If you are trying to find out when the busiest time to visit Disney is, then our Disney World Crowd Calendars for 2020 and 2021 will help you avoid crowds and long waits in line. There is no real “off-season” in Disney World, but you definitely can find plenty of days when the crowd levels are low.
There are many tools that will help you to plan your Walt Disney World vacation, but perhaps none more important than a Disney crowd calendar. Whether you are going alone, with friends, or with your family, it will help you avoid the crowds which will ultimately lead to a more fun trip.
In this post, we are going to share with you our 2020 Disney World crowd calendar, show you how to use it, and how to find the best dates for you. We’ll go over the busiest days and months of the year in the parks so you don’t find yourself there during those times.
We’ll explain exactly what a crowd calendar is, why it’s useful, but also why you can’t always rely on them 100%. And if you happen to find yourself in one of the Disney World parks on a day when it’s super busy, we’ll help you to avoid the crowds as much as possible and make the best of it.
Our Disney World crowd calendar is based on predicted attendance and will point out the exact dates when you are least likely and most likely to find the theme parks packed with people. Many factors are taken into consideration when making it like school schedules, events, holidays and more, which will give you the best chance possible to go on the right days.
Crowd Levels aren’t the only factor you should take into consideration when deciding when to plan your trip. For a more balanced look, read our guide on the Best Times to Visit Disney World in 2020 which looks at the crowds but also the weather, park hours and prices, among other things. We even rank our favorite months to visit from best to worst.
You may also be asking yourself: “Should I Visit Disney World in 2020 or 2021?” Read our guide on that to help you figure out which year is right for you and the pros and cons of each.
Also, if you want the latest Disney World trip planning advice, including crowd calendar updates and more don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Weekly E-Mail Newsletter. You can sign up here: Join our E-Mail Newsletter
Latest Disney Crowd Calendar Update after Closure
(UPDATE 9/8/20) – Walt Disney World started its phased reopening on July 11 with Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening, followed by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15. We’ve updated our Crowd Calendar to reflect the latest crowd expectations for the rest of 2020.
As if planning a Disney crowd calendar in 2020 wasn’t already hard enough, things got a whole lot more difficult with the closure of the Disney World parks. 2020 was off to an incredibly busy start in January and February with crowds flocking to Hollywood Studios for the groundbreaking Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and it looked like there was no end in sight.
Oh how wrong we were!
Since the park closures, any traditional Disney World crowd calendar got thrown out the window as it has been extremely difficult to predict attendance with any reliability up to this point.
2020 and 2021 are going to look different than any other years that Disney World has ever faced. Walt Disney World is going through a phased reopening which started with Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, then EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15.
Since then crowd levels have been extremely low compared to what they usually are. On most days up until this point, the Disney World Parks have looked like ghost towns, scenes that we have never witnessed before.
One reason that is happening is that Disney is severely liming park attendance right now to only about 20-30% of normal capacity, which automatically keeps crowds low. Guests have to use Disney’s new Park Pass system to make reservations for the parks and the number is limited each day,.
When will they increase park capacity? Disney has said as the current health situation continues to improve, and as Disney gets more efficient running the parks in this new “normal,” Disney will slowly increase capacity to whatever level they can safely run the parks.
Travel restrictions have also played a big part in low crowds up to this point, and they will continue to do so, especially for international guests. It’s also hard to figure out when guests will even be able to start coming from certain states or countries without any travel restrictions to worry about.
Then there’s the question of the economy and when even semi-normal travel will come back and people start taking vacations again. With the high number of job losses, it doesn’t feel like that will be any time soon.
All of these are a combination of factors into why we are seeing record-low crowds showing up in Walt Disney World right now.
The only outlier has been the weekends when the parks are seeing an uptick in attendance. In fact, at least 50% of visitors to Walt Disney World since reopening have been locals, most of whom are annual passholders and come on the weekends to have fun. This has been especially true in EPCOT as the park gets much more full from people visiting for the Food and Wine Festival.
If we were to guess, we think crowd levels will be slow throughout the Fall, only picking up near the Holiday season in November and December. Even then, however, if crowd levels are normally at a 10 in those periods, it’s more likely to be a 6-7 this year at best. There are just too many variables in play that would have to fall exactly right for attendance to pick up anywhere near normal by then.
As for the next few months, we expect things to be pretty slow still at Walt Disney World in general. Once Labor Day is over, the rest of September will have the lowest crowds of the year most likely. Kids are back in school, and parents will be reluctant to bring them on a big trip with everything that’s going on.
October should pick up slightly. The Columbus Day weekend always has big crowds, and while not to normal levels, it will bring an uptick from September. The weekends in October should be slightly more busy than the weekdays, though still much lower than normal.
In November, things will be very quiet though the first 2/3’s of the month until guests start coming for the Thanksgiving holiday. That will be the real test to see how quickly people are willing to come back to Disney World and spend on costly vacations. By Thanksgiving we may see the park capacity limits increased slightly which would accomodate extra guests. This will also se the stage for what to expect at Christmas and New Year’s.
The first half of December will look a lot like November did, super low crowds. It would actually be a nice time to visit with temperatures lower, making face masks a little easier to wear around the parks. At Christmas we should see the heaviest crowds of the year through New Year’s, but much lower than normal.
