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.



Meet me and Josh Saturday April 28 at Epcot! Details here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — Disney World Crowds

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.

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 always in proportion to demand, so crowds can be high even during low times of the year.

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 close 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 irs evening events on a different day, without having spent the earlier part of that day at MK expect 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.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

March 28, 2018   12 Comments

Disney World Crowds in 2019

2019 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The chart lower on the page shows my draft forecasts for 2019 crowds by week at Walt Disney World. 

I’ll revise these 2019 Disney World crowd forecasts in the summer of 2018, when the full set of school schedules is out.  The week I am most concerned to get full school break data on is that beginning 4/6/19, which looks good at the moment but may change as more data comes in.

The other point some would argue I’ve not sufficiently built in to this calendar is the impact of the opening of the new Star Wars land Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019.

There’s no formal opening date for this land — “late 2019” is the rumor. I expect it to unfold much like Harry Potter did at Universal–with crushing crowds in the actual land, but not a huge spillover effect on the other parks–or even the rest of Hollywood Studios. If I’m wrong, expect to see an increase of a point or two in the crowd levels after it opens. [Read more →]

September 18, 2017   20 Comments

Disney World Summer Crowds in 2018

Every year I analyze summer break schedules for the upcoming school year, compare them to what I’d expected, and then don’t change my crowd forecasts for the upcoming summer, because breaks turned out about the way I thought they would, and nothing else is new.

Well, for 2018 breaks did turn out the way I thought they would–but something new emerged in the summer of 2016 that seems to be happening again in the summer of 2017. I thought long and hard about this new stuff, and about changing my crowd forecast for 2018…before deciding to leave the crowd forecast the same.

Here’s the story.

DISNEY WORLD 2018 SUMMER CROWDS: THE PRINCIPLES

Walt Disney World summer crowds historically have been governed by two factors:

  • Public school summer break calendars, which have start and end dates more varied than you’d think
  • The beginning of the peak of the hurricane season, in mid-August

Over the past summer and a half, however, it seems other factors have come into play.

Summer stand-by waits in all of 2016 and so far in 2017 (I write this in mid-July) have been lower–sometimes substantially lower–than we’ve been used to. While there’s no evidence from Disney that attendance is substantially down (in April-June 2016, Disney World attendance compared to 2015 “was down 4% …with most of that decline due to the adverse impact of the shift in the Easter holiday period“; in July-September 2016 compared to 2015 , there were “increases in attendance…on a comparable fiscal period basis“), the feel of the parks in the summer–especially Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom outside of Pandora–is much more comfortable than in years past.

I can’t explain the changed experience.  I have theories, mostly about the effects of Disney’s strategic re-pricing of tickets to make the higher-demand periods like summer less attractive, particularly in the pricing of one day tickets and in Florida resident annual passes with summer block-out dates–distinctions that launched between the 2015 and 2016 summer seasons, so the timing is right.

But this is just speculation, and does not much account for other things we’ve observed in the parks this summer–lower numbers of people in the parks and more easily available FastPass+. My co-author Josh has written on all three points multiple times this summer on easyWDW.com–see this for an example.

So to make a long story short, I don’t know what is going on, nor why it is going on.  Because I don’t, I don’t know if it will happen again next summer.  So I’m not going to re-forecast 2018 summer crowds as “moderate” rather than “high.”  But I also would not argue with someone else who in fact did make such a forecast change…

So if you go in the summer of 2018, you might have a much better crowd and wait experience than  I am predicting.  You will, however, still be in Florida in the 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 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–although in 2017 the beginning of June–before blockout dates kicked in, and right after Pandora opened–was the busiest part of the month.

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 14, 2017   2 Comments

Disney World Spring Break Crowds in 2018

DISNEY WORLD SPRING BREAK CROWDS IN 2018

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
  • The demand of snow-belters for a break from winter weather, which peaks in March, 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 2018, on April 1, is early in its possible range. President’s Day 2018, is late, on February 19. As a result, my 2018 crowd calendar shows (mostly) bad March crowds but (mostly) good April crowds.

More specifically, 2018 Spring Break crowds at Walt Disney World will be

  • Bad Presidents Day Week
  • Fine the weeks beginning February 24th and March 3rd
  • Very bad the week beginning March 10th
  • Bad the week beginning March 17
  • Very bad the weeks beginning March 24 and March 31
  • Fine April 7 and later.

