How To Beat the Walt Disney World Spring and Summer Crowds in 2018
With the opening date of Toy Story Land officially being debuted yesterday for June 30th, we can all but guarantee higher that usual crowd levels this summer. While Toy Story Land isn’t necessarily the most anticipated addition to the parks by many (even though I think it should be and shared my feelings on that a short while ago), it will still inevitably draw large crowds looking to catch a first glimpse of the expansion. On top of that big debut, I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see incredibly long wait times for Flight of Passage on into the summer and the foreseeable future. With the combination of both high volume generating experiences, in addition to the new offerings coming to Disney Springs this year, it will inevitably be another incredibly crowded summer in the parks.
However, when I say that, I don’t want it to be a deterrent for those looking to plan a vacation. The spring and summer are a few of my favorite times to visit the parks. The spring, in particular, is one of the very best times to visit (followed closely by Christmas time in the parks) as a result of one of my favorite events Disney puts on year after year over at Epcot, The Flower and Garden Festival. On top of that, the Florida spring weather typically fluctuates between 60 and 85 degrees, which is ideal, in my opinion. It’s warm enough to be enjoyable, yet not too overwhelming hot to make the most of your entire day. Summer, while much warmer at 90+ degrees nearly every day, is still a bearable level of heat if you make the right precautions and learn to take breaks throughout the day. You may have to alter your plans and accept that you might not get quite as much accomplished in the heat of the summer, but its can be a great time to visit nonetheless. Unfortunately, increased crowd levels come with the nice weather and breaks from school for many guests, but you can overcome that barrier in many ways! A select few of you may remember a post we shared a few months ago on a very similar topic (How To Manage The Crowds During Walt Disney World Peak Attendance Dates), but today we’re expanding upon what we shared there with a few tips specifically for the upcoming peak seasons.
Go Early and Stay Late
Arriving at the parks early on in the day, or even before the gates officially open for the day, can make a huge difference in how much you get accomplished during peak crowd levels. Throughout the first two to three hours of any parks opening, you’re likely to achieve more that you will the rest of the day. It’s a tried and proven philosophy and a huge part of our How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! Of course, our strategy for touring the parks isn’t what works for everyone and may or may not work for your vacation strategy. Your goal may be to take your time and relax your way through the parks, and if that’s the case, this may not be the best option for your situation. But, with that being said, I can assure you that it is a great way to avoid the peak crowds of the day.
If getting up early isn’t your style or if you just want to catch up on some extra sleep from staying out the night before, another great option is to stay out late. As the night slowly draws to a close in all four parks, wait times will fall, and some guests will start filtering out of the parks. It’s not going to be quite as productive as early mornings, but staying late (especially on extra magic hour nights in the summer) can be a great way to squeeze in a few extra attractions or experiences into your day.
Head to the Resorts
As many of you know, I love Disney resorts. Not only because of their elaborate theming and ever present story elements, but also because they’re largely accessible from any point on property, even you’re not staying at that particular resort. Resorts are the ultimate escape from the parks. You get the chance to enjoy a few moments of air conditioning, a relaxing seat in the lobby, or even a quick meal at one of the wonderful quick service or table service dining locations.
As the afternoon approaches, the crowds at all Disney parks will reach a peak at around 2:00 on an average day. As that time frame rolls around, we like to catch a monorail to a nearby resort or a bus back to our home resort and take a few minutes to recharge. If you leave right after the afternoon parade, you can avoid the heat of the day, the peak crowds, and miss out on very little due to avoiding the longest wait times of the day. After you spend a few hours away, head back to the parks that night recharged and ready to finish the day in a spectacular way!
Explore the Less Popular Attractions
To me, this is one of the many joys of traveling at peak times. Two members of my family are school teachers so, often times, we are forced to travel during peak seasons. But, the results aren’t always a bad thing. When you travel to the parks when it’s crowded, you tend to find new things to take part in and enjoy what you may otherwise overlook. For example, a short time ago, we went to Epcot on the Fourth of July. The crowds were brutal and just kept growing as the nighttime spectacular drew closer. In all reality, we expected elevated crowds, and it wasn’t all that bad in comparison to New Years Eve in Magic Kingdom. Nonetheless, we wanted to take a break from the crowds in the middle of the afternoon, and decided to hop on the Seas with Nemo and friends. It did have a fairly decent wait of 30 minutes, but considering the holiday, it wasn’t a bad wait time at all. At the end of the attraction, you exit into Sea Base Alpha. For years, we had casually looked through the area (even dating back to its earlier attraction days as The Living Seas with the Hydrolators), but never really spent the time to dive a little deeper into all that is offered there and to take the time to interact with the incredibly knowledgeable cast members on hand. It was a great experience and just goes to show that even the less popular attractions can be a great part of any day in the parks. Sure, they may not be quite as thrilling as flying on the back of a banshee on Flight of Passage in Pandora, but still make for an outstanding and memorable moment of any vacation.
Take a Break and Head to the Pool
Particularly in the summer, taking a short break form the parks for even just a few hours to head back to your resort can make all the different. Rest and recharge poolside, and return later at night as the sun start to dip below the horizon. It’s a great break from the heat, can prep you for a night at Disney Springs or back at the parks, and tends to be a highlight of guests that are young and young at heart. It seems so simple, but heading back to the pool and escaping the hoards of crowds shuffling through the parks in the middle of the afternoon in 90+ degree heat is an excellent option. Step away from it all, and enjoy a few minutes of quiet or a quick cool off in the wonderful pools at any number of the resorts.
Head to the Dolphin for an Ice Cream
This may be the simplest item on our list but, grabbing an ice cream is never more memorable that doing so at Walt Disney World. There’s something about that family atmosphere, the joy on the peoples faces around you, and the simple pleasure of the experience that makes all the difference. What may come to mind when you think ice cream at Disney could be a classic ice cream from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (try the ice cream cookie sandwich… it’s amazing!), but perhaps a more trivial location is at the top of our list. That simple location is the Walt Disney World Dolphin’s Fountain Ice Cream walk up window. It’s a cheap treat, a short boat ride away from Epcot, and one of the more memorable desserts on property in regards to both atmosphere and taste. After you grab your dessert of choice (they have more that just soft serve, but the soft serve is outstanding), head over to the Boardwalk or Yacht and Beach Club for a little live entertainment or snore around a campfire by the water. Either way, it’s a great way to spend the night and escape a vast majority of the crowds of Epcot, which is just a few steps away via the back entrance to the park.
Book Fastpasses in the Afternoon
This particular tip may sound a bit contradictory to our “head to the resorts” tip. But, if you’re concerned about making the most of a very limited amount of time in each of the parks, your best bet to ride the most attractions possible on peak days is to book your fastpasses in the afternoon. In doing so, you’ll guarantee yourself a few attractions with no wait times, and you can really make the most of the high crowd levels of the afternoon without spending an unnecessary amount of time waiting in line.
A second strategy you may want to attempt, if you’re really limited on time, is to book your fastpass+ selections as early in the day as you possibly can. Then, once you’ve completed those attractions, you get access to your fourth “revolving fastpass” that can be used time and time again for any attractions that have not distributed all of their fastpasses for the day.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!