Thursday, February 22, 2024

Winter (Nonetheless) Is Not Off-Season at Disney World


Winter is now not low season at Walt Disney World, at the least not throughout the board with weeks of wait occasions on par with August and September. Nonetheless, 2024 attendance has dropped from vacation highs that lasted by the primary week of January. This crowd report shares current knowledge, our on the bottom observations, plus surprises we’re seeing to date and the way we count on to be fallacious.

Since round 2017-2018, winter has (principally) been a ‘story of two seasons’ at Walt Disney World. There are peaks and valleys, with actually excessive highs and comparatively low lows. Clearly, Christmas and New Yr’s Eve are peak weeks–everybody is aware of that. Nonetheless, it’s not merely sluggish after then till Spring Break, and hasn’t been for a number of years.

Our most up-to-date report identified how Colossal Crowds Proceed in Early 2024 at Walt Disney World, and defined that this was primarily resulting from Central Florida faculty districts being on break coupled with the tip of AP blockouts, and not the Walt Disney World Marathon (though that actually is a contributing issue). Now that we’re a few weeks faraway from that, we’ve seen the most recent tendencies in crowds emerge…

One other factor value mentioning is that January and February usually are not even constant from year-to-year. Once more, this pattern has been rising since 2017, nevertheless it grew to become actually pronounced in Winter 2020. These are nonetheless among the worst crowds we’ve seen, in all probability for a variety of causes together with the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the earlier month. (For a refresher, learn Peak Crowds in Winter “Off-Season” at Walt Disney World.) I’ve talked about it earlier than, however I stay satisfied that 2020 would’ve been a blockbuster 12 months for Walt Disney World crowds had the entire “closure” factor not occurred.

Then got here Winter 2021, which was the precise reverse–the phrases ‘useless’ and ‘ghost cities’ can be completely apt and solely slight hyperbole. In all probability quite a lot of explanations for that, however the greatest would undoubtedly be the vacation COVID wave inflicting quite a lot of cancellations. After climbing in late 2020, crowds these two months had been the bottom they’d been for the reason that month or so after reopening.

Winter 2022 was bonkers. We warned that this might doubtless be the case in Reopening of Worldwide Journey’s Impression on Walt Disney World Crowds. Along with that, pent-up demand was nonetheless heating up, runDisney was again, as had been youth sporting occasions. Plus, loads of individuals nonetheless had but to expertise Walt Disney World’s fiftieth Anniversary, which was just a few months outdated.

Final 12 months was pretty uneventful, principally marking a return to the (new) regular of winter crowds at Walt Disney World. Down year-over-year or as in comparison with 2020, however up significantly as in comparison with the lows of 2021. Pent-up demand had principally run its course and weeks that had been beforehand lulls as soon as once more reemerged; busier break weeks/lengthy weekends had been as crowded as anticipated. Figuring out that it wasn’t opening till Spring Break, maybe some WDW diehards had been ready for TRON Lightcycle Run; I’m truthfully unsure.

All of which is a long-winded preface that brings us to Winter 2024 at Walt Disney World…

As all the time, what’s coated in these “crowd” experiences is definitely posted wait time knowledge that’s pulled from My Disney Expertise and compiled into graphs for monitoring and evaluating numerous days, weeks, months, and years. Lots may be gleaned from posted wait occasions, nevertheless it’s not essentially conclusive of in-park congestion or crowds.

There are a number of different variables that may impression “looks like” crowds, from festivals at EPCOT to climate to visitor demographics to experience breakdowns to operational effectivity to time of day or day of the week. (Actually all the things on that checklist can be related in January 2024 to this point!) Yada yada yada…that’s only a partial checklist! Past that, wait occasions are sometimes inflated, inaccurate, or in any other case manipulated by Walt Disney World.

Briefly, wait occasions are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s uncooked attendance or crowds–which have elevated by a number of million individuals over the course of the final decade-plus. With that out of the way in which, let’s dig into the info and have a look at Walt Disney World wait occasions. As all the time, all graphs and stats are courtesy of thrill-data.com:

We’ll begin with a high-level have a look at the month-to-month numbers for Walt Disney World as a complete.

That is most attention-grabbing for those who evaluate the latest December and this January to the identical months from the prior-year. Discover December 2022 was a lot busier however that January 2024, to this point, is way busier–nearly as unhealthy as final month?! Earlier than drawing any untimely conclusions, check out the following graph…

If we break this down by week, the variations ought to be simpler to identify. The week between Christmas Eve and New Yr’s Eve was off the charts–barely busier than the identical week year-over-year. The next week that encompasses winter break was nonetheless actually unhealthy, however not fairly as unhealthy as final 12 months. The month averages replicate January not but being over–it’ll drop additional, however in all probability not a ton–and December additionally together with a number of actually sluggish weeks.

