Why such a huge increase in crowds in Jan/early Feb?

We just got back from a trip to the World, 1/23-2/3 and this is our fourth year in a row going during pretty much those exact days. Every year, the feel of the parks has been sparse and wait times low. This year was a massive difference (which is confirmed by this websites historical crowds 2018 vs 2017/2016 etc etc.) Crowd predictions of 3’s were actually seen as 7’s and 8’s and this was all across the parks on pretty much every day we were there. I accept that WDW will only get busier in the future, but does anyone have any idea why there was such a massive jump in crowds?

There has been a lot of speculation about this, but the best explanation I have heard is that WDW has been cutting back on staffing and ride capacity, which makes wait times longer. Essentially they are changing the rules of the game, so the historical data that drives predictions is not as valid anymore.

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It can’t just be staffing, because the parks felt crowded last week. Not just longer wait times. Like @mbroschak we’ve visited in a similar time frame before and the parks have never felt congested like this.

I was also a bit disappointed in how below capacity the rides appeared to be running. Letting 5, 6, even 7 ride vehicles pass by without loading them seemed a waste when the lines were ‘long’ (25 minutes for Spaceship Earth, but we’ve never waited for this one before). Many other rides were not fully loaded (or even close)… but my biggest frustration was the line jumping by a number of South American groups. We had multiple occasions where a party of 2 became a party of 8 just before loading. I said something to one cast member and was shrugged off.

I agree, the parks literally felt twice as congested as last year at the same time, it wasn’t even the wait times, we were able to get lots of great fastpasses, it was the congestion around the parks, that’s why we love going that time of year because of the freedom to just move around the parks without dodging bodies all day… I love WDW no matter what and will take it as it is, but I was pretty shocked on such a massive change in 1 year. Is there a way to ask the developer of this site this question directly, maybe he’ll have more insight as it may change when we book next year…

I was there in mid-January (14-26), and it definitely felt quite crowded to me, especially the MK. Wait times didn’t strike me as that bad (I’m calibrating off a lifetime of Disneyland visits), but I was feeling fairly constantly trampled. (I wasn’t noticing rides running below capacity)

I heard it suggested that perhaps the hurricane rescheduled some trips, but otherwise I’m curious too - I can’t imagine Epcot’s Art Festival is driving that many people.

Oddly, my first day at DHS (MLK Jr. Day) was changed afterward from a 7 to a 10. Honestly, it didn’t feel like a 10 to me, but some of the 6 or 7s at MK felt higher. Again, I judge more on how trampled how I feel than wait times. :shrug:

Also, it might be worth adding, I visited Disneyland last year in mid-late Feb, which is generally its quiet time, and it was quite crowded (exacerbated by a slew of rides down - Pirates, Splash, Matterhorn, DCA Rapids, DCA pier stuff, ToT). Go figure…

Crowd levels are based on the wait times for certain key attractions and don’t really indicate the number of actual people in the park that day. A park may have a CL of 7 in June and be very crowded with people. That same park may have a CL of 7 in January with only half the people but the same wait times because the rides are being operated at half speed making the wait times equally as long as in June when rides are being run at full capacity. Disney saves money on ride operating costs and staffing running at reduced capacity. This recent artificial action by Disney is upsetting all touring plans estimates because past history can no longer be used to accurately forecast those estimates. It is a real bummer for all of us trying to use a TP to gain an advantage over those who do not plan.

I did notice on multiple rides that I was riding standby during my Jan 24-28th trip that ride capacity was barely more than the number of people riding with a FP. On multiple occasions, 5-10 minutes would pass before a single standby rider was let thru to ride. Even FP lines were backing up due to reduced capacity.