Can I Be Turned Away From a Park Because It Has Reached Capacity?

WDW Capacity

Q: Can I be turned away from the Walt Disney World theme parks because the crowds are too big? 

A: I’m working with a lot of clients just now who are planning a trip during the Holiday Season and this is a question that is coming up a lot lately. Though Disney Park closures due to capacity crowds are not that common, there are a handful instances where they are more likely to occur.  These are as follows:

  • Easter Week
  • 4th of July
  • The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day

Because it is the most popular theme park out of the four, the Magic Kingdom is typically the one most likely to close during peak periods.  Though all parks and even the water parks have faced capacity closures, a Phased Closure at Magic Kingdom is by far the most common.  Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are usually next on the list with Epcot the least likely park to be closed due to its large size.

How can I avoid being turned away from the parks on a busy day? If you have your heart set on hitting the Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Day or are worrying about the possibility of a closure during your vacation there are some very basic steps you can take to ensure that you won’t be one of the guests turned away.

  • Stay onsite.  There are a ton of amazing perks that come from being an onsite guest at Walt Disney World from free resort transportation to early Fastpass booking windows.  When it comes to capacity crowds, an additional benefit is that your are less likely to be turned away from the park during a phased closure than off-site guests or local residents.
  • Arrive early.  If you are visiting the theme parks on Christmas Day and are worried about crowd levels then make sure you are at the park before it opens.  If a park happens to be doing early  morning extra magic hours on that day and you are staying onsite then be sure to take advantage of them.  Basically the earlier you can get to the park on a busy day the better.  The first two hours after a park opens are the most quiet.  The parks will continue to fill up all morning normally reaching their peak around lunch time. Therefore, you’re more likely to get turned away if you’re a late arrival as opposed to the family that shows up at 8am.
  • Plan on visiting a less-busy park.  If your touring plans permit you to visit a park other than the Magic Kingdom on busy public holidays then definitely consider it.  This means that you will avoid any hassle or abrupt changes of plans that would come with a park closure.
  • Have reservations or appointments in the park.  Walt Disney World has a closure system (which I’ll talk about more below).  For that extra little bit of piece of mind on a day where you think the parks might reach capacity,  make that advanced dining reservation for a restaurant in the theme park, have that makeover at the Pirates League, or indulge in that Dessert Party.
  • Leave the car at the resort – The parking lots will often times fill up before the theme park starts to face closure, making it a gridlocked nightmare.  Park attendants will start to turn drivers away when lots start to reach capacity or offer alternative parking arrangement which can be a logistical nightmare.  If you are staying onsite during peak periods or public holidays- take advantage of the free resort transportation perk over the free parking perk.

I’m staying onsite.  They can’t turn me away, right? 

For the most part, if you are staying onsite you are safe.  Disney has a 4 phase plan it created to help deal with capacity crowds.  As a general rule of thumb offsite and walk-up guests will be turned away before those who booked a Walt Disney World vacation package. However, that doesn’t mean that hands-down you are guaranteed admittance to a Walt Disney World theme park regardless of the circumstances.  Let’s run through the phases quickly with 1 being the first course of action and 4 being the final and most extreme:

  • Phase 1: This is the first step in park closure. Normally this phase will mean that the theme park is closed to any walk-up business. Anyone hoping to get in on the day or with a single day ticket may not make it in.  The park will remain open on this phase to Annual Passholders, onsite guests, those with multi-day tickets, park hoppers, those who have dining reservations or other bookings, guests who have been at the parks and are trying to gain re-entry or those relying on Disney transportation.
  • Phase 2: When it hits this stage, if you are staying off-site and are a walk up, or have a multi-day tickets you will probably be turned away.  The park will remain open during this phase to onsite guests, Annual Passholders, those gaining re-entry to a park, park hoppers, those with dining reservations or other bookings and again those relying on Disney transport.
  • Phase 3: This means the park is starting to get really busy.  When we enter Phase 3, only onsite guests, AP holders and those with in-park reservations will be admitted to the park.
  • Phase 4: This is pretty much lockdown.  If a park reaches Phase 4 then it remains closed to any guests both onsite and off.  Now before you get too worried, instances of this happening are incredibly rare. However, if this stage were reached you wouldn’t be able to visit the park and would need to forfeit any reservations or bookings.

If you are worried about facing a park closure during your trip to the Mouse then just do a bit of forward planning. The stress of not being able to visit a park on a busy day is easily avoidable with a good touring plan.  By familiarizing yourself with one of the many crowd calendars online, arriving to the parks early, or by following any of the other steps listed above,  even the busiest of Disney days will be easily manageable.

Thinking about a visit to Disney this Christmas Season? There’s still plenty of fantastic options available.  Fill out our form below to receive your FREE quote.


Find articles like this helpful? Then why not consider working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? As an agent with MickeyTravels, I’ll be on-hand to help you with everything from finding your perfect resort, to nabbing those hard-to-get dining and Fastpass reservations and will even share strategies to help you get the most out of your time at the parks.  Best of all my services are absolutely FREE. Get in touch at 1.800.801.4025, via email at or follow along on Facebook.  

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