By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Category — p. News and Changes

Disney World Announces Additional Dog-Friendly Resorts

Late last week Walt Disney World announced a pilot program in which The Cabins at Fort Wilderness, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort would join the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (which has long allowed dogs) in being dog friendly.

Among the rules and regulations of this pilot program,

  • Pet-friendly rooms in the four pilot resorts will cost an additional $75 (Yacht Club) to $50 (the other three) per night
  • At most, you can have two dogs per room
  • Disney World will also “designate certain floors or sections of a hotel as dog-friendly, while the majority of areas will remain canine-free to accommodate Guests with allergies or other concerns.”

Here’s more Disney World guidance on the issue (click it, then click it again, to enlarge it):

There’s a number of other features of this pilot in a disboards post by the usually reliable rteetz here, and more in this post.

The backlash from those with allergies and/or fear of dogs has been quite understandable, especially with the short notice and two of the pilot resorts being among Disney World’s most popular.

Beyond this, the Disney community is enraged by only two things—

  • Things Disney does
  • Things Disney doesn’t do

And so of course there’s been even wider dismay beyond those whom it most materially affects.

Much of this backlash seems to be from people who don’t understand that Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort has been pet friendly for years without much in the way of issues; that the Universal resorts have been pet friendly for decades, and that this has caused so many problems that they’ve had to double the number of their pet-friendly hotels; and that the Four Seasons at Disney World is also pet-friendly—though perhaps it has a less demanding clientele than Port Orleans Riverside.

All of which is not to entirely diminish the concerns of those without allergies or phobias who still hate this pilot, but rather to note to those rabidly opposed to it that dogs in destination resorts, in Disney World resorts, and even in Disney World owned-and-operated resorts is hardly a new thing, and that tested practices for handling them have existed for decades.

Beyond this, there has been reasonable skepticism about the effectiveness of Disney World’s post-pet room cleaning, and real concern that in fact “the majority of areas will remain canine-free,” given the number of likely over-booking situations by lawyers bearing pugs. Moreover, ADA will continue to mean that service dogs can be in any room anywhere that is needed to accommodate their owners–as these dogs have for years now.

Given this reasonable skepticism and concern, those who judge their allergy or phobia issues to be material probably will want to change their resorts until there’s more experience–especially with room cleaning–to report on. The new pilot is already in effect—although very few will be in a position to take advantage of it immediately, so I don’t expect to see much in the way of added pups for a month or so.

Those who simply don’t like dogs have a somewhat more complex calculus, as dogs are everywhere at Disney World—service dogs, security dogs, and commonly specious “support/therapy” dogs. For multiple reasons, we will see more and more of each of these classes of dogs at Disney World…regardless of how this pilot goes.


Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

October 16, 2017   2 Comments

Disney World in 2019


Below are my thoughts on rides, hotels, crowds and such at Disney World in 2019.


The big news of 2019 will be the opening of the new Star Wars land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This land will add a planet to Disney World to join Avatar’s moon–a new, remote frontier planet–and include two new rides–a Millennium Falcon ride and a ride involving a battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

Expect also Star Wars dining, character interactions, and a new standard for immersiveness–even richer detail than in Pandora.

There’s no word on when exactly Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open, but the betting is late 2019. Bob Iger recently said it will open in 2019, but after the fiscal year was over, which puts it into October-December 2019.

Multiple other new rides are being developed or worked on at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Studios. The ones at Magic Kingdom and Epcot I don’t expect to see open in 2019.

However, the Hollywood Studios ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a new ride that will occupy the old Great Movie Ride space at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I do expect to be open by the end of 2019, and perhaps even as early as late 2018. I say this not because I have any private insight into or good sources about its opening dates, but rather because it makes sense to open this before Star Wars opens, to provide capacity.

It should be noted, however, that Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday is November 18, 2018, and that it “will be heavily celebrated across the company” according to recent remarks from CEO Bob Iger. So there’s that. But early to mid-2019 is probably more likely.


