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.





Category — Disney World Crowds

Disney World Summer Crowds in 2019

DISNEY WORLD 2019 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.  All of July, most of June, and some of August were blocked out in the popular (because lower cost) Silver Pass in 2016 and 2017. Crowds both summers were lower than expected, likely largely because of this.

For 2018, the planned early June block out was lifted through June 29, and June 2018 saw higher crowds (according to the historical data on TouringPlans.com) than June 2017. The higher crowds may disappear now that the block out dates are back, and they may or may not appear next year.

For the summer of 2019, the Silver Pass block out dates begin June 3.  If the summer of 2019 is like 2016 and 2017, you may see as a result lower crowds–more at the moderate level–than I forecast below.  I’ll keep my eye on this s the summer of 2018 unfolds and update this if necessary. You will, however, still be in Florida in the heat, humidity, and rain of summer–and I can’t possibly recommend that…

So…back to the other two drivers of summer crowds–school breaks and the peak of the hurricane season.

Pretty much all kids are off all of July. As a result, July is typically the busiest summer month, and during it, the week that includes the 4th of July the busiest week.

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 high 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. [Read more →]

July 1, 2018   No Comments

Disney World Spring Break Crowds in 2019

DISNEY WORLD SPRING BREAK CROWDS IN 2019

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.  Later President’s Days (which can range from February 15 to February 21) 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, yielding some good early March and early April weeks.

Easter 2019, on April 21, is very late in its possible range. President’s Day 2019 is in the middle of its possible range on February 18. As a result, my latest analysis (I’ll update my 2019 crowd calendar shortly) shows a good week in each of late February and early April, an OK week in early March, but mostly bad crowds throughout March and April 2019.

More specifically, 2019 spring break crowds at Walt Disney World will be

  • Bad Presidents Day Week
  • Fine the week beginning February 23rd
  • OK the week beginning March 2, but not as good as in my original draft forecast.  I’ve updated this based on co-author Josh’s work on easyWDW.com on 2017 and 2018 waits, and now have to call this a moderately crowded week, rather than a low crowd week
  • Bad the week beginning March 9th
  • Fairly bad the week beginning March 16
  • Bad the weeks beginning March 23 and March 30
  • Fine the week beginning April 6
  • Very bad the week beginning April 13
  • Bad the week beginning April 20
  • Fine after that until Memorial Day weekend

Note that you should treat my forecast for the week beginning April 6, 2019 with a bit of skepticism–if I’m wrong, it will be worse.

2019 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 spreads out the dates of breaks for school districts that don’t frame their breaks around Easter, 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. (I don’t see much of this shift in 2019.)

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 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.

The effect of the various dates in 2019 is to spread spring break weeks out, yielding not a whole lot of good times to visit between President’s day and the week after Easter.

ACTUAL 2019 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.

(For how the database is built, see this.)

Weekends are in black, except Easter, in red. Mardi Gras and President’s Day are also in red.

Once I revise my 2019 crowd calendar, it will show the following:

  • The week beginning February 9, 2019 will be crowded at the end as long weekends for Presidents Day begin Thursday February 14. Overall I give it a 5/moderate-minus rating–better earlier, worse later
  • Presidents Day week, the week beginning 2/16, has high crowds through Tuesday and pretty high crowds the rest of the week. Overall it gets a crowd ranking of 8/high-minus, worse earlier in the week and a little better later
  • The weeks beginning 2/23 has hardly any kids off and gets a ranking of 4 (low plus)
  • The week beginning March 2 has more kids on break than in recent years, and, Josh’s data shows, has become increasingly crowded.  I am shifting its ranking to 6/moderate
  • The week beginning March 9 both has a ton of kids on break (thanks, Texas and Ontario!) and is also attractive to snowbirds. It gets a 9/high crowd rating.
  • The week beginning 3/16 has fewer kids on break than the weeks that surround it, but is still attractive to snowbirds. I’m giving it a rating of 7/moderate-plus, a little better than in my draft forecast
  • The week beginning 3/23 has the highest percentage of kids on break so far in March 2019, and gets a crowd rating of 10/higher
  • The week beginning 3/30/18 also has lots of kids on break in 2019 and gets a crowd rating of 9/high.
  • The week beginning April 6, 2019, looks great, with hardly any kids on break. I’m giving it a crowd rating of 4/low-plus. If I am wrong, it will be worse, but is unlikely to exceed the “moderate crowd” range
  • The week before Easter, beginning April 13, 2019, will have the highest crowds yet in 2019, at 11/highest
  • The week following Easter, beginning April 20, has even more kids on break than I’d initially forecast, so it gets a 9/high rating
  • Crowds should then be fine April 27 and following until Memorial Day weekend

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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June 24, 2018   20 Comments

Disney World Crowds: Christmas 2018 and New Year’s 2018/2019

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2018 TO EARLY JANUARY 2019

Disney World sees its highest crowds and prices of the year in the later third of December and the beginning of January, in the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

This is for a pretty basic reason: kids are out of school then.

However, not every school district has the same break schedule.

In 2018, as always, there’s more kids out the week between Christmas and New Year’s than before or after.

