2021 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
The chart lower on the page shows my current draft forecasts for 2021 crowds by week at Walt Disney World. I explain how I built it at the end of the post.
2021 will be an interesting year at Disney World, with COVID-related capacity restrictions dominating crowds early in the year, but after that new attractions opening, old attractions re-opening, and Disney World beginning its 50th anniversary celebration later in the year.
THE 2021 DISNEY WORLD DRAFT CROWD CALENDAR
Dates in the Disney World Crowd Calendar are the beginning of the week, and the forecast covers my recommended Saturday-Sunday 9 day stays from that beginning.
Crowd levels are ranked by week from 1-11 in the following way:
1: Lowest of the year
HOW TO INTERPRET THE 2021 DISNEY WORLD DRAFT CROWD CALENDAR
Dates are the beginning of the week.
As is the case in almost every good Disney World crowd calendar, the forecasts are about wait times for rides–not about how crowded the areas outside the rides might be.
The “low crowd” weeks–those colored green, and rated 1-4–represent the only crowd levels a family visiting for the first time, and unsure if it will ever return, should consider.
However, lower crowds, especially lowest crowds, do not always mean a better week. The lowest weeks are often best avoided by first timers who may never return because they are in the peak hurricane or the ride closure seasons.
The “moderate crowd” weeks–those in black and rated 5-7–have crowd levels I would not particularly recommend to first time visitors, though the crowds can be managed with good plans. However, I’d go during such weeks myself with no hesitation, and think these levels are totally OK for returning visitors who don’t need to see everything and already know how to work Walt Disney World.
The “high crowd” weeks–those in red, rated 8-11–should be avoided by everyone. They aren’t, which is why they are so high.
MY DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR GOES UP TO “11”
However, I’ve always thought that the really nastiest weeks of the year deserved an 11 for emphasis.
So, in homage to Spinal Tap, I assigned 11 to “highest.”
BUILDING A DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR IN A COVID YEAR
To yield the crowd calendar shown above, I constructed two different starting point Disney World crowd calendars—a COVID-based Disney World crowd calendar and a “normal” Disney World crowd calendar– and used different proportions of each over the course of the year as subcomponents of my final crowd calendar.
Right now, Disney has COVID-related limits on its supply of park capacity, which come from the interaction of what attractions are open, what their individual capacities are, and how much physically-distant waiting space is available for each. To make sure that these limits are unlikely to be exceeded, it also has a new system that requires not only a ticket but also a park reservation for entry. The FastPass+ system has also been taken offline, so almost all waits except for Rise of the Resistance are first-come, first served, and no ride capacity is reserved for FastPass+.
The upshot is that COVID crowds are capped to lower in-line waits than they have ever been in the past. Absolute waits may not be that delightful, but especially on holidays weekends they are better than standby waits were before COVID.
As a result my COVID-based Disney World crowd calendar has only three possible levels: 4—low plus, 6—moderate, and 8—high minus.
My “normal” Disney World crowd calendar follows the usual recent patterns of Disney World crowds, with modifications based on—as always—the specific spring break dates schools will be following, and more unusually for 2021, effects from Disney World’s 50th anniversary, expected to kick off October 1, 2021.
While Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration will likely be lesser than it was hoping for before COVID, in my “normal” Disney World crowd calendar I do still expect it to be a major draw October 1, 2021 and later, and to suppress crowds in August and September—as folks put off their holidays until the 50th.
My “normal” Disney World crowd calendar has week rankings everywhere from 1—lowest of the year to 11—highest.
I then weighted the contributions of each of these two calendars to craft the integrated draft crowd calendar I present. The “normal” calendar has no weighting at all until mid-February, then over the course of the year I slowly increase its contribution until it makes up 90% of the final crowd calendar beginning Thanksgiving week.
I label the final result a draft, as my judgment of the contribution of COVID-related factors to crowds is subject to change depending on how things go. Moreover, the actual 50th anniversary celebration may see different dates, or more or less offered as part of it thus drawing different numbers of people than I currently expect, or both.