The recent closure of the Disney parks is a pretty unprecedented situation. But what exactly does a multi-week park closure mean for the rest of the year in Disney World?
Thousands and thousands of people just had their Disney vacations canceled out of nowhere which, as you can imagine, is a major bummer for many. Well, it’s only right that all of those people get another chance on their trip once they reschedule! So, if all those affected are coming back later in the year, we can expect to see some changes to crowd levels. Read on to find out what you may be able to expect for the rest of 2020 when it comes to crowds in Disney World!
What’s The Significance Of This Closure For Future Crowds?
Disney World is a pretty fun place no matter when you go, but there are some times of the year that are notoriously busier than others. Unfortunately, the current closure has come at a time that can be pretty busy in Disney World.
Guests from all over flock to the parks in early spring to enjoy the milder weather. School-aged kids and college students are getting a break from classes right now, and usually that means a large number of families head to Disney World.
But this year…this is not the case. Instead, the thousands of families who had trips planned for their spring break are stuck at home and rescheduling their trips.
Outside of spring break, big draws to travel at this time of year can be holiday weekends or the ever-popular Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. So, with everyone who had made Disney plans during the closure having to reschedule, what does that mean for the rest of the year?
Those families missing out now are going to likely reschedule. Could that mean spring break crowds later on this year?
How Many People Could Be Rescheduling For Later This Year?
According to the 2018 Global Attractions Attendance Report from the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, Disney World parks had over 158,500 visitors on average per day in 2018. Whew! That’s a ton of people having a blast in the parks! That means that there are over 2,000,000 park visits that would have taken place during the (as it currently stands) 15-day closure! Of course, many of these are the same people going to the parks multiple days, but that still means that 2,000,000 park entries will need to be rescheduled.
Now, these numbers are an estimate. The numbers come from two years ago and not everyone will reschedule their trips for later this year. However, Disney has automatically extended the use of tickets affected by the closure for use any date before December 15th, 2020. Many will take advantage of this automatic extension and will make plans to be in the parks this year.
It is important to note that if guests affected by the closure cannot travel later this year, they can apply the value of an unused ticket to the purchase of a ticket dated past December 15th. Plus, if the Disney World closure faces any extensions (heavily dependent on the status of the virus in the U.S. at the end of the month), the company may extend the affected tickets further. That said, it is likely that many guests will take advantage of the automatic extension, which could have a significant effect on crowds for the rest of the year.
When Could Crowds Start To Ramp Up After Parks Reopen…And By How Much?
A big thing that we’re wondering is how soon after reopening will Disney World’s attendance start to look normal again.
It’s likely that for a few weeks after the parks reopen, park attendance could be below average. Many will still be wary of large crowds and health concerns, and it’s possible that Disney could adopt a phased reopening (as they have in Shanghai) with modifications to what a day in Disney World looks like.
Guests may want to reschedule their trips several months into the future so as not to risk being any further inconvenienced by possible travel restrictions, or in an attempt to avoid a “half-open” Disney World if the parks start opening back up in phases.
Plus, the effects of the current state of affairs will likely leave a lasting impact on many families. It may not be possible for some guests to make the trip to Disney World immediately after restrictions begin to lift. It could take some time for people to return to their regular ways of life after significant economic impacts from the closures around the country.
However, we anticipate that after a period of wariness and caution, things will inevitably fall back into a normal pattern in Disney World and guests will be pounding the pavement of the parks just like they always have.
When everything returns to normal, it’s pretty safe to say that already crowded times will get more crowded. Summer vacation, Halloween time, and the Holidays are sure to be packed as usual — maybe even with thousands of extra guests who have rescheduled their vacations.
Guests who had planned their trips around Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival may make a point to visit Disney during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival to get their fix of an Epcot Festival. At the same time, guests who were traveling for spring school holidays, may look to reschedule for Halloween or Christmas.
