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 — p. News and Changes

Picking Your Park Days During Extra Extra Magic Hours

On May 3 Walt Disney World announced massive changes to its Extra Magic Hours calendar parallel with the partial opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on August 29, 2019.

The basics are that

  • Two of Disney World’s parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, will have daily morning Extra Magic Hours (EMH) from 7a to 8a every morning beginning 8/29 and ending 11/2
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios—where the new land will be found—will have daily EMH from 6a to 9a beginning 9/1, also ending 11/2. (The first three days the new land is open—8/29, 8/30, and 8/31, the Studios will simply open at 6a—there will be no EMH of any sort at that park those three days)
  • Epcot will not have its EMH pattern of Tuesday evening and Thursday mornings changed.

(There’s more on EMH in the link above, including what hotels are eligible for them, etc.)

This turn of events has thrown many folks for a loop, and I am getting millions of questions related to the new dynamic this period, ranging from

  • What days will be best for what parks?
  • What should people who are either not eligible for EMH or not willing or able to get their gang up early enough to take advantage of them do?
  • How should folks think about hopping among the parks?

See for example my exchange with Jennifer:

In the material below, I have the beginnings of answer, particularly to the question of what Disney World park to target what days. The basics follow the universal crowd management principle of Walt Disney World, which is to figure out what most people are going to do, and then to do the opposite.

This requires some understanding (and some guesswork) as to the basics of crowd patterns and of what elements of theme park operating and offerings calendar will attract “most people,” and what elements will repel them, so let’s start there.


Disney World sees more attendance over the weekend, and then on Fridays and Mondays, than it does Tuesdays through Thursdays. The worst weekend during the Extra EMH period after Labor Day will be the weekend of Columbus Day—Friday October 11 through Monday October 14.

  • While Flight of Passage will probably remain the best ride in all of Walt Disney World until Galaxy’s Edge is fully complete with Rise of the Resistance, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has no distinct new draws or distinct operating features for the Extra EMH period. Crowds there on a particular day thus probably will vary as a function of how attractive the other three parks are that day.
  • Epcot will be the only park with EMH that varies by day during this period. So it will have a bit of an extra draw from them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Its later hours on Fridays and Saturdays will also be a bit of an incremental draw; Food & Wine  will be a draw throughout the period, but especially on weekends and evenings; and the end of IllumiNations on 9/30 and introduction of the new Epcot temporary evening show Epcot Forever on 10/1 will draw folks there every evening—either for a last visit with IllumiNations or to see the new show.
  • Early 6p closes at Magic Kingdom three or four nights a week for the Halloween Party (or other reasons) will repel folks those days. On the other hand, on days when it is open late and offers its full evening program, it will have distinctive draws. This will have major spill-over effects on the other parks, as the folks repelled by the early close will go to one of them, and the folks attracted by late closes will not be going to them.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be worst on weekends, and best on midweek days when Magic Kingdom is open late and closes early the days before and after—typically Wednesdays.

Figuring out what all this means your specific week will be tricky (you can use the comment form below to simply ask) as there are very few “typical” weeks this period. But the basics are to look at the Magic Kingdom operating hours  your dates, and note what days it is open late and what days early. Use that to pattern your weekday visits, and avoid Hollywood Studios and Epcot (and maybe all the parks) over the weekend!

To give you an example of this, I’ve done it for the nine day period beginning Saturday October 5th through Sunday October 13.

The first thing I did was mark up what I thought operating hours would be. For Hollywood Studios and Epcot this was straightforward, and it was also straightforward for Magic Kingdom early close days. For Magic Kingdom closing times on nights it was open late, and for Animal Kingdom hours, I used the same “week before Columbus Day” hours from last year.

(You can find those hours for your week in 2018 by putting “Next Week (September 29 through October 7, 2018) at Walt Disney World” into the search bar near the top left of every page on this site, changing the dates to the Saturday and (week later) Sunday of your week.)

The result of this work is in the image above—you don’t need to go to this trouble, but should know opens and closes for the parks every day of your visit. Note how the graphic illuminates the Magic Kingdom hour variations…

Then I started thinking, following the basic principles outlined above. The answer I got for this week is as follows:

And the specific thoughts I went through for each day are below—note that I do not cover them in date order, as the order I present them shows more quickly some of the principles involved.