The massive redevelopment at Disney Springs should be complete by 2019.

The story at the Disney World resorts will be refurbs and new construction.

A new Star Wars hotel was announced in 2017.  It makes sense for this to open by the time the new land opens, but that would require Disney World–which can take six months to paint a fence–to act unusually quickly. I’ve seen forecasts for a 2021 opening, which seems more likely…

Pop Century will have completed its renovation by 2019, with queen beds and coffee makers being added. Shortly after Pop is done, I’m betting that Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms will get queen beds. This will chill the already cold hearts of Disney’s accountants, as these rooms are the highest priced among the values and there’s not many of them.  However, I can’t imagine a world where the premium prices at Art of Animation can be maintained if standard rooms there have full beds and no coffee makers, while Pop has queens and coffee.

These queens and coffee refurb may also extend into the other value resorts, All-Star Movies, Music and Sports.  There’s also the expectation that a table service venue will be added to the All-Stars, likely between Sports and Music.

Caribbean Beach is in a messy refurb that for the moment has led to weak temporary dining. No official re-opening of the new dining here has been announced, but clues in how Disney priced Caribbean Beach for 2018 make me suspect that permanent dining will open here in the second half of 2018, and letters are being shared that suggest August 2018 is the target date. Broader construction of the new Disney Vacation Club property in the former Barbados area will likely continue in 2019.

All three of these resorts will be eventually connected to a new gondola that will go to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This may be open in as early as Spring 2019–again, it makes sense for it to open with or before the Star War land.

The Coronado Springs building-by-building room refurb I expect to be completed in 2018. The new bed tower, dining, and other amenity additions here likely will open in 2019.

Andre at notes that Port Orleans French Quarter is expected to be in refurb in the first half of 2018, followed by a similar refurb at Port Orleans Riverside–first Alligator Bayou, and then Magnolia Bend–that will be complete in 2019. The scope is not yet clear, but a “light” redo akin to what’s happening in the Coronado Springs rooms seems likely. That said, no one expected what’s happening at the other tw0 traditional moderates in terms of demolition and new towers, restaurants, gondolas etc. before such was announced, so these Port Orleans refurbs could be more interesting…

Among the deluxes, it’s about time for all the Magic Kingdom resorts to go into refurb, with the betting on this that it will start with a floor-by-floor room refurb at the Wilderness Lodge, perhaps as soon as early 2018.

Between permanent closures and floor-by-floor or building-by-building closures for refurbs at resorts, a lot of capacity may be unavailable into mid-2019 compared to prior years.  Since Disney’s occupancy is already very high, as a result, rooms have been hard to find, so book as soon as you can–and ideally more than 180 days before.

Kelly B., who has been the travel agent partner of this site for years, can help you. Contact her at or 980-429-4499. You can book 2019 rooms 499 days before your check-in date. So for example, in mid-December 2017 you can book an arrival date at the beginning of May 2019. See this for how to do it.


Disney World uses a combination of complicated and changing room pricing, and, on top of that, deals, to keep its resort hotel occupancy very high. While deals have been technically available for most times of the year (you’ll find current Disney World deals here), the number and types of rooms available has gotten more and more restrictive. I expect this trend of less-available deals to be even more true in 2019 because of the openings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios of very attractive franchise (Toy Story in 2018 and Star Wars in 2019) and the capacity reductions noted above.

Deals often emerge after the best time to book your Disney World vacation. The simplest way to handle getting your deals is to make your initial booking through a travel agent, who will then–if a deal comes out for your dates–move heaven and earth to try to get you in to it.

I recommend Kelly B., who has been the travel agent partner of this site for years. To book your vacation through her, contact her at or 980-429-4499.


The major question for 2019 is the impact of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on the parks. Based on what Universal saw with Harry Potter, I expect the new land to be just slammed with crowds, with some spill-over effect into the rest of the Studios.  However, based on what happened at Universal I don’t necessarily see a broad increase in crowds in all the other parks from the Star Wars fans.

