2022 DISNEY WORLD SPRING BREAK CROWDS
Walt Disney World spring break crowds are typically governed by two and a quarter factors:
- Public school spring break calendars, which are still largely framed around Easter but vary more than you might think, and into which every year I put a ton of time
- The demand of snow-belters for a break from winter weather, which peaks in March, but is harder to forecast, and
- The quarter factor, the date of President’s Day (which can range from February 15 to February 21). Later President’s Days tend to make the first part of March better
An early Easter combines the first two factors, making for more than the usual horrible crowds in March but a great April; a late Easter can spread the first two factors out, some years yielding some good early March and early April weeks.
Easter 2022, on April 17, is late in its possible range. President’s Day 2022 is at the end of its possible range on February 19. As a result of this and some anomalies in break schedules, my latest analysis suggests largely rough crowds March 12 through April 23, 2022–although some weeks are better than others.
More specifically, 2022 spring break crowds at Walt Disney World will be
- Bad Presidents Day Week
- Better but still rough the week beginning February 27th
- Much better, especially Sunday to Wednesday, the week beginning March 5
- Very bad the week beginning March 12th
- Better but still rough the weeks beginning March 19th, March 26, and April 2nd–the best among these being the week beginning March 26
- Very bad the weeks beginning April 9 and April 16
- Fine after April 23 until Memorial Day weekend
2022 PUBLIC SCHOOL SPRING BREAKS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON WALT DISNEY WORLD CROWDS
Although more and more school districts are moving away from an Easter-centered Spring Break, the plurality of kids still have the weeks before Easter or following Easter off.
As a result, the single biggest factor determining better and worse Spring Break weeks at Walt Disney World is the date of Easter–which can range from March 22 to April 25.
A later Easter has a couple of different effects: first, it can spread out the dates of breaks for school districts that don’t frame their breaks around Easter but also don’t have a fixed break calendar, and second, if particularly late, sometimes will push districts that typically take the week after Easter off into the week before Easter instead, to keep from compressing their May academic calendars.
An earlier Easter has the opposite effects. Districts that traditionally try to take the week after Easter off will be able to do so, and districts that don’t base their calendars on Easter will be largely compressed into many of the same later March and early April weeks.
The date of President’s Day–which can range from February 15 to February 21–also has an effect. Because many northeastern districts both have a spring break and also take the week of President’s Day off, the later President’s Day is, the better later February and early March will be–as parents in these districts avoid taking their kids out of school the weeks right after a long President’s Day break.
2022 sees some anomalies on top of this.
- First, almost all of Florida and Texas have break the week beginning March 12
- Second, I’m not seeing quite the drop off in demand the week after Easter often associated with a later Easter, for at least two reasons. First, this is an “earlier” later Easter, and second in 2022 the week after Easter corresponds with the week of Patriot’s Day, a common vacation week for many New England schools.
As a result, the worst weeks of spring break 2022 will be the weeks of March 12th, April 9th, and April 16th.
Often a later Easter results in a good early April week, and also a better than average week after Easter. However, in 2022 I’m not seeing either a good early April week nor a particularly good week after Easter.
ACTUAL 2022 SPRING BREAKS
The chart above illuminates this.
It’s based on data from a weighted sample including 270+ of the largest relevant US public school districts. 15.3 million kids–about a third of US school kids–are in the database, and they are weighted based on propensity to go to Disney World.
Weekends are in black, except Easter, in red. Mardi Gras and President’s Day are also in red.
Aggregated spring break calendars illuminate times when families with kids can particularly easily be in Disney World, but not their propensity to be there. Propensity factors range from the desire to get away from snow and ice to the willingness that more knowledgeable Disney World visitors may show to simply take their kids out of school—especially if doing so will avoid higher crowds on other dates. They also tell us little about people with no school age kids in their groups.
Can we get a hint of Disney’s own insights into propensity for people to visit from its own pricing patterns? Well, yes, but it’s not as straightforward as you might think.
TICKET PRICES AS A GUIDE TO SPRING BREAK 2022 CROWDS
Disney World’s current ticket pricing model, which presents different ticket prices for different days, is intended to a. push people from higher priced periods to lower prices periods to level out demand and improve experiences during what would otherwise be even higher-crowd periods and b. capture some value from increased demand from those people who go during higher priced periods anyway.
Thus in a profound sense ticket prices are a proxy for a demand calendar, which is similar to, but not quite the same as, a crowd calendar (the difference between the two comes from elasticities).
There are some clear anomalies in ticket pricing compared to school break calendars. First, the week of February 12–the week before President’s Day week–has higher prices than school breaks can argue for (this weekend is also more widely blocked out in Disney World’s annual passes than President’s Day weekend is). Also seeing higher ticket prices than underlying school breaks would suggest is the week of March 5. In contrast, prices are lower than school breaks would suggest the weeks of 2/19 and 4/16.
HOTEL PRICES AS A GUIDE TO SPRING BREAK 2022 CROWDS
Disney also varies hotel prices over the year (and much of the year, even over the week), principally by using different levels of rack rates, and also on top of that sometimes additional discounts for specific dates.
But hotel prices, while being like ticket prices broadly correlated with crowds, especially in Disney’s lower-priced hotel offerings, are also not a perfect crowd calendar.
First, hotels have a fixed capacity in a way that parks don’t, and also a very different cost structure (with very few variable costs), so the business goal is different—it’s to maximize prices that also maximize hotel utilization. There is thus much greater payoff to running the hotels, via pricing, at about the same very high occupancy rate year round.
Second, unlike the parks, there is a broad range of substitutes for the Disney hotels—and with the expansion of the former, now canceled, 60 day FastPass+ and EMH access perks in 2018 and 2019 to the rest of the on-property hotels, matched by their eligibility for the current Early Entry program, some substitutes are much better choices than they used to be. So it is as valuable to compete to fill rooms from guests who would stay at non-Disney resorts as it is to shift demand among the Disney hotels in time. In fact, it may be more valuable to compete for non-Disney property guests, as this keeps money out of the pockets of competitors, and reduces their ability to fund enhancements.
Finally, the different hotel classes see starkly different seasonal competition. The deluxes in particular compete with non-Disney hotels that see a ton of convention and meetings business much of the year. When the convention and meetings business collapses every summer (smart meeting planners don’t book conventions and meetings in the summer in Florida), many more rooms are available to the tourist trade—and prices at this whole class of hotels collapse.
The values, in contrast, don’t compete for this business, and their demand cycle is driven by family vacations. This is why Disney value resort prices in later July 2022 are 30-40% higher than the lowest of the year, while deluxe prices those same dates are just 5-10% higher.
Actual Disney World hotel prices tell a third spring break story, which doesn’t quite align with either with the story told by kids on spring breaks or the story told by tickets.
The highest priced weeks are those before and after Easter, as consistent with spring breaks but not tickets. However, the week of March 12 is basically the same as the weeks before and after, the week of President’s Day, and the week of April 2–mismatching both ticket and break patterns. And the week of 3/27 sees lower prices than either schools or tickets would signal…
(It doesn’t matter to the analysis, but in the chart, green is All-Star Sports, lighter blue is Art of Animation Little Mermaid, darker blue Wilderness Lodge, redder orange Beach Club, yellow-orange Port Orleans Riverside, and gray Polynesian Village.)
I’ve run my Disney World crowd forecasts for spring break 2022 multiple different times using different weights among the informational contributions of school calendars, ticket prices, and hotel prices. Most results come in within a pretty tight band of forecasts.