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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.

Available on Amazon here.





End of Summer 2018 Crowds at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

This site’s Disney World crowd calendars always show crowds dropping off in later August.

For example, in 2018, crowd rankings go from 8/high-minus at the end of July/beginning of August down to 2/lower in early September.

This page both explain how that comes about and also reviews how the site’s crowd calendars are built.

END OF SUMMER 2018 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The highest-crowd periods at Walt Disney World all have one thing in common: they are convenient times for parents to take their kids to Orlando. That is, they are times that kids are out of school and that parents traditionally can take off of work.

What’s not so clear until you do the numbers is that actual school vacation dates are much more varied than you’d think.  And there’s no good source you can go to that explains what all these varied dates are.

So usually every year about this time one of my nieces goes to hundreds of school district websites and captures all the key vacation dates for the upcoming academic year.

(This time of year because you’d be surprised many districts don’t put their calendars up for the upcoming year until June, even late June–looking at you, New Jersey…)

This year we collected data on 274 school districts with 15.33 million kids–about a third of the US school-age population. These include the 100 largest school districts in the U.S., plus 170+ more of the next largest school districts mostly in the more highly-populated states east of the Mississippi–that is, the states from which in particular Walt Disney World draws its visitors.

I then create a database that shows based on district enrollment every kid who is off on every date, and weight each district based on that district’s state’s proportion of total US visits to this website (because Disney won’t tell me actual visitation by state!). See the image above for a screenshot example.

Finally, I calculate percentage of total weighted kids on break by date and use that to inform the crowd calendars.

Above are the results of this for when kids go back to school in 2018.

So you can see that

  • Kids don’t start going back to school in real numbers until Wednesday 8/8
  • More than a third are back in school by 8/15
  • About half  are back in school by Thursday 8/23 and
  • More than 70% are back in school before Labor Day (noted in red)

In 2018, pretty much all kids are back in school by the Thursday after Labor Day.

Moreover, vacation patterns typically don’t have people returning from their vacation the night before school begins, so the effect of these back-to-school dates is offset into earlier August by around a week.

Thus, in the 2018 crowd calendar, the week of 7/28 and 8/4 are rated 8/high-minus crowds, the week of 8/11 7/moderate+ crowds, the week of 8/18 6/moderate crowds, and the week of 8/25 3/low crowds.

As I turn to revising my draft 2019 crowd calendar, I’m also adjusting for some small shifts based on co-author Josh’s work on easyWDW.com. In retrospect, in the summer of 2018, the week beginning  8/11 should be an 8/ high-minus, 8/18 should be a 5 moderate-minus, and 8/25 a 2/lower.

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11 comments

1 Mike Walter { 06.19.18 at 6:09 pm }

Hi Dave: First of all, love your website. Even though we are seasoned WDW vets, you provide many insights and tips that are very interesting and helpful. We always timed our visits in the summer for the last two weeks of August for several reasons. The kids were out of school. Rates were always cheaper then with free dining often offered. The reason I’m commenting is that you make no mention of this being a prime visiting time for Canadians (which we are). We would bump into many Canadians during our visits during this time period. Most Canadian schools return the day after Labour Day like much of the NE U.S. Just wanted to make you aware of that fact, I don’t know what the visitor levels from Canada are like or whether they would have any impact on your calculations. Cheers!

2 Dave { 06.21.18 at 7:31 am }

Thanks Mike. I really should track Canadian breaks, as–based solely on visitors to my site, not on anything official from WDW–more folks come form Canada than from all but 4 US states. I just don’t understand how breaks work in Canada for school-age kids–are they all national, do they vary by province, or do they vary by smaller governmental units within provinces…

3 Mike Walter { 06.21.18 at 1:00 pm }

I’m pretty sure the school breaks are provincially controlled. I know here in Ontario, first day of school is day after Labour Day, has been since I was a little kid (many years ago, LOL). I’m not surprised to hear that there are more visitors from Canada than from all but four states and I’m sure the bulk of those are from Southern Ontario where I live. Keep up the great work!

4 Dave { 06.22.18 at 9:39 am }

Thanks, Mike!

5 Juliette { 06.23.18 at 9:48 am }

Hi Dave, I love your site! Thank you for all the great tips and reviews and I especially love that you are willing to gather and interpret so much data on attractions and attendance. As a Canadian I can tell you that a March Break visit to Disney World when the kids are school-age is a Life Goal for many of us. You wrote that Disney does not provide a breakdown of guest numbers by state and gathering school board holidays is a big task. Maybe Disney does break down guests by country. In our province of Ontario there were 1 377 162 students in 2016-2017 in grades JK (age 4) to grade 8. Here is the ministry site: edu.gov.on.ca/eng/educationFacts.html Here is a link to the school year calendar for Ontario: edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/list/calendar/holidaye.html The students in the province of Quebec generally have their winter or march break one week earlier. Our family is headed to Disney World next March 9th to March 16th 2019! Here’s hoping not everyone else is and that the exchange rate improves for us!

6 Dave { 06.24.18 at 8:57 am }

Thanks so much Juliette!! Sadly, that will be a quite busy week…

7 Larissa { 06.24.18 at 2:09 pm }

This is so interesting! So is Metro Atlanta the only districts w/a late September week off? We always go then, and it’s not that busy. It’s usually Atlanta people and UK people, as I think that’s when they get their 2 week break as well. (We are in Cobb County GA). I always feel like GA crowds bump it up a bit for the 3rd/4th weeks of Sept but maybe I’m imagining things.

8 Dave { 06.25.18 at 6:56 am }

Hi Larissa, yeah, only four districts in my database have that full week off.

9 Eric { 06.26.18 at 5:11 pm }

Hi Dave, Sorry I’m not sure which forum to ask this so I’m just posting here. I heard the ferry boats at YC/BC are closed due to the gondola construction. Do you know how long they are expected to be closed for? This was a huge factor in picking YC for our late Aug trip.

10 Dave { 06.27.18 at 7:25 am }

Eric, I hear they will re-open very soon, but there’s nothing official.

11 Eric { 06.27.18 at 10:50 am }

Thanks Dave. That is encouraging news.

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