Another new year is upon us and it is time to update the Disney World Crowd Calendar for what lies ahead in 2019. We put a hold on our December update as we took some time to review some of the methodology behind the wait time forecasts. Our review is complete and the update for January 2019 is now live. As a result, you may see crowd levels go up on your dates of travel. Don’t panic. The absolute best way to minimize any crowd level is to use an optimized touring plan. They work and they can make any crowd level seem two to five points lower.
In Fall 2018, we saw an overall trend of crowd levels higher than predicted. As a result, many of the days in January, February and March will see crowd levels go up. Some late April crowd levels will go down. Throughout the rest of the year, we see a mixture of both.
Here is a breakdown month by month.
A lot of the crowd levels we see in January will depend on whether Disney decides to cut back in-park staffing as it did in 2018. The changes in January from this update take in to account some of that risk. If we see evidence in the next few days that attractions are running at less than 50% of their normal capacity, these crowd levels may go up further.
Crowd levels are up in February, sometimes significantly so. Again, this is partly due to the recent trend of larger crowds we observed in October through December and partly due to the risk that operations may shorten capacity at some rides. Incidentally, we still like early February as a good time to visit. Even at crowd levels ‘5’ and ‘6’ the parks will be manageable. If you plan to visit during mid-February a touring plan will be essential – some crowd levels are now up to a ‘10’.
Thanksgiving 2018 was busier than expected. Our models treat that as evidence that other peak weeks will be busier too. That is partly why we see large increases during early March, a big week for Spring Break. However, the second half of March sees changes on this update in the downward direction.
We see a similar story in April with Easter week getting a bump and the week after decreasing a little.
May sees some changes on this update but nothing to the scale of what we saw during the first quarter. Most days in May either stayed the same or saw a change of one index point.
In June we see a pattern of small crowd level increases at Magic Kingdom and Epcot and small decreases at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. These summer forecasts do not include any impact of the recently announced free dining promotion. However, historically speaking, the impact of free dining is felt more at the resorts and less at the parks. That may change since free dining is usually in the fall or winter. Watch for possible adjustments to the summer crowd calendar during next month’s update.
When you look at summer crowd levels during the past two years it is not hard to see why Disney is offering free dining. Crowd levels are down. We think families have been more willing to take kids out of school in recent years to avoid the summer heat. This update includes some decreases for July dates. That may change after we review the potential impact of the recently announced promotion.
Not a lot has changed in August as a result of this latest update. Some dates go up a point or two, some go down. August still offers a decent crowd level for guests that don’t mind battling the summer heat. The later in August you can travel to the resort, the lower the crowd level will be.
September & October
Very few changes to report for September and October. A lot of the crowds we see in Fall 2019 will depend on the timing of new attractions at Hollywood Studios. Unofficially, we expect Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway to open (or at least offer previews) in the fall. When it does, we expect it to be very popular. Wait times at other Studios attractions will likely go up, which pushes the crowd levels higher as well.
This update includes increases to November crowd levels partly as a result of the increased crowd levels we saw in November 2018. Once again, these crowd levels may change depending on what we see in summer but for now, crowd levels are expected to match what we saw last year.
December is all about Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Our educated guess is that previews will commence this month and the attraction will open near the end of the year. Once we have more details, crowd levels will certainly be adjusted.
We recognize that seeing a crowd level go up is disconcerting, especially when your trip is only a few weeks away. Our philosophy is that it is better to provide the most recent, most accurate crowd level estimates available rather than to keep things the same for the sake of consistency. The good news is that your touring plans can accommodate this, but will likely need a lot of adjusting. Simply re-optimizing will produce an up-to-date plan.
Have any questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments.