Our early 2019 interest in “the data” comes to a close for now as we focus on how much wait times at the Walt Disney World theme parks fluctuate from day to day. Does it really matter if you visit Magic Kingdom on a Tuesday instead of a Thursday? We should be able to say with some certainty.
We started with a broad look at wait times, and what to expect from the rest of the year, in, “Walt Disney World Early 2019 Crowd and Wait Time Trends.” It’s a bit of a doozy, but it’s worth reading if you’re interested in how crowds have progressed over the last couple of years and what those trends might mean for the future. We followed that up with an in-depth analysis of what’s happening at Hollywood Studios in, “Is Toy Story Land Still a Dud?” The answer is probably still a “yes,” but that matters less every day as we approach the opening of (at least part of) Galaxy’s Edge on August 29th.
This post is a followup to, “Does It Really Matter Which Day of the Week You Visit Disney World’s Magic Kingdom?” which I published last June and which produced this chart:
The fact that Sundays saw lower wait times than any other day was a bit surprising. The fact that Mondays saw the second lowest waits of the week goes against years of standard advice – that visitors on a week-long vacation arrive over the weekend and head to The Most Magical Place on Earth first thing. Saturdays during much of the year do see longer waits than other days, but not necessarily by a significant amount. Over the first six months of 2018, Magic Kingdom’s average wait on Saturdays was only 2.9 minutes longer than Friday and 3.0 minutes longer than Thursday, an increase of less than seven percent. Of course, it makes some amount of sense to avoid the busiest day of the week, which is Saturday for at at least 75% of the year.
On the other hand, Saturdays typically see longer operating hours. This week, for example, the Park is open from 8am to 11pm on Saturday and just 9am – 10pm on five other days. If you can take advantage of the 8am – 9am and/or 10pm – 11pm hours, then you can actually enjoy shorter waits during those periods than you could on less crowded days. On the other hand, Saturday’s peak waits will be higher and it’s the shorter waits earlier and later in the day that bring down the average.
If you’re keeping track, here’s an updated version of our big chart, which shows the average daily posted wait at 17 Magic Kingdom attractions every day from January 1st, 2017, through March 31st, 2019. See the opening of the Wait Times Trend post if you’re unfamiliar with the attractions represented or what the colors mean. In short, Green indicates a “Value” day where Disney is charging the lowest price for a 1-day ticket. Yellow indicates a “Regular” day with Orange coming in at “Regular-Plus” and Red as “Peak.” “Regular-Plus” is the unofficial name of the new price tier that was introduced in 2019, which is why you only see it on the far right side of the chart. More than 725,000 individual wait times are used in the above chart, so we’re talking about a considerable amount of data.
This time around, we’re going to be basing our analysis on a relatively limited set of data – just the first three months of 2019. At Magic Kingdom, it doesn’t make much sense to take most of August through December into account because wait times there are dependent on the Mickey’s Party schedule much more than the day of the week. You might remember the following chart, which shows wait times in October, highlighting the difference in wait times between Party (Orange) and non-Party (White) days:
We have the 35.5 minute average for the month, but Party days see a 30-minute average wait, while non-Party days ring in at 43.1 minutes. That’s a 43.7% difference and one that’s certainly more significant than the ~7% difference that we see between Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays earlier in the year.
Here’s the daily breakdown at Magic Kingdom so far in 2019:
For the most part, it looks like the trends that we saw throughout 2018 continue, with Sunday seeing the shortest average wait each month, with the exception of February. Higher wait times over Presidents Day Weekend push up the third Sunday in particular. Weekend wait times are also higher during other holiday weekends. The third Saturday and Sunday in January represent Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, where you also see some of the highest waits of the month outside of the first week. That has a lot more to do with the holiday status than the day of the week.
To eliminate at least a little bit of that bias, here’s a look at the first three months of data combined:
Sunday is clearly the day with the lowest waits, though it’s still just 1.6 minutes lower than Wednesday. Still, visiting on Sunday instead of Saturday will save you an average of 6.8 minutes per attraction, or just under 15%.
Here’s the same data represented in a familiar chart:
One thing to note is the fact that last year, we keyed in on Monday as seeing the second lowest waits of the week. That’s very much not true so far in 2019 with Monday’s 46.9 minute average higher than any other weekday and within a minute of Saturday’s average. Still, Monday sees a wait that’s just 1.7 minutes longer than Thursday and 2.1 minutes longer than Friday. That doesn’t necessarily “feel” significant. Likewise, from Tuesday through Friday, the difference in average wait from Wednesday with the lowest average wait, to Thursday with the highest, is less than three minutes.
