So, you have decided to take a trip to the most magical place on earth—Walt Disney World. I have no doubt that you have a TON of questions when it comes to planning a Disney World vacation. Specifically around the topic of crowds!
- Do I go during a holiday season?
- Do I go when the kids are out of school?
- Do I go for spring break?
- Do I go during a time when Disney is offering deals such as free dining?
- Do I go during the least busiest time?
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss how to use Disney crowd calendars to better predict the crowd volume at all the WDW parks so that you can better enjoy your vacation.
Major Crowd Factors
There are a variety of factors that can cause the parks to be crowded, such as ticketed events, holidays, and summer or spring break. The crowds affect more than just increased park attendance, like FastPass +, restaurants, transportation, and more.
Nothing can ruin the magic faster then getting to ride 4 rides in 8 hours, only to then wait another hour for the bus with tired and crabby kids.
Crowd Calendar Resources
A great resource to start planning your vacation to Walt Disney World is with reliable a crowd calendar. There are several of them available, but here are a few that I have found to be useful in my trip planning.
- WDW Prep School creates a crowd calendar based on school schedules, Disney planned events, and historical crowd numbers to predict the crowds at the parks. This calendar gives an idea of how crowds run on average over each week of the month. The calendar, however, does not break the data down into parks. I use this calendar to get an overall feel of how crowded the area will be during my visit.
- Easy WDW takes this data a step further. The calendar provides a number to indicate expected crowds. As far as the ranking system goes, five is average; and anything below five is below average; anything above five is above average. This calendar suggests which parks to attend on any given date, which can be helpful if you’re currently planning your vacation and basing it around how full the parks are expected to be when you’re guesstimating your arrival date. The last calendar offers real-time data for crowds and even attraction wait times, which can be found at Touring Plans.
- Touring Plans does require a subscription, but they do offer advice on crowds without the subscription. Whenever in doubt, I go to the Disney discussion boards to ask others my Disney planning questions, as well.
Crowds during holiday seasons?
Let’s first discuss the winter season at Disney World.
Disney World in the Winter
There is no better way to add some magic to your holiday season than to spend Christmas at Disney.
Walt Disney World hosts a hard-ticketed event for Christmas known as Mickey’s-Very-Merry-Christmas Party, which takes place at the Magic Kingdom. This celebration includes Christmas decorations, holiday smells, holiday music and special holiday treats. There are complementary hot cocoa and yummy cookies around the park with exclusive appearances of rare characters in their holiday finest.
There are also special shows, parades, and fireworks. The party is hosted on specific days during November and December. The party is an additional cost above the normal Magic Kingdom ticket costs. For a regular ticket, the park closes at 7 pm, but with a special ticket, you can spend the evening celebrating the holidays; Disney style. The event officially starts at 7 pm, but guests can enter the park at as early as 4 pm, which I highly recommend.
The party is hosted on specific dates during the week. It starts typically the second week of November and continues through December 22. After the party ends, the holiday fireworks, castle show, and the Tomorrowland Christmas show continues without the additional costs, but the crowds are at their highest at the parks during this time of the year.
The high crowd volumes continue through New Years. Usually, the party is held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. November parties are usually the least crowded along with the first two weeks of December. Weekday parties are usually less crowded then the weekends with Tuesdays being the least crowded. Prices are also a good indicator of what to expect with the crowds. Party dates that cost less are usually less crowded.
Disney World in the Fall
Disney also celebrates Halloween with a hard-ticketed event called Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary Halloween party. This party is like the Christmas party. Tickets are sold for the special event at an additional cost.
The party is held on specific dates and the park closes early at 7 pm. The party also officially starts at 7 pm, but guests can enter the event as early as 4 pm. The party includes special Halloween decorations, music, and shows. There are special parades and fireworks, too. Guests are invited to dress up and trick-or-treat at various spots.
Just like the Christmas party, Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary Halloween party crowds can be predicted by the costs. Lower cost parties typical are less crowded. The events are held Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Weekday events are less crowded with Tuesday being the least crowded. The party is less crowded in September until mid-October compared to the end of October. Both parties are a must when traveling to Disney during a holiday.
November is a month that can begin with low crowds as Halloween ends. Then, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon increases the crowds, which lead into “Jersey Week” when the school districts are out for a Thursday and Friday.
The week of Thanksgiving also has large crowds. The Monday following Thanksgivings the crowds drop as you move into December.
