Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I don’t enjoy crowds.  I’m not one of those people that loves to shop after Thanksgiving, or goes to sold out sporting events, or thrives on events like Mardi Gras or New Years.  I never liked going to clubs when I was younger, and my tolerance level for crowds has diminished significantly as I’ve gotten older.  If people like to do those things, great for them, it’s just not for me.  With that being said, it’s hard to find a time to travel to Disney when it’s not crowded.  With events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Food & Wine Festival, Flower & Garden Festival, and the marathons, low season has shrunk.  

A very uncrowded
Main Street circa 1984
I reminisce often on the time when the parks were not so crowded.  Back when there was no rush to rope drop, no fast passes, no ADRs, no 60+ minute waits, no character meet & greets (they roamed the parks instead), no excruciatingly long bus or boat lines in the evening.  A time between the opening of Magical Kingdom in 1971 to about the early 1990s.  I used to believe it was my memory that made the park experience so uncrowded and less rushed.  That maybe, as a young girl, I interpreted the experience differently.  But no, I don’t think so.  There a variety of reasons the parks are more crowded now than then.  Some things Disney World has done intentionally to increase crowds, some unintentionally, and some they have no control over.  For them, it’s great.  More crowds, more revenue; but it also means more staff, more security, longer operating hours, more frequent maintenance, and more capital investments.  For us, it means we have to change the way we tour.  Now we use crowd calendars, take the kids out of school to maximize low season benefits, wake up early for rope drop, use fast pass to it’s fullest extends, and make dining reservations months in advance.  

So, why the increase in crowds?  First and foremost, I believe that people today have more disposable income than they used to.  You can talk about bad economy all you want, but one trip to Disney World or any major theme park or tourist center shows you that people have lots of money (or credit, in some cases) to spend.  Airfare costs have decreased relatively, and automobiles are more fuel efficient.  Traveling longer distances has become easier.  

Disney marketing is amazing.  I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t see an advertisement in print media, television, radio or the internet regarding Disney vacations.  Disney characters are everywhere you look, and their target audience is families with young children.  Generation X’ers, like myself, had an occasional Disney movie, a Disney lunchbox, and Sunday night Wonderful World of Disney.  Kids now have Disney vitamins, Disney themed toothbrushes, Disney stores at the local mall, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Austin & Ally, High School Musicals, and a new Disney movie at least once a year.  Add in Pixar’s contribution to the marketing effort and you’ve got a huge force to contend with.  Marketing genius, true marketing genius.

Another increase in crowds is due to the expansion of resorts versus park growth.  Between 1971 and 1989, there were 6 or less on-site resorts for 2 parks (Magic Kingdom and Epcot).  In 1989, MGM opened (now Hollywood Studios) and Disney World started a massive effort of building resorts over the next 20 years.   So, now you have 27 on-site resorts for 4 parks.  I know my study doesn’t take into account local guests, those staying off-property, those going to other theme parks but you can understand my logic.  There’s just more people per park now than there was in 1984.  Does this mean Disney needs a 5th gate (another park)?  I’m not inclined to agree.  I think there’s already too much to see and do on one trip.

I have to say that crowds are here to stay...much to my disappointment.  Does that mean I won’t go to Disney World?  Heck, no, but I’ll stay away from the holidays!  :)


  1. Well said, Paula! I remember when I was a teen we always went in October and rarely waited in lines. I loved seeing the characters stroll through the parks. Times have definitely changed! Though I will say, I know they bring larger crowds, but I love the new festivals and after hour parties.

  2. Great post! I too hate crowds and remember trips where it seemed as only a 100 people were in the park. Crowds don't stop me from going but I do miss those days