Equally as attention-grabbing are the weeks since winter break ended. Crowd ranges in January 2024 dropped sharply as faculty went again into session, which occurred extra step by step final 12 months. The opposite distinction for this 12 months is that winter crowd ranges are already beginning to pattern upwards. (Don’t give an excessive amount of weight to that final line above–that “week” is only one day outdated.)

Above is a have a look at the every day numbers over the course of the final 6 months.

This affords a extra granular have a look at the post-break drop-off, adopted by the gradual enhance in crowds since. The 2 increased traces mid-month are the MLK Day vacation weekend, which can be the beginning of EPCOT’s Pageant of the Arts. Though it’s not a very busy vacation weekend, it’s a in style time for Walt Disney World followers from the Midwest and Northeast to take fast getaways to flee the chilly.

Additionally attention-grabbing is that the final a number of days have seen crowds roughly on par with final 12 months’s fall break and far busier than the lulls throughout November or December. Whereas it’s in all probability too early to name this a pattern (regardless that we predict it in all probability is), it’s been busier than we’d count on this time of 12 months to be.

We’ll begin the park-by-park knowledge with Magic Kingdom, the place crowd ranges proceed to be considerably of a curler coaster in January 2024. Usually, they’d normalize this time of 12 months after a number of consecutive months of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Celebration and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Celebration dates. That hasn’t actually occurred–they’ve been far and wide.

Our greatest guess is that this can be a matter of experience refurbishments & breakdowns, climate, and the adjustments to park reservations and hopping guidelines. This was just about my expertise with Magic Kingdom during the last a number of days, with plenty of downtime (each deliberate and unplanned) plus climate inflicting much more unpredictability than regular. We’d nonetheless count on a normalization fairly quickly.

We additionally wish to (once more) draw your consideration to one thing mentioned in Walt Disney World Extends Hours in Winter 2024, which is the early closing on January 29, 2024. As soon as extra, we’d extremely suggest doing Magic Kingdom on that day and not on January 28.

This similar schedule quirk has occurred for the final a number of years, and if historical past repeats itself (and it’ll!), January 28 will see a reasonably vital spike whereas January 29 will probably be one of many 5 slowest days of the 12 months at Magic Kingdom. If in any respect potential, we’d suggest avoiding January 30 at MK, too. If you would like or want a second day within the park, purpose for January 26-27 or 31–these are additionally extra favorable from the angle of park hours.

In any case, mild crowds in Magic Kingdom on January 29, 2024 is among the most secure “can’t miss” predictions we are able to presumably make. Attendance will be low that day, to the purpose that you just received’t want Genie+ (particularly for those who reap the benefits of the extra-early Early Entry!). Don’t overthink this, questioning whether or not “too many” individuals will observe our recommendation and considering it is likely to be busy in consequence. It won’t be. This prediction is as certain because it will get with regards to WDW crowds.

Animal Kingdom is coming off its vacation highs, when wait occasions had been completely off-the-charts. If crowd ranges weren’t capped at 10/10, these dates between Christmas and New Yr’s Eve would’ve been like 15/10–they had been that a lot increased than the traditional 10/10 vary.

Wait occasions had been manageable post-winter break, however there was a spike for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day vacation weekend; nonetheless not practically as unhealthy as Christmas break, although. After a quieter couple of weeks, wait occasions are trending up once more. The final a number of days have been within the 9/10 vary, which is attention-grabbing and a bit shocking.

I used to be in Animal Kingdom for 2 of these 9/10 days, and so they had been unhealthy. Not within the typical methods you may count on, such because the Pandora rides registering triple digit waits. They did, however probably not all that stunning numbers. Extra in lengthy waits for different issues that always are simpler to perform, such because the stage exhibits having precise traces and Lightning Lanes being beneficial at them. Similar story with Dinosaur and Kilimanjaro Safaris, which had overflow queues spilling far out their attraction entrances together with triple-digit waits.

Then there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After colossal crowds all through the vacation season, it’s now averaging reasonable crowd ranges (within the 4/10 to six/10 vary). Downright pleasant by comparability!

It’s uncertain that any first-timers to the park would agree with that evaluation. Hollywood Studios is disagreeable when wait occasions are “solely” reasonable–it’s downright depressing at 10/10. DHS merely can not soak up crowds with its present lineup, and “looks like” crowds may be fairly unhealthy as soon as the group stage is at 6/10 or above.

As somebody who has been across the block with terrible attendance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I used to be pretty unfazed by current experiences there. Even with Rock ‘n’ Curler Coaster closed and the compulsory breakdowns at different sights, the park as a complete was not horrible. With that mentioned, “not horrible” is relative to the DHS baseline, which is nearly all the time a various diploma of unhealthy. Early Entry or nighttime stay the simplest methods to “beat” DHS, adopted by (or alongside) Lightning Lanes.

Persevering with to EPCOT, the place crowd ranges are formally above-average to hit (6/10 to eight/10).