Presidents Day, February 18 in 2019, is late-ish, meaning more good January and early February dates, and fewer good late February dates. The week that includes Presidents Day will be bad as usual. (Tons of kids in the northeast have the whole week off.) Crowds for this week actually begin the Thursday before.

Mardi Gras in 2019 is March 5.  A few southern school districts have it off as a single or multi-day holiday. The impact of Mardi Gras-related visitors on Disney World is vastly overrated, so don’t worry about it. (People mix up the effects from it and the effects of President’s day breaks–five out of the last seven years have seen the week of Mardi Gras also influenced by crowds from President’s Day breaks.)

Easter in 2019 is almost as late as it can be, on April 21. As a result, later March, while not good, will be better than in years with an earlier Easter. Early April will have a good week or two, but there will be fewer good late April weeks.

Summer crowds are a bit up in the air.  They felt down in both 2017 and 2016. As I note here, I have theories about why, mostly about the effects of Disney’s strategic re-pricing of tickets to make the higher-demand periods like summer less attractive to some, and thus more comfortable for everyone else, particularly in the pricing of Florida resident annual passes with summer block-out dates. These new distinctions launched before the 2016 summer seasons, so the timing is right. But honestly I’m not sure what’s going on, so for the moment am still forecasting high summer crowds.

Thanksgiving, November 28, is as late as it can be in 2019, giving more good early November dates but fewer good late November ones.

Christmas is on a Wednesday in 2019.  That means almost all schools will begin their breaks on 12/21/19, with heavy crowds into the new year.

For more on 2019 crowds at Disney World, see this.


Expect higher than average ticket price increases in 2018 and 2019 as Disney World extracts value from its Pandora, Toy Story, and Star Wars investments. There may even be two ticket price increases in 2019–one early in the year, and a second tied to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. We may also see in 2019 (or earlier) Disney shifting to different prices for multi-day tickets, with prices varying depending on when they are used.

Tickets bought in 2018 will have their prices honored until the end of 2019, so long as you don’t make any changes (like adding or subtracting a day, or adding or subtracting a hopper, or changing elements of a package of which they are a part) to them.

2019 resort prices will be announced in the summer of 2019, and should not change again after then.


These drafts will all be updated in the summer of 2018:

Disney World 2019 Crowd Calendar

Disney World 2019 Price Seasons

2019 Disney World Week Rankings

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

October 15, 2017   2 Comments

How the Disney World Week Rankings are Built

I rank the weeks of the year for first time visitors to Disney World who might not be able to ever return to Disney World on this site—the 2017 Disney World week rankings are here, 2018 Disney World week rankings here, and draft 2019 Disney World week rankings are here.


(These same rankings also inform the guidebook I co-author with Josh of, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit.)

Here’s an example, for 2018:

These rankings are meant to guide first timers who can never return towards better weeks, and away from bad weeks. They incorporate crowds and prices, as you might expect. But because they are meant for people who might be able to make only one visit, they also particularly downgrade the weeks of January and early February when rides are more commonly closed for refurb, and also view skeptically the weeks when the hurricane season is at its peak.

Both of these periods contain good weeks for returning visitors who might care less about these risks. So for this reason, I both include the crowd and price data in the chart, and also mark in green at the far right edge of the chart weeks that are good for returning visitors.

That way returning visitors can use the chart to pick their weeks, too—or they can simply focus on my crowd forecasts and price information. Disney World crowd forecasts for 2017 are here, 2018 here, and draft crowd forecasts for 2019 are here. Disney World resort pricing for 2017 is here, for 2018 is here, and draft price forecasts for 2019 are here.

Besides deprecating the ride closure and peak of the hurricane seasons, I also promote the lower-crowd part of the Christmas season, because it is such a magical time at Disney World.

So with that as the background, here’s the technical approach I take to ranking the weeks of the year for first time visitors.


