Hurricane Irma Bounceback Effect May Be Increasing Wait Times At Disney World

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For the second year in a row a hurricane interrupted operations at Walt Disney World. Last year, Hurricane Matthew forced the closure of Disney Parks in early October, after which we saw a slight bump in attendance when guests returned. This year, the bounceback as guests return after Hurricane Irma may be more significant.

Crowds are up since Disney World re-opened after Hurricane Irma

In the 90 days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irma the Disney World Crowd Calendar correctly predicted the crowd level at Walt Disney World within 1 index point most days. Occasionally, the crowds would come in at a 2 point difference. Last week we saw a three-day stretch between Monday and Wednesday when the parks were two points higher than predicted each day. This could be an indicator that something is different. It may be that most visitors affected by Irma chose to rebook their vacations immediately after the storm passed.

Or, this may be a random fluctuation in crowd patterns. On Saturday (and Sunday) we noticed that the crowd levels were within the normal range for this time of year.

Regardless, we wanted to share what we have seen so far and let you know that we are monitoring the crowds daily and will announce if we decide to make any further adjustments to the crowd levels going forward.

Question: Were your travel plans affected by Hurricane Irma? 


Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

20 thoughts on “Hurricane Irma Bounceback Effect May Be Increasing Wait Times At Disney World

  • September 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I’m taking a group of 10 Oct 1-6. I created touring plans and optimized them about a month ago. Do you think changes would merit re-optimizing? I’m pretty happy with how things are now but wonder if any changes might affect the best routing.

    • September 25, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      I don’t work for this website or anything but I do use it. You should be able to click “evaluate instead of optimize. It won’t rearrange anything but will reflect any difference in wait time.

  • September 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Luckily, the affected dates were among the slowest of the year. So, even with massive rescheduling the residual change throughout the fall shouldn’t be too significant. Thanks for letting us know, though!

  • September 25, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Yes my plans were changed. We’re now going April 29-May 5

  • September 25, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    We were there before, during and after Irma. It was very slow after the storm. But, Friday before we left seemed busier at the hotel that night. I think you are right that people rescheduled. On a sad note for myself, we could not get thru to the bounceback offer line to book our Free dining for next year. I am assuming that this is due to so many people rescheduling their trips. So, no free dining for us next year.

  • September 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    We were scheduled to fly down on Sep 7 and stay through the 14th. Irma was scheduled to arrive right in the middle of that. We drove to Chicago to fly out the next morning and while we were there we made the decision to take Disney up on their hurricane policy. The kids handled it well and we took them to see Aladdin in Chicago to make up for it! 🙂 We have since rescheduled for Oct 23-28 and we are staying on property. Everything has worked out well including changing our flights and reservations without charge.

  • September 25, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    We were scheduled to be there that week and cancelled mainly because we live in SC and I was afraid we’d run out of gas and not be able to find any on the way down. We considered moving it back one week, but it didn’t work with my work scheduled. So, we ended up at Disneyland last minute (which we were told a lot of people did). We’ve rebooked for 1/27 – 2/3.

  • September 25, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    We were scheduled that week and, because of other commitments, rebooked in January. Disney (as well as Jetblue) were wonderful in exchanging everything for us.

  • September 25, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    We had planned a 9/11-16 trip, but pushed back two days to 9/14-19. We had originally planned on staying at Fort Wilderness (cue sad trombone). My patience-of-a-saint wife spent a combined 12 hours on hold before being able to speak with Guest Services, who after some considerable coordination was able to find room for us at Art of Animation despite the computer indicating there were no rooms available anywhere. Perhaps that speaks to the occupancy of the resorts post-Irma. As a report on the crowd levels at parks, Thursday 9/14 seemed very low (visited Epcot and MK). Friday 9/15 was about what I expected at AK (unless you happened to be at Pandora, which on a scale of 1-10 would have been a 42). The rest of our park days (9/17-19) were indeed more crowded than anticipated. One reason we decided to push our plans back a couple of days rather than weeks or months is because the Crowd Calendar predictions looked reasonable and we figured the actual crowds would be maybe +2 from predictions – not bad.

  • September 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    We were supposed to be flying from the uk on he Saturday before Hurricane Irma hit. Our flights were cancelled and we were offered flights the following Monday – that flight was also cancelled and we were offered flights on the Tuesday. As this was a planned holiday booked 18 months ago for 13 people we decided to go – we had to reschedule several things. The car hire was a nightmare as they have not refunded us and charged us again because we hadn’t picked the vehicle up within the requisite 48 hours of when we said we would pick it up it was a 15 seater so that wasn’t cheap! We desperately tried to cram 14 days of planned things into 11. We had a great time but it turned out to be really really expensive due to rescheduling things! However, we will be back – and we didn’t lose any property or worse, any lives like some families have due to the Hurricane.

