By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





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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115 comments

1 KR Robinson { 07.07.18 at 10:01 pm }

Hi Dave! I am trying to help plan a coordinate a large family group for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. We are traveling with 17 people with our two youngest age 2, a 9 yr old, 2 12 yr olds and some teens. We only have 2 days, so we will be doing AK one day and HS the second day. We are arriving in the afternoon of 10/24, will plan on HS on 10/25 and AK on 10/26. We have a 7am departure on 10/27, as we have a cruise to catch in Fort Lauderdale. Can you advise us the best plan for our group size and short window of opportunity? Thank you for any insight you can give.

2 Dave { 07.08.18 at 8:53 am }

Hi KR, first, it’s very hard to do everything in either park in one day, and second there will be some big differences between what the older kids adults want to do vs the 2 year old.

So I would aim to split up the group based on their interests, and craft different itineraries for each. You can start here.

Ride reviews, except for the two new HS rides, are in my book. (The two new rides are Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers, covered at the links.) The group can scan the reviews to help pick. You can then adapt the AK itineraries in my book (we don’t have updated HS itineraires in it yet, will have them out in a month or so.)

3 Mary { 07.10.18 at 1:09 pm }

Thanks so much for your help!

4 Heather { 07.13.18 at 9:23 am }

Love the site & the wealth of information! I’m looking for some advice on our very first trip to WDW! Traveling with our 3 kiddos, ages 10, 8, & 4. One is a girl & very into princesses. Boys are OBSESSED with animals & aquariums.

We will be there in February 2019, with park days 2/11, 2/12 & 2/13 & 2/14. What is your advice on how best to break up the park days? I was thinking of this:
2/11 – Epcot
2/12 – MK
2/13 – 1/2 day at HS, 1/2 day at MK
2/14 – AK

Thoughts or advice?

5 Dave { 07.13.18 at 1:19 pm }

Heather, I’ll be able to help, but only after Disney posts its calendar for then, which it will do in about a month. So ping me back then, OK?

6 Michelle { 07.25.18 at 6:53 pm }

Hi Dave. Just booked a quick weekend trip. My 7 year old and I will be in the parks Nov 3, 4 and 5. We’ll have parkhoppers. Between the half marathon and an early MK close on the schedule, park planning is tricky. What do you suggest? Thanks!

7 Dave { 07.27.18 at 12:29 pm }

Michelle, what parks are you targeting? 11/3 will be rough everywhere but HS. 11/4 will be rough at MK and HS. 11/5 will be rough at HS and AK, and as you note, MK closes early. MK should be great 11/5 until the close, though.

8 Anonymous { 07.27.18 at 1:24 pm }

Thanks, Dave! I was initially thinking AK on the 3rd until 1 or 2pm, with a pm hop to MK (around 7ish) to do some rides while folks were saving their spots for HEA; HS on the 4th, with an afternoon hop to Epcot; and MK on the 5th, with some pool time after the park closes. It sounds like I might be better off switching my plans for the 3rd and the 4th. What do you think?

9 Dave { 07.28.18 at 10:20 am }

Yes I would flip!!

10 Gina { 08.06.18 at 9:29 am }

Hi! I can’t seem to find the section that would talk specifically about which parks on which days Oct 6-13. I know that’s not a recommended week, but I have no option. I’d written back a couple of months ago and you were about to release the Oct dates, but I can’t seem to find that section now. I’m supposed to book FastPasses tomorrow morning. Thanks! (We have 5 days in parks and plan to do MK twice, all others once)

11 Dave { 08.06.18 at 9:37 am }

Hi Gina,
10/6 avoid all but HS
10/7 avoid all but AK
10/8 avoid AK
10/9 avoid Epcot
10/10 avoid MK
10/11 avoid Epcot
10/12 avoid MK and Epcot
10/13 avoid all but AK

12 Gina { 08.06.18 at 9:52 am }

Whoops! I think I found it under Itineraries! 🙂 I’ll comment there with any specific questions…thanks!

13 Gina { 08.06.18 at 10:29 am }

Am I understanding that there’s not a day we can go to MK at night, without paying extra for MNSSHP tickets?? We’ve been in Oct before and I don’t recall that being the case every single night.

14 Dave { 08.07.18 at 12:13 pm }

There’s three to four days a week when you can go to MK at night without paying for the party, Gina. It’s just wildly busy at MK on those days.

15 Susan { 08.07.18 at 12:09 am }

Hi Dave,
We are looking at going to Disney from 10/25 through 10/28. This is what we are thinking for park days.
10/25 Magic Kingdom and doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
10/26 Epcot
10/27 Hollywood Studios
10/28 Animal Kingdom

Any help is appreciated!

16 Dave { 08.07.18 at 12:17 pm }

Hi Susan, those look like fine choices to me!

17 Jen { 08.10.18 at 4:52 am }

Hi Dave,

I’ll be going to Disney world with my husband for the first time from 10/15-10/17. We are staying at the contemporary and have a 3 day park hopper. Which parks would you recommend on which days? We want to spend a full day in MK, and maybe Epcot. We were planning on going to HS and maybe AK in one day. We weren’t initially going to go to AK, but so many people have been talking about Pandora. Would you recommend it? We know the trip is short, so we want to make the most out of our days at the park, so we’d like to see what you recommend!

