What is a Walt Disney World crowd calendar?
You’re trying to figure out when to plan your Disney World vacation. While you know the general parts of the year you should avoid, you’re ready to take the next step in researching and planning exactly when you should visit. Which specific days are the worst for each park? What things should you account for as you make your plans? How do you make sense of all the information available?
Good news friends, I’ve got your back. This Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar will be your complete guide to planning your Disney vacation like a pro.
We’ll cover everything:
- What to plan for each month of the year
- Where you can look for resources to get down-to-the-minute information
- Tips for planning your vacation around the crowds
Just grab your own calendar and get ready to learn everything you need to know.
Looking for more help planning your upcoming Disney trip? My Disney on a Budget post will give you every resource you need.
Table of Contents
What’s a Crowd Calendar and How to Use It
Here’s just a quick refresh on crowd calendars to help you get the basics down. Crowd calendars are planning tools that indicate crowd volume levels for a given amusement park or attraction and often give information on the best times to plan your trip.
It’s good to keep in mind that crowd calendars are not written in stone because they deal with real people doing real things. I have always found them to be beneficial in my own planning, but there are always variables you can’t control. Crowd calendars help us make an educated guess about avoiding the crowds, which is certainly better than winging it and visiting on an exceptionally busy day.
I recommend checking multiple crowd calendars to get as much information as you can. It can be a bit of a process to sort through what’s important and what’s not, which is why I did all the hard work for you!
Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar
Here’s the most important things to know about planning your trip, month by month. Read on to get tips and tricks for traveling seasonally or over a holiday, plus more crowd calendars to help you visualize your trip.
Important Note: This is a general Walt Disney World calendar based on events and busy times you can plan for every year.
- The first two weeks of January are generally still busy from the holidays, particularly as school kids still have a few weeks of vacation.
- Mid-January usually sees the annual Marathon Weekend at Disney World, where runners show up for several days to run multiple races. Expect higher crowds.
- The third Monday in January is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S., and is a federal holiday. This means that kids are off school and parents are off work.
- For the past few years, the NFL’s Pro Bowl has been held in Orlando, leading to slightly higher crowd volumes. The game will draw football fans into the parks for denser crowds.
If you can plan your trip for weekdays in the middle to the end of the month, you will have lighter crowds to deal with.
- February features the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which runs through the month. Like the other Epcot festivals (Food & Wine, Flower & Garden), this can lead to bigger crowds at Epcot, as well as other parks.
- Several dance championships are held in Disney during the early weeks of February.
- Watch out for President’s Day Weekend in the middle of the month; this long weekend will likely see February’s highest crowd levels.
- The Princess Half Marathon is also held shortly after the President’s Day Weekend. This race usually draws many runners into the Disney parks.
Sneak your trip in between the dance championships and the long weekend in the middle of the month to escape crowds.
- Mardi Gras will draw in some revelers, but not as many as other holidays.
- Beginning in March is Epcot’s annual Flower and Garden Festival (it runs through early July).
- Mid-to-late March is usually when high school and college spring break falls, so bear in mind that you might have to combat vacationing students if you schedule during those times.
March could be an excellent month to plan your travels as long as you avoid the aforementioned dates. If you have the freedom to do so, definitely avoid the spring break weeks by going in the early or very end of the month.
- The Star Wars Half Marathon is held in the early portion of the month and is slightly less popular than the beloved Disney Princess Half Marathon in March.
- Easter changes year by year, so be aware that many families will take advantage of the few days that students have off for the holiday to go on vacation.
Again, avoid the crowds by planning around the major holidays. Otherwise, April is another (comparatively!) slow month for Disney World.
- Several cheerleading competitions typically fall in the first two weeks of May.
- The end of the month also means the end of school for some school districts. Be aware of that and try to get into the parks before the crowds start to settle in for the summer months.
Early May will be one of the last months with light to moderate crowds for the next few months, so book for those first few weeks if you want to enjoy both beautiful weather and shorter lines.
- All month: expect moderate to heavy crowds with the onset of summer.
- Luckily, shifting weather patterns mean that June is not as busy as it once was. Beware of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, though.
Even though June is technically the start of summer for both the kids and the calendar, the crowds are moving in slower than in the past. June could be a good time to make it to Disney during the summer.
- Disney is famous for its July 4th fireworks shows, and crowds tend to show up in the few days preceding and following the holiday.
- The rest of the month tends to be heavier in terms of crowds, with vacationers booking at times most convenient for their schedules.
I would recommend picking another time to visit Disney besides July if you can, and perhaps go see fireworks somewhere closer to where you live (unless you want to battle some wicked crowds).
- Continuing heavy summer crowds.
- Disney tends to schedule major openings of attractions during the summer months when the parks are busiest. For example, Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opened in August of 2019. For 2021, this could be the new Ratatouille ride at Epcot or a few other projects currently under construction.
- The end of August typically sees a slight dip in crowd levels as school districts go back into session.
If you are planning an August trip, see if you can go near the end of the month and schedule around major attraction openings.
- Expect lingering crowds from attraction openings and the summer months.
- Labor Day falls in the first few weeks of September, so crowds will likely be heavier that weekend.
- Lighter crowds the rest of the month as schools go back into session.
Try and book your trip for the end of the month if possible, especially to enjoy the last of the summer sun without fighting endless crowds and lines.