Historically, during the first two weeks of October and December, the parks have relatively low crowds. The crowds begin to grow the closer you get to the holiday. Both parties are limited in tickets, so the crowds are not bad during the parties.
Because the parties are less crowded, you do have the opportunity to enjoy more rides, but with so much holiday inspired entertainment, your time is better spent enjoying the festivities. After Christmas, the parks stay busy with high crowds until after New Years.
New Years, Fourth of July, and Easter all bring in high crowds. February’s crowds are also affected by events hosted by Disney.
The first week and a half of February are usually low crowds. The second week brings crowds for the National Dance Team competition. Then, the third week usually brings an increase in crowds due to the National High School Cheerleading competition.
Other holidays get crowded too, as people try to add a little extra magic to their day. Any holiday that school would give extra days to the weekend increases the crowds above average for that time.
Disney has been known to host other random events, such as their 45th anniversary of Magic Kingdom celebration. At this event in the past, the lines for the Emporium went all the way down Main Street to the castle.
One year, Disney had a 24-hour event where the Magic Kingdom was staying open for 24-hours. The park was so crowded and miserable that many people just left and went back to their hotels.
Crowds when kids are out of school?
When you have children in school, there comes a time when every parent debates having their child ditch school for Disney or wait until a school break. The largest crowds are during times when the majority of schools are out for breaks like Christmas, spring break, Fall break and summer break.
The end of September and the week of Columbus Day have higher crowd volumes, as some schools begin Fall break while others have extended breaks for Columbus Day. Easter break is another high crowd time, too. On years where it is in March, it can be rated as high as a 9 or 10 out of 10 on the crowd calendar scales.
Walt Disney World has an attendance spike in November, usually the 2nd week, when the schools in New Jersey are out on a Thursday and Friday. As mentioned earlier, this has become known as “Jersey Week,” and while it doesn’t bring the Christmas level crowds, you can expect an increase in wait times.
The first three weeks of May have average crowds, but the weekend leading to Memorial Day will have high crowds. Summer break increases the crowds—usually the first two weeks of June have above average crowds. The parks begin to get more crowded after that and continue to remain crowded until mid-August when school starts. The week of the Fourth of July is usually the most crowded time during the summer.
Crowds during Spring break season?
Florida is a hotspot for Spring-breakers. Disney is no exception. Mid-March through April is a busy time, as many schools and colleges are off for spring break. With Florida’s tropical weather, many people migrate to Florida to indulge in some long needed sun. Spring break typically coincides with Easter break, which can increase the crowds.
Traveling during spring-break season will not only affect your trip while at the parks but also during your travel. During this period, flights to Florida are more expensive and more crowded. This increases the congestion in the airports, including transportation to and from the airport. The roads in Florida will also have more travelers.
Beware that stressful travels can damper the magical experience when visiting Walt Disney World.
The end of September through the Columbus holiday can see above average crowds most calendars place at around 6, but Spring break season brings crowd ratings between 8 and 10 out of 10.
The first week of March usually brings in Mardi Gras crowds, and the crowds continue to grow throughout March for spring break. In years where Easter is not in April, then usually the first two weeks of April have high crowds as you finish up Spring break.
Usually, the last two weeks of April have below average crowds.
Crowds during promotional seasons?
Traveling during a promotional period for Walt Disney saves time and money. Disney offers these promotional periods to encourage travel during their slow season. Slow seasons are when crowds tend to be at their lowest. Many families of course love to travel during these periods.
The deals Disney offers saves many visitors money. Typically, Disney offers promotions such as free dining plans and discounted room rates. The low prices and low crowds make for a very magical trip.
Crowds during off season or slower seasons?
Booking a trip during the off season or slower season with a promotional period is still a great way to enjoy Walt Disney World while avoiding crowds. After schools start and before the start of the Christmas holiday will ensure fewer people in the parks. January also typically has lower crowds.
May, which is my favorite non-holiday travel time, is another month when the crowds are usually lower. However, as you progress through May, the crowds get heavier as schools begin summer break.
After New Year’s, the crowds drop to low levels during the rest of January with the occasional increase around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The beginning three weeks of May leading up to the weekend before Memorial weekend also bring average crowds, as well.
The last two weeks of August through the third week of September are also low crowds. Another low crowd period is the week after Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of December. These periods are good times to book if you want to enjoy your vacation during low crowds.
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