We’ve been discussing big picture Magic Kingdom crowds a little bit over the last month or so.
You may have seen the above chart, which lists the average wait time at Magic Kingdom across 17 attractions each day over the last 18ish months, as part of this post. The focus there was largely on how wait times fluctuated from week to week and month to month and if the 2017 trends that we saw are continuing into 2018. The color-coding is less important for this discussion, but it indicates how much Disney is charging for a 1-day Magic Kingdom ticket on that particular date. Green days are Value, Yellow days are Regular, and Red days indicate a day with peak pricing.
We’ve probably all heard the advice to avoid Magic Kingdom on Mondays and Saturdays because they’re “always more crowded” and to visit on a weekday instead to enjoy shorter wait times and lower crowds. On the surface, it makes some sense. Local visitors are probably more likely to visit on a Saturday or Sunday than they are on a random Tuesday. But with Disney scaling staffing and capacity up and down with such fluidity, most of us have probably seen how fewer people in line can actually mean longer waits when only one side of Space Mountain is operating or two of the three Bays at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe are closed during the dinner rush.
This time around, we’ll see how wait times progress from day to day throughout the week and see if we can come to any conclusions about whether or not certain days of the week really are busier.
We’ll break this big chart down shortly, but here’s a look at the average posted wait time for each day of the week so far in 2018 broken down by month:
We can probably start to pick up on some trends, but with just four or five Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. each month, one unusually high or low number can throw things off significantly. For example, Monday January 1st and Wednesday January 3rd were both peak days during a holiday week with terrible cold, rainy weather that kept a lot of people out of the Parks that would have otherwise visited. Because of that, Tuesday January 2nd, with nicer weather, sees a much higher number that’s more than twice as high as Monday’s. Thus, we see a lower average on Mondays and Wednesdays in January just because of those two numbers. It also throws off our conclusions because that Monday and Wednesday would have seen significantly higher wait times without the weather intrusion. The difference in wait times between the three days does not have much to do with the fact that it’s Monday one day and Tuesday another.
Weather can play a major role in Walt Disney World wait times and at the Magic Kingdom in particular, as most guests are looking to bring home pictures of themselves standing in front of Cinderella Castle with bright blue skies in the background. And it’s a big reason why trying to plan which days will be “less crowded” six months in advance is oftentimes a fool’s errand. Even if the third Thursday in September has seen the absolute lowest wait times of the year each of the last five years, if it’s raining on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday leading up to it, then you can bet there’s going to be a whole lot more people heading to Magic Kingdom on that Thursday.
In order to try to eliminate some of this bias, let’s take a look at wait times for each day of the week so far in 2018:
A couple of things are immediately obvious. First, Saturdays really do have the longest waits of the week with the 45.4 minute average, but it’s not by a huge margin and the increase isn’t larger than it is for the other Parks, as a percentage. Somewhat surprising is the fact that Tuesdays actually see the second highest waits of the week at 42.9 minutes. The difference between Tuesday and Saturday is just 2.5 minutes, or 5.5%, which doesn’t “feel” particularly significant.
More surprising perhaps is the fact that Monday actually has the second lowest wait times of the week and the lowest wait time of any weekday. But regardless of which weekday you visit, there’s only a 1.6 minute difference between the day with the lowest and highest average waits across the first six months of the year.
Sunday looks to be the best day of the week to visit Magic Kingdom by a fair margin with waits more than four minutes shorter than Monday and over eight minutes shorter than Saturday.
Here’s the same information visualized a little differently:
The difference between the Sunday and Saturday bars is substantial – 22.4% – but there isn’t nearly as much of a difference in the length of the bars from Monday through Friday.
Here’s a look at the 1-Day Ticket Calendar:
Considering nine Sundays so far have been indexed as “Peak” days, which is the same number of Peak Saturdays, it’s a little surprising that the difference in wait times is so substantial. Those spending one day at Magic Kingdom will wait considerably longer if they choose to visit on a Saturday compared to holding off for a day and visiting on a Sunday, at least generally speaking.
That does make some sense. Sundays are said to be a big transition day at Walt Disney World as a lot of guests are both arriving for their traditional week-long vacation and leaving after their week-long vacation comes to an end. They also say people are more likely to end their trips at Magic Kingdom, which is more likely to be a Saturday than a Wednesday.
Speaking of Wednesday, that’s the day where you’ll usually see Magic Kingdom hosting evening Extra Magic Hours, while Fridays typically see a morning Extra Magic Hour attached. Interestingly, Wednesdays at Magic Kingdom see lower average waits than either the Tuesdays or Thursdays around them. Friday’s overall average wait with the morning EMH is just six seconds longer than Thursday’s. I don’t think I’d tell anybody to avoid Magic Kingdom when it’s hosting Extra Magic Hours because of that. If you aren’t eligible for the morning EMH, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to head to Magic Kingdom for rope drop since a few thousand resort guests will already be inside. But with only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland open during morning Extra Magic Hour, you could still arrive on the EMH morning and visit priorities like Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and whatnot without much disadvantage. And if you’re going to show up later in the day, average wait times look to be the same or lower than other days.
