“When should we plan our trip to Walt Disney World if we want to avoid the crowds?”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked that question! I used to have specific times I recommended and could confidently tell clients that the crowds would be “very light.”
That’s no longer the case. Even during the “slow” times, you are still going to encounter crowds on your Disney vacation. The good news is that the masses don’t have to impact your trip negatively.
I’ve put together a list of some of my top tips for managing the crowds at Walt Disney World…
Be realistic in your expectations.
There are plenty of “crowd calendars” available online to help you find the weeks where the parks are going to be less crowded. Just keep in mind that “less crowded” is relative.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to walk right on to your favorite attractions with little to no wait at any time of day. If that is your expectation, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
What it does mean is that you are unlikely to be standing shoulder to shoulder with other guests as you walk down Main Street USA on your way into the Magic Kingdom!
A Walt Disney World vacation requires a lot of planning!
There are three things I recommend you plan in advance…
- Know what park you will be in for each day
- Plan and schedule your FastPass+ attractions for the day
- Make Advance Dining Reservations for any table service meals you plan to have for the day
Planning out your days so that you know what park you will be at each day and making your FastPass+ reservations in advance will make a massive difference in helping you to minimize the time you spend waiting in line.
I know what you may be thinking, we don’t want our trip to be overly scheduled. We want to go-with-the-flow. That’s an excellent idea but trust me when I tell you that once you see what a difference a small amount of advance planning makes, you’ll find it very worthwhile.
Creating a theme park touring plan is one of the services I provide to my clients as part of their vacation planning package. Following the advice in these touring plans can make a difference in your family feeling tired, frustrated, and spending most of your day in lines, or knowing the ins and outs of the crowd patterns, ticking off your “must-see attractions” (sometimes more than once!), and enjoying the day without feeling overwhelmed.
It’s your vacation and waking up early may not sound like the kind of relaxation you had in mind, but the first hour to hour and a half the parks are open the crowds and lines will be at their lowest levels. As the day goes on, the crowd levels (and the heat!) will continue to build.
Arriving at the parks just before they open officially and heading straight for the “headliner” attractions is one of the best ways to ride them without waiting in long lines.
Use Extra Magic Hours Wisely
Each day Disney opens one of the theme parks one hour early, and/or keeps one of the parks open for 2-3 hours after its regular closing time just for on-site resort guests.
I typically only recommend the morning Extra Magic Hours to my clients if they know for sure they will be at the park before it opens so they can really maximize that hour. It’s also incredibly helpful if they have “park hopper” tickets.
Why? Because the morning extra magic hour park will usually be the most crowded park for the remainder of the day. Even if guests aren’t taking advantage of the Extra Magic Hours, many of them will head to that park since the tv in their room and the schedule on the info screens in the hotel lobby feature that as the park of the day.
If you aren’t going to take advantage of the full 60 minutes of minimal wait times, choose a different park for the day.
Stay super late…
Early mornings not your thing? No worries!
Evening Extra Magic Hours are ideal for families with older kids and teens who are wholly opposed to getting up early, even if it means shorter lines! During the busiest travel seasons, evening Extra Magic Hours may have one of the parks open until as late as 2 am, and you can bet the crowd level is low for that kind of late-night fun! The lines, even for headliner attractions, are almost nonexistent by the end of the night.
A pro tip for late-night touring… adrenaline and activity will keep you going while you are having fun, but once you sit down and stop moving, fatigue can set in quickly. Waiting for the bus back to your resort can be tough at the end of a long night. Consider taking the monorail to one of the resorts and catching an Uber, Lyft, or MinnieVan back to your resort. The nominal charge is worth it when you are dropped off as close as possible to your door and into your bed much faster than if you had waited for the bus!
Take a break.
Mid-day is when both the crowds and the heat index are at their peak, so it’s the perfect time for a break.
Consider planning a sit-down, table service lunch. You’ll escape the heat for a bit and get off your feet. Having a chance to sit down in the A/C and enjoy a good meal can be precisely what cranky kids (and parents!) need mid-day.
Or think about returning to your resort for a break! Take a nap… go for a swim… relax for a while and head back to the parks in the evening with renewed energy.
Parades and Fireworks Draw the Crowds
Disney does a phenomenal job with their night time entertainment! Their parades and fireworks are top notch, and most people will secure their spot to watch both well in advance of the show starting… which means they won’t be riding your favorite attractions!
If you’ve already seen the parade or fireworks show (or the rides are more important to your family than the fireworks!), this is one of the best times during regular park hours to head to the parks most popular attractions.
Take Advantage of Special Ticketed Events
During these special ticketed events you will be among a limited number of guests to enjoy a unique park experience—featuring attractions and special character meet and greets with little to no wait times! Since the number of guests is limited most attractions are a walk on. Special Ticketed events include Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Disney Villains After Hours, Early Morning Magic (Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios), and Disney’s After Hours (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) In addition to all the fun special ticketed events come with either complimentary snacks or a meal as part of the package.
Book a VIP Tour
Does your family have only a limited amount of time to enjoy the parks? Then a Private VIP tour is just what you need. Included in your VIP tour is pre-arrival planning, resort pick up in a private vehicle, visits to multiple theme parks, the ability to enjoy some of your favorite attractions efficiently, VIP viewing areas for parades, select stage shows and nighttime spectaculars, and shared insights from your highly knowledgeable VIP Tour Guide throughout your tour.
Ready to start planning your next visit to see Mickey and friends?
The perfect vacation begins with scheduling your complimentary Dream Vacation Planning Session. To select a time that is convenient for you go to www.ScheduleYourDream.com . We’ll discuss the details and what your vacation priorities. I’ll give you my suggestions and explain how we can best work together to plan the vacation of your dreams.
I am an Independent Travel Agent with Dream Departures Travel who works with busy parents to help create magical vacations and cherished memories to theme parks, cruise, and island destinations in the US, Caribbean, and Mexico. I handle every last detail creating personalized plans that bring your family’s vacation dreams to life. Your family is unique and your vacation should be as well.