Thursday October 10th. Each of the four parks has morning Extra Magic Hours, none has them in the evening, and Magic Kingdom closes early for the Halloween Party while the other three parks have normal evening operations. No one is distinctively repelled by the EMH schedule itself, and some will be attracted to Epcot by its (relatively speaking) rare morning EMH offering. Many will be repelled by Magic Kingdom’s early closing, going to and crowding the other three parks, and probably relatively speaking crowding Epcot in particular, because of its morning EMH offer. So on this day Magic Kingdom is the best choice, and Epcot and HS probably the worst. AK will probably be OK but not as good as MK.

Wednesday October 9. Magic Kingdom closes early both the day before and the day after, but today Magic Kingdom is open late. Nothing about their calendars makes HS or AK particularly attractive today compared to other days this week. The absence of EMH at Epcot this morning (as will be true most mornings) will add to its attractiveness for folks not eligible for EMH who are sophisticated enough about Disney World to want to see Epcot on a day when rope drop is possible for them, although since this is possible six out of seven days each week, you can’t read too much into it. The late Magic Kingdom close means Magic Kingdom will be slammed, thus drawing crowds away from the other three parks. Today MK will be a bad choice, and HS on this mid-week day will be much better than is it on days MK closes early. Sophisticated locals who don’t have to get up too early the next morning will head to HS this evening knowing how much of a draw the late MK close will be, but even so, midweek days when MK is open late, between days on either side that it closes early, will probably be the best choices for HS. AK and Epcot will probably be good.

Sunday October 6. Weekends I expect to be slammed at HS, and also at Epcot. Weekends will be slammed at HS because crowds are higher over weekends, but operating hours there don’t change; because that’s the easiest time for locals to go; and also because folks on trips aimed specifically at Galaxy’s Edge will largely be in town at least over the weekends. Epcot will be slammed both because of Food & Wine and its new evening show, and also because of how easy it will be for those who balk at Hollywood Studio’s crowds—especially those with hoppers– to get to Epcot: walk, take the boat, or take the eye-candy Skyliner. Magic Kingdom’s early close today between late closes on Saturday and Monday will repel people from that park today, adding to the crowds at Epcot and HS, and perhaps at AK as well. MK will be the best choice, HS the worst, and Epcot may be almost as bad as HS. AK likely will be better than HS and Epcot, but not as good as say it will be on Wednesday.

Monday October 7. Magic Kingdom closes early the day before and the day after, but this day it is open late. Nothing about their calendars makes HS or AK particularly attractive today compared to other days this week. The late close means Magic Kingdom will be slammed, thus drawing crowds from the other three parks. Today MK will be a bad choice, and each of the other parks will be better than they are on days MK closes early. Since more folk will be in Disney World on a typical fall Monday than a typical fall Wednesday, HS won’t be as good as it will be on Wednesday, but it will be better than any other day this week.

Saturday October 5. Saturdays will be slammed at HS as they are the easiest days to visit for both locals and out-of-towners. Epcot will likely also be nasty, as it is an easy day for locals to see Food &Wine, has an extra hour of operations which will work as a bit of a draw, will have the draw of the new evening show (as it will every night this week), and will suffer from balkers from the Studios. MK will be open late on October 5 between two days that it closes early, and will reveal itself once more to be the most popular park in the world. AK may well be tolerable, simply because of the attractiveness of the other three parks today.

Saturday October 12. Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th will likely be the busiest days in October, as they mark the heaviest period of the Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving) holiday weekend. HS and Epcot will be ugly for the same reasons noted for October 5. MK will be relatively less intrinsically attractive than on October 5 because it will also offer its full evening hours and program the next day, Sunday October 13, but the higher overall level of attendance at Disney World this weekend compared to the weekend of the 5th suggests that the 12th will be a day to avoid MK as well. The absence of such a distinctive level of attractiveness at MK on Saturday suggest that AK will not be nearly as good as it will be on Saturday the 5th. So I can’t see any park as a good choice.

Tuesday October 8 will be much like Thursday October 10, except Epcot’s draw will be in the evening. MK again has an early close sandwiched between two late close days, so many will avoid it and head to the other three parks instead. Both Food & Wine and Epcot’s new fireworks show are easier to navigate on days when Epcot has evening EMH, so Epcot will be particularly attractive to those eligible for EMH. Nothing special about AK or HS will make today much better or worse at either than Thursday. So MK will be best, AK ok, and Epcot and HS worst.