First, I take the ride closure season weeks, and give them the lowest rankings of the year (because if you can only come once, why come at a time when some great rides predictably will be closed?)

In every grouping, including these weeks, higher crowd weeks get the worst ranking, and within equivalent crowd rankings, higher prices break the ties. This involves a bit of judgment, as the deluxes work to a different price seasons than the other resorts from July into the fall, and the moderates don’t show as much price variation over the year as the other price classes do. So if you are committed to a certain resort type, note also the price levels of your resort type among these weeks.

Next to be ranked are all the remaining higher crowd weeks, with the worst rankings going to the highest crowds, and ties sorted by prices.

Next to be ranked is the remaining weeks in the peak of the hurricane season. I have taken a lot of grief over the years for deprecating these weeks, as, like the January and early February weeks, they include a number of lower crowd and lower price dates:

After the past two years, however, I expect people to hold off a bit on the “hurricanes never affect Disney World” claim…

This leaves a group of moderate and lower crowd weeks of various prices that are in neither the ride closure season nor the peak of the hurricane season. The moderate crowd weeks get ranked by crowds the prices, in the usual fashion.

Then the remaining low crowd weeks get ranked the same way, with the expectation that the Christmas season low crowd weeks get privileged rankings. This set of weeks become my “Recommended Weeks”—usually 13 to 15 a year. (The number has narrowed over time as October has gotten more crowded; in any given year, an early Thanksgiving might add a fourth December week, and an early Easter might add an extra April week.)

The rankings are fundamentally based on crowd forecasts and actual or forecast prices.

The crowd forecasts are based on my actual experience—I’m in the parks 30-60 days a year over six to ten visits.

For example, in 2017:

This experience is supplemented by extensive analysis of school breaks—here’s an example from my analysis of spring breaks in 2018:

The prices are based on actuals for 2017 and 2018, and on forecasts based on recent Disney practice for 2019. I’ll be revising the 2019 rankings as necessary after the actual 2019 prices come out, likely in the summer of 2018, and based on a full analysis of 2018-2019 school year breaks, also in the summer of 2018 (too many districts don’t publish their calendars for the upcoming school year until May or June for me to do this earlier).

So that’s how the week rankings are built!

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

October 9, 2017   3 Comments

Why The Hotels Aren’t Crowd Calendars

Every year around this time I get comments from people trying to book one of my recommended December weeks that say something like “all the Disney World hotels are booked, so how can these be lower-crowd weeks?”

The short answer I always give is that this happens every year.

Disney World hotel occupancy is not a crowd calendar. These hotels are almost full almost all of the time, in high crowd periods or low. For three years now, occupancy has been above 85 percent, and for the last seven quarters it’s averaged 89 percent. For an average room, that equates to about two nights free every three weeks.

Rooms have been even harder to find in 2017.

  • First, about 3 percent of capacity permanently disappeared in 2017, with demolition of rooms at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, and conversion of formerly eight-person areas at the Wilderness Lodge to four-person areas in Copper Creek.
  • Second, the ongoing room refurbs at Pop Century and Coronado Springs have taken another 1.5% to 3% of rooms out of capacity, depending on how many buildings are closed at a time for refurb

This may not sound like a lot–but it’s about half of the previous excess capacity.  So a room that used to be unused two nights out of every three weeks now might now be unused two nights out of every six weeks…

You can tell from Disney’s pricing patterns that the most popular nights are Fridays and Saturdays, and the least popular Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  So vacations that include weekend nights–as almost all do–are even harder to book.

Moreover, I am told–I can’t independently confirm this–that Disney is booking “orphan” room nights differently.

Say a room is booked through a Saturday, then available the next five nights Sunday to Thursday, and then booked again beginning the Friday after. Before this purported change, a guest who wanted to book this room Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday would have no problem, even though it would leave “orphan,” hard-to-book single nights on Sunday and Thursday.

