What up with the Disney World crowds the week after Thanksgiving

What up with the Disney World crowds the week after Thanksgiving

by Heidi Sleiman
(Natick, MA USA)


"Hi, Dad. This past November, 2016, I planned our trip for the week after Thanksgiving due to low crowd predictions. I was so surprised, not in a good way, that the parks were very crowded. It was hard to walk around. Wait times were long everywhere we went.

Now I'm finding it hard to pick a date for our next trip because I'm afraid I'll choose badly again. What happened? Do you know why the crowds were so bad when predicted to be so low?

Thank you, Heidi."

The Toy Soldier on Main Street at Christmas

The Christmas decorations are pretty cool even with the crowds - Photo by Cliff Wang

Heidi, you weren't the only one that was shocked by the crowds the first week after Thanksgiving. I was too. In fact, everyone I know that tracks Disney crowds were shocked. It was crazy. The week after Thanksgiving is typically one of the slowest weeks of the year.

Dad's December Disney World Crowds page

That's the reason I always have set that as one of the best weeks of the year to go, because the crowds are always, always, always so low. 2016, that wasn't the case.

Dad's Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World page

Why did it happen? Well, my guess is there are several factors that led up to it. The first factor was that free dining kicked off again. That was the last week that free dining was available. There was a week or two in December, but is when it restarted after Thanksgiving. There was no free dining in October. Then, after like December 12th there was no free dining. That was one of the few weeks in November ... Part of November was blacked out too. That was one of the few full weeks in November/December that free dining was available. That's number one.

Number two, 2016 was not your typical year for Disney Crowds. February was one of the biggest Februarys we've ever seen. July was one of the slowest Julys we've ever seen.

Disney is trying to balance out the crowds during the year. That's a good thing. It would be good if Disney could make the crowds fairly the same all year round for Disney. Especially for cast member schedules, there's not as many layoffs during the slow times if they can bank on the fact that crowds will be the same all year round so they really don't have to bring extra people in, send people home. It's easier for Disney to deal with it when the crowds are the same all the time.

Will we see low crowds again ever? We didn't really last year see a lot of times with low crowds. It was a very, very unusual year. If you look at 2016 versus 2015, '14, '13, '12, it's very different from previous years.

I base my crowd calendars on history partly, and partly on things I feel. 2016, it didn't follow the patterns. Is that going to be true in 2017? I don't know yet. It's too early to tell. I'll know better at the end of February when we see what the February crowds are.

If the February crowds go back to being slow, then we'll know that the history is good. We can go back to what historical crowds. If February crowds this year are high, then, yes, probably November are going to be high again. Maybe that week after Thanksgiving time is not going to be as good as it's always been.

Can I tell you when is the best time to go? I don't know this year. I'm at a loss this year. My feeling is 2016 was an outlier. It was one of those things that it's not going to be that way anymore, but with the new pricing structure for the tickets, things are going to be different. We're just going to have to see where things through the years balance out.

Dad's Bottom Line

Dad's bottom line, is I really don't know how to answer. Things at Walt disney World are different. There may never be a time again where you can go and the crowds will be very light. Moderate crowds may be the baseline now for Disney.

That's not a bad thing. I can pretty much guarantee that early September's going to stay slow even though they're starting the Food and Wine Festival in late August. I pretty well guarantee early September crowds are going to stay fairly light.

The kids all go back to school. You don't have any school vacations during that period. It's pretty much a guarantee but... Then again, you pretty much don't have any kids out of school the week after Thanksgiving, so we'll have to see. I know that's not the answer you want to hear, but that's the way it is.



Comments for What up with the Disney World crowds the week after Thanksgiving

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Apr 25, 2017
Week before or after Thanksgiving
by: Debbie

Dad, can you give your honest opinion since free dining has been released for nov this year. Although the start date for free dining is Nov 14, we were thinking a Nov 12-18 or nov 25-dec 2. We would be checking in two days before free dining starts. We just wanted to be able to see the Christmas decorations at the Poly where we will be staying and they usually always put them up a few days before Thanksgiving. Any ideas?

Dad's Answer

Debbie, if seeing the decorations at the Polynesian is your number 1 priority then go November 25. I would expect the decorations to go up during that earlier date, but there's no guarantee.

As to crowds, it's pretty much a toss up. Or should be. Last year the week after Thanksgiving was busier than it's ever been before.

Apr 21, 2017
February 2017 crowds
by: Jen B

Hi there! So where February crowds lower/higher or on point this year? We've gone the week after Thanksgiving before and it was awesome. However, when we went the end of Sept. in 2014 it was way more crowded that we were used to! Hoping the crowds will be tapering off this year. Thanks! I enjoy your site and recommendations.

Dad Answers


Our February crowd calendar was pretty much on track.

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