Why Disney World Seems SO Crowded Right Now

It’s been a long road to recovery for Disney World after closing for a short period of time at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that certainly hasn’t slowed down the vacationers!

Main Street, U.S.A. crowds

With shoulder-to-shoulder crowds back on Main Street, U.S.A., it seems like the days when there was a “slow” time at Disney World are gone.

But is it really THAT crowded? And, if so, WHY are so many people flocking to the parks like we’ve never seen before?

What we’re seeing in Disney World

So far in 2022, the parks have been filled to the brim with Disney-goers. In fact, even in February (which is usually Disney’s “slower” season), we were seeing record HIGH crowds wait long wait times for even the rides that usually only have a 5-10 minute wait on average.

Living With the Land wait time was 40 minutes!

But, are our perceptions of the crowds skewed because of the two-year road we’ve been on to the return of “normal” park capacity since 2020? Well, there are a few things that suggest that we’re not overreacting and the parks really are just that crowded.

That’s a lot of people!

For one, the Park Pass Reservation calendar has made it really easy to track how crowded the parks are. Disney’s CFO Christine McCarthy recently revealed that they aren’t operating at full capacity just yet (though they are approaching it), but whatever capacity limit they are at, fans are filling the parks up to the max most of the time.

For example, over the spring break period this year, there was almost always at least one park filled to capacity with some dates completely booked up at all four parks.

March 2022 availability ©Disney

Additionally, it has been increasingly difficult to find any availability at Disney World Resort hotels, even with all of the hotels reopened (aside from All-Star Sports which reopens on March 31st)!

We selected random travel dates in mid-April 2022 and only FOUR hotels had availability with two of them being Deluxe Resorts.

©Disney

And, if the park pass reservation and hotel availability aren’t enough to convince you that Disney World is seriously crowded right now, it’s also hard to find almost ANY dining reservationseven the ones that we used to be able to count on as almost always available.

©Disney

Of course, Disney hasn’t revealed exactly what capacity limit the parks, hotels, and restaurants are operating at currently. But, based on what we’ve seen, we’d guess that they’re certainly close to pre-pandemic levels.

Plaza Restaurant Outdoor Seating

So, what’s contributing to these seemingly massive crowds? And, will things be slowing down anytime soon?

Leisure travel has increased overall domestically

Let’s first take a look at what’s happening with travel in the U.S. right now. For more of 2021, leisure travel was on the fast road to recovery with the Orlando International Airport (MCO) reporting that air travel surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time over Labor Day Weekend.

Security Queue at MCO

According to The Wall Street Journal, however, travel did take a bit of a hit when the COVID-19 Omicron Variant rapidly spread over the holiday season, but with infection rates on the decline airlines are now reporting that Omicron was only a “temporary setback” and “Americans’ demand for air travel remains strong.”

In fact, American Airlines Group Inc. President, Robert Islom, recently said that “We don’t view demand as anything more than delayed—we don’t think it’s diminished,” and Alaska Air is expecting to be back at pre-pandemic capacity by the summer. 

Holiday crowds at the Orlando International Airport

When it comes to Central Florida travel, according to the Orlando Business Journal, MCO estimated that air travel through the airport would see a 34.6% increase in travelers for the same timeframe in 2021. Though, it is important to note that this is still 5.4% down from 2019.

That being said, The New York Times reports that the World Travel & Tourism Council (which encompasses the global travel and tourism industry) is anticipating travel and tourism to fall flat with pre-pandemic levels sometime in 2022.

Flying to MCO

And, we can see this increase in domestic travel outside of the airports too! For example, Airbnb told The Wall Street Journal that they already have 25% more stays booked for 2022 than they did in 2019, and Aramark (which assists in running sports stadiums and other major venues), is “gearing up for attendance to surpass pre-pandemic levels during the Major League Baseball season.”

Demand for Disney is strong

So, how exactly does this translate to Disney World? Well, just like the demand for domestic travel is going strong, so is the demand for Disney! In fact, Disney CEO, Bob Chapek recently affirmed this in the Quarter 1 Earnings Call saying that they’re seeing “really strong domestic demand” for the parks.

Disney has previously reported that demand was “flat” with pre-pandemic levels in May 2021 so we can likely expect that the demand has only increased past pre-pandemic levels based on Chapek’s comments.

Spring Break Crowds at Hollywood Studios

During the same earnings call, Disney also reported that their revenue for the quarter DOUBLED compared to the same time last year increasing from $3.6 billion to $7.2 billion. So, even though attendance hasn’t necessarily fully recovered yet (because the parks are still operating at less than 100% capacity limits), those who are showing up are spending as much as 40% MORE per capita than in 2019.

50th Anniversary merchandise is all over Disney World!

And, with both demand and profits for the parks recovering quickly in 2022, even analysts are predicting that Disney World and Disneyland revenue will “rebound in 2022, spike in 2023 and jump higher in 2024.” So, while it already seems like the demand for Disney is at an all-time high, we’ll likely be hearing more from Disney execs (and seeing more crowds) in the coming months and years as the world recovers from COVID-19.

Things going on in Disney World

While there’s just something about a Disney World trip that draws vacationers who are looking to return to travel with a bang, there are also A LOT of new things in Disney World to draw in fans.