  • September 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    We were planning to take our RV to the Fort the week of 9/10-9/16, but Irma changed our plans for us! Leaving Thursday and planning to arrive Monday 10/01 – 10/07. Missed out on awesome pass holder rates having to reschedule, and the crowd levels aren’t as low as our original dates, but that’s the gamble you take when you plan to come during hurricane season!

  • September 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Our trip was 9-13 through 9-20 to Disney World. We waited until Tuesday to make our decision. Called the airport and WDW and both were very positive that things were 100% operational! Amazing clean up effort, people! Our first two days were at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom…we walked on every single ride. Very low wait times. But Monday and Tuesday (18 and 19) Epcot and DHS felt much more crowded than predicted. We still followed our touring plan and hit everything we wanted to! Thank you!!!

  • September 25, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    I have waited 18 years to to to WDW. Spent a year on TP chat planning. I am from Oz so cancelled the day b4 we had to fly to MCO ( we were in Hawaii by this stage) and went to Disneyland instead. Great but I ha e been there twice already. My very expensive holiday was based around my WDW Dream. And looks like I will never get there now. Or if I do it will be years. So devastated.

    • September 26, 2017 at 7:52 am

      So sorry for you. I can even begin to imagine. I know it’s a lot easier for me in the states to reschedule that’s for sure than for you being on the other side of the world. I would definitely suggest for that kind of trip to not schedule during hurricane season. It’s like playing roulette.
      Have you ever been or thought about visiting the Asian Disney Parks. I hear they are incredibly unique and probably closer to you.

  • September 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Do you think it will effect week of oct 21-28? We are trying to decide if we should keep keep our current reservations that week or move our trip to a different less crowded time. Thanks!

    • September 26, 2017 at 7:49 am

      We are going at the same time – week of oct 21-28. There definitely has been an effect because all the crowd calendars for the different parks got bumped up a notch. I think disney is trying to compensate however because they have added more showtimes those dates and also extended park hours for during the midweek. It still on the moderate side though regarding crowd levels.

      • September 26, 2017 at 8:29 am

        We have 2 special needs kiddos so always always always plan our trips around the crowds…but this time we decided to try and do Halloween party etc and picked a week that wasn’t supposed to be crowded …now we have to decide, chance it and pray crowds aren’t bad but get to do Halloween and just deal with it or move our trip to less crowded winter months and not have all the holiday festivities. Ughh dang Irma! Lol

  • September 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

    The July type hours surely shows Disney is expecting it to be very busy. Open until 1am on a Wednesday in October!!

  • September 26, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    I can relate to those bummed out by the changes in plans. Unfortunately our trip was cut very short due to Irma as we were scheduled to be there Sept 3-11. We planned and saved for 2 years and chose that week to go due to low crowds/potential free dining (which definitely still makes sense for our family due to so many character meals) and were celebrating so many things between this month and next! Our 15 year anniversary, our son’s 2 year “gotcha” (adoption) day from China, and a couple of birthdays. We did get free dining but had to switch from Riverside to CBR to do so due to availability. Unfortunately we never even made it to the main pool or playground at CBR which we were pumped about.
    My husband and 3 kids went with some good friends (another couple and their 2 girls). It’s so hard when you dream and plan for so long. We drove from central IL leaving Sat the 2nd and arriving Sun afternoon the 3rd. We had an amazing Monday the 4th at Magic Kingdom. Tuesday as we tracked Irma we figured our trip would get cut short but weren’t sure how short. It was tough to enjoy the moment as we were trying to figure out logistics, etc. By Wed. after talking with some locals we decided it best to leave Thurs morning in order to get out of FL safely. Our trip back ended up being twice as long. Was tough to end up spending more time in the vehicle than on our vacation which we had taken 2 weeks off for. So hard to see dining reservations cancelled like Cinderella’s castle and ‘Ohana-2 places we had never been and were excited to have gotten reservations. Didn’t even make it to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
    I also struggle feeling guilty and selfish when I feel disappointed about the trip as I know so many lost homes, businesses and some lost their lives due to the storm.
    We have been told by Disney that it will be at least a month before we hear anything back about a refund. Also didn’t see anything when we were there about the bounceback offer. So at this point not really any closure yet.
    Thanks for just providing an avenue to vent! 🙂

  • September 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    The bounce back is real. We’re here now and the touring plans are totally out. At Animal kingdom today. Supposed to be a crowd level 2, way, way busier. We did flight of passage at rope drop and got out of that about 9:20. Navi river ride according to the plan should have been 6 min wait but was posted at 60! All other times for Safari, Kali, and Everest were way way out. Plan was unusable. Saw same at magic kingdom and Epcot.

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