Word is that this no longer works so well, as Disney’s systems prefer in this case guests looking for a Sunday-Tuesday or Tuesday-Thursday stay, leaving a more bookable two-night block before or after.

So guests looking for longer stays will run into the problem of all the weekend nights being booked up, and guests looking for shorter stays will have easier or harder times depending on how many orphan nights their preferred dates will yield.  On shorter stays, shifting your check-in day just a day can help. On longer stays, dividing them into two or even three shorter stays can help.

The best approach, though, is to book well in advance. Historically, people have most commonly booked their Disney World vacations three months ahead.  The more ahead of this you can book your rooms, the better off you will be.  More than 180 days before is the magic number…but even if it’s closer than that, as soon as possible is better than later!

Another way to ease the burden is to use a travel agent, who likely will have both more patience and more ideas for finding you a room. This site has partnered for years with Kelly, who you can reach at or 980-429-4499.

Quarter to quarter, Disney’s recent average occupancy* has been between 85 and 90% for a while (the red line is 85%):

On a four-quarter trailing moving average basis (which cleans out the effects of seasonality), it’s been around 90% for seven quarters in a row (red line is 90% occupancy):

The difference between 85% and 95% occupancy is about 2,540 more rooms filled per night—or, at an average of 3 people per room, about 8,000 more people.

Eight thousand more people divided among four theme parks, two water parks, Universal, Sea World, Disney Springs, days off, etc. just don’t much matter to a set of theme parks that have a base average of more than 147,000 visitors a day anyway.

(This is the same reason that the cheering competitions, runDisney events, etc., don’t much matter to park crowding. Fifteen thousand cheerleaders or runners and family members may seem like a lot to you…but translate into less than 10 percent more people on property.)

Here’s the longer answer.


Crowds at Disney World don’t come from the Disney hotels, which are almost always close to full. They come from hotels outside the parks.

On an average day in 2016, there were 147,000 people in one of the four Disney World theme parks. (Math applied to this.) You can convert those into required hotel rooms by making assumptions about

  • People per room (e.g. 3) and
  • Rooms occupied by those not in a Disney theme park that day: people in a hotel room for a Disney World vacation but taking a day off from the four Disney theme parks and instead going to a water park, Disney Springs, Universal, taking a day at the pool, shopping, or skipping the parks on their arrival night)—I’ll use 25% as my assumption on this.

So divide the 147,000 people in the parks on an average day by three people per room and you get 49,000 required rooms; shift this by another 25% for the folk on a Disney-oriented vacation but not in a Disney park that day and you get 65,000 required rooms.

Disney World itself right now has “only” about 25,400 rooms available, and probably can’t hit much above 95% occupancy for any sustained period (at 95% occupancy rooms are booked 19 out of every 20 nights) except in the rarest of circumstances, because even with the new orphan night policy, there aren’t enough two and one-night stays to fill in the tiny gaps that exist between 95% and 100% occupancy.

At 90% occupancy Disney World can serve just 22,900 of the 65,000 needed rooms—just a little more than a third.

Occupancy at the Disney hotels doesn’t flex up and down much with crowds. Rather, Disney runs its price seasons and its deals to hit a fairly high level of average occupancy year round. Hotels fill up in the highest-crowd times, but they also fill up during the rest of the year too–including times when savvy Disney World visitors (the most likely to occupy a Disney space—especially DVC owners) know are great times to visit—like early December!!

In other words, the crowds don’t come from Disney World hotels. They just don’t flex enough. Rather, they come from off-property folk. So full Disney World hotels don’t necessarily mean high crowds. (They can mean that—it’s just that they don’t necessarily do so.)

Want a real crowd calendar?  See this.


*This is Disney’s domestic occupancy, so it does include the three Anaheim hotels, which make up about 10% of total rooms. Because it’s just 10%, I ignore them, except that I do substract them to get rooms available in Florida.

