Crowds Larger Than Expected This Pre-Christmas

by 37 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Maybe Santa brought a few families an early Christmas vacation.

Crowds this week have been higher than expected, much more than the 7s we predicted on the Crowd Calendar.  We’re seeing some posted wait times at popular attractions like Space Mountain and Toy Story Midway Mania in the mid-hundreds. If you are in the parks and experiencing these types of crowds let us know. Are these peak wait times the result of massive crowds or conditions with the attractions themselves? We’d like to hear.

It may be that the holiday festivities (Holiday Wishes, Holiday Parades, etc.) are bringing out the locals in large numbers. We historically don’t see a spike in wait times until the 24th of December so this week’s wait times have caught us off guard. We’re in the process of updating the Crowd Calendar and so it will be likely that the estimates for the next few days will go up.

Stay tuned…

 

Crowd Calendar updated December 21st. Crowds in the parks are stable but shut downs at Space Mountain are driving wait times artificially high.  Our advice is to use Fastpass whenever possible for Spac Mountain since it is shutting down an average of 1-2 times a day.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print
Posted on December 21, 2009

37 Responses to “Crowds Larger Than Expected This Pre-Christmas”

  • I am wondering is this (and other recent anomalies) because of park hours being reduced? What I mean is that one of the main drivers for your crowd estimates (as I understand it) is published park hours, based on the fact that Disney adjusts park hours depending on the level of crowd expected. So you might be estimating slightly lower figures based on shorter park hours, but in reality the reason Disney is reducing park hours this year is not based on lower crowd forecasts but to save costs. So the crowds are still there due to the promotions and discounts but they are just condensed into shorter days, making your estimates too low and the crowds seem bigger as there are the same number of people but in less time.

    Matthew

    *Disclaimer – I do not know if park hours are actually shorter than previous years so this might be completely wrong!!

  • This is off-topic but I’m not sure where else to post. I’m going to WDW in one week. I usually just use the touring plans and wait in line or use Fastpasses like everyone else, but this year, with the crowds being at a “10″ I’m thinking of getting a doctor’s note for my back problem. I cannot stand for long periods. I can sit and walk pretty much fine most of the time but due to a specific joint in my lower back, standing is painful. I know it sounds like I made that up to avoid lines but it is true. I don’t usually need an ECV, so do you think a doctor’s note would be able to explain this properly to Guest Services and I could get some sort of pass or something to get me to the front of the longer lines? If so, any suggestions on how to word it? My Neurosurgeon is a pretty technical guy and would probably just list what is wrong with me, rather than the specific accommodations I might need.

    Thanks

    • Guest Services can issue you a Guest Assistance Card explaining your problem to the queue CMs. However, it is not a front of the line card. Most attractions either have mainstream queue access for disabled visitors (i.e. you go through the queue like everyone else) or a separate entrance or waiting area for disabled guests. In my experience, I wait longer with my disabled mother than the posted standby times. Admittedly, I would never go to the park on a 10 day, but the procedures will likely be the same. In fact, some rides limit the number of disabled people on them at any given time for emergency assistance reasons. The most I would expect of the GAC is a place to sit and await your turn to ride.

      • Rich – You hit the nail on the head! We just returned on the 20th and had a GAC for someone with severe disabilities. For the Safari, for example, the posted wait was 40 minutes – but we waited over an hour with the GAC. Getting a GAC to avoid waiting is not nearly as effective as getting there at rope drop and following a touring plan. :)

        Best of luck on your trip!

      • I wonder if they recently changed their policy, because I had a completely different experience. I got the pass (but get this, the cast member refused to read the letter from my doctor, as I was advised to have in the Book, because he “isn’t a trained physician”. He seemed very hesitant to give me the pass but eventually did.) Anyway, it got me into every FP attraction as if I had a FP, and none of the FP return lines was terribly long except once on Test Track. One exception was Spaceship Earth, which had a long wait at the alternate entrance. Any rides with no FP just took me and our party immediately. Then there were a few things such as Muppets 3-D, which have no alternate entries or accommodations, so I just made sure to see them at a quieter time of day. Waited until late at nite to see O Canada, so I could sit on the floor in a nearly empty room and not have a cast member ask me to stand up. Hardly even needed it ever at AK — it was not very crowded at all, amazingly. Got through 4 parks in 4 days (28th – 31st) and saw nearly everything with very little wait time. Rode several things more than once. So although the park was gridlocked in most spots, we accomplished a ton of stuff and my back held up fairly well for the most part. I managed to not flash the pass to other females waiting in restroom lines, and just bit the bullet with the rest of them. Didn’t use it on busses either, except in one particularly long line.

