Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

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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189 comments

1 Lin { 01.06.19 at 5:51 am }

Any advice on parks to see avoid arriving 9/27-leaving 10/1 -we have 4 day hoppers. Thank you!

2 Dave { 01.06.19 at 4:13 pm }

Lin, I will be able to help, but only after Disney’s calendar for then comes out, which won’t be for threeish months–it’s out 180 days before.

3 Lin { 01.06.19 at 7:15 pm }

Awesome!! Thank you.

4 Mark C { 04.02.19 at 12:55 pm }

Hi Dave – How do the “special event hours” affect wait times at rope drop? We will be at WDW June 1-7, 2019. I noticed that they have added “special event hours” to the parks we are visiting on 3 of the days: MK on 06/02 (morning), AK on 06/04 (evening), and HS on 06/05 (morning).

5 Dave { 04.03.19 at 6:37 am }

Hi Mark, they sell so few tickets to these that have have next-to-no impact.

6 Mark C { 04.03.19 at 12:11 pm }

Thank you, Dave. That is reassuring.

7 Dave { 04.04.19 at 9:38 am }

🙂

8 Amy { 07.04.19 at 4:46 pm }

What parks for which days would you pick for 12/3-12/11? All rope drops. Thanks for your help!

9 Dave { 07.05.19 at 10:38 am }

Amy:

Tues 12/3 avoid all but MK
Weds: Avoid MK, other three should all be OK
Thurs: avoid Epcot, HS
Fri: avoid HS and MK
Sat: avoid all but Epcot
Sun: avoid HS, MK is best
Mon: avoid MK, other three should all be OK
Tues 12/10 avoid all but MK
Weds: avoid MK, other three should all be OK

10 Angie { 07.07.19 at 4:18 pm }

What parks for which days would you pick for 11/8-11/12? Thanks!

11 Dave { 07.08.19 at 9:06 am }

Hi Angie!

If you are EMH eligible, the best park 11/8 is MK. The worst is Epcot, especially in World Showcase in the evening
There’s no best park on 11/9.
11/10 AK is best, and HS worst
11/11 MK is best, avoid AK
11/12 MK is best, avoid Epcot

12 Kristen { 07.12.19 at 6:52 pm }

Hi Dave, I’ve followed your plans for years and recommend your site highly to friends. Now that my children are older (I’ll have a high school freshman in the fall), I can’t pull them out of school for low-crowd weeks anymore. So, we’re booked for MLK weekend. Our park days are Friday, January 17- Monday, January 20. It’s a tight trip, at a crowded time and my husband has his heart set on the attractions in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Every crowd calendar I’ve consulted recommends different parks on each day. I know it’s just going to be ridiculously crowded everywhere. So, what’s your guess for the best parks each day? This is not our first visit, but it’s been several years since our last visit. I think we can chop Epcot completely off of our itinerary…my kids have been to actual Europe, and we’ve done Soarin’ multiple times, including at Disneyland last summer. How would you plan those four days, given that information?

Thanks so much!!
Kristen

13 Dave { 07.14.19 at 9:43 am }

Oh Kristen, thanks for the kind words!!

Right now, frankly, I would not overthink it. There is way too much information still missing/subject to change. If you can’t help yourself, my best guess is that Friday morning or Monday evening will be best…

14 Krystal { 07.17.19 at 3:06 pm }

Thanks for all of the tips on your website! We’ll be in Disney world Nov 17-Nov 23 (3 adults and a one year old). We have 6 day park hopper tickets and are staying on site. We’d also like to attend either the Tuesday or Thursday MVMCP and will be doing one day offsite (Kennedy space centre). Which parks do you recommend each day, which party and which day should we spend offsite? Thank you so much in advance for any and all advice!

15 Dave { 07.18.19 at 11:12 am }

Hi Krystal, there’s commonly not much difference between Tuesday and Thursdays–both are school nights, making them equally less attractive to locals. The general sense is that Tuesdays are best, but if some other choice leads you to Thursday, that’s fine.