Friday October 11th will start the build of crowds for the holiday weekend. MK closes early, so folks will avoid it and head to the other parks. Epcot will be popular in the evening with locals, and its extra hour of opening may make it attractive to some out-of-towners as well. MK will be good, AK may be OK, Epcot not so good, especially in the evening, and HS worst.

Sunday October 13 will be rough at all the parks thanks to the holiday weekend. There’s no special reason to go to or not go to any park today compared to say Saturday the 12th, except Epcot may be a tad less attractive today than Saturday with its shorter hours and the fact that it is a school night, which will keep some locals away in the evening. Folks comparing today to Monday the 14th (not shown in my image) will prefer MK today to MK tomorrow, because Monday the 14th is one of the rare Mondays when MK closes early. AK likely will be best today, and HS and MK likely worst.

OK, that’s it for the example week. Figure all this out for your dates and you will be set—or alternatively, just ping me in the comments form below!

Next, I’ll be thinking about what to do if you can’t, or won’t, arrive well before EMH starts!


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May 7, 2019   34 Comments

Massive Changes to EMH and Operating Hours 9/1 Through 11/2/2019


On May 3 Disney World announced a set of extraordinary changes to its Extra Magic Hours  program for the period from September 1, 2019 through November 2, 2019.

Extra Magic Hours are periods when only folk staying in eligible hotels can participate in the open attractions in a park. During normal times, they happen for each park typically twice per week, and the recent pattern has been as follows:

During September 1, 2019 through November 2, 2019, at three parks morning Extra Magic Hours will be daily, and will be earlier than has been common at this time of the year:

  • At Animal Kingdom they will be every day of the week, from 7a to 8a.
  • At Magic Kingdom, they will be every day of the week, from 7a to 8a.
  • At Hollywood Studios, they will be every day of the week, from 6a to 9a (which I sort of predicted here).
  • Epcot sees no changes to its traditional EMH patterns (at least so far), because Epcot is in fact the weak park that everyone has accused Hollywood Studios of being. The fact that it has escaped such criticism is purely a function of how much alcohol is readily available there.

Here’s how it shapes up graphically:

The effect of this is first to level out to an extent differential daily demand for the parks. For the uninformed, Extra Magic Hours serve as a cue (for those eligible for them) as to which park to go to that day. For the informed without park hoppers, EMH serve as cue as to which park to avoid that day. Having them be equally available removes these cues, and hence will have some effect in spreading crowds out among the parks.

Evening regular operating hours will remain as a powerful set of cues.

During this period, Magic Kingdom routinely closes at 6p three or four nights a week for the Halloween Party. This makes folks tend to avoid Magic Kingdom on days it closes early, and to flock there on days when it is open late. Imagine the effects on the Studios if the Studios were the only park with morning EMH on a day that Magic Kingdom closed early.

The extra EMH at both Magic Kingdom itself and Animal Kingdom will lessen the impact of their early closes on Hollywood Studios.

The three hours of EMH at the Studios every day are a bit of a leveling out of the fact that FastPass+ will not be “initially” available for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the only ride that will be available during the partial opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

But, as I have written elsewhere, these three hours are not remotely enough EMH capacity to make up for the absence of FastPass+ at Smugglers Run. Only around 5,000 people a day will be able to ride Smugglers Run during EMH, of the 60,000 to 90,000 or so folk who are eligible for EMH each day.


No one knows how many folks will show up in September and October.  I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t expect much impact from the partial opening of Galaxy’s Edge on the other three parks.  This conclusion is based on history, not guesswork, but even so it may well be wrong.

Imagine showing up at Hollywood Studios at 5.30a to discover that the line for Galaxy’s Edge is already three hours long.  Many will stick it out, but the presence of EMH at 7a at two other attractive parks creates alternative places for some to spend their mornings. Early morning crowding at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will be profoundly shaped by the degree of balking at Hollywood Studios–people showing up there, rejecting the wait, and going to their next best option.


During this period, Epcot and Hollywood Studios retain their traditional 9a opens to the general public.

However, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom during this period have their standard daily openings shifted from 9a to 8a. Daily 8a openings recently have been seen only during the worst of the holiday weeks.

These operating hours extensions will also increase the attractiveness of these two parks, particularly for those ineligible for or unwilling to get up for anyone’s EMH—an important cue especially on nights that Animal Kingdom closes at 8p or Magic Kingdom at 6p.

The net effect of both of these changes will be to further level out demand for the parks.


