous. Any advice would be much appreciated!

4 Dave { 04.03.18 at 9:41 am }

Hi April, your plans look fine for what I expect the calendar to be. I’ll be able to advise more concretely after Disney’s hours for then come out, which won’t be until about three weeks from now. So ping me back then, OK?

5 Nicole { 04.05.18 at 1:23 pm }

Planning our first visit, arriving 9/23. I have Epcot 24, MK 25, MK 26, Rest 27, AK 28, HS 29. Any suggestions? Are evening magic hours worth it? Love all the tips and comments!

6 Dave { 04.06.18 at 10:06 am }

Hi Nicole, I like this. Weds the 26th will be mobbed at MK, but presuming you want to see the evening stuff that day, an early start, good FP+, and an afternoon break will make it work!

Evening EMH are available these days only at MK and Epcot. Epcot evening EMH is worth little as their aren’t enough rides and the regular close is too early, so it doesn’t much deter families with young-uns. MK evening EMH can be great if a. the regular close is pretty late–e.g. 11pm–and b. you can stay til the end–which practically speaking means you you don’t need to get up early the next day. The MK close on the 26th right now is scheduled for 8p. I expect the close to be moved to later much closer to your dates, but perhaps not much past 9p (which is when it closed last night the equivalent week last year).

7 Bekah { 04.07.18 at 5:44 pm }

Hi Dave. I love your site! I am planning a trip October 20 -27, 2018. I’m thinking I will do AK on the 21st, Epcot on the 22nd, MK on the 23rd, not sure about wednesday, HWS on 25, and AK on 26th. I have been before, but it was when I was in college. Any suggestion about which park to do on wednesday? I’m not going to have a hopper pass, either. Thanks

8 Dave { 04.08.18 at 8:56 am }

Hi Bekah, I will be able to help, but only after the Disney calendar comes out for then, which will be in about 4 weeks, so ping me back then, OK?

9 Mike { 04.18.18 at 1:42 pm }

Hi Dave……I have a trip planned Oct 6-13th and had the following and was looking for any and all advice you could lend me…….Sat 10/6 – AK…..Sun 10/7 – Epcot……….Mon 10/8 – Typhoon Lagoon………Tues 10/9- MK………Wed 10/10 – H Studios…………….Thur 10/11 hotel pool and MNNSHP……..Friday 10/12 – Epcot and finally Sat 10/13 H Studios…………..Thought process was 2 days parks, then off day, 2 more days parks, then off day and final 2 days in parks……Hits ea park 2x (except AK)……Thanks for your help in advance

10 Dave { 04.18.18 at 4:50 pm }

Hey Mike, first that’s probably the busiest week of the fall other than Thanksgiving week, so be sure you have good plans!

I like your park choices with one exception, maybe two. First I’d swap your first Saturday and Sunday, as AK will be a zoo Saturday. Second, unless you are a huge fan of water parks, I’d either take your waterpark day off, or add a park ticket day and split one of your full park days half into Monday and half into whatever day you already have planned for it. Monday will be best at MK and worst at AK.

11 Laurie { 04.19.18 at 8:43 am }

Hi Dave,
Based on your comment to Bekah, you would not yes be able to provide guidance on recommended parks for November 27 through Dec 9. However, I would like to know if you do crowd calendars like Josh did once upon a time but apparently gave it up for lent in 2017. His recommendations always steered us properly and I trust you’d do the same.

12 Dave { 04.20.18 at 6:45 am }

Hi Laurie, sorry but no. Josh’s calendars, when he did them, also only went out through Disney’s announced schedule, so even if he were still doing them, they’d go just into mid-October. He stopped, by the way, because DIsney began providing such limited data that he was unconvinced of the accuracy of his work. The best alternative is touringplans.com, which forecasts based on historical data.

13 Sandy L. Busse Nunley { 04.27.18 at 4:47 pm }

Dave,I just found this site and appreciate all your great advice. Our family will be traveling to DW Dec 29,2018 to Jan 5,2019. This is our only option as we have 2 teachers,1 in college,1 senior graduating HS,1 in middle school and me,Grammy.We want to stay together,as cheap as possible and as convenient as possible. What do you suggest,flying from Texas,thx so much.

14 Dave { 04.28.18 at 10:29 am }

Hi Sandy! That time of year, especially the first few nights, nothing is cheap–though some options are less expensive than others. Among the Disney resorts, none of the less expensive options are particularly convenient, although none are wildly inconvenient. Your least expensive option will be to book two rooms at a value resort, among which the cheapest is the All Stars. Of the All-Stars I particularly recommend All-Star Movies.

15 Dan { 04.30.18 at 3:28 pm }

Personal opinion question: We’re trying to plan a trip in 2019. Which sounds more nightmarish: going during Spring Break week (April 20-27), when crowds will be intolerable, or going the first week in June, when the heat and possible rain will be intolerable?