18 Dave { 08.10.18 at 12:40 pm }

Jen, purely based on crowds, 10/16 is the only good MK day, but the park closes early that evening. Epcot is fine Monday or Weds. AK will be fine Tues and Weds. HS will be about the same every day

19 Tasha { 08.11.18 at 7:00 am }

Hi, Dave! After reading your warnings to avoid certain parks on certain days, I’m questioning my entire trip and all reservations I’ve made. I’m wondering if because we are going to be there on a week that isn’t suppose to be so busy generally speaking, and that we will be in MK for 3 days we will still be ok? We will be there December 10-15 and planned it like this in order to take advantage of EMH:
12/10- MK
12/11-EP
12/12- MK
12/13- MK + MVMCP
12/15- AK
Thanks so much!

20 Dave { 08.11.18 at 5:56 pm }

Tasha, with good plans you can make pretty much anything work! EMH have value if you can arrive before they start, and can plan around the excess crowds you’ll find in the EMH parks later in the day.

21 BA { 08.26.18 at 2:52 pm }

Hi Dave, We are visiting Disney the last week of October to celebrate my son’s 11th birthday (which is Halloween 10/31!) My first thought was to do MNSSHP on Halloween to celebrate his birthday (he loves everything about having a Halloween birthday – costumes, trick or treating, etc.) BUT, I know this will be the most crowded night. If we do MNSSHP on another night, do you have any suggestions for an awesome way to celebrate a Halloween birthday? Thanks!

22 Andy { 08.26.18 at 9:23 pm }

Dave,
We are trying to decide what parks to do on certain days. We’ll be staying on property and going to parks on 10/7, 10/8, 10/9, and 10/10. We’d like to see each of the 4 parks without a park hopper pass; what do you suggest?
Thanks!

23 Dave { 08.27.18 at 7:47 am }

Andy, that will be a very busy weekend.

10/7 Avoid MK and HS
10/8 avoid AK
10/9 avoid Epcot
10/10 avoid MK

Within these constraints, there’s lots of ways to organize your visit. Eg you could do Epcot 10/7, HS 10/8, MK 10/9, and AK 10/10.

24 Erinne { 08.31.18 at 1:24 pm }

We have a trip planned 10/20-10/27. MK on 10/21 w/ party, HS on 10/22, Epcot on 10/23 and 10/24, AK on 10/25, and MK on 10/26. Does that sound like a reasonable plan in order to make the most of our week?

25 Dave { 09.01.18 at 9:46 am }

Hi Erinne, I like most of what you are proposing. Epcot will be busy on 10/23, and MK has morning EMH on 10/26. You might want to swap those two days, unless you are both eligible for and committed to arriving before the MK EMH start.

26 Stef { 09.01.18 at 10:11 am }

hello!
We are traveling for the dates of Sept 17-23 with another family. We have 4 adults and 5 children in our party- kids ages are 6, 6, 4, 4, and 2.
We have booked all our fastpasses and planned all our days but wanted to get your thoughts on the parks we picked each day- 09-17 Epcot afternoon (arriving am), 09-18 MK, 09-19 AK, 09-20 HS, 09-21 waterpark weather dependant, 09-22 Epcot
thanks!

27 Dave { 09.03.18 at 8:41 am }

Hi Stef, Epcot will be quite busy the 22nd, but other than that your days look great! One observation–with the age structure of your group, I wouldn’t do two Epcot days and one MK day–rather the reverse, or another MK day instead of a waterpark day

28 Jo { 09.02.18 at 10:26 am }

Hi Dave
Planning to go with my hubby and teen daughter March 3 to 7. I usually check the park schedules for EMH, so, as too avoid those parks (per your recs) but I notice the hours are not published yet.
Any suggestions for me?

29 Dave { 09.03.18 at 8:45 am }

Hi Jo, the official schedul will be out in a couople of weeks, but if you want a head start, chekc out this: https://www.thedibb.co.uk/forums/parkhours.php?hours=03+2019 I have not been tracking this source long enough to have a strong point of view on its accuracy, but my prlelimary take is that it’s pretty good for EMH.

For the same week this year, see this: https://yourfirstvisit.net/2018/03/01/next-week-march-3-through-march-11-2018-at-walt-disney-world/ Note the 8a opens at AK.

30 Jo { 09.05.18 at 2:21 pm }

Thanks soooo much Dave! That was nice of you give me the links!

31 Dave { 09.06.18 at 6:35 am }

🙂 Jo

32 Tina { 09.06.18 at 4:46 pm }

HI Dave! We will be at Disney November 12-17. I’m unsure What park to do what days Bc of the holiday in there!! Any advice? Also, how crowded do you think MK will be on the Wednesday witht the EMH til midnight that night? And is there any way for me to find out what will decorated for Christmas and what won’t? I thought everything would be, but I have read that some things don’t start until later in November! Thank you!!!

33 Dave { 09.09.18 at 8:47 am }

Hi Tina, MK will be wildly crowded Wednesday. MK and HS will be fully decorated, AK and Epcot will be largely done, and the resorts will just have begun.

Those dates

11/12 avoid AK and Epcot
11/13 avoid Epcot
11/14 avoid MK
11/15 avoid Epcot
11/16 avoid MK unless you are eligible for, and can arrive before the start of, morning EMH
11/17 avoid MK and AK

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