Here’s where we’re at with the December 2011 Crowd Calendar (click the image to enlarge it to a more readable size).
We’re expecting to see slightly below average to slightly above average crowds for the first two weeks or so. After that, the Christmas crowds roll in and the overall crowd level jumps to 9s and 10s, indicating possible closures at Magic Kingdom due to capacity concerns. It’s important to note that Disney has changed its pricing structure a bit this year. In the past, they have done two Holiday Seasons with the more expensive pricing going into effect earlier in the month (the 17th in 2010). This year, we don’t switch to the uber-expensive Holiday pricing until the 23rd. In addition, many school districts have winter break from the 17th through the end of December, which will raise crowds earlier than usual. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more vacations from December 17th through the 22nd or so, in order to take advantage of the lower pricing and still be able to enjoy much of the same Christmas festivities that will be going on over Christmas Week. You may very well be thinking about a trip during that time frame. While crowds will begin to increase substantially as we get closer to Christmas, dealing with more people might be worth seeing Holiday Wishes, Candlelight Processional, Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, and all of the other holiday decorations. It truly is a magical time of year to visit Disney World. Last year, Christmas Week crowds were relatively low until December 27th due to airport closures and flight cancellations. Hopefully the weather won’t be an issue this year.
I’ll have some additional thoughts as I put together the daily analysis. Expect a few changes to the Calendar between now and when the analysis goes up, but the general idea and crowd levels shouldn’t change. This is meant to give you an idea about where we’re headed. The analysis should be up in the next few days – Thursday would be nice, but I’m not sure it’s realistic. Another problem going into the weekend is the fact that I’ll be covering Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios on Friday and Saturday. Nonetheless, I may put up the first two weeks of analysis on Thursday and then update with the rest of the month later in the week. That should give those of you who are trying to put together a list of dining reservations for an early-December trip a head start on planning.