One question I get asked really often about visiting Walt Disney World Resort® is how to know where to make dining reservations six months out when one doesn’t even know which park they’ll be in that day. What if that park is too crowded? How does one decide? Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule as to which park to visit which day but experienced Walt Disney World Resort® visitors do have a few “tricks of the trade” that are used when putting together an itinerary. Here are a few of mine.
Use Extra Magic Hours to your advantage. This will mean different things depending on where you are staying and what type of ticket you have. If you are staying at a Disney Resort and you have a ticket with a Park Hopper option, plan to go to the park during Extra Magic Hours, but to a different park the rest of the day. Extra Magic Hours is a great time to visit if you’re looking for lower crowds, but since many people do not have Park Hopper tickets and those not staying in the resorts will also be visiting that park, the park with Extra Magic Hours is likely to be busier than the others. For that reason, if you aren’t staying at a Disney Resort or you don’t have a Park Hopper ticket, you may want to consider avoiding the park with Extra Magic Hours, especially morning Extra Magic Hours. The easiest way to find out when and where the Extra Magic Hours will be held prior to your trip is at www.disneyworld.com and hovering your mouse over Parks & Tickets in the menu. A new menu will appear with park hours and a simple click on More Hours will bring up a calendar that can be viewed with all the park hours for the coming months including Extra Magic Hours.
Visit the park on a “Hard Ticket” Event day… until 4pm. An example of a hard ticket event is Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. It is held select evenings in September and October at Magic Kingdom. This means that the park will be closing early (usually 7pm) so many will avoid that park. In fact, many websites recommend avoiding that park for that exact reason. Since the park opens to guests holding a ticket for the evening event at 4pm, it will become more crowded at that time, but earlier in the day may see lower crowds than usual. Of course, it does also mean that you’ll miss any nighttime attractions or shows, but there are lots of things to do around Walt Disney World in the evening (see Our Top Five Evening Activities Outside the Parks). It makes it a great option if you are going to the same park for two days or if you have a Park Hopper and can go to another park for the evening. Just like Extra Magic Hours, special events will be listed on the Walt Disney World Resort® website under Park Hours.
Use a crowd calendar. Several websites now offer crowd calendars that you can view. These sites take historical data and use it to predict how crowded each park will be on a certain day. The one I use most often is at www.touringplans.com. They do offer a peak at their crowd calendar for free, but I pay $14.95 for an annual subscription so I can see the full calendar. It shows their predictions for the full upcoming year. Another crowd calendar I’ve recently begun using is at www.undercovertourist.com. While it doesn’t go into as much detail as the one on Touring Plans, it is very easy to read. The recommended park each day is marked with a green checkmark and the one they expect to be most busy has a red exclamation point. Each day is also color-coded with green being least crowded and red being most crowded.
There is more to it than this, of course, but these are the three simplest “rules of thumb” that anyone can use to help them decide. In addition, certain times of year like around the holidays will be crowded no matter what you to do. The main thing to remember, though, is to expect crowds no matter which day you attend. If it’s not crowded, that’s a bonus, but if it’s crowded, then you won’t be surprised by it. Pack a little extra patience and remember that you’re on vacation. It’s supposed to be fun!
For more Disney itinerary ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!