Of course, there is that saying about lies and statistics. Below is exactly the same data, but I’ve changed the scale of the Y-Axis to start at 36 minutes:
From a casual glance, it looks like Monday’s wait times are more than double Sunday’s. Of course, that isn’t true.
Lastly, here’s our same wait times chart for Magic Kingdom during the first three months of 2019 color-coded in a different way. This time, days with an average wait of 40 minutes or less are green. Days with averages from 41 to 50 minutes are yellow. 51 to 60 minutes are coded orange and days that see 61+ minute averages are red:
This may make it a little easier to visualize how much shorter waits are in January and February than March. While all days of the week see at least one green day over the three months, we only see two on Mondays, both of which fell in January. Saturday only sees one green day as well, also in January. While Wednesday doesn’t see the lowest average wait of the week overall, it does bring the most green days at seven, all of which are in January and February. Note that Wednesdays are typically the day that Magic Kingdom hosts evening Extra Magic Hours, but waits are still among the lowest of any day. The most popular theme park in the world also hosts a morning Extra Magic Hour on most Fridays. While a lot of people would tell you to avoid the day because of it, wait times are actually lower than the Thursdays and Saturdays around it.
From a wait time perspective, there typically isn’t cause to avoid days with Extra Magic Hours. Of course, if you’re ineligible, it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to rope drop Magic Kingdom. On the other hand, only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are typically open during morning EMH, so you could feasibly head to Frontierland, Adventureland, or Liberty Square and not see a tremendous disadvantage if you arrive in time for regular open on the EMH morning.
Here’s a look at how wait times progressed on Thursday March 28th, a day with a nice 69-minute wait and what has actually been the longest average so far this year:
I can virtually guarantee you that your favorite “crowd calendar” recommended the Thursday, in between two days with Extra Magic Hours. But on average, Thursdays see the third longest waits of the week. At 10:30am on this particular day, or just 90 minutes into Park operation, the average wait is an even 60 minutes. Buzz is an hour…Haunted Mansion is an hour…Jungle Cruise is 95….Space is 115 minutes.
For a less extreme example, let’s look to the week before. Here’s Thursday March 21st:
The fact that Magic Kingdom was only open from 9am to 9pm during the busy spring break period is pretty pathetic and a big reason why wait times were so high. On the other hand, the Park was open from just 9am to 11pm during the first week of the year as well.
Compare the 21st to the following Saturday, March 23:
The Park was open two extra hours and because of that, the average wait is 11 minutes, or 17.5%, shorter. The longer hours also help spread people out, so Saturday also sees waits that build slower and peak lower than the busier Thursday. And with two extra hours of operation, you’ve also got attractions that are distributing what may be thousands more FastPass+ experiences over the course of the day, in turn increasing availability.
We haven’t discussed wait times at Epcot in detail in some time, so we’ll take a moment to do that now. Here’s a look at the first three months of 2019 with our classic color-coding based on the price calendar:
Ideally, the days with the lowest waits would be different than Magic Kingdom. We obviously can’t be everywhere on Sundays and Wednesdays if those are the days with the lowest waits at each of the theme parks. For Epcot, the average wait is based on Frozen Ever After, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, Mission: SPACE, The Seas with Nemo, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track.
Here’s the chart:
At Magic Kingdom, the days with the longest waits were Mondays and Saturdays with the shortest waits on Sundays and Wednesdays. Somewhat surprisingly, the day with the lowest waits at Epcot is actually Friday with an average wait that’s a full seven minutes shorter than Saturday. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday all have an average wait within two minutes of Friday as well. The longest waits are seen on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Part of the Monday high is probably due again to the holidays. If I change the wait time on the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day Mondays to the wait time the following day, then the average for Monday goes down to 33.8 minutes, which is lower than the two weekend days.
The distribution makes some sense given the fact that the early-year Festivals are largely designed to bring in locals, who push up weekend wait times. The fact that Saturday wait times are much longer probably also dispels the notion that Future World wait times don’t rise with more people in the Park. Even if you’re largely visiting for Festival of the Arts or Flower and Garden, you’re probably still using a couple FastPass+ experiences, which pushes up wait times as other guests are unable to secure those FP+ and have to get in the standby line if they want to experience the attraction.
Epcot typically hosts evening Extra Magic Hours on Tuesdays and morning Extra Magic Hours on Thursdays. Interestingly, those are two of the four days with the lowest waits. You’re much better off visiting Epcot on a weekday than a weekend, even if it’s an EMH day. If you’re ineligible for Extra Magic Hours, then you probably wouldn’t want to rope drop the Park on a morning EMH Thursday, but a late arrival won’t “feel” much more crowded than other non-EMH weekdays. Likewise, visiting the Park on a Tuesday with evening Extra Magic Hours won’t see wait times that are appreciably higher.
