Extra Magic Hours vs lowest crowd calendar?

Traveling 11/28-12/4. We plan to leave the park after lunch each day to rest and then come back or visit a new park. Which is better- EMH or lowest crowd?

My personal order of selection would be to choose lower crowd for the earlier half of the day and then evening EMH for the second half. The park may be slightly busier during the pre-EMH time, but it will be much less busy during the actual EMH time. For instance, an MK EMH evening will probably have bigger crowds for the fireworks, but after that it will be significantly less busy.

Morning EMH usually will make a park busier so those are generally to be avoided.

I will take the opposite approach, we almost always go to AM EMH, and love it. The earlier the better, as 7am EMH’s will be the most uncrowded hour you will ever see at a Disney park. 8am’s are good too though. We don’t even usually park hop, just take a midday break and then back to the same park. We have been during all crowd levels, lately it has been mostly spring break and our plan works great. If you don’t think you will be at the park a minimum of 30-45 minutes before AM EMH though, I might suggest a different park. But if you can be there early, go for it. We like to stay late too, so some mornings have a late start or we go to a water park since they open later.

I have a 1 & 3 year old so the late EMH are pretty much out for us. They are usually up at 6 anyway, so I figured we might as well head out and take advantage of it!

This is my first trip with kids though. I’m having a hard time adjusting my expectations from being 2 grown adults going open to close and rising everything! Our last trip was 7 years ago :wink:

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If you will make the morning EMH those are great touring times. Other people frequently hop out of the EMH park but we usually just take a nice long midday break (for naps and pool, esp when our kids were really little) and then go back in the evening and that’s worked great for us. I think the trick to going with littles is drastically reduce your attraction list. So, when I went with DD18mo, DS3, DD8 and DH and I, our touring plans had MAYBE 10 attractions for the whole day. Most days we did more, but it kept me from freaking out when my kids wanted to stop and watch the ducks, or ride IASW three times in a row, or play for an hour in the dumbo playground, or have a 10:30 am melt down requiring us to leave the park for an early nap, or pass out while sitting in my lap on the bench in Mexico while my arm fell asleep and I had to watch people leaving La Cava with their delicious margaritas… ahem… It’s just a different approach. Even now (they are 4, 6, and 11) we still just let every pick ONE must do, and consider everything else bonus. Saves stress. And it’s really magical to see the parks and attractions through your kids eyes.


Thanks so much for your insight! We will have my parents with us, so I’m hoping we can squeeze in some grown up rides too while they hang out with the kids. We are blessed to have nearly 7 full days, so I’m hopeful that we can hit our favorites and still like each other by the end!

So midday breaks worked well for your family? I’ve read how some people take their kids open to close. I can’t imagine. I will need a break too! Everything just takes longer and more energy with kids :wink: But they are so worth it! I can’t wait to see DD3’s face when she sees the castle for the first time!

If your parents will be there, that will really help. And don’t forget about the rider swap you can use on rides that have height requirements. That really helps speed things along when you have shorties who can’t ride and adults/bigs who DO want to ride. And yes, breaks work great for us especially during times with long hours (like summers/holidays), and it’s the only way we could take advantage of great, low-crowd morning hours AND also see a nighttime show on the same day. but you have to leave enough time between reservations/fpp or it can just be stressful. We usually do 4-5 hours (or more, depending on how everyone’s doing). Transportation just usually takes longer than you think (no matter whether you drive or ride bus/mono/boat whatever), so be realistic and plan accordingly. The only other thing that really helped was learning to leave while we were still having fun but just starting to tire, and not waiting until everyone was exhausted and cranky before we tried to fight crowds back to front of park/transportation/resort room etc.

I know some people do it but I’ve never had open-close really work with little kids, and especially not with more than one under 5. I mean, when we’ve had more than one little one I just kind of expect that there’s a good chance of at least one meltdown per day, even with midday breaks. There’s just so much stimulation and it’s such a drastic departure from the routine for most that they just can’t deal with it all, even if they’re high energy and not really nappers.

Even with my older niece (she just turned 10) I still plan for 3-4 hour midday breaks most days, though some days we’ll do a late start and power through to close or start early and end in the early evening instead. Even if we don’t take a nap (which still actually does happen quite often) it’s a good chance for her to have some pool time and for us both to just not be in park-mode for a few hours. The younger one (she’s 3) isn’t generally a napper other than maybe a 30 minute catnap here and there, but she slept for at least 2 hours every day on our trip last summer… Halloween party day was a real treat when she didn’t want to wake up after 3 hours!

A strategy we’ve used when all of the adults want to ride the big stuff without extra waiting for everything or trying to meet up after every big ride is to plan for one big ride to be a standby wait using rider swap, followed by a big FP ride. The adults taking the littles will go to the standby entrance with the riders to start the rider swap, then take the littles to ride a smaller ride or three (you can use FPP for the first of these). The riders will do the first ride and collect the rider swap ticket, then head to the FP ride (or ride again if the line is short enough, or maybe take the time to do some child-free shopping). The adults who took the littles will meet the riders at the end of the FP window and hand the kids over, then use the FP and the rider swap ticket. It saves a little time, and a little bit of shuffling the kids back and forth, and most of the “So we’ll meet up… ummm… here? Or I’ll text you. Or something.” conversations.


If everyone is up at 6am, definitely go to AM EMH. It is different going with kids than without them, for sure. But it is wonderful!

I have the same question. On a day I am thinking of scheduling Epcot, it has early EMH but it’s a 1 on the calendar. Avoid or Go? We are staying offsite.

The CL 1 means I’d be sleeping in that day (because RD is a non-issue)!