Of course, things are more nuanced than that and the fact that waits progress so differently from week to week is what makes keying in on any particular day as being less crowded a crapshoot. If you look at the first full week in February, Monday sees one of the higher wait times that week, as we might have expected before digging into the data. But the next week, Monday is far and away the least crowded day of the week. The following week, Saturday sees the lowest wait of the week with so many people leaving after Presidents Day. Over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend in January, Sunday with the 47-minute wait is the second-longest of the week. On the other hand, during the last week of the month, Sunday sees the shortest waits of the week.
I’m not sure if anybody remembers the crowd calendars of yesteryear, but the daily recommendations used to change throughout the year with Magic Kingdom actually being recommended most Saturdays during the summer. The logic there was that local visitors are less likely to visit Disney World during the hot summer, both due to their own comfort and the increased likelihood that their Annual Passes would be blocked out. Back in the day (five years ago),Magic Kingdom also hosted Extra Magic Hours on both Fridays and Sundays, which made Saturday less attractive to resort guests. And with the standard operating hours most days, Saturdays weren’t attracting a lot of people specifically because of the nighttime entertainment or the longer operating hours.
And the “data” appears to back that up for the most part. While Saturday’s average wait was the highest of the week in April and May, three other days have higher waits in June. And even though there’s little variation in operating hours or entertainment at the four major Walt Disney World theme parks over the summer, we still see quite a bit of variation from day to day and week to week in June. The first Monday sees the lowest waits of that week while the very next Monday sports the highest average of that week.
Let’s take a closer look at the first two Mondays in June so we can see which attractions that we’re talking about and how wait times progress over the course of the day. Here’s the breakdown on Monday, June 4th:
That’s with a 12am close and no downtime due to weather.
Here’s a week later, on Monday June 11th:
Here, you’ve got an earlier close and almost two hours of downtime for lightning in the evening. And the waits are still considerably longer.
So what have we learned? It probably still makes sense to avoid visiting Magic Kingdom on a Saturdays when you can, unless it’s going to rain, in which case crowds and wait times will be much lower. Sundays are the safest bet with consistently lower wait times.
Back to this chart again:
From among the weekdays, there just doesn’t look to be much of a difference in wait times from day to day. 42.4 minutes is lower than 42.9 minutes. It’s true. But if you look at Tuesdays and Thursdays over the same week so far this year, Tuesday’s average is higher 11 times, Thursdays’s average is higher nine times, and it’s a tie five times. On average, both days also see a higher average wait than the Wednesday with evening Extra Magic Hours.
Of course, there’s more to a day at the theme parks than potential, oftentimes minor, differences in wait times. It’s logical to also want to visit on a day with lower attendance. After all, visiting Magic Kingdom when there’s 35,000 people sounds better than visiting when there’s 45,000. Unfortunately, we come back to the grocery store analogy and those very real capacity fluctuations often don’t work in our favor on days with lower attendance. That’s probably part of why waits are lower on Mondays – Disney is prepared for more people in the Park and because staffing is increased so much, wait times are actually lower and the day may go smoother because of that higher staffing.
FastPass+ probably also plays a role in pulling people towards days that would naturally be less crowded otherwise. After all, if you’re looking for hard-to-get FastPass+ experiences like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight, it’s more likely that they’ll be available on days that fewer people are planning to attend. And when those FP+ experiences are available, guests are going to select them and lock themselves into visiting on what would have been a less crowded day. A big goal of the MyMagic+ initiative was to even out crowds among days of the week. And it appears that it’s working.
So bottom line…try to make a Sunday work if you can and try to avoid Saturday when possible. Pick a second weekday that fits best in your overall plan. Keep in mind that Magic Kingdom is going to be much busier if it rained the previous day. It probably doesn’t make sense to tell people to avoid Mondays given the fact that average waits that day are the second lowest of the week. But it’s only a difference of 3.9%.
One thing to keep in mind is that the above doesn’t ring true during the fall when Mickey’s Halloween/Christmas Parties close the Park at 6pm on three or four nights each week. Here’s the chart from the post, “When is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World:”
During that time of year, you’ll find far lower waits on most Mickey’s Party dates.
If you’d like some tips on how to go about touring the Magic Kingdom on a very, very busy day, see this post where I walk you through my touring plan.
For a discussion about wait times at Epcot and how days with Extra Magic Hours typically see lower waits than the days around it, pull up this post.
We’ll continue to see where the data takes us.