DISNEY WORLD 2020 SUMMER CROWDS: THE PRINCIPLES
Walt Disney World summer crowds recently have been governed by three factors:
- Public school summer break calendars, which have start and end dates more varied than you might think
- The block-out dates of the “Silver” annual passes that have a high penetration among locals
- The beginning of the peak of the hurricane season, in mid-August
BLOCK OUT DATES
Disney changed block out policies on certain annual passes that are highly valued by locals in 2015, in time to affect the summer of 2016. Since then, summer stand-by waits (which is how we all measure crowds, as there’s no better tool), while still not great, have been down, especially in July.
For 2020 for the first time I am creating this into my forecasts, as it has gone on long enough to be a thing, so some July dates now see “moderate” crowd rankings.
So…back to the other two drivers of summer crowds–school breaks and the peak of the hurricane season.
Pretty much all kids are on break in July, so traditionally it was the highest crowd month of the summer. But as noted above, the past several years it has been less crowded after the 4th than the later parts of June.
Varied dates for when summer breaks begin means June can start well, and then build to high crowd levels.
August has the opposite pattern, beginning with (recently) moderate crowds, but, through the combination of a trickle turning to a flood of back-to-school dates, and savvy travelers avoiding the peak of the hurricane season, it ends quite un-crowded.
Families that can only visit in the summer (for example, school teachers) should go as early in June or as late in August as their schedules permit, although later July is now more attractive than it used to be.
2020 PUBLIC SCHOOL SUMMER BREAKS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON WALT DISNEY WORLD CROWDS
The beginnings of summer breaks vary more than most people think.
The chart below illuminates this.
In 2020, about 25% of kids are out by Memorial Day and more than half are out by June 4; the proportion builds over the rest of the month, with 75% out by June 12 and essentially all kids off by June 26, 2020.
Kids from Florida–many with annual passes that block them out in 2020 from June 1 until early August–basically all get out of school between Memorial Day and June 3. If you pull Florida out of the chart above, you get a shift to later in the month of about 4 days, with 50% of kids out of school by June 8 and 75% out by June 16.
Few families plan their vacation for their first day out of school (especially folks in snowy climes who may be affected by an uncertain number of make-up snow days), so there’s a lag in the effect of these dates on summer crowds that I can’t precisely quantify.
But the upshot is that my revised 2020 Disney World Crowd Calendar shows the following: I rate the crowds the week beginning May 23, 2020 8/high-minus, the week beginning 5/30 7 moderate-plus, the weeks beginning 6/6 through 6/20 8/high minus, and the week beginning 6/27 9/high.
After the fourth of July, waits should go down a tick. All arrival dates in July starting 7/4 get a rating of 7/moderate-plus, as does the first week of August, beginning 8/1. The week beginning 8/8 sees a slight reduction, to 6/moderate, and crowds are lower the next week beginning 8/15, which I rate as 5/moderate-minus.
I rate crowds at various levels of “low” beginning 8/22/2020 through September.
THE PEAK OF THE HURRICANE SEASON AND DISNEY WORLD 2019 SUMMER CROWDS
It peaks, however, from mid-August to early October.
(Click the chart; see also Weather and When to Go to Walt Disney World.)
As a result, August crowds at Walt Disney World are affected not only by the end dates of summer breaks, but also by savvy travelers avoiding this potential weather.
Hurricanes rarely impact a Disney World vacation…but it is possible, so some savvy travelers with choices in when they can go commonly avoid this period. (Disney knows this, of course, and drops prices and commonly adds discounts to change the value and risk equation, resulting in other savvy travelers intentionally choosing this period!)