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Last Updated on November 11, 2020 by Allyson
If you’re booking a Walt Disney World vacation right now and are trying to avoid as many people as possible, here’s what you need to know.
Even more so, visiting the most magical place on earth comes with a lot of thoughts, questions, and concerns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the safest thing to do is stay home during the ongoing pandemic. But, the reality is people are traveling.
Allow me to say that planning a trip to WDW isn’t what it once was. It’s so much more than booking FastPasses, making dining reservations, rope dropping, and crafting the best strategy so you can ride as many attractions as possible before the lines get too long.
We’ve basically had to hit the reset button and start from scratch when planning a WDW visit. But, one of the main concerns you may have is figuring out the best time to visit so you can avoid crowds.
Yes, the parks have limited capacity and can even feel somewhat empty compared to what guests are used to. But, there are also moments when the parks are busy and can become congested with bigger groups. It really all just depends on several factors.
Plus, it looks like people are becoming more comfortable with traveling and visiting the parks compared to when WDW first reopened. Now more than ever, that initial empty park feeling has seem to vanish.
There isn’t an exact answer of when the best time to visit is or if crowds will appear on certain days. But, there are a few things you can do when booking a Walt Disney World vacation that might help you avoid the crowds as much as possible.
None of the following are guarantees or means you won’t hit the parks on a so-called busy day. But these tips might benefit you in the long run.
1. Check The Availability Calendar
The Disney Park Pass Availability Calendar is online for anyone to check.
If you’re unaware, you need to book a theme park reservation (and also have valid theme park admission) in order to access any of the four WDW theme parks right now. (Read all about the Disney Park Pass System here.)
There are three different buckets of inventory for park reservations:
- Theme Park Ticket Guests (those with only park tickets)
- Disney Resort Guests (those with valid theme park admission and a hotel reservation)
- Annual Passholders (those with only Annual Passes)
For each bucket, the calendar allows you to click on a date and see which parks are available for that specific day. The availability is color coded:
- Green: All parks available
- Yellow: Some parks available
- Gray: No parks available
Before booking tickets and/or a hotel, check the availability calendar to make sure the dates you’re looking at have park availability.
Better yet, the calendar also allows you to see which days might be busier than others. I recommend checking each bucket to see if your dates are green, yellow, gray, or a mix. (Over Labor Day 2020, Saturday park availability was full for each bucket, meaning all of the parks reached capacity on that particular day.)
Now, this can change, especially if you plan well in advance, but the calendar is a great tool so you can keep track of what potential crowds may look like during your trip. Depending on availability, you can always change or cancel a park reservation too. And remember: you can only make a reservation for one park per day.
2. Think About Weekdays vs. Weekends
From what we’ve seen so far, weekdays are much less crowded compared to weekends. This is definitely something to keep in mind.
In my opinion, you may want to visit the parks Monday through Thursday. Fridays aren’t as busy as Saturdays and Sundays, but the crowd level does tend to pick up a bit towards the end of the week.
I can’t say for certain if weekdays will always remain less busy than weekends, but right now that very much seems to be the case. It makes sense for weekends to be busier, because that’s when most people have off work.
Even before the pandemic, weekends were always typically busier than weekdays and that trend seems to be continuing.
3. Time Of Year Matters
This varies now because there is an ongoing pandemic and not as many people are traveling like they used to.
But, Labor Day 2020 proved that holidays will most likely be busier than the average park day currently. However (and this wasn’t always the case), I did notice that wait times were still significantly lower than we’re used to, especially for a holiday.
People usually travel or visit WDW during holidays because they have time off, but if you don’t want to even risk a chance of being around a lot of people, you should probably schedule a trip for another time.
You should also keep in mind that holiday celebrations, like Halloween and Christmastime, tend to be busier. Allow me to note that with park capacity put in place holidays should be nowhere near as busy as they usually are — or fingers crossed they aren’t.
Seasonal park celebrations are limited so we only have a small amount of time to enjoy the offerings. Plus, when new cavalcades, treats, and decorations first debut, people want to experience them immediately. The time of year you visit is a huge factor when booking a trip and when selecting a park to visit.
And remember: even if there are bigger crowds than we’re used to right now, it’s up to us to try to maintain a safe distance from others and follow the protocols Disney has implemented.
4. Consider Your Park Choice
When making a park reservation via the Disney Park Pass System, keep in mind that sometimes certain parks are busier than others.
Hollywood Studios is definitely a hot spot for many, especially thanks to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Rise of the Resistance. It seems like this park is consistently busy.
Magic Kingdom is also popular, especially during Halloween, the holidays, and the weekends. Epcot can also become very congested on the weekends, even with all of that space.
Then there is Animal Kingdom, which started out with slow crowds but has certainly seen an increase and even more so on the weekends. But, seeing as there aren’t as many attractions or draw right now compared to the other parks, Animal Kingdom might be a good park to try, especially since you may be able to get in and get out somewhat quickly.
Let me say that compared to pre-pandemic, the parks definitely have less people and it’s noticeable. Plus, wait times are much lower. That said, more and more people appear to be visiting the parks compared to when WDW first reopened.
5. Hotel Selection Is Key
Not all of the WDW Resort hotels have reopened, but there are still plenty to choose from.
When booking a WDW trip, you definitely want to think about which hotel will be best for you.
First of all, guests are spending more time at their hotels due to shortened park hours. You want to make sure you’re at a resort that offers dining, activities, pools, and more that will keep you content and entertained during your stay.
Secondly, it may be best for you to choose a hotel that offers more perks and is a bit more expensive. A value or moderate resort could be busier if guests are trying to save money.
Finally, you may also want to consider choosing a hotel that is within walking distance to the theme parks. Not only is this a major perk, but you can then also avoid being stuck with other guests on transportation.
If you have the option of walking and the parks are just too busy for your liking, you can quickly escape without having to wait for a bus.
These are the hotels that are within walking distance to select theme parks:
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Villas: to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas: to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower: to Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort: to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
- Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort: to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Note: not all of these hotels are currently open. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is currently building a walkway as well that guests can use to access Magic Kingdom.
And that’s that! Hopefully some of my suggestions help you out in the long run. Again, they aren’t foolproof, but definitely something to keep in mind when booking a Walt Disney World vacation right now.
If you’re interested in visiting WDW, be sure to reach out to CJ Ayd from Magical Vacation Planner. You can request a FREE quote and he’ll be happy to assist you with your planning needs. If you book a trip via my recommendation, I receive commission, so let CJ know you heard about him from me. I’d appreciate it!
For more on Walt Disney World’s reopening, be sure to check out my complete guide detailing everything from dining, to hotels, to transportation, and much more.