When Walt Disney World Closes at Maximum Capacity: 5 Tips to Remember

When Walt Disney World Closes at Maximum Capacity: 5 Tips to Remember

It may seem strange that Walt Disney World closes when it reaches maximum capacity, but keep in mind that, without the magic, it’s still just a theme park and has to adhere to fire code regulations. With the 2018 construction and rehabs and a slew of 50 new things before the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021…there will likely be times that the parks hit capacity and turn away guests. We’re already seeing increased crowds and hearing doomsday predictions. So, if you’re visiting WDW anytime in the next 4 years, here are 5 tips to make sure you DON’T GET LOCKED OUT!

Contrary to popular belief, you actually have some control here. Unlike the hours before the hard-ticketed party events Disney Cast Members will not go through the parks and kick you out.

Whether its about adjusting how you plan your vacation or altering your plans for the day you do have a say and some actions you can take to make sure you’re on the right side of the gate when the park reaches capacity.

Note: Capacity issues usually happen at Magic Kingdom FIRST.

Tips #1 and #2 are very HIGH PRIORITY. If you do nothing else to plan your vacation these are the big ones. High Capacity times are typically during holidays and new attraction openings. For 2018 additional crowded times to watch will be early June when Toy Story Land opens, and November 16-19th when Destination D for D23 members arrives in Orlando celebrating Mickey’s birthday.

disney mornings

TIP#1: GET THERE EARLY

This tip is the most common sense, the most in your control and the absolute easiest!!! If you’ve booked a vacation at Walt Disney World around busy times, the best way to make sure you don’t get turned away at the gate is to get there right when the gate opens. The monorail starts running at 6:30 am and the parking lots tend to open 1.5 hours before the park opens that day. So if there are early magic hours at 8 am the lots are usually open by 6:30 am. Keep in mind though that if the park doesn’t open until 9 am, you won’t be able to get in the parking lot until 7:30 am, so check out park hours ahead of time. Animal Kingdom usually has later opening hours so the lots may open closer to 8:30 am there. Ways to maximize this early morning time with the new rope drop ceremony  is to book an early breakfast at Crystal Palace or Be Our Guest, that way it will still feel fun, you won’t “waste” precious time and you’ll beat the crowds. Check out the app for park hours or the calendar on the Disney website for daily times.

Note: Keep in mind most everyone on the planet shows up at Disney between 10-11 am, so getting there before then is key.

TIP#2: DON’T LEAVE

This second common sense tip helps you out even if you ignore all the rest of our tips. While we always condone visiting the resorts  for everything from relaxation time to dining to shopping, physically leaving the park to go somewhere else is not in your best interest on days that may get busy. The exception to this is IF you have the park hopper ticket they will let you in again to re-enter the park all the way through the phase 2 closing process, but after that you would be out of luck. So our advice is to just stay.

beauty and the beast restaurant

TIP #3: BOOK SOMETHING, ANYTHING

Through Phase 3 both dining and special appointments reservations are honored. This is a major plus! If you’re travelling with a Make Your Way package you already have a multi-day ticket, are staying at a Disney resort and most likely using Disney transportation so you’re already in the clear and most likely won’t be turned away. If you however don’t have any of those things, a dining reservation, which can be made at any time, may be your saving grace! Having a restaurant reservation, a boutique reservation or any special experience tours booked will get you access to the park through phase 3.

disney world swan and dolphin off site resort at disney

TIP #4: STAY AT A WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT OR THE SWAN AND DOLPHIN

This is a no brainier if you’re traveling Disney during busy times, mainly because the traffic alone may kill you so you’ll want to be as close to the action as possible and not on the Orlando roads. That said, know that Disney transportation will be packed to the max! You may want to spring for Lyft or Uber to drive you in to the parks to avoid waiting in lines at the bus stop. Being a guest at the Disney Resorts will also ensure you’re still able to get in the parks through Phase 3. This does include the Swan and Dolphin which is definitely one of the best options if you’re looking for a nearby resort without the transportation nightmares.