Here’s the chart color-coded based on wait times rather than price season:
Green days are 25 minutes or less, Yellow come in between 26 and 30 minutes, Orange is 31 to 35 minutes, and Red is 35+ minutes. While I probably should have coded wait times up through 28 minutes Green, it’s obvious where the longer wait times reside with March seeing almost all Orange and Red. Green and Yellow days are primarily on weekdays in January and February.
We’ve recently been discussing Hollywood Studios, particularly in “Is Toy Story Land Still A Dud?” Let’s have a look at how wait times progress across the week there, first with the usual ticket-based color-coding. These wait times average Alien Swirling Saucers, Muppet Vision 3D, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania:
Again, the Studios would ideally see shorter wait times on different days than Magic Kingdom or Epcot. At first glance, it looks like we may be in business. In March, Saturday’s average wait is the second shortest of the week and almost identical to Friday, which sees the shortest waits.
Let’s put all the days together:
At Magic Kingdom, the two days with the lowest average waits were Sunday and Wednesday and at Epcot, Thursday and Friday. At the Studios, it’s Tuesday and Wednesday. All three Parks share the two busiest days of the week – Monday and Saturday. At the Studios, Tuesday through Friday see very similar waits with just 2.3 minutes separating Wednesday’s 50.1 minutes and Thursday’s 52.4 minutes. Tuesday and Wednesday are virtually identical at 50.3 minutes and 50.1 minutes, respectively. I’ll post a chart with the days ranked in order at each Park since it may be difficult to keep track of.
Hollywood Studios typically hosts just one morning Extra Magic Hour on Sundays. With higher wait times, it makes sense to avoid the day unless you’re absolutely sure that you can arrive 30 minutes before it starts to take advantage of the full hour and be among the first to arrive at Slinky Dog Dash. If you’re headed to a different attraction, then an arrival 15 minutes before the morning EMH starts will suffice. That’s typically 7:45am.
We took a good look at what’s going on at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World Early 2019 Crowd and Wait Time Trends, but we’ll take a look at the breakdown by day here too. These wait times include Avatar Flight of Passage, DNIOSAUR, Expedition Everest, It’s Tough To Be A Bug, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Na’vi River Journey, Primeval Whirl, and TriceraTop Spin:
At first glance, it looks like Sundays and Wednesdays are best, just like Magic Kingdom.
Here’s the chart:
Mondays and Saturdays see the highest waits of the week, though Thursday and Friday are only a couple of minutes behind. Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday all see waits that are five to eleven minutes shorter than Saturday’s 61.7 minute high. That means Animal Kingdom’s wait time distribution over the course of the week is exactly the same as Magic Kingdom. I doubt that was true before Pandora opened.
Animal Kingdom hosts a morning Extra Magic Hour on most Mondays and Saturdays. Considering those days see the highest wait times at all Parks, it’s unlikely that the morning EMH is what’s causing those higher times. But it does make some sense to avoid those days if you can.
As far as the average posted wait is concerned, here’s how each day ranks at each Park, from the day with the lowest waits to the day with the highest:
As I’ve mentioned in the past, if you’re planning a “down day,” then Saturday makes the most sense with crowds and wait times higher than any other day. Monday’s higher wait times are due in part to the early year holidays. If you’re planning two days at Epcot, then making one of them a Monday may make some sense. Even if you’re planning just one day, then Monday still may be your best bet. The average wait is five minutes higher than the best day of the week, but with FastPass+ and light weekday crowds in World Showcase, you can still enjoy a great day. If I was planning a week, I’d be looking at:
- Sunday: Magic Kingdom
- Monday: Epcot
- Tuesday: Animal Kingdom
- Wednesday: Magic Kingdom
- Thursday: Epcot
- Friday: Hollywood Studios
- Saturday: Half day – either rope drop to lunch or a late arrival through Park close at your choice of Park, or a day off
That gets you to each Park on one of the three best days of the week, on average, and to Magic Kingdom on its two best days of the week. If you’re looking to prioritize Magic Kingdom less, then you may instead opt to visit Animal Kingdom on the Sunday or Hollywood Studios on the Wednesday.
As always, what you do is a lot more important than the day you do it. I’ll be updating the website’s touring plans, custom maps, rope drop tips, FastPass+ priority, etc. this week. You can pull up the current versions here. The updates should be minimal, but it’s always best to have the most up-to-date information.