Cinderella Castle

In October 2021, Disney kicked off the resort’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, and the 18 MONTH party involves everything from a brand new cavalcade and castle show, to new merchandise, to new dining experiences, and more.

New 50th Anniversary Outfits

And, it’s not just new outfits for Mickey and Minnie that guests have to look forward to over that time period. Disney is also rolling out brand new restaurants (like Roundup Rodeo BBQ, Connections Eatery & Cafe, and The Cake Bake Shop), new attractions (like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind), and much much more.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind construction

Plus, things are starting to return to “normal” with the Festival of Fantasy Parade making its way down Main Street, U.S.A. once again, more entertainment coming back soon, and health and safety measures disappearing.

Festival of Fantasy is BACK!

So, now all those Disney-goers that were waiting for things to get back to how they used to be are planning vacations in 2022 along with all the others who want to be sure they see everything new — a recipe for A LOT of people in the parks.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to scrap your Disney vacation plans because you’re fearful that you’ll be waiting forever in lines and competing with hundreds of other guests for a great spot to watch fireworks! It’s exciting to visit Disney World and that’s STILL true. So, study up on all the new things, pick your travel dates wisely, and read up on our best tips to help you navigate the crowds. You can still have a really great time in the parks!

And, be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for more of the latest Disney Parks crowd updates, and vacation tips and tricks!

Check out 8 NEW Things You Need to Plan For During Your 2022 Disney World Trip HERE!

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10 Replies to “Why Disney World Seems SO Crowded Right Now”

  1. I’m simply beyond tired of hearing the Disney excuse that Park Reservations are required to help handle crowds. As if Disney is working to reduce crowd levels for the guest. The obvious fact is, Park Reservations are required so that Disney can fill up every park, every day to help increase their bottom line. Disney has stated that they “have no incentive to drop park reservations”. I’m hoping when the current glut of visitors who are crowding the parks right now dies down, probably due to the pent up desire to get out and get away, that Disney will get slapped in the face with the “incentive” to drop park reservations. I can get over the price increases and paying extra for the little extras, but until they can give me back an experience equal to what one could buy a few years ago, I have “no incentive” to visit.

  2. I also think people may still have points left over from the pandemic and are trying to use them all. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.

  3. In my opinion, the crowds are a result of FastPass, or Genie+. Before guests stood in queues that held a large number of guests in a compact area. Thus queue areas had a dense population whereas the rest of the park was comfortable less dense. Now no one is standing in line and are filling up the sidewalks.

    1. “Now no one is standing in line and are filling up the sidewalks.”

      Current wait times:

      Seven Dwarves Mine train: 100 minutes
      Space Mountain: 65 minutes
      Buzz Lightyear: 40 minutes
      Jungle Cruise: 75 minutes
      Splash Mountain: 85 minutes
      Big Thunder Mountain: 55 minutes
      Pirates: 60 minutes
      Small World: 60 minutes
      Peter Pan: 65 minutes
      Test Track: 70 minutes
      Mission Space: 60 minutes
      Frozen: 80 minutes
      Remy: 70 minutes
      Mickey & Minnie Runaway Railroad: 80 minutes
      RotR: 160 minutes
      Slinky Dog: 135 minutes

  4. I think a huge reason that has not been considered is the fact that they offered thousands of relatively cheap annual passes to Floridians last Fall while not offering them to other states. In turn so many people bought them that they had to stop selling them. Now today the parks seem more like a hangout and party crowd than they do a vacation spot. The parks have become more a local hangout and not as pleasant. And yet prices are up Way up. When I went in November everything seemed different. It is the first time ever that I did not enjoy it and I have been many many times since 1971.

  5. Was just there during the week of March 12. It was so packed we were only able to ride 4 rides at Hollywood Studios and that was with Genie+ which we were only able to get 2 Rides with it. We’ve been going to Disney Wold since the 80’s but it is getting so expensive and you’re getting less and less for the money you spend. We are looking to vacation at other places. We have loved Disney but it’s time to move on!

  6. There’s a lot of factors involved here, but I think one that was pretty much ignored in this article was the labor situation. Disney isn’t immune to the shortage of labor that everyone else is dealing with, and I suspect that many attraction, restaurants, hotels, etc. are running short-staffed. This results in longer lines at attractions (since they will run at lower capacity with less employees). restaurants and quick service food providers (who will slow table rotation or cut back on the number of lines being used, as well as take more time to prepare food), and less openings at hotels (which may not be operating at full capacity).

    I do suspect that Disney hides many of these issues in the interest of creating the appearance of demand…guests see long lines and limited capacity, and assume that there are more people in the parks. This is also gives Disney cover to raise prices, with the excuse of “reducing demand”. It all leads to a frustrating cycle for customers – the quality of park visits declines while they get much more expensive.

    1. I just returned from WDW (April 1-6)… I waited for 1.5hrs for Tower of Terror… I got to the front of the line and found only half the attraction running… labor problem there?

      Once it hit noon, I just went back to the hotel or headed to Disney Springs… the parks were SO packed, ride times were over an hour for everything.

      Early one weekday in Epcot, Figment… there was a HUGE line… wrapped around the building… over 1.5hr wait. For FIGMENT.

      Dining was the same way, no matter what time of day (noon was worst) there was huge lines just to order anything.