Crowd Levels and FP

I grew up going to Disney just about every summer during the late 80’s through the 90’s. The last time I was there was in 2010 (so before the current crowd levels/FP “system”.

We are planning on taking our girls (6 and 8) on their first trip to WDW in January or February of 2020.

We had originally planned for a low-ish moderate week in February, but the crowd calendar for that week keeps inching upwards…while there is a week I am eyeing in January that seems to be inching downwards.

Given that everything is in flux due to uncertainty about SWGE crowds, my question is this…

Is there a crowd level that doesn’t make pre-chosen FP a necessity?

I know that the new conventional wisdom is all about using FP… but I guess I’m just nostalgic for when I used to go as a kid and we could just go and do whatever we felt like waiting for.

Plan right now is to do MK, AK, rest day, then finish out with MK. Total three days in the park.
And since this is their first visit we wanted to just take things really slow and enjoy what they can without overwhelming them and running from attraction to attraction to get everything in.

I suppose pre-chosen FP would allow some leeway to be less frantic… so, maybe I have talked myself into getting them anyway…

But, I was just wondering what crowd level you guys have experienced that felt the most leisurely.

There’s nothing that says you have to use the FP that you book. You are still free to follow any whims you may have. But it might be nice to have them as back ups for the rides with really long lines. Pick 6 things that you really want to do in MK, 3 in AK, and get FPs in a way that makes sense for how you might be walking around the parks. And again, if you decide not to use them, there’s no penalty.

As for the crowd level that wouldn’t “require” FPs, I’m not sure that exists anymore. From what I’ve read today’s CL 5 is a CL 10 of years gone by.


Even if someone could tell you that X crowd level is fine without FPs (and I don’t think there’s any level like that for the more popular rides), crowd calendars are predictions not guarantees. We’ve had days that were supposed to be very low crowds that inched upwards gradually over the time we were watching them (mostly in the month or two before our trip, after the FP window opened), and then unexpectedly the reality was 2-3 crowd levels higher than predicted. So what we thought was going to be a 1 or a 2 as of the 60-day mark actually ended up a 6. We had another day that we walked into a park with a predicted 5 and the reality was a 9. I’d book them and then decide day-of if you’re going to use them. You can also modify them as you go. For example, sometimes you might be about to get into a 30 minute SB line but if you check you can modify a FP for that ride and use it right then.

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The headliners will always have long waits even on a CL1. If you’re not riding them, it would be easier to wing it (on a CL1) but not advisable. I would never go without FP.


We took our boys for the first time in may. They are 5 & 8. MK day was a CL 2. We still needed FPs. And without them would have gotten very little done bc my kids would not have waited in line 30 + mins. Planning got us on 7DMT without a fp, FP got BTM, Peter Pan and Splash. Plus a couple more thrown in. I would not try to wing it with kids that age.


I would never go without pre-booked FPP. Even if you decide to change them on the day, at least you have something you can use - may as well take advantage. I’ll also say, as somebody he grew up going to Disney and then didn’t return after a long hiatus, now having gone a few times in the last couple years I’m much more comfortable “wingin’ it”. That being said for my first trip back a few years ago I definitely relied on the plans to learn how to move around the parks and best avoid lines. So much of touring plans is learning how to zig when most people zag.

You also might do well to learn how to use the modify and refresh trick with the new fastpass system. It allows a bit more for going with the flow because, particularly with a group of four or fewer, you will likely be able to pull new fastpasses each day - particularly in MK.

The last thing I will mention is fastpass drops. There are particular times each day that new fastpasses get put into the system. That is another way you can snag one that you might not already have or might prefer over one you already have booked.


FYI – A common misconception about Crowd Levels is that they are an indicator of the number of people in each park. However, they are an indicator of average queue waits at the park.

A CL 1 can feel like a CL 4 in terms of park capacity, but the queues may be moving quickly. Conversely, you can be in a CL 9 park that feels like a CL 5 because the streets aren’t packed. However, all the queues are super long.


I would never go without prebooked FP’s (and not just because I know how to work the system). Unlike the 80’s, when you could see the number of people in front of you in a line, now when you get in a line for a ride like FoP or SDD, there are literally between 4 and 10 TIMES the number of people that you can see who are going to cut in front of you. Standby lines for most headliners and even second tier rides like JC, HM, or PotC (shots fired) will reach and stay above an hr most of the day. The newer headliners will be multiple hours.

For better or worse, it’s 100% a case of “you can’t beat 'em, so join 'em.”


Thank you all so much for the great advice!

I may end up grumbling a bit, but I 'll work on adapting to the “new normal” at the parks (necessity of FPP, etc).

With all the digital maneuvering that seems to be required nowadays, is it possible to succeed without needing to stare at one’s phone either non-stop or even just once every several minutes?

I’m kind of knee-jerk (but solidly) against the Parks Play aspect of the app… is that separate from My Disney Experience or part of the same app?