11/17 avoid HS
11/18 avoid MK and AK
11/19 avoid Epcot
11/20 avoid MK–probably the best HS day
11/21 avoid Epcot
11/22 avoid MK unless you plan to arrive early, before morning EMH
11/23 there are no particularly good choices.

I would target 11/23 as your offsite day. If that won’t work for travel or other reasons, WDW is in general busiest Friday-Monday, so heading off site might be best one of those days.

16 Krystal { 07.18.19 at 12:12 pm }

Thank you!

17 Michael Hanley { 07.20.19 at 5:34 pm }

Happy weekend Dave! Headed down to WDW for Thanksgiving week and staying at Pop Century (new Gondolas!) from 11/25 to 12/3. This is a birthday surprise for my soon to be 9 year old love of Frozen and Tangled little girl and a extra special surprise for my Thanksgiving birthday Mother.

I grabbed some great ADRs like breakfast and dinner at 1900 park, BOG for Tuesday, Chef France on Wednesday, Bon Voyage Adventure and Toledo (timing HS and EP fireworks) Thursday, Hoop-dee-Doo at 4pm on Sunday, and Yak-Yeti on Monday.

My question is should we do HS on Friday or Saturday or Monday? I was thinking HS on Saturday, but I can switch AK for any of these days; however, I’m worried that many of the ppl visiting for the opening of Rise of the Resistance on 12/5 will run ppl to HS all week long even before there 12/5 opening. Any recommendations will truly be helpful.

I’m wondering if it would be worth it to do the Mickey Xmas that Sunday after Hoopdee or will it be to late to truly enjoy the entire night and make it for EMM at AK if we desire on that park for Monday. I am organizing this myself for a group of 4 adults and 1 child – I’m starting to get stressed … Lol … Help!!!

18 Dave { 07.21.19 at 12:14 pm }

Hey Michael!

On your HS, question, my guess is that soft opens before 12/5 will get rid of the issue you note of folks either delaying their HS visit to the 5th or after, or moving it up to before the 5th. So when to go there reverts to first principles for this time of year, which would be 1. after the Thanksgiving crowds have left (so 12/1 or later) 2. a weekday and 3. a day that MK is open late. Unfortunately, around your dates the only day that fits these criteria is 12/4, which is outside your window.

So frankly I see no good choices your dates. Of the bad choices, worst are Saturday (holiday crowds) and Monday (particularly early MK close.) Sunday is probably best.among a bad set of options, and the next best may in fact be Thanksgiving day, as Epcot and MK traditionally are where people go on major holidays.

On your Sunday night party question, my guess is that by then you will need the break much more than another late night.

19 Michael Hanley { 07.22.19 at 12:11 pm }

Thanks Dave for your feedback! I guess I’m in a pickle … If you had the option of HS on Saturday 11/30 or Monday 12/2, what would you would pick? I think my best option is Tuesday 11/25 MK, Wednesday EC, off Thursday, AK Friday, DS Saturday, off Sunday, and HS Monday. One last question; do you think that a park with a lot of open restaurant reservations for multiple time and multiple restaurants tends to have less crowds? I have thought of this theory; however, never saw any data to prove or disprove the theory. Cheers!

20 Dave { 07.23.19 at 6:38 am }

Hey Michael, of the two, I guess Monday.

On the reservations, I have no data, but have conclusions anyway. The most basic point is there is not enough capacity at the most popular ones to serve as an indicator of crowds, and the least popular–like the ones in Morocco–are almost always available day-of.

I believe that the pace at which popular dining is booked up is principally a function of how many returning visitors are intending a visit that period, and secondarily whether or not free dining is out. Most first timers have no idea that the popular venues book out so far in advance, and conversely, many returning visitors now know enough to avoid the most crowded dates, and also know that free dining has little value if they end up eating some place the would rather not have…

21 Heather { 07.27.19 at 8:49 pm }

Hi Dave, hope you’re having a magical summer! Re: Our Dec 11-15 trip-
Is Fri better than Sat for our visit to the newly finished GE at HS?

