Coping with Crowds at Disney Parks


It’s no secret that the Disney parks are getting more and more popular. Attendance at Disney’s parks in California and in Florida has been steadily increasing. Plus, with new attractions coming, such as the new Star Wars Land and the new Soarin’ Around the World ride in both California and in Florida, one can reasonably expect the crowds to get even larger.

How crowded is it? To give you some sense of scale, some reports have estimated that the average daily attendance in 2014 at the Disneyland Park in the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and the Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World outside of Orlando were around 46,000 and 53,000 visitors respectively. The size of the Disneyland Park is 85 acres; while the size of the Magic Kingdom is 107 acres. So using the average daily attendance compared to park acreage, there are about 542 people per acre at the Disneyland Park and about 494 people per acre at the Magic Kingdom on a typical day.

How large is an acre? To give you an illustration that you can wrap your head around, an acre is slightly smaller than a football field, less the areas beyond the goal lines. So if you can image about 500 people in this area, that’s how crowded it is on an average day at these two flagship Disney parks. Suffice to say, the parks can get pretty crowded at times.

So what can you do to cope with the crowds? Wherever you go, a little advanced planning can go a long way. And planning a trip well in advance to either Walt Disney World or the Disneyland Resort is no exception to this rule. Good planning can definitely go a long way to making the most of your travel experience to the happiest places on earth.

One the best things that you can do to maximize your time at any of the Disney parks, whether it’s in Orlando or in Anaheim, is to arrive early, just before the parks open. This time of the day is now being referred to by Disney aficionados as “rope drop.” This way, for a brief 60 to 90 minutes after visitors are first allowed into the park each day, you will have nearly unfettered access to the rides, attractions and character meet-ups. In fact, for some people, they will be able to get on more rides during this time than the entire rest of the day. So definitely take advantage of this.

At the Disneyland Resort, you can also use the time immediately after rope drop to get FastPass reservations to the most popular rides, such as the Radiator Springs Racers attraction at the Disney California Adventure, which is now being popularly referred to as “DCA.” FastPasses essentially give you a designated time of the day where your wait times for any rides are significantly reduced. At the Disneyland Resort, you can get FastPasses at designated kiosks located throughout the parks.

At Walt Disney World, in addition to getting them at kiosks, you can even make FastPass reservations online, provided you have your ticket in hand. For regular ticket holders, FastPass reservation to Walt Disney World attractions can be made online as far as 30 days in advance. Ticket holders that stay at a Walt Disney World resort can make FastPass reservations online as far as 60 days in advance.

In the course of your getting your FastPasses, don’t forget that they can be used, not only for rides, but also for getting premium spaces for fireworks shows as well as for parades in many of the parks. And getting a premium location, especially for a parade or fireworks show, can be definitely worth it from a viewing and picture-taking perspectives. And perhaps more importantly, you won’t have to spend time camping out to reserve a good spot to watch a parade or fireworks show.

Try to visit the parks when they tend to  be less crowded. One good time to visit Walt Disney World is the first week of December, right after the Thanksgiving Holidays. It’s somewhat of a lull before the peak Christmas period; plus you can enjoy the Christmas decorations and festivities that are held during this time. Good times to visit the Disneyland Resort, are during the week days, especially during periods when there are no adjoining national or school holidays. It may be difficult to get away during such times, especially when you have children of school age; but if you don’t have such limitations, you should definitely try to take advantage of it.

Making advance dining reservations also help reduce your waiting times and ensure you can get a meal in the park at a time when you really want to eat. It’s especially helpful during times when the parks are crowded. Why wait in line when you can make a reservation at a Disney restaurant of your choice. Plus, you can make advanced reservations online or by phone. Just be aware that no-shows will be charged a per person penalty fee, unless you cancel with the allotted time.

Typically, the Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom are the parks with the largest crowds. So if one park is too crowded, you can try one of the other neighboring parks. If you buy a Park Hopper Pass, you can go any of the adjacent parks during any one day period. At Walt Disney World, you have 4 parks to choose from, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studio and Animal Kingdom. At the Disneyland Resort, you have the Disneyland Park and DCA. Getting a Park Hopper pass could be worthwhile for you as it definitely gives you a lot of flexibility and more scheduling options.

Download the apps for either Walt Disney World or the Disneyland Resort, so that you will have online access to see how long the wait times are for the attractions and then you can plan accordingly. This can also help you can gauge the parks with lowest crowd levels.

The fact that Walt Disney World has 4 parks that you can go to and choose from, compared to the Disneyland Resort which has only 2, give visitors more choices to cope with the crowds and could be a factor in determining which park you should visit. But you can never go wrong in choosing either of them, and whether it’s the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World, you are most certainly going to have a memorable and enjoyable experience.

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