After that, looking into 2021, things will be very, very slow. We anticipate January and February to be slow like September was since most people willing to travel during this time will have done so during the holiday season. At that point it’s going to depend where we are with a vaccine and the economy to determine when normal crowds come back. We don’t expect things to go back to “normal” until at the very minimum 2022, but likely after that still.
The thing with Walt Disney World vacations, is most families who are planning to go, start doing so at least 6 months in advance, if not 1 year. So even when the economy and health situation start to turn around, there will still be a delayed reaction for people coming to Disney World. Many guests we’ve talked with are in a wait-and-see frame of mind at this point and want to get a clearer picture before committing to any vacations in 2020 or 2021.
Even though we will probably see some good deals continue to be offered later this year and next, many people just want to wait until 2021 and go for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary instead. That should give a nice boost to attendance, but since festivites aren’t expected to start until September/October 2021, the months leading up to that will be slow.
For all those reasons take our WDW crowd calendar with a grain of salt at the moment. We did recently update the dates with our expected attendance, but it’s a very unstable situation at the moment and things can change in the blink of an eye. We will continue updating the 2020 and 2021 dates with our crowd estimates as the year goes on and we have more information, so keep checking back.
One thing is fairly certain, however, overall crowd levels in Disney World this year will be significantly lower than normal years. Just how much remains to be seen.
If you are thinking about planning a trip, read our Guide to Walt Disney World Reopening where we share the latest updates on when the parks could reopen and what changes we will see there moving forward.
If you had a trip planned during these months, check out our Disney World Closure Guide which explains how to get a refund, reschedule your trip and the latest updates on the situation.
What is a Disney World Crowd Calendar?
A crowd calendar helps us predict how busy a Disney park will be on any given day. This means if used properly, a crowd calendar can help you avoid Disney World when attendance is highest and when the lines for rides are the longest.
Our 2020 Disney World Crowd Calendar takes all 4 theme parks into consideration, the two water parks and how busy Disney Springs and all the restaurants on property will be.
If you hate waiting in line as much as we do, Disney crowd calendars are a life-saver! If there was such a thing as a Disney-planning toolbox, this would be your hammer, an essential tool never to leave home without!
(Update: Though a crowd calendar is less reliable during this reopening phase than usual, we still feel it’s an essential part of planning your trip to Walt Disney World and will at least give you an idea of crowds in certain periods compared to others.)
While not all guests have the flexibility to plan their entire trip around the least-crowded times of the year, using a Disney crowd tracker is still useful to pick days where there are only moderate crowds and at least avoid the absolutely busiest times of the year.
Why Crowd Calendars Are Helpful
Using a Disney crowd calendar to find the right days to go to the parks means:
- Less time wasted waiting in line for rides
- Less time in line for food
- Easier to get Advanced Dining Reservations
- Easier to get FastPass+ reservations for the popular attractions
- More space when navigating the parks
- Having more freedom to choose what to do once you get to the parks
- More entertainment showtimes
Not all parks have the same attendance nor crowd flow. There are certain times of the year when a given theme park will flow differently than other times of the year. Even attraction lines behave very differently from season to season or week to week, with much dependant on how many cast members are working that day ride efficiency and how many people are in the park.
For example, if you try to get a Rise of the Resistance Boarding Pass on a holiday or one of the busiest days of the year, you will have to get there hours before the park opens, and you still aren’t guaranteed to ride.
Also, crowd levels in the parks can vary throughout the day from morning to afternoon and evening. That means it’s important to react and know what to do when peak crowds start arriving. If you have a basic understanding of how crowds work, you will have a much better time!
They are also great at seeing events in Disney World that you otherwise would never have realized are going on during your trip. I’m guessing you didn’t know that the D2 Summit cheerleading championship happens in May and can bring big crowds did you? Knowing all these small details will help you to be better prepared for your trip.
How Our Disney World Crowd Calendar Works?
How did we come up with our Disney World Crowd Calendar for 2020? It would be easy to just throw a dart at the calendar and assign a color, but that wouldn’t be a very effective way of predicting peak crowds.
We selected which days and weeks are going to be the busiest based on a variety of data factors. Those factors include:
- Historical attendance during that period
- Ticket Prices
- Hotel Prices
- Hotel bookings (% of filled rooms)
- Upcoming Events/Attraction Openings
- Expected Wait Times
- Theme park projections
- Current Health Crisis
- Bad Economy
Looking at all these different factors gives us a good idea of what kind of attendance you are likely to find on a given day. After decades of visiting the parks and observing attendance patterns, we’ve found this to be the best way to determine crowd levels as you can’t just go on school holidays alone.
All that said, no Disney World Crowd Calendar is 100% right, especially in a year like 2020. Expect there to be some small differences between our predictions and the actual crowd sizes. It is meant to be used as a helpful guide and not the definitive source of your vacation planning and we do our best to constantly update our projections to give you the most accurate predictions for your trip.
We’ve broken down each day on the calendar into one of 5 colors. Each of these colors represents the expected crowds in Disney World on that day. The colors and crowd levels are as follows:
- Green = Least Crowded Days (Best times to go)
- Light Blue = Light Crowds
- Yellow = Moderate Crowds
- Orange = Heavy Crowds
- Red = Most Crowded (Avoid at all costs!)
Obviously, the more days you can fit into your vacation that are green (lowest crowds) or light blue (light crowds), the happier you are going to be. It’s almost impossible to have every one of your days in Disney World be a day with low crowds, but try to pick a week with as many as possible.