“Rope dropping” is a common strategy for avoiding waits. To rope drop, your group arrives at a park not offering morning Extra Magic Hours well before regular open, and get to and stays near the head of the line of folks who plan to come in.

This puts you ahead of most folk when the park opens, and if you pick your first rides well (and especially if you have FastPass+ for the most popular rides anyway), can save you time all day long.

Well, since there are no days with no morning EMH at three parks during this period, rope dropping will not work out that well, except at Epcot. Rope dropping will in particular not work at Hollywood Studios, where you can expect the park to be quite busy by 9a.

However, the reason rope drop works at all is that many people on vacation—especially, but not only, first timers who don’t know better–are unwilling or unable to get their gang moving early enough in the morning to make it to the park entrances well before 9a. Rope drop is not magic—it just takes advantage of human nature and cussedness.

Well, even fewer people are willing and able to get their posse moving well before 7a. So at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, so long as you have FastPass+ for the very most popular rides, arriving at say 7.30a for an 8a open should still work OK.

That being said, if you are eligible for EMH, at these two parks you should probably arrive at 6.30a and do EMH, and if you aren’t eligible for EMH, you also probably have FastPass+ access only at 30 days before arrival, so may not be able to get FastPass+ for the very most popular rides.

So the best answer during this period is to stay at an EMH-eligible hotel and arrive well before EMH starts. Every hotel on this page  is eligible for EMH—in addition, also eligible for EMH are the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek  and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

Or you can just go to Epcot. It’s easy to drink there.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can help you book an EMH-eligible hotel. Contact her using the form below:

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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May 4, 2019   15 Comments

New Disney World Summer Room Rate and Gift Card Deal


Disney World announced an offer this morning that over part of its dates involves both a room rate discount and a gift card. The overall offer is for May 28 through August 28, and needs to be booked by August 28.

Those who book this offer for arrivals May 28 to June 30, 2019, will receive both a room rate discount and a Disney Gift Card at check-in. Those whose arrival is after June 30 will get just a room rate discount.

Details on the offer are here.

The value of the Disney Gift Card will vary based on resort type:

  • Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per room per night
  • Disney Deluxe Resorts: $20 per room per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $15 per room per night
  • Disney Value Resorts: $10 per room per night

Room rate savings vary by resort:


Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can try to book you into this deal—subject to availability. Contact her using the form below.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Kelly will be tied up moving her already eligible clients into the deal this morning, so please be patient with her getting back to you today!

A couple of other current deals expire at later this week (on April 27) so more deals may come out soon! You’ll be able to find any new Disney World deals here after they come out.


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April 24, 2019   No Comments

New Disney World Summer Free Meal Deal


A new deal for summer stays in certain Disney World value and moderate resorts came out this morning. It needs to be booked by June 30, 2019, and includes stays with arrival dates “most nights” May 28 through August 21st.

The deal requires full rates be paid for rooms and tickets, and offers one quick-service meal per person per night booked. As I write this minimum room nights and ticket days are unclear. It looks like 4 nights and five ticket days, but sometimes these items are “examples,” not minimums.

I’m in a couple of board committee meetings at my day job this morning, but should have more clarity on these minimums this afternoon. Disney’s material on this offer is here.

Resorts excluded from this offer are at the values All-Star Movies and the Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, and at the moderates, Port Orleans French Quarter.

Savings depend on family size and ages. For a four person family with one kid younger than ten, the savings would be on the order of $55 to $75 per day. At the low end at the least expensive value resorts, that’s on the order of 30% off standard room prices for this example family. Younger families and/or smaller families and/or families staying at more expensive resorts will save less as a percentage of room rates.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can try to book you into this deal—subject to availability. Contact her using the form below.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY

Kelly will be tied up moving her already eligible clients into the deal this morning, so please be patient with her getting back to you today!

A couple of other current deals expire at later this week (on April 27) so more deals may come out soon! You’ll be able to find any new Disney World deals here after they come out.


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April 24, 2019   No Comments

The 2019 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival


Every year from late summer into mid-November Walt Disney World presents the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

In 2019, the Festival will run from August 29 through November 23–later than it has ever run before.

There are two components to the festival, one available to all Epcot visitors, and another made up of a bunch of events which have limited capacity and require reservations.

Neither has an extra ticket admission cost–you get to participate by virtue of your theme park ticket–but there are cash costs for the food, beer and wine, and for entry to some special shows and events.