        I lost the GAC on the 3rd night, so got a new one at AK and they were nicer but still didn’t ask for any doctor’s note at all. Oh, and I talked to another GAC guest, and his experience this week was the same as mine. This is not to say that everyone should go get and use (and abuse) the GAC, but it is not too difficult to get, if you were worried about getting the third degree from Disney. Other than obtaining the pass, I rarely ever had to explain what type of accommodation I needed.

        • I had EXACTLY the same experience using the GAC — perhaps it depends if you’re in a wheelchair/scooter or if you are mobile on your feet? We were generally ushered thru the FP line — a couple of times the CMs were especially nice and took the kids (the GAC was for a child in our party) thru a back entrance. It made our trip really enjoyable b/c child is unable to stand for any period of time and we were able to get on just about everything quickly.

    • What you can do: get a cain that has a seat spot on it. You still have to go by guest services to get it approved, but that-a-way, you can sit down during the long lines even if it’s for short bits of time. Otherwise, really use these fastpasses and plan around going to see shows while you’re waiting on your ride availability.

      Agree’d on the bit about going through the disability line taking way longer.

      • @Samantha

        I wish I had that cane/seat. I didn’t really have the budget for it, and also wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to take it easily on anything, but there were a few bathroom lines, locker rental lines, and food lines that I could have used it. And once a ridiculously long line just to GET IN to the Electric Umbrella to meet my friends — and I wasn’t even ordering anything, my friends bought my food and I just needed to go in and sit down, and the two cast members there refused to acknowledge the GAC at all.

  • I was at WDW this weekend (Sat., 12/19) and found it to be much more crowded than expected. I wonder if it’s a result of (1) Disney promotions, and (2) kids being finished with school on Friday 12/18, as my wife was (she teaches 1st grade in NE Fla).

    I can state that we made it to all four non-water parks on Saturday, starting with Animal Kingdom at 9 am, then to Epcot at 2 pm (we tried out the Trails End Buffett at Fort Wilderness – great! – in between) to find Test Track wait times at 120 min with no fast passes, then to DHS by 4:45 pm (we just walked around Epcot because of the crowds) to find Tower of Terror reasonable at 30-40 min actual wait time, with Toy Story sitting at 120 min. After pit stop for food at the condo from 7-9:30pm, we made it to Magic Kingdom to find Space Mountain at 90 minutes, which eventually got down to (only) 60 minutes by park closing at 1 a.m.!

    Bottom line – it definitely felt like a high “8″ or solid “9″ as per the Crowd Calendar. I understand that a good touring plan is necessary, but we were on a mission (if you saw 4 25-27 year olds jumping the guard rails by the Tomorrowland Noodle Station to avoid the bottleneck that formed after the 11 pm fireworks, that was us!) and went to all the parks and had to go by my best guesses until a touring plan comes out for that!

  • by Canadaiandisneyfan on December 21, 2009, at 10:51 am EST

    NEWS FLASH! Not only will Disney be BUSIER than usual, if you’ve been to parks before, will more and more notice increase in PRICE and MARKETING, meaning, SELLING YOU JUNK/MERCHANDISE. That’s now what the parks are becoming. You’ll also see significant decrease in food quality/quantity. Decrease in spots you can watch shows/fireworks without paying “extra”. Decrease in number of castmemebers (ie, longer lines everywhere from parking to leaving), Decrease in cleanliness, Decrease in attractions. And decrease in happiness of guests, as although we ALL love DISNEY, we realize that it’s getting worse and worse, and until management puts the ‘experience’ over making an extra buck, it will continue to decline.

    • I haven’t been able to find much in the way of merchandise that I’d like to buy in about the past two years or so. What I saw at the parks this past week was what I’ve been seeing for some time now regarding merchandise. The one thing my husband and I did buy were pins of the gingerbread houses.