- October sees Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival (which is always fun, for the record), so expect crowds to be slightly higher in Epcot during this time.
- Columbus Day falls near the middle of the month, with crowds likely being moderate to heavy.
- Colleges and high schools sometimes have a fall break during this time, so expect a slight influx of students and families. Not as heavy as spring break, but good to keep in mind.
- October 31 is Halloween, of course, which tends to see slightly higher crowds at Disney. Of all the holidays to go on a Disney vacation, though, Halloween is probably the best.
Just avoid the Columbus Day weekend and fall break, and you will be able to enjoy Disney World in peace without worrying about extremely heavy crowds.
- The Wine and Dine Half Marathon typically falls near the end of October/ early November, and is one of the most popular half marathons that Disney offers.
- Veterans Day weekend typically sees heavier crowds.
- Thanksgiving falls on the third Thursday of November, of course, and Disney has no shortage of guests for the holiday.
Unless you are quite interested on spending your Thanksgiving in Disney, go earlier in the month or not at all.
- The early part of December usually sees residual Thanksgiving crowds.
- Epcot hosts their International Festival of the Holidays during this month.
- The rest of the month is a slow build of increasingly heavy crowds as people flock to Disney World to see the holiday attractions.
- Essentially, the last two weeks of the year will be extremely busy as visitors use their vacation time to see the park over the holidays.
Go to Disney early in the month if you can to avoid the heavy crowds that fill the parks during the holidays.
Specific Things to Look Out for in 2024
It’s safe to say that 2024 at Walt Disney World will be a little different than most years. As of Jan. 9, 2024, theme park reservations will officially be a thing of the past for guests with date-based tickets.
Disney World temporarily closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and reopened in July 2020. Since then, if you had a Park Hopper ticket, you were required to wait until 2 p.m. to visit a second or third park. This meant that you couldn’t hop to another park for lunch or try for an early afternoon virtual queue spot for popular rides. However, starting from January 9, 2024, guests with Park Hopper tickets or annual passes will be able to visit another park at any time.
In 2024, the Disney Dining Plan is set to make a comeback on January 9th. For those who may be unfamiliar with the plan, it is a pre-payment option for dining costs that is available to Disney World guests who book their vacation packages through Disney. This plan has been absent from Disney World since 2020.
A new ride called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is set to replace Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom. The latter will closed in early 2023 to make way for the new ride, which is inspired by Disney’s animated film, The Princess and the Frog. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will take visitors through the bayous of Louisiana, where they can join Tiana in her new endeavor, Tiana’s Foods. The ride is expected to open in 2024.
Now open, Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana is a new attraction that recently opened at Epcot in Walt Disney World. This unique experience takes visitors on a journey through the world of water, inspired by the hit Disney movie, Moana.
Consider if you want to be visiting during all this renovation and change, or would possibly want to delay until more of it is done and open.
What to Do If Your Trip Dates Aren’t Flexible
I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes it’s not always possible to plan your trip around the ever-changing crowds in Disney World. You might only get certain days off, or you have to work with your local school district’s schedule.
I have good news for you, though, because you are not necessarily doomed to a vacation crammed with crowds and long lines. Just follow a few key tips to make the most of your time in the parks.
- Find out which parks are busier than others. Different areas of Disney World are busier at different times (i.e. the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and the opening of a Star Wars attraction in Hollywood Studios), so you can always take the road less travelled to cut down your lines.
- Check to see which times of day are busiest for the park you’re going to. Wait, you can know that in advance? Yes! Sites like TouringPlans.com feature crowd calendars that analyze the crowds hour by hour every day of the year.
- Pro tip: Try going back to your hotel to rest or nap in the afternoon, when most of the parks are busiest. Make use of the cool early mornings and evenings!
- Go against the traffic flow. Have you ever noticed that most parks and attractions are laid out in a certain pattern? Try walking the opposite way of what you might expect, and you’ll find shorter lines along the way (especially if you show up early in the morning).
- Get your tickets well in advance, and upgrade to jump ahead of lines as needed.
No matter when you choose to go, I can practically guarantee you’ll have to wait in a line or two. Make it worth it for yourself by prioritizing what you really want to do, see, and experience.
If you are planning a trip for the December holiday season or during the summer, don’t focus all your attention on avoiding every busy day. There are some really cool things happening in Disney during these times, so you might as well enjoy it!
More Crowd Calendars
Looking for more information about the Disney World crowds? There are some really good crowd calendars available that break everything down by month, week, and day. There’s something for everyone, whether you just want a quick glance at a picture to tell you the crowd levels or you want to know all the data behind the calendar.
From one of my absolute favorite places to get discounted Disney tickets. Undercover Tourist always has this massive calendar available for every Orlando park. Just click on the places you’re heading, and they’ll give lots of good information on the crowd levels, historical trends, etc.
I really like this crowd calendar from Magic Guides as well. It also breaks down the crowd levels by each park, but it features a visual infographic that gives you a snapshot of the entire year’s levels.
The best crowd calendar that I’ve seen. I use this one personally to help me figure out the best times to schedule my trips. It gives specific dates for each and every month, and is updated all the time. It goes a full year ahead of time with detailed information, which is super helpful if you’re a planner (like me!).
Next step: get your tickets all set to go. Check out my blog post all about getting the best budget Disney tickets.
Do you use crowd calendars to plan your trip? What are your best tips for avoiding the crowds at Walt Disney World? Let me know!