11 Wed AK 9a-6p (leave @5p) MK 7p-11p emh
12 Thu MK 9a-6p (leave by 7p, party nite)
*13 Fri HS 9a-8p
*14 Sat EP 9a-9:30p
15 Sun 1/2 day, choose park to fix any FP holes

I’m thinking EP will be easier to navigate on Sat. Keep plan or Switch? Thank you =)

22 Dave { 07.28.19 at 11:16 am }

Heather, I don’t see either day as a good day at HS.

There are precisely two December weekends that occur after the opening of Rise of the Resistance on 12/5 and the when the blockout dates for the most popular Florida resident passes begin on 12/19, so I expect HS to be quite mobbed on Saturday, since it is one of them.

And the early close at MK on 12/13 means that people will crowd the other three parks.

If HS is a priority for you, Wednesday will be, by far, the best day, as you will have less local traffic and the late close at MK will draw people there.

23 Dina { 07.29.19 at 3:29 pm }

Hello Dave,
I’ve just come across your website and am petrified with all the information you give. It’s very detailed. My daughter is flying from Ireland with her 3 girls (6 and 9) and we will be going to WDW on October 25 – Nov 2. We plan to visit Universal for Harry Potter on one day, but plan to spend the rest of the time mostly at Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. We travel on Oct 25 and Nov 2. We are staying at the Treehouse Villas (3 children, 5 adults). Can you suggest best days for the different parks so we can optimize our time, please? We will be buying park hopper tickets. Thanks.

24 Dave { 07.30.19 at 10:16 am }

Hi Dina! Here’s my thoughts:
10/25 AK is best, avoid MK and HS
10/26: no good choices. Epcot may be best
10/27: MK is best, avoid HS
10/28: Avoid AK and MK. One of the better HS days of your dates.
10/29: MK is best. Avoid Epcot and HS
10/30: Avoid MK. The best HS day of your dates.
10/31: Avoid all but AK
11/1: MK is best. Avoid HS
11/2: No good choices. Epcot may be best

25 David { 08.01.19 at 5:30 pm }

Hi Dave,

we are going to Disney from Nov 10 – 16. i have been trying to plan days and dining reservations. here is what i have. Any suggestions for improvement?

10th MK ( A must. my daughter Bday)
11 HS
12 MK
13 Epcot
14 AK
15 OPEN

26 Dave { 08.02.19 at 7:52 am }

David, ignoring 11/10–which will be a zoo at MK, but I get your point about your daughter:

11/11 will be best at MK, OK at Epcot, so-so at AK, and worst at HS
11/12 will be best at MK, worst at HS and Epcot
11/13 will be worst at MK. This is the best HS day among your options.
11/14 will be best at MK, worst at HS and Epcot

As you can probably guess, I;d suggest flipping your HS and Epcot dates…

27 Heather { 08.02.19 at 1:21 pm }

Dec 11-15 w/ a car and hoppers
11 Wed AK 9a-6p (leave @5p) MK 7p-11p emh [HEAP FW]
*12 Thu MK 9a-6p (leave by 7p) [MVMCP FW from Contemp’]
*13 Fri HS 9a-8p [JingleBAM]
14 Sat EP 9a-9:30p [Epcot Forever]
15 Sun 1/2 day, choose park to fix any FP holes [8pm flight]

Dave, thank you for sharing your time and insight. Very helpful to hear how Florida Pass pre-blockout affects GE open. We only have 4 nights to try covering all 4 fireworks shows and considered doing above (HS on Thurs, switch w/MK), but with your advice this can work:

11 Wed HS 9a-4p (check-in); MK 7p-11p emh [HEAP FW]
12 Thu MK 9a-6p (leave by 7p) [MVMCP FW from Contemp’]
13 Fri EP 9a-9:30p [Epcot Forever]
14 Sat RD AK emh 8a-12p; HS 2p-8p [JingleBAM]
15 Sun AK 9a-3p [8pm flight]

If WDW releases some EEMH for Dec before our 60 day FPs, that’d be nice :^)
Thanks again & Best Regards!

