This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
Are you planning a vacation to Disney World? Wouldn’t it be cool to just pick up and go right now? In my mind, I’m there already with nothing to do to but have fun. Unfortunately, a reality check reminds me that we all have jobs, many need to consider school schedules, and finances and budgets need to be in order. Given all of these considerations, how can you possibly make an informed decision about the best time for your Disney World trip?
Well, today is your lucky day because this article focuses on TouringPlans.com’s Disney World Crowd Calendar, a powerful tool designed to help you make a decision about when to go so that you spend the least amount of time in line. Plus, see a handy summary of how specific holidays and Disney World special events affect how much time you’ll be in line.
Deciding When to Go: First Considerations
First and foremost, as with any trip, there are two basic factors that are crucial to deciding when to go to Disney World and that provide the context for using the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar. These are: (1) when you can afford to go and (2) when your schedule allows you to go.
In terms of when you can afford to go, maybe your goal is to save up first, or you are expecting a work bonus to put toward vacation, or your budget will be a bit more flexible once that car loan is paid off. As for schedule, you likely need to work around school vacations, a project at work, or family obligations.
Another potential factor is Disney World’s schedule. Is there a special event or time of year you would like to visit? Is it a must-do or just a bonus if it lines up with your other best times for vacation? Also keep in mind that peak crowds bring peak prices at Disney World resorts.
Considering these factors is bound to narrow down the time when you will take your vacation, and this is when TouringPlans’ Crowd Calendar can become an integral part of deciding when to go. Matching up all of these factors—budget, schedule, and what you’d like to experience at Disney World—with the Crowd Calendar is an excellent way to pick the best week for your vacation.
Harnessing the Power of the Crowd Calendar
By using TouringPlans’ day-by-day Crowd Calendar, you can see what crowd levels will be like during any potential trip up to a year in advance. Here’s how it works: TouringPlans predicts crowd levels for every day of the year based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest crowds and 10 the highest. For each day, there is a level for the overall resort, plus one for each park (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
These crowd levels are based on years of attraction wait time data, with each crowd level associated with specific wait times for each attraction. See here for information on how TouringPlans defines a crowd; plus, you can view average peak wait times for each attraction in each park.
How can you use this information to decide on the time for your Disney World trip? TouringPlans.com subscribers can view crowd levels for every day up to a year in advance by clicking on the “Jump to Date” link on the Crowd Calendar page. For example, here’s a link to the Crowd Calendar for Monday, February 15. The page also shows park hours and times for shows such as parades and fireworks. From that date, you can click forward or backward to the surrounding days to see what crowds will be like for your entire trip.
Go ahead and look at crowd levels during spring break versus Thanksgiving week. What would it be like to go in May versus during July or August? Would it be less crowded to plan a trip around Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?
Once you’ve matched up potential dates with crowd level predictions, your decision about when to go may be obvious, especially if your main objective is simply to find the week with the lowest crowds. If there is a special event that happens to be occurring during your week, it’s a bonus. Or maybe a special event or holiday is driving the time of your vacation. In either case, read on to find out what to expect in terms of crowds for each event and holiday throughout the year. You can then use the Crowd Calendar to see daily crowd level ratings at these times.
Effect of Special Events and Holidays on Crowds
Are you planning to attend a certain Disney World event? Is an increase in crowd levels worth the opportunity to experience one of the yearly festivals or holiday parties? Maybe you want to find the least crowded time to visit during a busy seasonal event. Or maybe your goal is to completely avoid events or holidays that are expected to lead to a surge in crowds. Here’s a table that shows how special events and holidays affect attraction wait times throughout the year.
Special Events and Holidays at Disney World—Impact on Wait Times
|Holiday/Event||Date||Impact on Wait Times|
|New Year’s Eve||December 31||++++++|
|New Year’s Day||January 1||+++++|
|Martin Luther King Junior Day||Third Monday in January||+++|
|Walt Disney World Marathon||Weekend in early January|
|Superbowl Sunday||First Sunday in February|
|Valentine’s Day||February 14|
|President’s Day||Third Monday in February||++++|
|Princess Half Marathon||Mid-February|
|Mardi Gras||47 days before Easter (between February 3 & March 9)||+++|
|St. Patrick’s Day||March 17|
|Good Friday||Friday before Easter Sunday||++++|
|Easter||First Sunday after full moon and Equinox (between March 22 & April 25)||+++++|
|Easter Monday||Monday after Easter Sunday||+++++|
|Spring Break||School vacations in March & April||++++|
|Flower & Garden Festival||Early March to mid-May||+|
|Star Wars Half Marathon||Mid-April|
|Cinco de Mayo||May 5||++|
|Mother’s Day||Second Sunday in May|
|Memorial Day||Last Monday in May||+++|
|Father’s Day||Third Sunday in June|
|Gay Days||First week in June||+|
|Independence Day||July 4||+++++|
|Labor Day||First Monday in September||+|
|Night of Joy||Usually September low season|
|Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party||September to early November||++|
|Food & Wine Festival||Late September to mid-November||+|
|Wine & Dine Half Marathon||Usually early November|
|Columbus Day||Second Monday in October||+++|
|Jersey Week||First or second week of November||+++|
|Veterans Day||November 11||++|
|Thanksgiving Day||Fourth Thursday of November||++++|
|Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party||Mid-November to mid-December||++|
|Seasonal holiday events||Late November to late December|
|Christmas Eve||December 24||+++++|
|Christmas Day||December 25||+++++|
|Christmas Parade Day Taping at Magic Kingdom||Early December||+|
|Pop Warner Football Championship||Early December|
Final Decisions and Day-by-Day Planning with the Crowd Calendar
At this point, I hope you have enough information to at least start deciding on a time for your visit. And once you’ve done that, revisiting the Crowd Calendar’s park-by-park breakdown is an excellent way to determine the best park to visit on each day of your trip. In turn, it provides a framework for planning out advance dining and FastPass+ reservations. For questions to consider when using the Crowd Calendar to pick which park to visit each day, see here.
Other Crowd Calendar Resources for Your Visit
For those of you looking to indulge in even more information on how the Crowd Calendar works, we provide detailed historical Crowd Calendar data here.
An article by Fred Hazelton previews the 2016 Disney World Crowd Calendar by month and includes a fantastic graphic, reproduced here, showing how monthly crowds have evolved since 2010.
If you would like a visual of how different crowd levels actually look, Len Testa presents a series of videos showing walkthroughs of Magic Kingdom at specific crowd levels.