We also left the meaning of the colors the same as before. That means if you see a Red symbol it is referring to the parks’ normal capacity, not the new reduced capacity. We didn’t change it because Disney isn’t even telling us what capacity they are running the parks at right now, so we’re still measuring things compared to how much space there actually is in the parks.
Obviously, for 2020 and 2021, there are a lot more light days on our calendar than in year’s past, and very few orange and red. This might change if people start traveling soon, but it is now the new normal.
2020 Disney World Crowd Calendar
(Updated 9/7/20) – Here is our updated 2020 Disney World Crowd Calendar. Feel free to download it or print it out to bring with you on your vacation.
Also, if you are a journalist, travel agent, or blogger, feel free to link to this page to share this calendar with your audience.
Biggest Determining Factors for Crowd Levels in Disney World
Figuring out when peak crowds will arrive at Walt Disney World isn’t easy, but it can be determined by a few major factors. Here are the most common factors to take into consideration:
School schedules are the biggest factor to consider when trying to figure out Disney World crowds. When the school season is in session, families are less likely to travel to Disney World, meaning fewer people in the parks during those days.
Some parents are willing to take their kids out of school for a week to bring them to Disney (thanks mom and dad!), but this is rare and not the norm.
Most parents are only able to bring their kids during the holidays or summer break period when they don’t have to take them out of school and it’s either 1. Go when crowds are heavy or 2. Don’t go to Disney World at all.
Obviously, we don’t recommend number 2, and we think if planned properly you can still have a great time if you visit when kids are off from school. That being said, prices are also much cheaper when kids are in school, no not only will the parks be less full, you will save tons of money on your Disney vacation in the process.
Hand-in-hand with school schedules are the national holidays. Some of them bring bigger crowds to Disney World than others, but all of them increase the attendance at least some. Here is a list of the holidays that have an effect on crowd levels in Disney World in 2020:
- New Year’s Day – Jan 1
- Martin Luther King Jr – Jan 20
- Valentine’s Day – Feb 14
- President’s Day – Feb 17
- St. Patrick’s Day – Mar 17
- Easter – April 12
- Memorial Day – May 25
- The 4th of July – July 4
- Labor Day – Sep 7
- Columbus Day – Oct 12
- Veteran’s Day – Nov 11
- Thanksgiving Day – Nov 26
- Christmas Day – Dec 25
- New Year’s Eve – Dec 31
Not all holidays are created equal and some much busier than others. Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Easter and the 4th of July are by far the worst and are the times when families visit the most. This is because of the convenience of having around a week or more off from school, making a trip to Florida do-able.
Some of the holidays that bring fewer crowds to the parks are Labor Day and Memorial Day. So if you have to visit during a holiday, those are the best choices. St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day are even less crowded but don’t draw big crowds anyway on their own.
Disney World Special Events 2020
Special events can greatly influence crowd levels in Disney World and a lot of people come out to the parks when there is something new going on. Some of these can include the Epcot festivals, new attractions, runDisney races, hard-ticketed events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Even youth sporting events like dance or cheerleading competitions have a big effect on how many people are visiting the parks during a given week.
Here is a look at all the Disney World events in 2020 that will have an effect on the crowd levels:
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Jan 8-12th
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts: Jan 17th – Feb 24
- Pro Bowl Weekend: Jan 24-27
- Dance Competitions: Feb 1-3
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend: Feb 20-23
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway: Mar 4
- Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival: Mar 4 – June 1 *partially canceled
- Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon: Apr 16-19 *canceled
- Dance Competitions: Apr 25-27 *canceled
- Cheerleading Competitions: May 1-3 *canceled
- Cheerleading Competitions: May 8-10 *canceled
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: July 15 – TBD
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party: Aug 13 – Nov 1 *canceled
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend: *canceled
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: TBD
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays: TBD
- Pop Warner & Cheerleading Competitions: *canceled
Why Crowds Calendars Aren’t Always 100% Correct
As great as a good Disney World Crowd Calendar can be, it is not the end-all-be-all to Disney vacation planning. Don’t think you can just pick a time when the calendar tells you the parks should have fewer people and think that’s all you need to do to have a successful Disney trip. Crowd calendars are just one part of the planning.
You can’t count on them 100% as there are just too many variables that can change at a moment’s notice. Last year, everyone thought that the crowds for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would be off the charts in Disneyland and Disney World and there would be lines outside the parks all day. It turns out that was completely wrong advice and the resorts on both coasts had the lightest Summer attendance maybe ever.
The weather can turn a park from heavy crowds to empty in a matter of days. Whenever there are hurricanes in Disney World, the parks turn into a ghost town for days before and after the storm hits. You can’t predict the weather and you have to go with the flow.
Then there’s the situation in 2020 with parks closing and guests having to reschedule for a future date or completely cancel their vacations due to economic hardship. We were on pace for one of the busiest years in Disney World in recent memory, and in a matter of weeks, it’s turned into what will be the lightest crowds ever once the parks reopen.
Disney is great at manipulating the park attendance and release special offers throughout the year once they realize that bookings aren’t at the level they are looking for. Promotions like Disney Free Dining and Annual Passholder hotel discounts can end up bringing more people to the parks than originally anticipated.
Even when a park isn’t at full capacity, it can feel more crowded than it actually is. Disney tends to reduce park hours and understaff the parks when they don’t anticipate a lot of people coming to the parks on a given day. So even though there are half the people in the Magic Kingdom on a weekday in September than there are during the holidays, the actual wait times could be similar depending on if rides are running at full capacity that day or not.