So, I won’t be playing games on my phone (or letting the girls play mobile games using our phones) while we wait or walk around… but, my main question was about the FPP system and other digital Disney “helper” apps.

Do those need to be consulted regularly throughout one’s visit?
Or could that just end up being a preference sort of thing?

The Play Parks app is separate.
You can manage to stay off your phone most of the time and still make/use/modify multiple FPs. Will you get as many as the people who are constantly on the app? Probably not, so there’s a tradeoff. Pre-plan your first three Fast Passes and you have no reason to be on the app until after you scan in for your third (unless you want to use the map, look at wait times, find character meets, find food, mobile order food, etc. which are all awesome and very useful features of the app IMO).

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It’s completely up to you. There are pros & cons.

Pros - you can get multiple FPP for rides or even modify the ones you have to better times in your schedule.

Cons - You will spend A LOT of time looking at your phone and not interacting with the people you are on vacation with.

I’ve done it both ways. My DW loathes queues and really doesn’t like going to WDW for more than a couple days because of this. So if I spend all day getting FPP she’s willing to stay in the parks longer + my DD17 get to do more rides. However, I often feel like I’m “working” all day to do this and not engaging with my family.

My advice - This is your vacation. If you want to stroll down down Main Street looking at shops, meeting Characters and going on the occasional ride without a FPP… Go for it! All you really need is a good Touring Plan. Even without any FPP a plan will still save you hours of time, which equals saving money too!


It really only depends on what you need to do to have a good time. Maybe you’re ok with a 45 min wait with interactive queues and cell phones.

It’s also about expectations as you realize. 20 years ago we could have 3 table service meals a day, shop in the ride exit stores, do non park activities in the afternoons, go to Epcot in the evenings and still do everything we wanted in a 7 day week.

Besides being older, that sort of touring isn’t possible any more. We’re more than willing to be particular about which rides we choose to spend time on. And how much time to spend.

It might be more fun - depending on who is in our group - to grab an ice cream and listen to the barbershop quartet. Or spend an afternoon at the quiet pool while your 8 year old plays in the water with kids from Brazil.

As @darkmite2 said, it’s your trip.

Do it your way. Have fun figuring out what your way is today.


You def don’t have to spend all day on your phone if you don’t want to. You can set up your FPP’s, print up when they are and just go about your day if you would like. I do like to add and modify mine as the day goes on, but feel like the last time we went in 2016 I was able to find a balance (I will admit that on our MK days I did spend some time looking for 7DMT FPP’s) for most of the time while we were there.


You guys really and truly rock.

Thanks again for the answers/advice!

I’m both excited and wary for our trip.
Very excited to share with my girls the joys of WDW that I grew up with… but wary because it seems to be quite a different animal nowadays (and probably has been this way for several years now…but, as I mentioned my last jaunt there was in 2010 right after we found out my wife was pregnant with our first).

Sounds like it will just take some adjusting and re-orienting to find the Magic these days.

Thanks again everyone!

Yes. Book your 3 FP+ in advance. After you finish the third, then get on your phone and book another FP. Rinse and repeat.

You won’t be taking advantage of the modify tricks to move FP times up and/or find harder to get FP, but you will spend limited time on your phone and still enjoy a number of low waits. I have had successful days like this where I didn’t feel like spending a lot of time on the app. I think it’s a good balance between using FP for some benefits, but not living with your face in your phone.


That’s basically how we do it.


I look at the phone use as a trade off, better I spend a few minutes lining up the next FPP than many many many more minutes in line. It doesn’t take much time either. I’ve been known to book FPPs during bathroom stops, while holding a table while DH picks up the food - times that likely aren’t very social anyway. DH has even gotten very good at leading me out of a ride exit while I book the next FPP. Everyone’s basically focused on just leaving the ride, and I’m done by the time we’re out.


First… As many have pointed out, there are no absolutes. This is all about creating Magic for your family, and that if different for everyone.

My opinion is, there are two main uses of your phone and the MDE app during the visit:

  1. As discusses, FPP. Use it to get 4th + FP after you use your 3. I would definitely recommend using them, saves time which creates more magic. You can then “wing it” by playing FP roulette the rest of the way at MK or waiting standard for some rides as well. You won’t live in your phone this way.

  2. Mobile ordering at quick service. I hate waiting in long quick service food lines. The mobile ordering is great. We can decide what to eat together in a line or on a bus, ect and get your order in. When you get close to the restaurant, click the we are here button and go up with minimal wait. Again… Saves time and aggrivation.

The “bonus use” you may want to consider is to just check wait timez to make more informed decisions about where to head.

As you can see, I value saving time. These tips allow you to do this without living in your phone as well.

Good luck


Ahhhh yes… I had completely forgotten about them rolling out the mobile ordering. That sounded like a very helpful thing. Is that fairly widespread yet? Or are they still “trial-ing” it at certain locations?

I should know this…but I completely forgot about it.

It’s pretty widespread, except at EP.