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

October 8, 2017   9 Comments

Disney World Deals for Early 2018 Released


Today, after some troubles with Disney’s IT system, three Disney World deals for early 2018 came out.


Kelly can book you into the best of these deals for your plans—she’s been the travel agent partner of this site for years. To book your vacation through her, contact her at or 980-429-4499. (If you’ve already booked with Kelly, she’s been busy this morning trying to get the best deal for you!)


The room rate deal covers most dates from January 1, 2018 through April 14. Discounts vary by resort and resort class, and are not available in all booking categories.

  • At the values, Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation are excluded. All-Star Movies is 10% off, and the others are 15% off.
  • At the moderates, Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter are 10% off, and the rest are 20% off.
  • At the deluxes, the Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Wilderness Lodge are 10% off, and the rest are 25% off.
  • At the DVC resorts, Bay Lake Tower, the Villas at the Grand Floridian, and Bungalows at the Polynesian are excluded. Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the BoardWalk Villas are 25% off. The other DVC resorts are 10% off.

Reports are that Disney Visa holders can call to get additional savings, but I haven’t been able to document the full extent of this yet.

This deal needs to be booked by January 2.

Disney’s page on this deal is here, and you can reach Kelly at or 980-429-4499.


The Play Stay and Dine package offers savings of of a combined room, ticket and dining plan package. It covers most arrival dates from January 1 through March 10 and needs to be booked by December 22.

Disney’s website hopes for savings of $300-$500 based on its examples, but as with the next deal, actual savings are hard to calculate without test-booking some reservations. The basic concept seems to be savings of 40-45% off the dining plan–quick service at the values, and regular at the other resort types–plus maybe a bit more at the deluxes. This can be the best deal for larger parties at the moderates in particular.

Excluded from this deal are

  • Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation
  • Fort Wilderness campsites
  • Bungalows at the Polynesians and Cabins at Copper Creek at the Wilderness Lodge

Disney’s page on this deal is here, and you can reach Kelly at or 980-429-4499.


The Family Magic Package deal covers most dates from January 1, 2018 through April 14. Discounts vary by resort and resort class, and are not available in all booking categories. The “example” discounts shown on Disney’s page on this deal exclude the highest-priced dates.

Actual savings are very hard to calculate without running actual reservations through the system. The best way to choose is to try each option and pick the one with the best savings. You also want to compare your offer with the lowest-priced undiscounted rooms, as these offers recently have put you into higher-priced rooms. This is where a travel agent like Kelly is a godsend.

It looks like the following resorts/room types are excluded from the Family Magic Deal:

  • Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation
  • Fort Wilderness campsites
  • Bungalows at the Polynesians and Cabins at Copper Creek at the Wilderness Lodge

This deal needs to be booked by January 2.

Disney’s page on this deal is here, and you can reach Kelly at or 980-429-4499.

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

October 3, 2017   2 Comments

Disney’s Armed Forces Salute Deal for 2018 Released

As Steve announced on, the 2018 Disney Armed Forces Salute became available Thursday.

  • The salute is valid from January 1, 2018 through December 19, 2018. The room part of the deal is blocked out 3/25-4/5/18
  • As in 2017, it includes not just deeply discounted 4 day tickets, as it has the past few years, but also deeply discounted 5 day tickets. Unless your kids are younger than 5, the 5 day option is the one to choose, as it permits two days in the Magic Kingdom and a day each in the other three parks.
  • Also available again as part of the 2018 salute are room discounts of approximately 30%  to 40% off .
  • Note that the two deals are not linked–you can get the ticket deal, the room rate deal, or both

Some of the most popular room types (e.g. Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation) may be excluded, and availability elsewhere is very limited (more rooms may be added).

I’ll publish more details I understand them, but frankly the best starting point for understanding the deal is Steve’s page here.

The ticket deal is available only directly from various base sources. But Kelly can book the room rate deal for eligible military families. Contact her at or 980-429-4499.

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 30, 2017   No Comments