This is made evident when Disney decides to do last-minute maintenance on attractions or there is a refurbishment for one of the higher capacity attractions. If Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World both go down at the same time, expect to see increased wait times in all the other attractions throughout the park.
Relying too much on a crowd calendar will just let you down. We think they are an awesome tool to put in the right position to succeed when visiting Disney World, but that they also must be combined with a good FastPass+ strategy and overall touring strategy which will both help you solve any problem that going when there are peak crowds can solve.
When is Disney World Least Crowded in 2020 & 2021?
The smaller the crowds are, the less time you are going to have to wait in line for your favorite ride. So the objective is to find when there are the least amount of people in the parks as possible when you go.
These are the best dates, solely based on the crowd levels, not including other factors like weather. Just the days when you are less likely to run into droves of people.
Here are the dates you’ll find are going to be the least crowded in Disney World in the next 2 years.
Lightest Crowds in 2020:
- Jan. 13-16
- Jan. 28-30
- Feb. 3-13
- May 5-14 (excluding weekends) *Disney World Closed
- Aug. 17-31
- September (the whole month)
- Nov. 16-18
- Dec. 1-11
Lightest Crowds in 2021:
- Jan. 11-14
- Jan. 26-28
- Feb. 1-11
- May 4-13 (excluding weekends)
- Aug. 16-31
- September (the whole month)
- Nov. 15-17
- Dec. 1-10
A lot of this could change depending on when the Disney World parks are open, travel restrictions and how many people can actually afford a Disney vacation at this time. We’ll be updating these dates on our Disney Crowd Calendar as more information comes out.
When is Disney World Most Crowded? 2020 and 2021
Walt Disney World always has peak crowds during the big holidays. New Year’s and the days following are always packed, with Martin Luther King Day Weekend, President’s Day Weekend, Spring Break, Easter, the 4th of July, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas into New Year’s Eve.
If you are concerned about finding large crowds when you go, then you will definitely want to follow our crowd calendar to know which ones to avoid. Here is a list of when Disney World will be the most crowded in the next 2 years:
Busiest Days in 2020:
- Jan. 1-5 (New Year’s Crowds)
- Jan. 17-20 (Martin Luther King Weekend)
- Feb. 14-17 (President’s Day Weekend)
- Mar. 13 – Apr. 15 (Spring Break & Easter) *Disney World closed
- July (4th of July and entire month) *when Disney World reopens July 11
- October 9-13 (Columbus Day Weekend)
- Nov. 21-29 (Thanksgiving Week)
- Dec. 19 -31 (Christmas and New Year’s Weeks)
Busiest Days in 2021:
- Jan. 1-3 (New Year’s Crowds)
- Jan. 16-20 (Martin Luther King Weekend)
- Feb. 12-15 (President’s Day Weekend)
- Mid-Mar – Mid-Apr (Spring Break & Easter)
- July (4th of July and entire month)
- October 8-11 (Columbus Day Weekend)
- Nov. 20-28 (Thanksgiving Week)
- Dec. 19 -31 (Christmas and New Year’s Weeks)
Looking out all the way into 2021 so things an change from now until then, but for the most part these are going to be the days with the highest attendance.
Busiest Days of the Week at Disney World
What about the busiest days of the week at Disney World? Are there certain days which are always better to visit the parks no matter what time of year you go?
Out of all the days of the week, Saturday is usually the busiest in the theme parks.
In general, the Disney theme parks are more crowded on weekends than on weekdays. This is because during the week the majority of visitors are there on vacation. However, the Florida locals also come to the parks more on the weekends when school and work are out, therefore filling the parks more.
Weekends are also a great time for visitors because it means taking off fewer days from work. If a family is coming for 5 days, you can be sure 2 of those days will be Saturday and Sunday. Many holidays are part of a long weekend, attracting both locals and out-of-town visitors.
If at all possible, DO NOT go to Epcot on the weekend. We just talked about Florida locals coming to the parks more on Saturday and Sunday, and Epcot benefits the most from this trend.
Epcot hosts 4 festivals per year:
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts
- Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Each of these festivals lasts from 1 to 3 months and in total, there are less than 3 months per year when Epcot does not have a festival going on. Locals are drawn here because it’s a great place to meet your friends and walk around World Showcase while grabbing some snacks and drinks.
You definitely should go to Epcot during your visit, but if there is a festival going on, make sure it’s during a weekday.
Magic Kingdom Mondays
While visiting the theme parks during the week is always recommended, you might not want to visit the Magic Kingdom on Monday which happens to be one of the park’s busiest days.
The reason behind this that many people are just starting their vacation on Mondays, and what better place to make you really feel like you are in Disney World, than stepping onto Main Street U.S.A.? For that reason, it always sees higher crowds on Mondays than the other days of the week.
Sunday is actually a pretty good day to visit the Magic Kingdom as guests are either arriving that day or leaving to go home. Any other weekday is also fine, just check the calendar to see if there is a hard-ticketed event that day. In that case, the park will close early to regular guests but as long as you aren’t staying past dinner time it won’t be a problem.
Disney World Crowds and Extra Magic Hours (EMH)
Extra Magic Hours let guests who are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, to either enter or stay later at the parks than guests who are not staying at a Disney World hotel. This can be a big advantage in avoiding the crowds and should be considered when planning your trip.
