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A Look Ahead – Analyzing Crowd Predictions For September 2015

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Labor Day always falls on the first Monday of September which this year is Monday, September 7, as late as it can be on the calendar. The Disney World Crowd Calendar predicts the week before Labor Day will have crowds as light as the week after and so we’ve received many requests to take a closer look. The low numbers seem too good to be true.

I think your calendar is using the early Labor Day from last year as a proxy for this year’s predictions. Better check your numbers because Labor Day is September 7 this year.

So…let’s take a look.

How do attraction wait times in early September compare to the rest of the year? [photo courtesy Tom Bricker]
How do attraction wait times in early September compare to the rest of the year? [photo courtesy Tom Bricker]

September is the Least Popular Month for Travel

First of all, let’s acknowledge that we may be splitting hairs here. September is the single best time of year to do Disney World if you want to avoid crowds. Period. If you dislike crowds and are considering a trip with the word ‘September’ in your itinerary, book it!

Are Crowds Different Before and After Labor Day?

Now, let’s examine the week before Labor Day and compare to the week after. To do that we need to shift some dates around. In 2014, Labor Day fell on September 1. Going back further it fell on September 2, 2013; September 3, 2012; September 5, 2011 and September 6, 2010. If we ignore the day that the holiday fell and just look at wait times relative to Labor Day then here’s what we see.

If we hold Labor Day constant, how do wait times compare relative to the holiday?
If we hold Labor Day constant, how do wait times compare relative to the holiday?

In the past, the week before Labor Day has slightly higher wait times than the week after. But wait time data from more recent years is less clear. In 2013, the wait times were about the same before and after Labor Day and last year they look like they were actually lower before the holiday. This helps explain why the Calendar predicts low numbers in early September this year but it is not the whole picture.

School Schedules and Wait Times

One key piece of information that drives the Calendar predictions is the percentage of schools in session. The more school districts in session the less likely that families will travel and the lower the wait times in the parks. A look at the school statistics for early September 2015 may complete the picture.

The main logic behind disbelief in the Calendar’s early September predictions was that school doesn’t start until after Labor Day. But it appears that many of the large school districts have chosen to start the week before. On Wednesday, September 2, 2015 school will be in session for 92% of school districts. This is significantly higher than the percentage in session the Wednesday before Labor Day in 2014 (78%).

Labor Day is late in 2015, does that mean wait times will be higher than usual in early September?
Labor Day is late in 2015, does that mean wait times will be higher than usual in early September?

So…what did we learn about the week before Labor Day? Two things. A hint of a developing trend where wait times are decreasing (as compared to the week after Labor Day) and; more school districts than normal will be in session. Both signs point to low crowd levels the week before Labor Day in 2015.

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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.

12 thoughts on “A Look Ahead – Analyzing Crowd Predictions For September 2015

  • It would be very helpful if you could post the % of districts in school by date throughout August!

    By the way – Articles like this are why I don’t hesitate to renew my TP subscription.

  • Great post, thanks. For many yrs we visited week b4 school opening, also few days during school week when my guys preschool. Our fave time to go, low crowds, weather hot but nice as long as you’re not out in it midday.

    Unfortunately, can’t do that any longer traveling with the grands, since my daughter in law works for the school system.

    Last year only time we could go was week after august 15. Yes, 8s and 9s. So used personal touring plan first time, and avoided the lines! So found out can still tour without hassles, but did take more planning, which I didn’t mind doing.

  • This analysis and article are much appreciated. Thanks, Fred et al!

  • Fred! I’m excited seeing this thread title! Hey, a post that will focus on the dates of my trip!

    Only it seems you’re only covering the first two weeks of September, here! 🙁

  • September is the WORST!!!!!
    It’s terrible weather!!!!!! Find some average rainfall information. September rain is not quick thunderstorms. It’s all day heavy rain with a slight chill in it. Then when it’s not raining, it’s very hot.

    Find a different month. October for example. Avoid the crowds at food and wine, and you’ll probably have the same crowd as September.

    I’ve done September several times over the last few years. It has always been better if you wait until October. It’s a little cooler (but still plenty warm). And it’s typically more dry.

    Don’t buy hard ticket events for September until the weather report is confident or possibly right before the event. Rained out MNSSHP has happened to me, and Disney’s compensation for it sucks. It’s basically a “free” admission to MK on a normal day. But that’s only worth the marginal extra day, which is $0 for season pass holders and under $10 for anyone who wants more than 4 days at the parks.

    Yes, the crowds are low. But unfortunately, Disney does its best to ensure that you’ll still have to wait in lines.

    • We’ve gone repeatedly in late September/early October. The rain is unpredictable, but we’ve rarely seen a case where it rains all day. Typically it rains EVERY day, for half an hour or so, and then the sun comes out again. If you’re really lucky you get a long rain from 7AM to 11AM, and the parks are all empty (as in, walk on to most popular attractions empty. Yes, it’s happened to us.) As the weather is always warm in September, the rain is not much of an inconvenience either. The days are still mostly sunny.

      Never done a hard-ticket event, but I love having the park hopper and doing Magic Kingdom mornings on the day of a MNSSHP. Crowds are nonexisted.

      As for “ensuring you’ll still wait in lines,” I’ve been to a lot of amusement/theme parks, and nobody handles crowds/lineups more efficiently than Disney.

      • I’ve gone at the end of September in 2011, then again in 2014. In 2011, we saw one day of rain – for a half hour. Last year though, it really hampered the rained almost every day, for hours on end. I too was used to the “oh, it’ll be 20 minutes, then we’re good to go.” Somehow, the magic just isn’t the same when it’s pouring rain out, especially when you’re on an outdoor ride as the drops just tend to blind you.

        Foolishly I’ve learned nothing, so hopefully when we go THIS September, we’ve got a healthier mix of nicer weather. I can handle a bit of rain – heck, I can have a whole day rained out..but day after day of rain is always heartbreaking.

        No matter how much we plan these trips, just can’t control the weather!

  • Awesome info. Would be interested in seeing a similar comparison for before/after Memorial Day, since some schools are now finishing up earlier in the spring.

  • We are visiting WDW in Sept this year so this is very exciting to read. Kids have two days off for the Jewish holidays so we’re pulling them out of school for the following three days. Thanks so much for posting this. Your site is awesome, by the way!

  • We’ve been going to WDW the week before Labor Day since 2007; our school system in Fairfax County VA still starts the day after the holiday. It has seemed to us that in the early years, the parks felt less crowded than they have in recent years. We thought maybe other families had gotten wise to the fact that if your school system still starts the day after Labor Day, the last week before school starts is the absolute best week of the summer to go.

    This year, unfortunately, we can’t go that week for other reasons, and we had to book for the middle of August — 8s and 9s! Boo!

  • Interesting stuff. I’m curious as to why the Monday before Labor Day is predicted as a rather high crowd level of 6. Compared with the rest of the week all predicted from 1-3. Thanks.


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