16 Dave { 05.02.18 at 10:19 am }

Dan, the other difference is higher prices the April week. However, a really late Easter in the past has meant that the week after it is not nearly as bad as is typical for such a week during March or early April Easters, as many schools (except religious ones) that typically take the week after off shift to the week before, to limit compression of the end of the school year. So I would do April.

17 Katherine { 05.08.18 at 10:57 am }

Hi Dave, It looks like Disney is not even releasing hours in time for 180 ADR bookings any more… Any advice on best parks for each day for Nov 26-Nov 30? We were thinking: Nov 26-EP, Nov 27-MK, Nov 28-HS, Nov 29-MK, Nov 30-AK but let me know if you think we should switch those around… Thanks!!

18 Dave { 05.09.18 at 6:50 am }

Katherine, based on traditional patterns then your plans look great!

19 Cassie { 05.24.18 at 2:00 pm }

Hi Dave! We will be at WDW and in the parks Sat 11/24-Fri 11/30. Can you give me your parks recommendations for that week? Thanks!

20 Dave { 05.25.18 at 7:28 am }

Cassie, here’s my preliminary view–it may change once the actual operating schedule for those dates is posted by Disney World:

11/24: all bad, AK the worst
11/25: avoid HS
11/26: avoid MK
11/27:avoid Epcot
11/28: avoid MK and AK
11/29: avoid Epcot
11/30: avoid MK (unless you are both eligible for and can arrive before the start of Morning Extra Magic Hours)

21 Cassie { 05.25.18 at 11:38 am }

Thanks Dave! Two more questions – which MVMCP do you think will be the best the week of 11/24-11/30? Also, can you help me understand the rationale around avoiding MK on 11/30? Not doubting you at all, but Touring Plans has it at a level 1 which is hard to pass up. . .

22 Dave { 05.26.18 at 9:47 am }

Cassie, for the exact same date last year (that is, the second Friday after Thanksgiving) TP had forecast MK as a 3 and saw an actual of a 5. There’s no way that things have changed enough over the twelve months that MK will be a 1 that day.

MVMCP days are generally much better than non-MVMCP days. However, days with morning EMH are worse than other days you could go over the same visit.

MVMCPs are generally better on school nights, as fewer locals come, but there’s not a huge difference among them. Crowds in the streets and by the hub will be heavy, but waits at the rides will be very low.

23 The Judo Of Disney World Crowds • Military Disney Tips Blog { 06.08.18 at 7:23 am }

[…] Well now Dave has come out with a new post that should help you quite a bit in your WDW Vacation Planning: Picking Which Day To See Which Disney World Park […]

24 L { 06.12.18 at 9:51 am }

Hi Dave, wondered if you had any thoughts. Doing another trip in October…mostly unsure which day to do the MNSSHP. 1st day seems smart, I’d avoid having to buy a park ticket. My only sadness is that I love having my last night be at MK to soak in the lights, and since it would close at 6pm I wouldn’t get that magic.
Sun, 10/21: fly in early. Springs and Party to avoid having to buy another ticket?
Mon, 10/22: Epcot for food and wine
T, 10/23: MK in AM, Epcot EMH PM
W, 10/24: AK in AM, MK EMH PM
Th, 10/25: Unsure. 6pm party, so nothing open super late.
F, 10/26: last day

25 Dave { 06.13.18 at 8:08 am }

Hi, L, your overall plan looks fine. The only thing I’d note is that the cost to buy a fourth ticket day is in the neighborhood of a a party ticket. If you do go with the party, Sunday is a probably better choice than Thurs as the parties get more crowded the closer to Halloween

26 Bonnie { 06.16.18 at 3:54 pm }

Hi Dave!
We are planning a large group visit (14) Sept 16-22 and I’m looking for your opinion on which parks to visit on what day! I am planning Mon-EP, Tues-HS, and Thurs-MK. We visited Oct 2017 and it was very busy, but Sept 2016 we went to MK on a MNSSHP day and there was hardly any waiting. Would it be more beneficial to a large group to do MK on a party day? If so, how should I plan those 3 parks? Thanks

27 Dave { 06.18.18 at 8:21 am }

Hi Bonnie!! MK is indeed better on party days–you could swap Tuesday and Thursday.

28 DANA { 06.19.18 at 9:46 am }

Hi, I’m planning a trip for December 7-12. How should I plan which parks should i visit on which days? For lowest crowds? Thank you!

29 Dave { 06.19.18 at 1:03 pm }

Hi Dana!

12/7 avoid MK, unless you are eligible for EMH and can arrive before they start
12/8 avoid MK and AK
12/9 avoid HS
12/10 avoid MK and AK
12/11 avoid Epcot
12/12 avoid MK

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