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How To Deal With The Crowds at Walt Disney World

Updated on November 10, 2013
Even if you don't enjoy crowds, there are still ways to enjoy Disney World.
Even if you don't enjoy crowds, there are still ways to enjoy Disney World. | Source

Walt Disney World is a world class destination. But because people come from all over, the parks and attractions can get very crowded with extra long waits everywhere from the rides to the restaurants to the bathrooms. Find out how you can maximize the fun and minimize the hassles of the crowd.

As an introvert myself, here are my top ten ways to make Disney World more pleasant for those that don't like crowds.

1) Understand the Attendance Seasons

To understand when Disney World is busiest, simply think about when people have off from work and school.

Naturally weekends and holidays are more crowded than weekdays. Summer months are peak season when families take trips during the school break.

The week before Christmas through New Years is packed as well as Spring Break times (from mid March through Easter).

If you have flexibility with your schedule, planning a trip that takes advantage of the off times (weekdays and non holidays) may not only help you to avoid large crowds, you can also save money as hotel rates drop drastically after peak season.

2) Avoid the Parks With Early Morning Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours are park hours for only Walt Disney World resort guests. Some parks have an hour early park opening for on-property hotel guests and some parks have extra hours in the evening after regular closing.

The Walt Disney World website will have a daily calendar of EMH or you can get a copy of them from your resort hotel if you are staying on property.

Parks that have early morning extra magic hours tend to have an hour earlier to get crowded as guests that arrive there for those hours don't tend to leave right away.

So, unless you are attending those morning hours, it is best to pick another park to visit that day.

3) Take Advantage of Late Night Extra Magic Hours

Conversely, Extra Magic Hours at night tend to thin the crowds out pretty well, especially if they run late at night.

Many families, especially those with younger children, have been up early or did not sleep well so late night hours that run until midnight, one, two or three in the morning tend to lose the majority of the people.

I once attended EMH that ran until 3 AM at the Magic Kingdom. At the end of the night we could go on rides as many times as we wanted and our last ride of the night, Pirates of the Caribbean, was completely empty and deliciously creepy.

So take a nap (the early afternoon tends to be especially crowded in the parks as the morning and afternoon crowds meet) and then stay up for the late night Extra Magic Hours.

Stay for the late night Extra Magic Hours for a lighter crowd experience.  Avoid the fireworks if you don't like crowds.
Stay for the late night Extra Magic Hours for a lighter crowd experience. Avoid the fireworks if you don't like crowds. | Source

4) Go To Rides During the Parades and Fireworks

Parades and the fireworks shows are naturally very crowded. If your need to be out of crowd beats your need to see the parade or fireworks, then these times are perfect for avoiding crowds and taking in some shows or rides.

Large amounts of people tend to be funneled into the viewing area so as long as you are well away from that, you should be able to enjoy rides and attractions with less wait.

For the Magic Kingdom, realize that the fireworks and the parades tend to cut the park in two. So you will want to pick a side to be on, either the Adventureland/Frontierland side or the Future World/Fantasyland side. It is very hard to cross to the other side during either event so don't try. Just enjoy where you are.

You can easily grab a times guide on your way into the park to find the times for each of the events and plan your strategy then.

5) Stay Away From Parade Routes Right Before and Right After A Parade.

There are several things to understand about the parades, especially the parades at the Magic Kingdom---where they start and where they end matters.

Usually the daytime parade starts near the main gate fire station and ends by Splash Mountain. So this means that the parade start time means the start time at the beginning. People waiting on the other end can wait twenty minutes or more for the start of the parade and then usually have fifteen to twenty minutes more after that before the parade finishes.

Pick a side of the park and avoid the parade routes until well after the parades.
Pick a side of the park and avoid the parade routes until well after the parades. | Source

During parades at Magic Kingdom avoid the Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain area unless you want to stay there the whole time.. There is a small path to get out but it is crowded and very hard to get through. Instead, pick an area of the park far away from the parade route and ride those rides. The Little Mermaid section of Fantasyland or the Space Mountain area of Future World usually work well. Also the Pirates and Jungle Cruise rides are usually far enough away from the parade routes.

6) Eat at Weird Times

Everywhere from the counter service to the sit-down restaurants are often full with long lines and nowhere to sit. In order to avoid the rush, try eating at off-times. Eat a late breakfast or an early lunch.

Have a meal at 3 PM or 9 PM. With snacks, this may be a viable alternative that keeps you from fighting for ketchup, napkins and a table at noon.

Note that restaurants will usually always have some sort of line. You are just avoiding the longer wait times. Also,most counter service restaurants take orders on both sides of the cash register, alternating, so pick the shortest open line on either side of the cash register.

7) Go to the Water Park After Lunch

During late spring until early fall, Disney's water parks are usually open until 6, 7 or 8. So going to the water park in the early afternoon is often a more pleasant experience than early morning.

The morning crowd is tired and hot. By the late afternoon you can often ride the slides and other attractions with very little wait time.

Another time to try the water park is on a Sunday. Vacationers are often finishing up their weekends or beginning their travels back home so the water parks may be less crowded then as well.

Just like the other theme parks, the water parks are more crowded during peak season.

To avoid crowds, go to the Walt Disney World water parks in the afternoon.
To avoid crowds, go to the Walt Disney World water parks in the afternoon. | Source

8) Use Fast Passes

If you want to avoid the long and crowded lines, send a member of your party, with all of your park tickets to the entrance of that ride to obtain a Fast Pass.

Fast passes are tickets that give you a window of time to come back and enjoy the ride with little to no wait. This will allow you to avoid the long wait times and the hot and crowded lines.

Note that you can only get a fast pass every few hours so choose either the most popular attraction or one that you absolutely must ride or see.

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9) Find the Quiet Areas In Each Park

If the crowds are getting to be a bit much and you just need a break, there is usually a less busy area where you can relax and regain your focus.

When you get your park map, find the spots that don't contain a lot of popular rides. For example, at Magic Kingdom, there is a walkway to the back side of Space Mountain that connects that area to Fantasyland. Or check out the areas near construction sites where people are less likely to congregate.

If you are an introvert, you may need to take the time to refresh and refocus.

10) Hang Back At Park Closing

Park closing is often the most busy and hectic time as everyone is funneling towards one main gate.

To avoid the jostling and tightness of the crowd, you can hang back. No rides are open but some of the merchandise shops are open for up to an hour after park closing. You can also sit on a bench somewhere along the way and allow the crowds to thin.

Buses and other transportation run for an hour after park closing. If you are trying to catch a bus or boat or monorail back to your hotel, waiting for a bit may make for a more pleasant and less-crowded ride. Or if you really want to avoid the crowds, take your own car to the park so that you don't have to ride in a packed bus.

Other Tips

There are other ways to avoid crowds. Avoid parks that have festivals or special events. If you want to go to the special event, try to go on a week day.

Avoid Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs) pretty much any time of the day. Because there is no admission, guests from all over the Orlando area come to the area to shop and eat. It is pretty crowded all the time.

It is nearly impossible to avoid at least some crowding while visiting Walt Disney World, but with a bit of strategy and planning you can minimize your own crowd stress and discomfort.

Spring Break Crowd at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom


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