That is fairly excessive for winter at EPCOT, however even now, there’s a chasm between crowd ranges as represented by experience wait occasions and crowd ranges as represented by congestion or, say, the common size of a line for a Meals Studio at Pageant of the Arts. I’d say 6/10 to eight/10 is about correct for the previous Future World, which is noticeably busy however not bonkers.

World Showcase is arguably a lot worse. I waited near half-hour for a grilled cheese sandwich and equally as lengthy for some bone marrow. There have been a number of events after I couldn’t even discover an open blogger’s buffet bar (often known as a trash can desk high) as a result of it was so busy. Wait occasions for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Journey had been usually “solely” round 60-90 minutes (unhealthy however not actually terrible), even because the walkways had been actually congested.

Not precisely an enormous shock there, and owing to the ever-increasing recognition of the EPCOT Worldwide Pageant of the Arts. As a reminder, nothing at EPCOT’s festivals has a posted wait time, so this congestion just isn’t “picked up” by crowd ranges. Which means that locals displaying up, wandering round, grazing the meals cubicles, having fun with artwork and leisure, however NOT doing a single attraction contribute to congestion however not to crowd ranges.

Paradoxically, these persons are in all probability worse for crowdedness, as they’re just about all the time in walkways and never in standby traces. Name it the “EPCOT Impact” or no matter, nevertheless it’s noticeable at this park greater than any of the others.

Finally, it’s been a reasonable winter “low season” to date at Walt Disney World. When wanting on the weekly averages, there aren’t actually any main variations from final 12 months–so this may be construed as an uneventful crowd report and but additional proof that tendencies are returning to regular. Nonetheless, I’m reluctant to attract that conclusion for a few causes.

First, as a result of final 12 months’s crowd ranges from mid-April by late December had been down fairly considerably as in contrast with the identical dates in 2022. The week between Christmas and New Yr’s Eve was the most important exception, which was truly up. That has continued into January 2024, which might be the beginning of a pattern, which means that Walt Disney World is reversing final 12 months’s slight slowdown.

That is itself noteworthy, as we’ve been anticipating an additional exhaustion of pent-up demand over the course of 2024. What if, as a substitute, this marks a rebound for Walt Disney World? That 2023 was the ‘off’ 12 months for households that go to semi-frequently, and so they’re returning in 2024. That fears of a recession are diminishing, client confidence is enhancing, and all of that is going to lead to a bounce-back 12 months for Walt Disney World. Or that the corporate is doing what’s essential to incentivize followers to return, pulling the proper “levers,” and many others.

We’re not but suggesting that any of this stuff are occurring–but. What we’re conceding is that we beforehand didn’t even account for these potentialities, and as a substitute assumed that the pattern line for Walt Disney World crowds would proceed downward as revenge journey continued to exhaust itself. That will nonetheless be true in the long term of 2024, however we all know suspect that it might be fallacious.

Crowd ranges have began trending upward inside January at a time once they’d usually proceed dropping or, at minimal, plateau at below-average ranges. It’s fully potential that this can be a non permanent blip, and that later this week or subsequent an additional slowdown will happen. For the explanations above (and extra), we’re now skeptical of that; our suspicion is that the following couple months are going to resemble one thing extra like a repeat of Winter 2020.

In that case, our present crowd forecasts are going to underestimate attendance and wait occasions till Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day. We’ll have extra on the ‘why’ of this very quickly–I wish to see a bit extra earlier than making any daring assertions. (I additionally don’t wish to “bury” potential adjustments to crowd tendencies on the finish of a crowd report the place they’re simple to overlook.)

For now, I needed to offer these of you visiting Walt Disney World the remainder of this month or in February 2024 that it is likely to be worse than you’re anticipating. The climate and park hours extensions nonetheless make the winter, low season or not, a good time to go to–so don’t fret an excessive amount of. After all, all bets are off as soon as Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend roll round. (See Keep away from Ski Week Crowds at Disney for extra.) We aren’t predicting the second half of February 2024 to be the low season at Walt Disney World, however then once more, we by no means had been.

Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Find out about resorts on our Walt Disney World Accommodations Evaluations web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Evaluations. To economize on tickets or decide which sort to purchase, learn our Ideas for Saving Cash on Walt Disney World Tickets submit. Our What to Pack for Disney Journeys submit takes a singular have a look at intelligent objects to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Journey Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, one of the best place to begin is our Walt Disney World Journey Planning Information for all the things you want to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What has your expertise been with crowds at Walt Disney World to this point in Winter 2024? Have you ever been stunned by the “low season” attendance this month? Have you ever encountered ‘useless’ days throughout this time? Do you agree or disagree with our tackle the crowds? In case you visited WDW throughout January or February 2018-2020, what was your expertise with wait occasions then? Any questions we will help you reply? Listening to suggestions about your experiences is each attention-grabbing to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas under within the feedback!



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