Disney World is one of those locations where people plan their trips weeks, months, or even years in advance. It is a huge travel destination, bringing people all over the world, and because of that, there are expectations of the parks and resorts to deliver every single day.
Is Disney always open and busy?
Disney is open every single day, rain or shine. They very rarely close down, except for significant weather threats, visitor safety, or most recently, a global pandemic. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Disney only closed nine times in 50 years.
How Disney stays open with steady crowds every day
Disney World, and all the Disney parks for that matter, rely heavily on people from all over the world. A good amount of visitors each day are in the area for multiple days, which means that they must stay open unless it is simply impossible. Otherwise, the main engine that drives the entire tourist industry in Central Florida faces heavy criticism.
Since it is a worldwide destination, there are always visitors who are planning their trip to fit their schedules. The summer season is always popular for United States travelers, as many kids are off of school during this time. The weekends in the summer are still busy, and the same goes for longer vacation breaks such as New Years, Easter/Spring Break, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
To spread out the demand a bit, Disney entices visitors who might want to opt for a non-peak time to visit. One way is to make packages and plans with specific blackout dates. The most popular days might be blacked out, forcing visitors to show up on days that might struggle to get close to full capacity.
Dealing with the Florida weather
The weather in Florida is very unpredictable, especially in the summer and early fall months. The threat of a shower at some point in the day is very high, and there is also hurricane season to worry about.
This is not a new phenomenon by any means, as Walt Disney knew this before even breaking ground in Central Florida. The showers in the area are usually not long enough to cause that much of an issue for the entire day. The routine is usually to shut down certain parts of the park and wait out the rainstorm, and then go about the rest of the day.
A major reason why Disney ultimately found a home in the Orlando area comes down to its inland location. Miami and Tampa were both much bigger cities at the time, but they also were at a higher risk of a direct hurricane hit. Even if Central Florida is hit with a hurricane, it has usually significantly slowed down since landing on the shores.
A few hurricanes have caused closures at Disney, but it is usually only been for one to three days. The longest closure for a hurricane came in 2017, when Hurricane Irma forced it to close early on September 9th, and stay closed for two more days after that.
Tips on how to identify slow times
With Disney always being open, the goal for a lot of visitors is to find a way to visit when it is not so busy. Very few people like huge crowds, as it makes wait time so much longer around the parks. Not only that, but there is the risk of not being let into the park if they have already reached capacity.
The good news is that it is easier than ever to plan a trip to Disney during a time that is usually not so busy. It might take a little bit more effort to rearrange the schedule for out-of-towners, but it is usually going to lead to a much more laid-back experience.
Exam Crowd Calendars
There are plenty of Disney World crowd calendar websites out there that break down every single day based on previous years data. This can give planners an idea on overall expectations for crowd size. These pictures are usually pretty accurate, but there are always factors that can sway the size one way or another.
One of the biggest things to look out for that can alter typical crowd levels is the launch of a new ride or section at a park. For example, Hollywood Studios saw a pretty significant boost when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened. That is not the norm, so it would be safe to say that the spike during that time is not something that will happen every year after.
Look Into Extra Magic Hours
For those willing to spend a little more money and stay at a Disney resort, there are Extra Magic Hours available to take advantage of. They usually take place during the night, so the weather is cool to enjoy as well.
The problem with these events is that they are only held a few times a month, and the hours might be too late for the younger crowd. Some people will show up at the park late to take advantage of the hours. Locals will use these Magic Hours as a way to see the park once things cool off.
Plan an Early Arrival
A lot of visitors have this idea that they are going to get to the park early, but it doesn’t always go as planned. By sticking to the plan of showing up as early as possible, there are opportunities to knock out some of the most popular attractions while everyone else is waking up/fighting for parking. This tip does not just work at Disney, but any theme park for that matter.
Use Rain/Bad Weather as an Advantage
A rainy forecast might ruin the day for some, but it is welcomed by those who do not want to deal with busy days at the park. As mentioned earlier, rainy days in Central Florida are a bit different than other parts of the world. It rarely rains all day long, so dealing with bad weather for an hour or two can open up the rest of the day.
Another added bonus is that when the rain hits, it tends to cool the rest of the day off. It can be unbearably hot and humid leading up to the rain, and then be a relatively calm rest of the day.
Pick the offseason
The offseason for Disney World is a lot like looking at crowd calendars, but it does not change as much on a year-to-year basis. Here is a rough estimate on the off-seasons.
A week after New Years to Mid-February
The holiday season, all the way up until the few days after the New Year, is slammed with visitors to Disney World. However, once that ends, there is a little over a month of dead time that makes the park enjoyable. The weather is usually very mild during this time, with virtually no chance of a park closure.
Early May to Mid-May
Once spring break is wrapped up, there is a little bit of time right before summer than is usually pretty calm. The weather is just starting to warm up during this time, but it is still pleasant for most people. While there is a chance of a hurricane during this time of the year, most of the ones that impact Central Florida do not come this early.
End of August to Start of October
School starts up earlier than ever these days, which means most kids are back before Labor Day. While that particular weekend can be pretty busy, the rest of the time is considered the offseason. The major drawback is that the most recent hurricanes to impact Central Florida have hit during this window.
Mid-November to a week before Christmas
This might be the best offseason to plan a trip for if possible. The weather has cooled down, the holiday spirit is alive, and crowds are relatively calm. Most families are trying to finish the year of school and work on a high note before the break, so Disney is filled with a lot of locals during this time. The lack of international travelers open up the park a bit to stay a little less busy.
Appreciating the good and bad of constantly being open
Anyone looking for a sparsely populated crowd at Disney World is simply not going to get it. The park is open, with very few exceptions, every single day of the year. This makes it super easy to do initial planning for the trip, but the crowds must be embraced.
The offseason is an improvement, but there will still be waits at the biggest attractions. There are ways to avoid huge crowds with readily available resources, but a lot of people also want to enjoy Disney.