Because of the Tuesday Christmas, there’s not a lot of kids out the week before Christmas. However, waits will build that week even so compared to earlier in December, as folks not worried about school breaks come then to try to beat the crowds later in the month.

Crowds will be massive by December 22, 2018, and will be at their worst between 12/23/2018 and 1/1/2019.

As in 2018, the week after New Years in 2019 has many kids on break, so I expect Disney World to be heavily crowded through January 6, 2019.

SCHOOL BREAKS AND DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

Most years, there two typical sorts of breaks:

  • Long breakers–districts that take at least 2 full weeks (and three weekends) off
  • Short breakers–districts that take off as close to only December 25 to January 1 as they can

As a result, the period Christmas-New Years is always mobbed at Disney World, as everyone is out of school then, but the periods before and after vary from year to year depending on what day of the week Christmas falls.

In 2018, the Tuesday Christmas put long-break districts in the position having to pick when to schedule their second week–before Christmas weekend, or after New Years. Enough put it after New Year’s that I expect to see heavy crowds that week.

My review of school breaks (explained more here), along with co-author Josh’s work on easyWDW.com. on waits, has not led to any material changes in my December 2018 or early January 2019 crowd forecasts. However in a minor change, I’d now expect the week beginning 12/1 to be a 3, not a 4, and the week beginning 12/8 to be a 4, and not a 3.

As always this time of year, it is critical through December 21 to visit the right park on the right day, and this will be especially true the week beginning 12/15. Pick the right days to be in each park, and you will see moderate-minus crowds; pick the wrong days, and you will see high crowds.

ACTUAL 2018-2019 CHRISTMAS SEASON SCHOOL BREAKS

The chart above illuminates how 2018/2o19 holiday breaks work.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including more than 270 of the largest relevant US public school districts with almost a third–more than 15 million–of total US school kids included.

The holidays are red, the weekends black, and weekdays blue.

You can see that breaks begin Friday the 14th. More kids go on break beginning the 19th, and by the 22nd everyone is on break.

Pretty much everybody stays out of school through January 1, 2019, and while many go back to school January 2 or 3rd, more than 50% of US schoolkids remain on break through January 6, 2019.

Over the period, I have crowds the weeks beginning 11/24, 12/1, and 12/8 in the low range. Crowds the week beginning 12/15 I have as moderate–if you are careful picking your days (or use my itinerary) you will see moderate-minus crowds, and if you pick bad days, you’ll see high crowds.

Disney World crowds will peak between Christmas and New Years. I have the week beginning 12/22 as having the highest crowds of the year, and the week beginning 12/29 as having high crowds–worse earlier in the week, a little better later in the week.

 

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June 19, 2018   No Comments

“Fall Breaks” and Autumn 2018 Crowds at Walt Disney World

FALL BREAK CROWDS IN 2018 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

One of the things you’ll see now and then on the web is the claim that “fall breaks from school create big crowds at Walt Disney World.”

“Fall breaks” are multi-day school holidays before Thanksgiving, and, if material, would have an effect on Disney World—because Disney World is most crowded when it’s easy for kids to go.

If you check the facts, though, you’ll find that fall breaks are both uncommon and scattered across October and early November—they don’t much matter other than Jersey Week and two October weeks, the one includes  Columbus Day and the one the week after.

You are much more likely to run into trouble in the fall by choosing to go to a park on a bad day—

The effect of picking bad park days can be quite profound, and is why you’ll see some people report that “October is the new July,” while other people have easy and delightful visits in October.

But all that being said, there are in fact better and worse weeks in the fall.

See the chart, which shows the weighted percent of US school kids in my database with a three-day weekend or longer break in 2018 in later September, in October and in November before Thanksgiving week. (For how it’s built out of ~276 school districts and 15.3 million kids, see this.)

In it, weekends are in black, and Columbus Day and the day Veteran’s Day is celebrated are in red. Everything else is blue.

The first conclusion you can draw is that the only time when a lot of kids have full-week fall breaks is the week that includes Columbus Day–the week beginning 10/6 in 2018. The much-lower midweek bars (especially on Wednesdays) the other weeks indicate how few kids have full week breaks in other weeks.

The second conclusion is that many kids have long three, four and even five day weekends pretty much every weekend from just before Columbus Day to just after Veterans Day. These long weekends do provide more convenient opportunities for families to go to Disney World, and do contribute to extra crowding, particularly to the week beginning 10/13 and the week beginning 11/3.

On the other hand, the week beginning 9/29 in is showing many fewer kids on long weekends than I had thought. I have it marked as 5/moderate-minus crowds, but in retrospect it looks more like a low crowd week, especially before its ending weekend.

I am comfortable with my other crowd forecasts for this period–although those who follow one of my itineraries will see much better crowds, and those making particularly bad park day choices will see worse ones.

Note: none of this is about Thanksgiving week, which is quite crowded and a lousy time to go!

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June 18, 2018   2 Comments

End of Summer 2018 Crowds at Walt Disney World

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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June 16, 2018   11 Comments

Picking Disney World Park Days

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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March 28, 2018   92 Comments