Our recent visits to Disney Parks have confirmed what has been reported elsewhere – the crowd levels are lower than what we’ve seen in over a year. Where have all of the people gone and why has the attendance dropped in the summer, of all seasons? In this post, we’ll address those questions along with our thoughts on using crowd calendars going forward.
The past month has seen lower wait times and less crowded walkways than any of the 6 domestic parks have had since Genie+ was implemented. Yes, some in-park factors have helped this, like a growing capacity and staffing, but that doesn’t fully explain the dip in crowds. Others have documented this drop in detail with lots of interesting data, while many media has been hyperbolic calling the parks empty. They are by no means empty, just less crowded than they have been a while. Why is that?
Summer used to be the time of year with the largest crowds at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. The reasons being obvious, with Disney Parks being one of the most visited family vacation spots in the world and most families vacation during the summer. Disregarding the pandemic years because they are an outlier to data, summer crowds had slowed a little bit towards the end of the 2010’s. Of course, that’s all relative and really the rest of the year just caught up to summer crowd levels more than summer dipping down.
Even so, websites like this one cautioned against going in the summer because the crowds were still high and the weather was generally overbearing compared to all the other months. Now that we’re seeing the dip in crowds this summer at both resorts, I do wonder what effect that has had. Information is easily accessible and planning a Disney trip can be so complicated, there are more eyes than ever on posts and articles that have cautioned against going in the summer.
There’s certainly more to it than that though and looking no farther than the pandemic gives us a few answers. Following the parks reopening and dropping major restrictions, traveling around the country was extremely common. After being trapped inside for the better part of a year, revenge travel saw people spending at a rapid rate. That led to incredible spending at the Disney Parks, not only in booking vacations but also spending inside of the parks.
Revenge travel spanned 18 months, modestly, putting the start date before the holidays of 2021 with it ending in May of 2023, when the wait times and crowd levels were quite high. That’s a large chunk of time to see so many people go on vacation, not just at theme parks but all over the globe! That amount of travel was never going to last though. Varying factors play into it ending, whether it’s economic fears, spending in other places or just getting back to a normal daily life.
I do find it surprising that the high crowds didn’t last 3 more months before seeing a major drop off in September, but there’s a strong possibility of people avoiding Disney Parks in the summer months now. If you’ve been to Florida in July then it wouldn’t be difficult to rationalize that! But those that can handle the humidity with more grace (and less sweat) than I do could look to a few other explanations.
Blockout dates for annual passes are rather hefty in the summer, to the point where many levels can’t get in, especially on the weekends. That plays a big role at Disneyland Resort, and to a lesser extent at WDW, because such a broad base of the attendance comes out of those. Will we see the blockout dates eased over the next few years? I think there will need to be at least another year of evidence before Disney (or other theme parks for that matter) decide to go that route.
Along with the blockout dates, Disney’s dynamic pricing really comes into effect during the summer with ticket prices reaching outrageous heights. Why would families go during the weekend in summer when they can go during a school break when the weather is cooler and the ticket prices are cheaper? With those things in mind, seeing the Disney Parks post-COVID travel bubble burst during the summer does make sense.
Will it stay this way in summers going forward is another question. The crowd calendars that the wonderful people at Touring Plans, Undercover Tourist, Disney Tourist Blog and more offer are very data driven and well done. Sure, there are some bad crowd calendars out there but, by and large, they take an enormous amount of research and data to come upon their conclusions. There were discrepancies this summer but I think that will be an outlier in the long run.
As for sites like this, I’ve considered redoing my month rankings of when to travel to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Frankly, after walking through Disneyland in the middle of July and accomplishing an incredible amount in 12 hours, it was hard to keep it in last place. I would like to see another summer of evidence before changing things too much though.
September and October will be telling. September is one of the least crowded months of the year on both coasts and if we see the summer trend stretch to then, the parks will be as quiet as we’ve seen in some time. I don’t know that I’d necessarily predict that thanks to passholders having more open dates but it’s in the realm of possibility.
On the other hand, October has steadily become one of the busiest times of the year thanks to Halloween festivities and a few school breaks. If there’s not a big bounce back then the attendance drop will be more evidence towards a slowing travel economy rather than a big change in the Disney Parks crowd calendar. We won’t know for sure until next July how much of a blip this summer was but the next few months will give us the start of our answers.
All this to say, I wouldn’t rush out and make immediate plans to take your family trip to a Disney Resort in the middle of July in 2024. Along with everything else that those months have going against them, the drop in attendance could just as well be evidence of something else rather than a new quiet time at the parks. Along with watching our site and others of the like, keep your eyes on discounts offered by Disney throughout the year. That will be a good measurement of how booking is going ahead of time. For now, hold tight and congratulate anyone who traveled this summer and experienced these lower crowds!
Where do you think the Disney Parks crowds are headed? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! Planning a trip to a Disney Park? Check out all of our Planning Guides to help you along the way. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Rumors and Commentary