      As far as food quantity/quality, I haven’t seen any difference in the past two years or so. The quality that we had this time was fantastic with one exception (Big River Grille, which was average), and portion sizes were still way too large for any reasonable adult to finish. Our servers were exceptional as always, and although we didn’t have ADRs, we managed to get in with less than a 15 minute wait on every walkup we did.

      We also had good luck with fireworks, being able to get into our secret viewing spot for holiday Illuminations with next to no one around us and revisiting my thrillseekers location for Magic Kingdom fireworks (right around the Mad Tea Party near Pooh…it’s almost like the fireworks are exploding right on top of you). Again, there was no one around there, although the hub was its typical crowd-filled morass.

      Overall, I didn’t notice a lot of decrease in cast member presence or cleanliness as bad as it was in August, with one exception–Toontown is showing wear and tear. Then again, they’re planning to raze it at some point soon, so why worry too much about major upkeep?

      Everyone we ran into seemed in high spirits, with the one exception of a two-year-old who was very traumatized by the finale for Holiday Illuminations and one gal at a store who was miffed about something or other (and was laughing and smiling 5 minutes later when we saw her on the bus).

      Bus service (both Magical Express and Disney Transportation) was the one thing that really stood out as exceptional on this trip compared to other people’s reports. There was a new check-in procedure at the airport which meant that we were able to bypass all lines and walk right onto a bus with no wait. They loaded everyone, and off we went. Even closing-time hours at the parks really didn’t seem to have much of a wait (at closing we waited for two busses at most, which is exceptional given that crowds were fairly thick). Heck, we didn’t even have to wait for a boat to Downtown Disney from Port Orleans.

      Having done the week between Christmas and New Year’s before, going last week was a breeze. Having been for that week between Christmas and New Year’s, it would take bargain basement prices for me to even consider booking it at all. I think that week deserves an 11 by default on the crowd calendar. It’s just too crazy for words.

      So, overall, the price I paid for that week was less than I’ve paid in ages and the experience was better. YMMV. But for that week in particular, crowd calendars were spot-on. Thanks for the hard work, guys!

    • I desperately wish there was more junk/merchandise to buy. :(

      As for watching the fireworks: you can see them from all over the park!

  • We were there from 12/12 – 12/19 and thought the crowds were manageable right up until Saturday. TSM was, of course, a mess, but otherwise we didn’t have very long waits. I’d say the calendar was pretty much on target for that week. MVMCP on the 15th was not crowded at all and we walked on everything. Saturday the 19th, however, was really crowded, but I was able to do pretty much everything I wanted to do. By early afternoon, you could barely get through the crowds in certain parts of Tomorrowland and Frontierland.

    I used Lines the whole time I was there. I have to say, it was pretty awesome. We often got out of our resort a couple of hours after the parks opened and chose the park for that day based on wait times that other users submitted. It’s very easy to use–even my 7-year old used it. I hope more people use it because it can only help others.

    Thanks for all the work you guys do!

    • That’s a great idea – thanks Chris!

    • Ditto this. We arrived 12/14 and found very manageable crowds up until Friday. MVMCP was sold out Friday night (last one of the year) so was pretty crowded for a hard-ticket event. Saturday at the MK was a nightmare, with BTM and Space Mountain both reaching 100 minutes (didn’t see the time for Splash). Just prior to Holiday Wishes the central hub was a teeming mass of stand-still humanity – we barely made it out alive.

      • We attended MVMCP on the 17th and were STUNNED at how empty it was! Walk on rides…and even the first parade was not terribly crowded.

        But…there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms that night and I just wonder if folks avoided it that did not already have a ticket?

        The weather ended up being perfect…a few sprinkles and over 60 degrees all night…But I think the weather played a big role in the low crowds.

        However…the next night…there were a TON of people going TO the Magic Kingdom for the party.

        By the 19th…the parks were CROWDED. 120 min wait at Toy Story at 6:00 (ish)…and I understand the crowds at the MK were brutal, too. I was thankful we had taken the opportunity on Wed the 16th to see Spectro and Wishes.

