May is here, which means it is monthly update time. We are quickly seeing crowd levels split between two categories: Before Galaxy’s Edge opens and after. May, June, July, and August look like they will see fairly light crowds while September, October, and November look busier. Hotel bookings are soft this summer as evidenced by the presence of Priceline deals for Disney Resort Hotels. However, this might also lead to operational cuts as the parks try to save money leading in to the new land at Hollywood Studios. As I write, I see that Hollywood Studios will offer “Extra” Extra Magic Hours in September starting at 6:00 am that includes access to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
This update includes some new modeling techniques that we used to generate forecasts. Our testing shows that these provide a small improvement to the previous models we used – so we are using them on this update.
Along with this monthly update comes our monthly reminder that there is still a lot that we don’t know about park conditions in late summer and fall once Galaxy’s Edge opens. Disney has nothing formalized for how it plans to handle crowds at the new land. We think a reservation system like the one being used at Disneyland makes sense but perhaps they will wait and see how that goes first. An announcement for the opening date of Rise of the Resistance is still pending which can also greatly affect our forecasts for crowd levels.
We expect to have complete school schedules for the 2019-2020 school year collected and analyzed for next month’s update. Watch for that in early June.
Updates to Crowd Levels
Here is a look at average crowd level changes by park as a result of May’s update:
|Magic Kingdom||Epcot||Hollywood Studios||Animal Kingdom|
Now let’s take a look month by month:
For the decades that we have tracked crowd levels at Disney Parks, the month of September has been the least crowded month of the year. That is still true, but in recent years the month of May has narrowed the gap. We find ourselves recommending May more and more these days, and when you consider all the factors it is not hard to see why. The weather is great, crowd levels are low to moderate, and park hours are long enough to accommodate even the most ambitious touring plan. Crowd levels in May are getting even a little sweeter thanks to this month’s update. Each park except for Magic Kingdom sees multiple days dropping more than two points on some days in May.
Crowd levels are down overall in June as a result of this update, especially at Epcot. Although not quite as appealing as May, early June looks like a good time to visit the parks. Most students are still in school and the park hours are generous for touring. You must battle the intensity of summer heat and thunderstorms however, which seem to roll in every day around 3:00 pm. Bring an umbrella. Note that despite the overall decrease, some days in June are getting an increase as a result of this month’s update but usually it is only a single point.
July is where we see the biggest drops on this update. Most days are seeing a drop of a point or two on the calendar. This is a result of soft hotel bookings in the summer as well as a “waiting for Galaxy’s Edge” effect. We are already seeing this effect at Disneyland Parks with lower than usual crowd levels in late April. We think that this July at Disney World may be the least crowded July that we’ve seen this decade. There is some evidence that families are more willing to take kids out of school to travel to the resort in recent years than in years past. Also, the summer heat is becoming more of a deterrent.
Early August crowds are looking very light on this update. We won’t see a crowd level hit higher than a ‘6’ until Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens up at the end of the month. Obviously this is where we expect the greatest “waiting for Galaxy’s Edge” effect. I see a lot of crowd level ‘1’s and ‘2’s in mid to late August before the new land opens and we have every reason to believe the forecasts are legit. It is an historically low time of year anyway but add in the anticipation of Galaxy’s Edge and you get really nice, light crowd levels.
For September on, it is hard to be super confident about crowd levels since there are still so many unknowns. Will Hollywood Studios announce a reservation system for Galaxy’s Edge like Disneyland Park? How will transportation and parking deal with the new land? When will Rise of the Resistance open? For these reasons we don’t see a lot of changes for September on this update. I think it is safe to say to we will see some light days in September, but not as light as usual.
October is somewhat of a mystery as well. In general, we are seeing a drop in crowd level on this update for October but that could easily change as we approach the fall and have more information about park conditions. Park hours might be expanded if hotel bookings pick up for October and that could impact crowd levels as well. We made some manual adjustments to some weekend dates in the fall that seemed too low. It may be that our models are smarter than we are but for now, expect weekends in the fall to be fairly crowded.
Some crowd levels are dropping at Magic Kingdom in November which puts them in line with the other parks. Again, we will know a lot more about what November will look like once we see the initial rush for Galaxy’s Edge and we get more details about Rise of the Resistance. If you have a trip planned for November be aware that crowd levels may change. If you are following a touring plan that will help greatly since the crowd level won’t impact the plan much. A touring plan is your best defense against any crowd level.
Some lower crowd levels are showing up in December as a result of this update as well. Magic Kingdom crowds will fluctuate greatly from day to day depending on the schedule for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Days with a party are shorter and lighter during the day while days without a party see much larger crowds as people enjoy the longer park hours.
January 2020 and Beyond
We spent most of our energy on the last few updates analyzing forecasts for summer and fall 2019. Now we have updates ready for 2020 after a complete analysis of winter 2019. Several dates are getting an increase of two points or more, especially between Presidents Day and Easter and especially at Hollywood Studios. These dates are still relatively far into the future so we will likely see several more updates as we approach those months and get more details about what the parks will look like.
Got any questions for the stats gurus? Let us know in the comments.