The One Thing To Double Check When Booking A Disney Trip To Avoid Large Crowds

How you might approach Disney World vacation planning nowadays is very different from how it has been in the past. Disney's four Florida theme parks feel more crowded than ever, and no one wants to waste their precious vacation time if they can help it. Between navigating Genie+, making dining reservations, and deciding which Disney hotel to stay at, you may feel overwhelmed. One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to planning a Disney vacation centers around avoiding crowds.

Over the last few years, predicting crowd levels has significantly changed. Time periods that used to be considered "off-season" can be just as busy as peak seasons, like winter holidays and summertime. You can help yourself dodge some of the crowds if you plan accordingly. Your best bet is to visit the theme parks on days when they do not have extended hours or special events, such as Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Avoid parks with extended hours — morning or night

In the past, Walt Disney World offered a service called "Extra Magic Hours." Throughout the year, Extra Magic Hours would switch between extended morning and extended evening hours, and they would only be offered in one theme park daily. Since 2021, the program has been renamed "Early Theme Park Entry." Open to only Disney hotel guests, it offers park-goers a 30-minute head start over non-hotel guests. What's also different about the program is that, rather than only applying to one park daily, Early Theme Park Entry is an option at every park, every day. 

Most planning advice would tell guests to avoid those parks with Extra Magic Hours at all costs, but that is not the case with Early Theme Park Entry. Presently, crowds seem more affected by special events requiring extra tickets to stay in the park past closing time. If you stay at a Disney hotel, there's no problem with taking advantage of the early entry access.

Consider a specially ticketed event or avoid those parks

Specially-ticketed events are separate purchases from regular theme park tickets. They range from After Hours events to themed holiday events. Though most of these special occurrences have a start and end time, guests are usually allowed to enter earlier than the stated start time. Most ticketed events occur in the evening hours, and because they cost extra, the crowds tend to be smaller at the actual events — but the same can't be said for during the day.

If you are not planning to attend one of those special events and just want to spend the day at the theme park, it is best to skip the park hosting the event or extended evening hours. On these days, the parks are actually more crowded. If avoiding crowds is important to you, then check ahead of time to confirm whether or not your park of choice is offering anything specific the day you want to visit.