  • by 12milesfromwdw on December 21, 2009, at 12:31 pm EST

    I’d have to second my amazement at decreasing offerings at WDW parks, and quality TERRIBLE compated to say 3-4 years ago. We can’t convince our kids (now with children of their own) to go. We moved here 11 years ago, and have hit up parks I’d guess over 1200 times. In last few years, they’ve really cheaped out. Would say it is to point of safety compromises, and hear from neighbor who works there, they spend more on covering tracks of mishaps and managing ones that make it to media, than they do on all the attractions upkeep combined. Don’t know if that’s true, but once there, were all paid a “Free annual pass” when my husband filmed a child fracturing ankle when monorail safety engaged in exchange for our footage.

    It does remind me of a banking center. They’re not there to ‘help’or ‘provide’ you a service, they are there to SELL you something. Disney has made this anything but transparent, to my heart’s discontent.

    The park is living on it’s heritiage, Europeans, those who remember what it was. Don’t get me wrong, am a huge fan. They’ve cut hours, offerings and such enough that the estimates are off.

    My prayers that this site continues to monitor crowds, and moreso that the parks greed subsides, and quality returns.

  • I completely agree with the parks being more crowded! I’m currently in wdw, have been since 12/15 and am leaving tomorrow. I tried to do the late arrival touring plans but found them almost useless because of crowds the past three days. The parks were wonderfully not crowded up until the 19th, when we went to mk which was recommended on the crowd calendar. It was crazy! Over 60 min waits for all the headliners by 10 am and the rest of the rides had 45 min waits by noon. Even Pirates, which eats people up fast, had a 35 minute line out the door! I have been before during late August (crowds of level 8) and these past three days have been much more crowded than that, probably a 9. I am disappointed in the crowd calendar since I usually find it very accurate. What happened?

  • We were at MK yesterday. It was busy but manageable. We followed the touring plan and tossed in some FPs and were able to ride Space (2x), Thunder (3x), Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Pooh, Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family, Buzz, Presidents, and see the fternoon Xmas parade and castl lighting ceremony. We left park just after that at about 6:25. Lonngst we waited was 30 mins for Jungle Cruise. Waits were high for Space but everthing else was typical.

  • Definetely higher crowd volume — more like days after Christmas. FP worked great! Rode Space Mountain in the morning and came back at 9pm — both using FP. Followed the Holiday Touring plan and it worked great. We have been here several times at peak crowds and our advice is STICK TO THE PLANS!

    • Yes, the touring plans are definitely the way to go. Good advice!

      I think Fred’s updating the calendar to reflect 10′s through the rest of the year.

  • We were in the parks Dec. 12-21. The crowds were heavier than I expected on the 12-18, but they were very manageable. On the 19th, the crowds increased, but the crowds on 20th at MK and the 21st at EPCOT were huge. We were at the rope and in the first Soarin group on the 21st, and by the time we got off the ride and went straight to Test Track, the wait was already 40 minutes (about 9:25). By 2:00, Soarin was a 145 minute wait. Even the lines in the ladies’ restrooms were out the door. I was so glad this was the end of our trip and not the beginning! I am always sad to leave Disney, but I was glad to get away from the crowds!

  • We were in the parks Dec 19-22 and it was crazy busy. We made the mistake of arriving in Magic Kingdom around 11am on Sunday, and were only able to do Small World and the Haunted Mansion, both with waits of about 20 minutes. After that, the lines were waaaayyyy too long and it was so crowded that we didn’t even attempt getting fast passes, because being in the park waiting for the fast pass time to arrive, would have been unbearable. So we left for the day. The next day, the 21st, we got to Magic Kingdom for rope drop, husband and stepdaughter zipped over to space mountain while I got us all fast passes for buzz lightyear, and after they finished space mountain we went on to peter pan (25 minutes), then big thunder (25 minutes), splash (about 10 minutes), pirates (15 minutes), grabbed fast pass for jungle cruise, went and used our fast passes for toy story (standby line was now an hour), headed to snow white (15 minutes), back to jungle cruise for our fast passes (line was now about 45 minutes, thank goodness for fast pass), then we left because by that point all of the lines were getting impossibly long and the crowd levels were really bothering us. We left around 12:30 or 1pm. So we managed to get plenty done in a few hours but the crowd levels started building really fast around 11 or so and it was just wall to wall people after that.