Extra Magic Hours occur both in the morning and evening and are rotated between parks each day. Morning EMH means that park opens 1 hour earlier for Disney Resort guests that day. Evening EMH means the park of the day will stay open 2-3 hours later, again only for guests staying at Disney.
Knowing which parks have EMH on a given day will either give you a big advantage over other guests or signal you to stay away from that particular park on that day, depending on if you are off-site or on-site.
Staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel – In this case, Extra Magic Hours are a big help because you have a jump on the rest of the guests staying off-property. We suggest using the Morning Extra Magic Hours more than the Evening. We are big fans of rope dropping the Disney parks to get a great jump on the attractions that day, and EMH means you can do rope drop 1 hour before off-site guests.
Crowds do tend to be bigger in the park with EMH that day, but this is more for Evening EMH than the morning ones. On days when Morning EMH are in effect, we recommend going early at rope drop and then leaving after lunch when the crowds pick way up.
Evening Extra Magic Hours can be fun but are only really useful for the Magic Kingdom. If you go on the right day, Evening EMH can mean the Magic Kingdom staying open until 1 a.m. or later. This will be advantageous to you if you are a night owl because the majority of guests with kids are not going to stay out that late and ride wait times will be extremely low.
If you use Evening EMH for the other parks, they end up being more crowded than normal nights since everyone goes there, therefore defeating their purpose.
Staying Off-Site – In this case, you can’t participate in Extra Magic Hours. From a planning point of view, that means you should avoid any park with EMH that day. In the morning, by the time you get let in in the morning all the good rides will already be packed. In the evening the crowds will be higher, and you can’t stay late anyway.
Combining your crowd calendar while looking at the Extra Magic Hours schedule is a recipe for success!
More Tips to Avoid the Crowds at Disney
Here are a few more key tips to make the best use of your Disney crowd calendar and avoid the crowds. (Some of these will not be useful during the phased reopening period).
Learn How to Use FastPass+
The first way to avoid crowds in Disney World is to have a good FastPass+ strategy. FastPass+ was created to allow you to essentially skip the lines on whatever attractions you make reservations for, giving you very minimal wait times.
This starts from your home as you can make FastPass+ reservations using My Disney Experience 60 days before actually arriving in Disney World. The best strategy is to get FastPasses for the most popular rides with the longest wait times, that way you can avoid the longest lines when you visit that park.
This is easier to do when you choose a day from the crowd calendar that is expected to be low attendance because you will be competing with fewer people for those coveted FastPasses. On peak-crowd days it will be much harder, and rides like Slinky Dog Dash or Flight of Passage may be out of reach.
That means you’ll definitely have to apply our next strategy…
Rope Drop Is Key!
Rope drop is another great way to avoid big crowds in Disney World. is to rope drop the parks. Rope dropping essentially means getting to the parks before they open in order to be one of the first people on the best attractions.
Since the theme parks are usually at their peak attendance in the late-morning to afternoon, this is a tried-and-true strategy that will significantly improve the number of rides you can do in a day, and help you avoid crowds. It’s a must-do if you are going to the parks on a holiday.
Watch Out for Party Days
One thing that can ruin your park strategy is the hard-ticketed parties in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. These after-hours events only let in guests with a special ticket for the event and the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 pm on those nights.
The two main parties to be aware of are: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which takes place from August through October, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party from November to December. Both of these events are held three times per week in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
These events are usually packed themselves, so not a good idea if you are trying to avoid crowds as much as possible. The first party of the year is usually packed, and then crowds fall off a bit, only to reach peak levels in the days before the actual holiday.
It’s also important to know when the parties are being held so you don’t show up to the Magic Kingdom at 5 pm, thinking you have the rest of the night, only later to find out the park closes at 7 pm.
Use Hard-Ticketed Events to Your Advantage
There are some hard-ticketed events that you can use as a perfect way to experience the parks and rides the attractions without the crowds and without the long wait times. These events happen late at night usually at 10 pm, give visitors 3 hours to explore the parks, while limiting entrance to only a few thousand people.
Such events include:
- Disney After Hours – (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios)
- Disney Villains After Hours – (Magic Kingdom)
Planning Mid-Day Attractions Right
Timing is everything when trying to avoid long lines in the Disney attractions, and that means knowing what time of the day is best to do each one.
As a general rule, the big E-Ticket rides should be done early on in the day. This is because park attendance is always lower at the opening and gradually increases until mid to late afternoon. So naturally, the queue for Space Mountain is going to be much shorter at 9 am than 2 pm.
If you followed our Rope Dropping advice, that means getting in line before the park opens to ride the most popular ride you don’t have a FastPass+ for. The other big ones you should be able to knock out by waiting in line for in the first couple hours of opening or by using your FastPasses.
So what should you do in the middle of the day? This is the best time for shows. Any non-ride attraction or entertainment like parades or shows like The Lion King or Nemo should never be done in the morning. Many are indoors with airconditioning and are a great break from the Florida sun while waiting for some of the lines on the rides to lessen.
Then in the evening, it’s time to get in line for the popular rides again when the crowds die down as people go back to their hotels or go to dinner. Make sure to plan your midday right!
Plan Best Rides at End of Trip
Ok, so we told you how important FastPasses are to avoiding crowded lines right? The thing is you are going to have a hard time getting one for the most popular rides in Disney World since so many people are also trying to get one in the 60-Day window before your vacation starts.