TIP #5: HAVE A MULTI-DAY TICKET WITH PARK HOPPER

We wouldn’t recommend park hopping during busy times at Disney, because tips #1 and #2 are absolutely our best advice. But a park hopper ticket may be your only chance to get into the parks through Phase 1 and 2 if you’ve ignored tips 1-4. If this is the case and you discover you’ll be vacationing at Hollywood Studios the day that Star Wars Land opens, we say, buy the park hopper just in case.

hollywood studios opening gate

How does Walt Disney World Close for Capacity?

Walt Disney World Closes in phases. Disney has everyone’s best interest at heart. They do put vacationing guests first and assume these folks have booked a make your way package, are staying on site, and are using Disney transportation… hence the ability for these folks to get into the park through closing phases. If you however are playing it cheap, not staying on site and just want a day ticket, you will be the first to get turned away.

People in the biggest trouble as the park starts getting close to capacity are Guests:

With One Day, Single Park Tickets
Using Cast Member Passes
Staying Off-site
Without Reservations
Without Park Hopper

Note: If you’ve driven in you will be turned away at the gate, as you will be unable to park. If the parks get full after you park, you’ll be turned away at security.

In Phase 1 you CAN enter the park IF you…

  • Have a Premium or Annual passholder or carrying a WDW premier passport.
  • Have a multi-park or multi-day ticket.
  • Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, The Four Seasons, The Swan and Dolphin, Shades of Green, or staying at any of the Disney Springs Resorts arriving by bus: Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, The Buena Vista Palace, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel, B Resort, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, Hilton.
  • Are re-entering the park that day.
  • Arrived via Disney Transportation (busses, magical express, minnie van)
  • Are a Golden Oak resident with registered guests.
  • Are Park Hopping
  • Have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for a restaurant in the park.
  • Have an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Pirates League or the Harmony Barber Shop.
  • Have Memory Maker.
  • Have Fast Passes Scheduled.

Note: The only changes between Phase 1 and Phase 2 is that it won’t matter if you have a fast pass scheduled or memory maker.

In Phase 2 you CAN enter the park IF you…

  • Have a Premium or Annual passholder or carrying a WDW premier passport.
  • Have a multi-park or multi-day ticket.
  • Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, The Four Seasons, The Swan and Dolphin, Shades of Green, or staying at any of the Disney Springs Resorts arriving by bus: Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, The Buena Vista Palace, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel, B Resort, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, Hilton.
  • Are re-entering the park that day.
  • Arrived via Disney Transportation (busses, magical express, minnie van)
  • Are a Golden Oak resident with registered guests.
  • Are Park Hopping
  • Have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for a restaurant in the park.
  • Have an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Pirates League or the Harmony Barber Shop.

In Phase 3 you CAN enter the park IF you…

  • Are a Premium or Annual Passholder
  • Are staying at a Disney Resort including the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
  • Have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for a restaurant in the park.
  • Have an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Pirates League or the Harmony Barber Shop.

In Phase 4 the Parks Are CLOSED to All Guests

In Phase 4 Disney enacts the one to one rule, which means when one person leaves the park, one person is allowed to enter. This is usually at their discretion, definitely doesn’t happen immediately as they need to build a little cushion regarding the capacity levels and will mean you can get split up from your party if you’re adamant on getting in.

disney toy story land disney construction

Why is Walt Disney World so busy?

Disney has been losing it’s off season for a few years by adding deals to get more guests to come during slower times. This, as a result, just makes all times busy. Remember that while Walt Disney World closings are somewhat rare, the activities and openings over the next few years gearing up for 2021 are so vast that many many people are planning to book their vacations during these times to get the most bang for their buck. Vacation packages open up to be booked in June the year prior to when you plan to visit. So we are interested to see how quickly WDW sells out this June when 2019 packages go live. We’re not expecting the momentum to slow down anytime soon, so if you’re visiting be prepared for the crowds.

For a quick education on when the parks have closed and prevented guests from entering check out touring plans.

To know in the moment if the parks are open and allowing guests in double check the My Experience App. The info usually updates there first. Checking Disney social media accounts like facebook and twitter would also have the up to date info if you need it.

Hopefully this post has given you a good foundation for understanding the closing phases that Disney goes through during their busiest times. Know that you do have some power over the situation if you plan and prepare ahead of time.