    Today (12/22) we went to Epcot which I know was the park to avoid, but it is our last day and we hadn’t made it to Epcot yet. We went for early extra magic hours, right at 8am, grabbed fast passes for Soarin because the standby line was already 45 minutes, by the time we got ours (and it was literally the first place we went), the fast pass return time was 11:00am. Headed to test track, the line was already at 60 minutes so we (three of us) did the single rider lines, got on in less than 10 minutes. Next, spaceship earth, line was posted at 20 minutes but it didn’t take even 15. Next, living with the land, the line was posted at 20, took maybe 15. Then we watched honey I shrunk the audience, followed by the figment ride (not even ten minutes to get on). After that we went back to Soarin right at 11 to use our fast pass, and were on the ride in less than 15 minutes, standby time was 2 HOURS. Then we made our way to Mexico, did the fiesta tour, which took around 15 minutes to get on, and then got fast passes for the viking ride (can’t recall the name) because the line was 20 minutes. Walked around for about a half hour until our fast pass time, then went on the viking ride, basically walked right on. After riding that, I’m glad we didn’t wait even 20 minutes. :-) By then it was getting close to 1pm and the crowds were insane in both areas of Epcot. We decided to leave because it was difficult to walk anywhere, lines for shops, food, and rides were really long. We were exhausted from our four days in the park, as well.

    All in all, we discovered that using Fast Passes and getting to the park as early as it opened, staying just long enough in the morning to do as much as possible before noon when it was hard to move around, was the best plan. Going back at night, as we did a couple times, we found we were able to maybe get one ride in. Once, it was Rock N Roller Coaster, because a departing family gave us fast passes. The standby line was 140 minutes. The other was tower of terror which for some reason seemed to stay around 40 minutes.

  • I was in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on the 23rd. Both parks were very busy during most of the day. I arrived at DHS just after rope drop and waiting 15 min. to get a fast pass for Toy Story Mania. By the time I got it, I had an 11:30 return time. Next I went to Tower of Terror. Waited about 40 minutes there. Third I went to Rock N Roller Coaster and waited about 40 min. in the single rider line. The line went out the door and half way down the ramp. At this point it was almost 11:00 so slipped in the the first show of American Idol before my fast pass was up.

    After that left and went to Magic Kingdom. The lines there were crazy. I was about 12:30 by the time I arrived and Space Mountain was showing a 120 min. wait and no fast passes available. I picked up a fast pass for Pooh and the return time was 4 hours later. After eating lunch I decided to make the best of a bad situation and go on attraction the normally have no wait. Went to Tomorrow land Transit Authority. It had a 10 min. wait. Went on Carosel of progress. Walked on but theater was 2/3 full. Things remained crowded until about 7:00 when the crowds reduced significantly. After the fireworks 10:00, the crowds seemed to disappear. Rode Space Mountain 30min wait (over 2 hrs in the afternoon). Walked on to Mountain, 30 min. wait mid afternoon (cool day). Walked on to Pirates, 60 min wait mid day. Walked on to Jungle cruise, Peter Pan, Small World, Snow White.

    By taking advantage of fast passes and smaller attractions, I was able to get a lot done of the busiest day I had ever seen.

  • We’ve been at the parks since 12/19 and have had the best luck being there at opening. Christmas Day we showed up at 8 at MK in the rain and had been on most of the rides we wanted by noon. Came back in the evening about 8 for fireworks and late spectromagic and then the park was empty even though it was open for another 1 1/2 hours.

  • I just heard last night that on Monday the 28th all the parks reached capacity and closed!! Is this true? What in the world is going on? We’ve been in MK on New Years Eve for ’07 and ’08 and it was very, very crowded but not closed. Anybody know anything about this/

    • Yes, it is true but it happens more often than you think. Typically, the Magic Kingdom will reach at least one of the four phases of closing (due to capacity) every day during the busiest times of the year. It happened in 2009 during Christmas season and during Easter.

