A common trend among Disney experts (specifically Disney bloggers) is Disney World crowd calendars.
Guests heading to Disney World are desperate to find the lowest crowds and best prices when they plan their trip to the parks. And they are hoping that the Disney World experts can guide them to those times when the parks are quiet, and the crowds are low.
And so various Disney experts will create their own crowd calendars to help guide you to the "best" time to visit.
But for several reasons I am not a fan of crowd calendars. And I don't recommend you plan a trip around one. Here I'll explain to you why, and what you should do instead.
A crowd calendar is a monthly, weekly, and often daily look at Disney World parks and crowd levels. You can find dozens of them online with predictions about crowd levels for any given time.
Typically they'll give you a crowd rating between 1-10, 1 being the least crowded and 10 being the busiest. Or you'll see a color coded system with green days being light crowds, yellow days being moderate crowds, and red days being the busiest days.
A good crowd calendar is created using a variety of factors that should include historic crowd levels, resort and ticket prices, special events at the parks, school calendars, local events, holidays, historic (or known) promotions being offered, and more.
This information will be compiled, and then crowd levels are estimated weighing these variants.
Crowd calendars are an educated guess, and they are not entirely accurate. While some creators of calendars are way better at analyzing and estimating crowds at the parks than others, there is no way to predict crowd levels with 100% accuracy.
This is especially true the last few years at Disney World. Changes in ticket pricing structures, new rides, new lands, new resorts, ever changing park hours, and more have made predicting crowds to be next to impossible.
No. I never recommend that anyone plan their trip solely around a crowd calendar. And there are several reasons why:
First, Disney changes their park hours frequently, and at the last minute. These changes can sometimes wildly change crowd levels. And if a crowd calendar is being updated weeks before your trip, that does not help families that have planned their trip around that calendar a year prior.
Additionally, Disney usually doesn't announce opening dates for new rides or restaurants until very close to that opening date. Typically they'll announce the season that an opening will happen, but an exact date will not be given until the project is nearing completion. And whenever any new ride, attraction, restaurant, etc is opened you can expect a surge in crowds.
Lastly, promotions over the last couple of years have been varied from years past. Typically you could predict when a promotion was going to be released based on previous years. Now promotions are added, extended, or changed to fill in some of those down times. Which is great if you are looking for a deal on a room, but not so great if you are hoping to use those promotions in order to find low crowds or off-season. By extending or adding even more promotions during previously "slow" periods, crowds during typically slow times are on the rise.
No matter how you feel about it personally, Disney really has done an excellent job in filling in the crowd gaps at the parks. Which makes it next to impossible to predict when the parks will be slow.
While the best crowd calendars will be updated frequently as these changes happen, this does not help the people who are planning their trips months or even years out. If you are planning a trip over a year in advance, and using a low crowd prediction to pick your dates, it would be extremely disappointing to arrive at the parks a year later to find peak crowd levels.
If you want the lowest crowds, there are some simple things you can do.
First, avoid any holidays. This includes any 3-day weekends, the Christmas season holidays, Easter, etc. Spring Break also tends to be busier at the parks. You can see a month to month look at the Disney parks here to get an idea of things that might impact crowds.
Summer used to be the peak season at the parks, but that is no longer the case. Fall and the holiday season tend to be some of the busiest days of the year, while summer is seeing more moderate crowds over the last few years.
In addition to holidays, weekends are always going to be busier than weekdays. Weekends you'll find more locals hitting the parks. You'll also see more families taking quick trips over the weekend. If you are able to plan your trip during the week you'll have a better chance of seeing lower crowds.
You'll also want to note that opening day of any event at Disney World is always going to be busier. This includes the first day of any Epcot festival, party at Magic Kingdom, new ride, or restaurant opening. Since Disney has such a large social media presence in bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers, opening day of anything at the parks will always be packed as these people will want to be the first to document it.
If you find your trip falling over opening day of any special event, it's important to note that typically that park alone will see the increase, and other parks wont see the increase.
Lastly, understand that crowds are simply a part of Disney. With 4 parks, 2 water parks, dozens of resorts, Disney Springs, golf courses, etc... there will always be thousands of people at Disney World at any given time.
While this might not be what you want to hear when planning your vacation, know that it doesn't have to ruin your trip. Just having a plan can help you navigate the parks even on the most crowded days.
You can find sample touring plans for all of the parks here. You can also find my tips for handling crowds at Disney World here. Lastly, utilize FastPass as best you can. You can get tips for getting the most out of FastPass here.
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See you at the parks,