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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Inevitable When Do We Go and Crowd Levels Questions

When planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, the question just after whether to stay on property or off is when do we go.  Somewhere in the “when do we go” conversation is the “what will the crowds be like” issue, as the answer about the crowds may change when you decide to go.

For some folks, school and work schedules dictate when to go—during holiday and summer vacations.  And, since this is when many other folks are able to go, crowds can get quite large during these times.

Others have the flexibility to go at various times of the year, taking advantage of “slower” times, discounts, and specials.

At one time, Walt Disney world experts could definitively give you an answer to “when is the best time to go?”  Now, the answer is more of “it depends.”  Since Disney wants their parks to be busy year round, they have devised special discounts and special activities—such as the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT, to draw crowds year round.

We have been to Walt Disney World twice during the second week of November.  Our first time in November 2009, a free dining special was offered that we took advantage of and we found the crowds to be quite reasonable.  The weather was great—not too hot and not too cold.  The next November—2010, another free dining event was offered and we made our way back to the World.  This time, the crowds were. . . thicker.  Especially at the Magic Kingdom.  We managed and were able to do everything we wanted to do, but the expansion of the crowds as compared to the same time the year before were noticeable.

Putting the crowd variable into your equation about when to go, etc. makes the equation even more complex, as Disney adjusts park hours, attraction availability, and dining choices as crowds expand and contract.  For example, if your family makes its way to the World in July—a hot and crowded time—the park hours will most likely be expanded both in the morning and late into the night (early morning) to allow guests more time to tour.  Seasonal dining locations, such as the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station would likely be open and all attractions would be up and running—barring any emergency or unforeseen situations.  If your family made that same trip in January, some attractions may be closed for rehab or refurbishment, certain dining locations would be closed, and you would find shorter park operating hours along with smaller crowds.

Note:   Parks can close—limit more quests coming in—at anytime due to crowd levels.  This most often happens at the Magic Kingdom during peek travel times—holidays, spring break, etc.  Guests staying at the Walt Disney World Resort will not be affected by the park closings, as park access is guaranteed as part of your stay.  Another reason to stay “on property,” especially during peek travel times.

So, if you want longer hours, more dining choices, and access to all attractions, you may have to be willing to brave the crowds.  If you want to go when the parks may be less crowded, be ready for attraction closings, less dining choices, and shorter park operating hours.  A complex Disney equation.

No matter when your family chooses to go, know that you can have a magical time.  Adjust your expectations—you can’t see and do everything even when the crowds are smaller.  (Yeah, I said we got to do “everything we wanted” previously in this post—that’s different that doing everything!)  Prioritize—give everyone a #1 choice and once that’s done, the rest is gravy or icing on your vacation.

Good luck making the decision and. . . have a great time!

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