One way to make sure you get a FastPass for those super popular rides is by trying to book those rides at the end of your trip. The thinking behind it is simple and very effective. Once your 60-day window begins, you can start making reservations for your whole trip, which means you’ll actually be making reservations for some rides 64, 65, 66 days ahead, etc.
Let’s say you have a 7-day trip coming up and today is when your 60-day booking window starts. You log in and immediately trying reserving FastPasses for the first day. The problem is that most other people do the same thing and you’re now competing against thousands of other guests who start the same day as you.
Instead, if you start booking FastPasses for the 67th day first fewer people will be starting there, giving you an advantage. Not only that, but some guests you are competing against may only have a 5-day vacation, which means they can’t make reservations for the 7th day of your vacation, again less competition. That’s why we always put the best rides at the end of our trip. If you get another chance to ride them in the first few days that’s great, but at least you won’t feel forced to wait 3 hours in line because it’s your only option.
What to do if You Are In the Parks When It’s Crowded?
Sometimes, even with the best planning and using a Disney World crowd calendar, you still end up with huge crowds on the days you’re in the parks. Maybe going during the holiday season was the only time you could bring your family, and now you’re stuck. Don’t worry, there are still ways to minimize wait times and make your experience a pleasant one. Here are some tips.
Take a Mid-Day Break
Let’s face it, most families (especially if you have little kids) just can’t do a day from rope drop until park close at night. I don’t have kids and I can’t even do it! This strategy is so good because it allows you to enjoy the two best parts of the day and skip the worst.
As we said, park attendance starts out slow in the morning and slowly gets busier and busier as the day goes on until the evening. That’s why we like to go early in the morning, then return to our hotel in the middle of the day when the people start flowing in the turnstiles.
We can then either take a well-earned nap in the room or put our bathing suits on and take a dip in the hotel swimming pool.
Depending on our plans for the rest of the day, we sometimes then go back to the same park later in the evening, once it’s calmed down some. That lets us not waste time in the middle of the day when lines are the longest and rest up for later.
Another great advantage of going back to the hotel at midday is you get an escape from the tremendous heat towards 12 pm and into the afternoon. That can be excruciating at times and you might be too tired to stay in the park all day until the evenings, which are the most pleasant for the heat.
Go to the Parks In the Rain
When it starts raining in Disney World, thousands of families immediately start running for the exits and make their way back to their hotel. While that may be tempting considering the crazy downpours that are common in Central Florida, waiting the storm out and staying in the park is one of the best ways to beat the crowds.
Thunderstorms in Florida don’t last very long and usually will bring the sun back out a short time later. What you should do is find the nearest show to where you are, go in, and by the time it’s over, the storm is already likely to have passed by. Now you have a good portion of guests who have gone home and lower wait times on the rides.
Ride During the Parades
If you want low wait times, you need to go on the rides when the people aren’t there right? One great opportunity is to hit some of the most popular ones when a parade is happening (this is for the Magic Kingdom obviously).
Now I’m not saying to skip the parade and never see it, but if you are going to the Magic Kingdom for two days during your trip, there is no need to see the parade twice. The same goes for if you have been to Disney and seen the parade dozens of times already. Use that time wisely.
Eat at “Odd” Hours
This is another great one. Step outside the box and don’t eat your meals at traditional times. Not only will you find shorter lines getting your food, if you go on the attractions when everyone else is eating, you are likely to find fewer people in the queue.
This is especially true at Dinner and doesn’t work as well at Lunch. If you eat an early dinner at 3:00 – 4:00 pm, or a late one at 8:00 pm or later, you can use that window in between to ride attractions while the majority of guests are eating.
Disney World Crowds – Month by Month
Let’s take a look month by month at the Disney World crowds and get an overall snapshot of each of them. We’re going to look at all the major events and holidays occurring over the next 12 months, and then talk about the crowd levels throughout each month.
Events of Note:
- Labor Day – Sep 7
- Sep 1-4 – First first few days of September are very light with low attendance in the parks with most kids back in school.
- Sep 5-7 – Crowds return to moderate levels for the Labor Day long weekend. Labor Days isn’t nearly as busy as some of the other holidays in Disney World but this is the busiest the parks will be until mid-October.
- Sep 8-30 – This is the longest stretch of days with low crowds in Disney World. Even weekend crowds are low in the parks unless you go to the Food and Wine Festival in EPCOT (which we don’t suggest doing).
September in general is one of the least-crowded months in Walt Disney World, but September 2020 just might end up holding the record. Aside from Labor Day, we don’t expect to see the parks will up at all for the whole month. Hollywood Studios is still busy and Park Pass reservations are selling out for Annual Passholders, but besides that, there is no reason to worry about crowding this September.
Events of Note:
- Columbus Day – Oct 12
- Oct 1-2 – The first two days in October are light crowds before Fall Break begins.
- Oct 3-8 – October brings back slightly higher crowds as Columbus Day approaches.
- Oct 9-13 – The Columbus Day long weekend will see the heaviest crowds in Disney World for October, but it will still be much better than a normal year.
- Oct 14-31 – Disney World has low crowds for the rest of October with weekends increasing slightly. Halloween will be full on October 31st at the Magic Kingdom.
October is going to be another very light month in Walt Disney World, with the Columbus Day weekend being the exception. We would avoid that week if you want to stay away from crowds and the other weeks should be better.
