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.



Meet me and Josh Saturday April 28 at Epcot! Details here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



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.

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 always in proportion to demand, so crowds can be high even during low times of the year.

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 close 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 irs evening events on a different day, without having spent the earlier part of that day at MK expect 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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12 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.

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