    • I was at MK on the 28th. Pretty crowded at some points, but I have no direct knowledge of whether it was ever closed to new guests that day, since I was already INSIDE the park at the time. I was at AK on the 31st and I was told it was going to be crowded. Was not crowded much at all. Most standby lines fairly short. Guess they all went to MK, which closed early that day. As of around 5pm, Epcot and DHS were not closed.

  • It amazes me that people who can withstand the twisting and turning of rides (i.e. Spaceship Earth and Test Track) are actually asking for a FP to get to the front of the line because it hurts them to stand for long periods. As a charge nurse of an O.R. with 20+ years of experience I find their “disability” to be less than credible. Trust me, if a neurosurgeon says you can’t stand, he or she would be unlikely to encourage amusement park rides of any nature. Anyone with a genuine disability (or “other” ability) should get the FP’s, not people who just don’t want to stand. I’m not crazy about standing in line, but that’s what you do at Disney—if you don’t follow the touring plans!

    • Hi Nancy, speaking for me only, my particular condition is not operable, and I am not really in a “fragile” state most of the time. Part of it is similar to arthritis. Going on a moderately intense ride a few times in a few days is not going to cause the arthritis itself to worsen. My L5/S1 joint has one particular area that is sensitive to certain positions, and standing is usually one of them, but even sitting too long is bad for me sometimes, which is why I try not to use an ECV if I don’t have to. If I were just lazy and wanted to make myself more comfortable and avoid most lines, I’d get the ECV. I can stand in lines, for varying amounts of time, but need to pay particular attention to posture, and I need to try to stretch and possibly take short sitting breaks when possible. Without a GAC card, I could probably stand in a few lines, but would end up in a ton of pain much earlier in the day, and would not be able to ride anything with my family. In fact, last year the thing that caused me to end my day early was the odd movement of bending way over and lifting my leg to enter the Test Track. Intense physical therapy (and a few cortisone shots) since then has enabled me to do better with certain movements, but toward the end of each day of this trip, I could tell I would not be able to go on much longer. I even asked my neurosurgeon (before I even knew I was going to WDW) if the pain from standing but not sitting or walking was all in my head and he said no. He rattled off some technical stuff, in a foreign accent, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but I guess it is a real condition. Someone else in this thread mentioned hip arthritis as well, so apparently there are others similar to me.

      I did see some people in line that really made me wonder why they had the GAC, but I have learned that everyone’s situation is different, and no one except their doctor is in a position to judge.

    • Nancy,

      Personally I think those falsely claiming disabled status should be rounded up and made to lie face up under the rear ends of the Animal Kingdom’s elephants, but I also know that back pain is a creepy, insidious thing. Many types of motion, or quick changes in direction, may not hurt, while the slow steady pressure of standing may cause it to go into spasm, causing intense pain.

      Try this. Hold a 5-to-10 pound weight in your hand, next to your hip. Keeping your arm straight, briskly swing it from your hip 90 degrees until your arm is extended in front of you, hand and weight at shoulder height, then allow your arm to drop back next to your hip. My guess is that you’ll be able to keep doing that little maneuver for quite awhile.

      Now, trying slowing down the movement, so that it takes about three seconds to raise the weight and another three to lower it. How many times can you do it?

      Finally, simply hold the weight with your straight arm out in front of you, hand at shoulder height. How long can you keep it there?

      Same weight, same range of positions, but your body will react very differently depending on motion. So it goes with back pain when walking vs. riding vs. standing. Everyone’s mileage may vary.

  • By the time we returned from our 12/12 to 12/22 trip, I was too exhausted to check this website until today. We were in MK on 12/19 and if that was a 7, lord knows I’d hate to see an 8, 9, or 10! I can’t access the info, but can someone tell me what the dates from Dec. 19-21 REALLY would up being rated once they were reviewed? They had to be above a 7.

    Thanks!

  • I like your blog – nice work!

  • Personally, I keep ldl cholesterol low through not consuming so much junk as well as doing some physical exercise. Enjoying soccer, jogging, what have you.

  • great points altogether, you just gained a new reader. What would you recommend in regards to your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

  • Simply through figuring out Dino the three years I am below, he’s recently been only expert, Baker explained to your paper. He’s happen to be incredibly, extremely comprehensive. I’ve zero worries and no qualms.