We also would stay away from EPCOT on weekends during the Food and Wine Festival as there are many more locals since they are off from work.
Read our guide to Disney World in October for more details.
Events of Note:
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Nov 5-8 *Canceled
- Veteran’s Day – Nov 11
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – TBD
- Thanksgiving – Nov 26
- Nov 1-6 – This week would normally bring heavy to moderate crowds, but the Wine & Dine Half Marathon has been canceled. Jersey Week in the first week of November means slightly higher crowds than a normal one, but still very light.
- Nov 7-15 – Veteran’s Day brings moderate crowds to Disney World in 2020 and back to low towards the end of this period.
- Nov 16-19 – This is the lightest crowds get in November and a short break before the Thanksgiving holiday begins.
- Nov 20-22 – Thanksgiving begins to arrive and crowd levels go up to light/moderate.
- Nov 23-29 – This is the peak for crowds in November, only topped by the Christmas and New Year’s weeks.
- Nov 30 – Crowds fall to moderate/light as Thanksgiving visitors go home.
The two holidays in November usually make for a very busy month (at least half of it), but crowd levels in 2020 are going to be much lower than normal. We think Veteran’s Day might see moderate levels at most and not heavy as usual. We will be able to tell a lot once Columbus Day happens and we see how many people come for that and if it’s only locals.
Thanksgiving will probably be the first time there are more visitors than locals in the parks and it will set up how Walt Disney World will close the rest of 2020. We expect high-level crowds for the first time since the park closure, but a lot depends on demand and how much Disney has increased capacity by then.
Events of Note:
- Pop Warner & Cheerleading Competitions – Dec 4-11 *Canceled
- Holiday Crowds Arrive – Dec 17
- Christmas Day – Dec 25
- New Year’s Eve – Dec 31
- Dec 1-11 – The first week and a half of December crowds drop off and it’s one of the quietest times of the year in Disney World, especially without the cheerleading competitions.
- Dec 12-16 – Crowds start to build as the holiday approaches.
- Dec 17-20 – Moderate to Heavy crowds in the week before Christmas.
- Dec 21-31 – This starts the busiest two weeks in Disney World of the year from the days before Christmas until New Year’s week is over.
Like November, December is going to have periods of high crowds and low crowds, but overall much lower than in a normal year. Crowd levels should be dead up until the week before Christmas where it then slowly increases. We think the Christmas to New Year’s period will have heavy crowds. Again, this depends on how many people Disney is letting in by then.
(Crowd Calendar details for 2021 will be updated as soon as Disney releases more information including park hours and procedures.)
Events of Note:
- New Year’s Day – Jan 1
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – *Canceled
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts – TBD
- Martin Luther King Jr Weekend – Jan 16-18
- Pro Bowl Weekend – Jan 28-31
- Jan 1-5 – Crowds are still at year-high levels from New Year’s with the rest of the holiday visitors. Since New Year’s is on a Wednesday, levels are extremely high until guests go home on Sunday. Avoid these days at all costs.
- Jan 6-12 – Crowd levels fall off from the extreme highs of the holidays back to low again. levels on Jan 6. Things would normally pick up after a couple of days though to high levels for the Marathon Weekend, but the event has been canceled.
- Jan 13-14 – This is a great 4-day stretch in Disney World as very little is going on and a break between the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday the next weekend. This is one of our favorite weeks to visit.
- Jan 15-18 – Attendance picks back up for these 4 days due to the national dance and cheerleading competitions, plus many guests arrive for the Martin Luther King Weekend break.
- Jan 19-27 – This is another great time to visit in January. There are mostly moderate to light crowds with one day of heavy crowds on the 25 for the Pro Bowl visitors.
- Jan 28-31 – The rest of January has very light crowds.
We expect January 2021 to have extremely low crowd levels once visitors leave after the holiday season. It will probably have the lowest crowd levels all year and similar to September 2020. Moderate crowds might come out for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but that’s about it.
Events of Note:
- Dance Competitions – TBD
- Valentine’s Day – Feb 14
- President’s Day Weekend – Feb 13-15
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – *Canceled
- Feb 1-13 – Besides the dance competition on February 8 and 9, these first two weeks are extremely quiet with low attendance and wait times. Awesome time if you hate crowds.
- Feb 14-17 – The combination of Valentine’s Day and President’s Day Weekend see Disney World attendance go back up to moderate on the 14, 15 and then heavy on the 16 and 17.
- Feb 18-29 – Moderate crowds for the rest of the month. Some come out for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, Marti Gras and dance competitions, but not enough to push crowds too high.
February 2020 is going to be another really slow month as most visitors willing to travel will have already done so during the holiday period. Usually we see moderate-level crowds during the middle and end of February, but some of the sports competitions will probably not be happening which will make things less crowded still.
Events of Note:
- Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival – TBD
- Spring Break Crowds Arrive – Mar 13
- St. Patrick’s Day – Mar 17
- Mar 1-12 – March has two halves with very different stories. This first part is a wonderful time to visit with Spring in the air and flowers everywhere. Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival always draws a crowd opening weekend and the debut of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will make Hollywood Studios more packed than usual. Otherwise crowds stay at a moderate level.
- Mar 13-31 – Schools around the country start letting kids out and Spring break crowds start arriving in Disney World. The first Easter crowds start arriving and attendance remains high in the first week in April. Expect heavier crowds for the rest of March and long wait times in the parks.