28 Dave { 08.04.19 at 10:36 am }

You bet, Heather!

29 Samantha { 08.08.19 at 10:51 pm }

Hi Dave,

I am going from 11/12 to 11/18. I saw your recommendations through the comments for for a few of the days so I’m most worried about 11.15 through 11.18 if you don’t mind? Thanks for all of your effort – you’ve always been truly helpful!!

Just confirming also that HS is probably best option for 11/13 and MK for 11/14?

We also are definitely doing MK on our first day. We’ve handled MK last year during spring break and Easter so i think we can get through anything lol

Thanks!

30 Dave { 08.09.19 at 9:43 am }

Hi Samantha!

11/15 avoid HS. Avoid NMK unless you are eligible for, and willing to arrive before, the EMH
11/16 there sar eno good choices. Epcot may be best
11/17 MK is best, avoid HS
11/18 avoid MK and HS.

Yes, your dates HS will be best 11/13, and the best park 11/14 will be MK.

31 Karie { 08.10.19 at 1:25 pm }

Hi Dave,

We are planning our first trip to WDW nov3-8 with my in-laws and two boys 2.5 &5.5yo. Trying to figure out which days and FP. To book. So far we have dining reservation Mon. At Hollywood& Vine and includes Fantasmic and another on Thurs. at Tusker house so I was thinking maybe. HS on Monday and AK thurs. the other days are up in the air. Oh we were also thinking a pool day mid week to give the kids a little down time. Any help is appreciated. It all seems very overwhelming.

Thanks!

Karie

32 Dave { 08.11.19 at 9:18 am }

Hi Karie, with kids that age you’d want to focus on 2-3 half days at Magic Kingdom, with perhaps additional half days at HS and and AK. Unless you have the “park hopper” add on, you can only go to one park per day (you can leave and come back to that same park), so any park dining has to be in the same park you see.

11/3 avoid HS
11/4 avoid AK
11/5 avoid Epcot
11/6 avoid MK
11/7 avoid Epcot
11/8 avoid MK

Short days are more important than days off. Also, if you have not already seen it, see this.

33 Anonymous { 08.19.19 at 9:54 am }

Planning a visit Feb 27th- March 5th. What are the best days to visit which park? Thanks for your help!

34 Dave { 08.21.19 at 10:41 am }

Hi, Disney’s calendar for then is not yet. But from some unofficial sources here’s some preliminary thoughts:

2/27: avoid Epcot
2/28 avoid MK
2/29 avoid all but Epcot
3/1 avoid HS
3/2 avoid AK
3/3 avoid EPcot
3/4 avoid MK
3/5 avoid Epcot
3/6 avoid MK

35 Cindy { 08.23.19 at 5:59 pm }

Hi Dave, please help! have read many calendars and trying to think of a plan for visiting the parks on December 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th all rope drop, no hoppers. we were thinking of doing:
Friday, 12/13. AK
Saturday, 12/14 HS
Sunday, 12/15 MVMCP
Monday, 12/16 open

Would you change any of these based on blackout dates, pop warner, etc. I think HS will be crowded no matter what day we go…. thank you!

36 Dave { 08.24.19 at 9:45 am }

Hi Cindy, block out dates don’t start til the 19th, and Pop Warner has little effect on the parks. So you are back to first principles.

HS will be worst when MK closes early, and over weekends. So while it may not make a lot of difference–as you note–I would do it on Monday.

Do you actually have just a two day ticket? If you had a three day ticket, you could do something Sunday morning.

37 cindy { 08.24.19 at 4:25 pm }

Thanks Dave! We have not bought our tickets yet because we’re trying to figure out what our options were. we kept Sunday day open since we were planning on going to Mickey’s Christmas party around 4:00 that evening. Would great welcome any other suggestions

38 Dave { 08.25.19 at 10:41 am }

So it kinda depends. To see the best at all the parks you need 7ish full ays, so you are seeing a selection anyway. If you don’t have a strong feel for what is in what park, see this.

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