Knowledge of a park’s operating hours is fairly crucial to fully enjoying your Walt Disney World vacation (especially if you love a good rope drop). For some reason over the last few years, Disney has increasingly messed with their hours. Today, I want to give you the full rundown of how the hours are released and what we at TouringPlans.com are doing to help you plan your perfect trip. Remember, knowing is half the battle.
How Walt Disney World Handles Park Hours
There are three stages of grief when it comes to Walt Disney World hours:
- Approximately 6 months prior to any given month, Disney releases hours and parade/fireworks schedules. These are usually released on the Disney Travel Agent site first (sorry, travel agents only), with the official site updating a few days later.
- Next, about 2 weeks before the start of a month, the entire schedule is updated for that month. This usually means later closing times and extra parades or nighttime shows. This update is released solely on the Disney Travel Agent website.
- A few days after step 2, the same update is loaded onto the Walt Disney World official website. When this is done, there are often a few minor changes from the updates that were previously shown on the Travel Agent website.
As you can see, Disney does not make tracking park hours easy. If you check a date in August right now, you may find that Magic Kingdom closes at 10pm and has one Main Street Electrical Parade scheduled. However, if you look next week, that same day may show Magic Kingdom closing at midnight with two parades.
We anticipate that the changes will not be as widespread in the off-season as they have been in the peak times, but there will still be changes. The best thing you can do is stay flexible, assume there will be changes, and (most importantly) keep checking TouringPlans.com.
How TouringPlans.com Makes it All Better
As you are undoubtedly aware, there is a wonderful Crowd Calendar on this site that can help you decide the best time for your trip. Accurate park hours and parade and show days are part of the (giant, impressive, Stephen Hawking-worthy) equations that make up the calendar projections, so it makes it a little bit tougher when Disney keeps messing with the schedule.
For the past few months we have been tracking the park hour changes and working that research into a better, more accurate Crowd Calendar. This means two things for your planning pleasure:
- TouringPlans.com is updating as quickly as possible with all of the park hour changes, so you can feel secure about the
information you find here.
- With more accurate park schedule information, the Crowd Calendar will need to change less frequently, making your long-term planning even easier.
Stat Geek? This One’s For You
If you don’t like things such as numbers or maths, look away. If you are like me and love a good statistical analysis, try not to get too excited.
[I have analyzed all park hours for the past 13 months (July 2010 through July 2011). When I refer to a “change,” I mean an adjustment between the schedule Disney initially put out (step 1 above) and the final schedule.]
- During peak times, the Magic Kingdom’s closing time changes 74% of the time. During non-peak times, it changes only 10%.
- Changes are made to the Main Street Electrical Parade (shows added) 79% of the time during peak times, but only 12% of the time otherwise.
- Epcot’s closing time only changes 1% of the time, so you can be fairly certain with at least that one.
- The closing time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios changes 68% of the time during peak season and 39% during off-peak. Overall, this is the park most likely to change hours.
- In addition to closing time, Fantasmic! shows are commonly added. In fact, they are added 63% of the time during peak times and 30% of the time otherwise.
- Lastly, Animal Kingdom’s closing time changes 63% of the time during peak times and 16% during non-peak.
As you can see, that’s a lot of changing. Overall, during peak times, closing times are likely to change 52% of the time and opening times 13%. During off-peak; 16% for closing and 1% for opening.
At TouringPlans.com, we are doing our best to make sure you have the most and best information available. Hopefully this helps.