March usually has moderate crowds in the first half of the month and then high crowds in the second half when kids start getting off school for Spring Break. You also have Easter in the first week of April in 2021, which means those crowds start arriving at the end of March.
If people start traveling again in the Spring, then this would be the first time we could see crowds rise out of the ashes.
Events of Note: *Disney World Closed, Events Canceled
- Easter – Apr 4
- Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon – Apr 16-19
- Dance Competitions – Apr 25-27
- Apr 1-8 – The Easter holiday is one of the busiest weeks in Disney World every year and should be avoided unless you have no other choice.
- Apr 1-11 – Guests lingering from Easter means heavy crowds through April 11th.
- Apr 12-18 – Some guests lingering from Spring Break.
- Apr 19-30 – Crowds fall back down in the second half of April.
We would usually say Easter week is going to be one of the busiest of the year, and it probably still will be. Just how big the crowds get depends on overall park capacity at that point. Things will be busy, but don’t expect normal levels.
Events of Note:
- Cheerleading Competitions – TBD
- Memorial Day – May 31
- May 1-22 – Light to Moderate crowds for most of May. Higher on the weekends as locals come to the parks more. One of the best stretches of the spring.
- May 23-26 – Crowds slowly start coming to the parks as some U.S. schools start letting kids off for Summer Break.
- May 27-31 – Memorial Day weekend is the opening of Summer and should bring increased crowds.
May is hard to predict at this point. We anticipate May being quiet until the very end of the month when Memorial Day weekend comes. For the rest of the month, expect light to moderate crowd levels.
Events of Note: (No Major Events or Holidays scheduled for June)
- June 1-27 – Crowds are moderate for the majority of June. Crowds might get heavier on the weekends.
- June 25-30 – Crowd levels increase toward the last week of June with guests starting to arrive for the 4th of July holiday.
Up to this point, there isn’t too much going on in Walt Disney World for 2021 as far as special events. Hopefully by this point the health crisis in the United States is well on its way to being resolved and crowds start to rise closer to normal Summer levels. The last week should be the busiest with 4th of July guests arriving.
Events of Note:
- 4th of July – Jul 4
- July 1-5 – I don’t have to tell you the 4th of July and the surrounding days are some of the busiest days all year in Disney World. There are usually wall-to-wall people, making wait times excruciatingly long.
- July 6-31 – While July isn’t quite as busy as it has in years’ past, heavy crowds remain for most of the month as families with kids are visiting during Summer break.
July is always one of the busiest months of the year, with loads of people every week. Even without the limited park capacity, July 2021 might be lower with more people waiting to come until the Fall for the 50th Anniversary celebration.
Events of Note:
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – TBD
- Aug 1-8 – Busy crowds remain in Disney World for the first part of August. Avoid the weekends if you can which are worse.
- Aug 9-16 – Disney World crowds go back down to moderate levels in the middle of August as kids start getting ready to go back to school.
- Aug 17-23 – Crowd levels drop off significantly and are mostly light with moderate weekends.
- Aug 18-31 – From the end of August until Labor Day is one of the least busy times in Disney World every year with the majority of kids now back in school.
August is usually one of the more quiet months of the year, and between the heat and waiting for the 50th anniversary, we think it will stay that way in 2021.
Ranking Crowds at Disney World by Month – #1-12
We’ve created a list of all the months and organized them from numbers 12 to 1 in order from least busy to busiest. When creating our crowd calendar we assigned a number to each day of the year from 1-5 for how busy that day is. We then totaled up those numbers for a final total of points at the end of each month, with the highest number being the busiest month of the year.
We thought the overall months’ crowd rating would come out differently than it did when we added everything up, with some months held as being less crowded, much higher up on the list. What’s important to remember is that this is a total which reflects the entire month, not just certain weeks or days. A certain month might be really busy in one part, but have light crowds at another part which balances things out.
*We also didn’t take the closure into consideration, and the list is based more on how the crowds are in a normal year.
Ok, here are the busiest months in Disney World ranked:
We were surprised at July landing in the number one position. The thing about July is there are no breaks from the crowds. It hits an extreme high around the 4th of July but then sustains high crowds all month long. December, on the other hand, is extremely busy at the end, but the beginning is a lot calmer which balances the month out.
The most crowded time to visit Disney World is during the holiday season. Easter, The 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are the busiest ones.
The least crowded is when kids are in school. Late August, September and after the holidays in January and February are all good times with low crowds.
No, Disney does not publish an official crowd calendar. That’s why looking at a combination of prices, school schedules, holidays and special events, we are able to make one for you to plan your vacation with.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to avoid crowds in Disney World and none better than using a good crowd calendar. The busiest times of the year in the parks are always going to be when school is on break, especially during a holiday.
If you aren’t forced to visit during those busy times because you don’t have kids or your schedule is flexible, then we highly recommend you skipping those busy times as it will save you time and money on your trip.
No matter what you decide, make sure to consult a Disney World crowd calendar to help plan things out. Just remember, it’s not a magic bullet that will make all the people disappear, and there is no real “‘off-season” in Disney World anymore. That said, you can position yourself well by using one, but also use a good FastPass+ strategy and Rope Drop the parks when you can for maximum efficiency.
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I want to know what you think about our 2020 and 2021 Disney World Crowd Calendars…
- When do you think the least crowded time in Disney World is?
- When are you planning your next trip?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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