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April 8, 2019   No Comments

The Best Hotels for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge


Especially after the complete opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’ Edge later this year—it will see a partial opening on August 29th—there’s the real potential for challenges in getting to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the theme park in which Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be found in Walt Disney World.

The main point I am concerned about is congestion on the roadways to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, yielding back-ups and delays for those who use their cars or the bus-based component of the Disney transportation system to get to that park.

There are two groups of hotels from which you can get to Galaxy’s Edge without being on a road—the Epcot resorts, from which you can walk, and the Skyliner resorts, from which you can take a gondola.

I am a little less ken on the Gondola resorts, for two reasons. First, the opening date for gondola operations has not yet been announced. I think it would be nuts for Galaxy’s Edge to partially open on August 29 without the gondolas operating—but Disney has surprised me before. Second, the best strategy for seeing Galaxy’s Edge without a wait is to arrive before everyone else, and it is not clear—and may not be for a while—how early in the morning the Skyliner will begin operations.

In contrast, walking from the Epcot resorts can be done now, and at any time of day or night. The Epcot resorts are substantially more expensive than the Gondola resorts (at least until Disney’s Riviera Resort opens), but staying in one of them is the best way to guarantee access to the front of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the time you intend to get to there, as all the variables are under your own control.


From the Epcot resorts you can walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios whenever you want, even in the middle of the night—which might be required.

The Epcot resorts are all within a mile’s walk of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, via a path on the side of the BoardWalk Villas that’s closest to the Swan and Dolphin.

On the map, I’ve drawn the shared part of the path in red, and then used individual other colors to highlight the paths from the main entrances of the resorts to this common path.

The shortest walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is from the BoardWalk Inn and BoardWalk Villas—with some Villas rooms twice as close to the Studios as the most distant Beach Club rooms. You’ll note on the map that the Swan, Dolphin, and Yacht Club have colored lines about the same length—indicating that they are about equal walks, and that while some Beach Club rooms will be almost as close as some Yacht Club rooms, in general Beach Club and Beach Club Villas guests will typically have the longest walks.

There are many other factors for choosing among these resorts, all detailed in the reviews you’ll find in the links, based on my 25+ stays in these hotels.

Those visiting during the partial opening period may find some difficulty in booking an Epcot resort, as these are popular this time of year because of Epcot’s fall Food & Wine Festival, and also see some major conventions in October. But at least as of today, you can find openings—the claims you will hear from some that “the Disney hotels filled as soon as Star Wars was announced” simply aren’t true. That said, while there is availability, rooms are still hard to find, especially for longer trips and trips that include Friday and Saturday nights.


Disney’s Skyliner gondola system, currently undergoing testing, will link Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and, after it opens at the end of the year, the much more expensive Disney’s Riviera resort, to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So from the Disney Skyliner resorts, once the Skyliner opens, you can take a gondola to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am more concerned about this option, as while it will be fine for guests returning from a late night visit, we don’t yet know how early in the morning it will being running.

All Skyliner resort guests except those at Caribbean Beach Resort will need to change gondolas at the Caribbean Beach station, so folks staying at Caribbean Beach will be in the best location for gondola access to Galaxy’s Edge. Standard rooms at Pop Century and Art of Animation are a bit cheaper, but there are many pros and cons to all three resorts, detailed in the reviews at the links above based on my 30 stays among them.

Note also that the Bonnet Creek resort area, a privately owned plot including hotels owned by third parties, is literally right next to Caribbean Beach.

As the crow flies, the closest rooms in the Bonnet Creek Resort Area* are just a third of a mile from the Caribbean Beach Skyliner station. But there is nothing like a path you can actually take, so the hike from these to the Caribbean Beach station is actually more like 2 miles, with no actual walking path —just grassy verges—for most of this distance. And that’s assuming that security will let you walk into the resort, which frankly is not known now. If such access is permitted, then the walk will get a bit better for this after Riviera station opens, as it will be a shorter walk.

*The Wyndham Resort, Wyndham Grand, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Note that the last two of these are both newly eligible for both Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+ at 60 days but also are the furthest from the Skyliner (regardless of route). The Extra Magic Hour access could be quite valuable for Galaxy’s Edge. At least for the time being, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t be offering FastPass+ access, but the FastPass+ at 60 days access is handy for many other rides.

The long time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can try to get you into an Epcot resort, a Skyliner resort—or any other Walt Disney World hotel! Contact her using the form below.

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March 24, 2019   13 Comments