Now let’s take a look at the math. If the parks DO reopen on April 1st, then there will be an average increase of about 8,500 people in the parks each day if all 2,000,000 affected park entries were to distribute evenly throughout the rest of the year. That ultimately comes to an increase of about 5.5% to Disney World attendance which is pretty significant.
Granted, an even distribution of guests across all remaining days of the year is highly unlikely, so that number may actually be notably higher on expectedly busy days.
So based on that math — and the expectation that many guests will reschedule their trips for later this year — 2020 may be a much busier year after the parks reopen. If there is an extension of the closure, the crowds will only get bigger when the parks do finally reopen. Yikes!
What Does This Mean For You?
The increase in crowds could have a big effect on a lot of guests in the coming year, so let’s take a look at what you can expect and how you can maximize your trip!
Whether your trip was one that was canceled during the closure, or you just have plans to head to Disney World sometime this year, there are a few things you’ll want to do if you’re hoping to make the most of your trip!
Choose Your Travel Time Wisely
First of all, consider what level of crowds you want to deal with. Even with the increase this year, there will still be times that are slower than others. Consider planning your trip for late August or early September or for the few weeks between Thanksgiving and the Disney holiday celebrations. It’s common to see a lull during those times which might help you dodge some of those larger crowds.
Make Dining Reservations and FastPass+ Reservations As Soon As You Can
Whenever you decide to go, you need to plan, plan, PLAN! Make those Advance Dining Reservations for restaurant meals ASAP (they open up 180 days before your arrival)!
Crowded days are also much more tolerable when you have good FastPasses. If you have a stay booked in a Disney World resort hotel you can book your FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance. If you’re not staying on property, you can still book your FastPasses 30 days in advance.
Game Plan To Ride New Attractions
If you have your eye on a new attraction, you’ll want to plan ahead and know the ropes! Check out our tips on how to “rope drop” (that’s getting into your favorite park RIGHT at opening time!) so that you can ride even the most popular rides on the busiest days!
Rise of the Resistance will likely still be using a virtual queue later this year, so take a look at the best ways to make it on this crazy cool attraction. Plus, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is set to open this summer in Epcot, so we’ll be bringing you all the best tips for that attraction, too!
Does A Hard Ticket Event Make Sense For Your Family?
One way you might be able to sidestep crowds during busy times is by considering a hard ticket event. After Hours ($129 per ticket in advance) or Early Morning Magic ($89 for adults, $79 for kids in advance) events allow guests exclusive access to the parks when they’re closed to the general public. Usually, this means much lower ride wait time and fewer crowds than what you’d see on a typical day — and a significantly better experience than what you’d encounter on a very busy day.
But prices on these events are HIGH. So we sometimes recommend foregoing a park day (which runs $100+ per person to purchase) and attending an After Hours event instead — especially in Magic Kingdom. This way, you can ride most big-ticket rides multiple times with little to no wait.
Finally, whether you’re rescheduling or not, please be patient with Cast Members during your planning process. These sweet magic-makers have been dealing with a lot of confusion and questions thanks to this unprecedented closure so always, always, always be kind!
Get The DFB Guide!
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What About Next Year?
It’s likely that some of the extra crowding will affect the first half of 2021, too. Of course, next year is also the 50th anniversary of Disney World, which is sure to be VERY crowded. So, it’s likely that avoiding crowds completely will be pretty impossible for a while.
But we’ve got tips for that ;-D. Check out our Ultimate Survival Guide to Crowded Days in Disney World to make sure you’re prepared!
Worries about crowds on your next Disney trip? Click here to check out our ULTIMATE Survival Guide to Crowded Days in Disney World!
Of course, we will update you on any changes to how people might reschedule and how Disney is dealing with the closure. And you can always check in with us for tips on how to make your Disney trip the best it can be, no matter when you go!
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Do you have any other questions or comments regarding the crowd levels for the rest of 2020? Let us know in the comments!