2018 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, 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 a couple of March 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 avoid taking their kids out of school the weeks after a long President’s Day break.

The effect of the various dates in 2018 is to compress most school spring breaks into just four weeks beginning March 10 and continuing until the end of the week beginning March 31.

ACTUAL 2018 SPRING BREAKS

The chart above illuminates this.

It’s based on data from a weighted sample including 280 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 the this. Weekends are in black, except Easter, in red. Holidays (Mardi Gras and President’s Day) are also in red. Click the image to enlarge it.)

My 2018 Disney World crowd calendar shows this:

  • The week beginning February 10, 2018 has a minor bump early from the small number of kids with Mardi Gras off, and a larger bump later as long weekends for Presidents Day begin Thursday February 15. Overall I give it a 5/moderate-minus rating–better earlier, worse later
  • Presidents Day week, the week beginning 2/17, 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 better later
  • The weeks beginning 2/24 and 3/3 have hardly any kids on break and get crowd ratings of 4 (low plus) for the week of the 24th and 3/low for the week of the 3rd
  • The week beginning March 10 both has a ton of kids on break (thanks, Texas!) and is also attractive to snowbirds. It gets a 10/higher crowd rating.
  • The week beginning 3/17 has fewer kids on break than the weeks that surround it, but is still attractive to snowbirds. I’m giving it a rating of 8/high-minus crowds.
  • The week beginning 3/24 is the week before Easter and will be a zoo, as it usually is, and gets a crowd rating of 11/highest.
  • The week after Easter (beginning 3/31/18) has even more kids on break in 2018 than the week before and also gets a crowd rating of 11/highest.
  • The week beginning April 7, 2018, will be much better than I had thought. I’m now giving it a crowd rating of 5/moderate-minus. If I am wrong–it happens–this week will be better than I am forecasting
  • The rest of April will be just fine.

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

July 10, 2017   17 Comments

End of Summer 2017 Crowds at Walt Disney World

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

For example, in 2017, 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 2017 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 more hundreds of school district websites and captures all the key vacation dates for the upcoming academic year. This year all of my nieces are distracted by babies, so I did half this data collection myself.

(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, Michigan.)

This year I collected data on 280 school districts with 15.3 million kids–about a third of the US school-age population. These include the 100 largest school districts in the U.S., plus 180 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 2017.

So you can see that

  • Kids don’t start going back to school in real numbers until Tuesday 8/8
  • More than a third are back in school by 8/17
  • About half  are back in school by Friday 8/25 and
  • Almost 70% are back in school before Labor Day (noted in red)

In 2017, pretty much all kids are back in school by the Friday 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 2017 crowd calendar, the week of 7/29 is rated 8/high-minus crowds, the week of 8/5 7/moderate-plus crowds, the week of 8/12 6/moderate crowds, the week of 8/19 4/low-plus crowds, and the week of 8/26 3/low crowds.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

July 9, 2017   No Comments

Disney World Crowds: Christmas 2017 and New Year’s 2017/2018

DISNEY WORLD CROWDS FROM LATER DECEMBER 2017 TO EARLY JANUARY 2018

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 2017, as always, there’s more kids out the week between Christmas and New Year’s than before or after.

Unlike 2016, because of the Monday Christmas (the first since 2006), there’s not a lot of kids out the week before Christmas. Crowds the first part of the week of December 16 will be fine, but will build at the end of the week and be massive by December 23, 2017.

The week after New Years in 2018 has many more kids on break than usual, so I expect it to be heavily crowded through January 8, 2017.

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 2017, a Monday 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.

Note that I had originally forecast the week beginning 12/16/2017 as “high crowds.” However, more long-break schools than I’d expected put their second week in January rather than December, so I am now calling that a moderate-plus crowd week–which is the combined effect of moderate-minus early in the week and high late in the week.

ACTUAL 2017-2018 CHRISTMAS SEASON SCHOOL BREAKS

The chart above illuminates this.

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.  Click the image enlarge it.

You can see that some breaks begin Saturday the 16th, with hardly any kids on break before then. More kids go on break beginning the 2oth, and by the 23rd everyone is on break.

Pretty much everybody stays out of school through January 1, 2018, and while many go back to school January 2 or 3rd, almost 40% of US schoolkids remain on break through January 7.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

May 29, 2017   4 Comments