Disney World

Park Capacity and Closing Phases at Disney World

Park Closure

Now that the Holiday Season is underway, Walt Disney World will start to undergo quite a massive transformation as we inch ever closer to Christmas.  No, it’s not the putting up of Christmas decorations or the unveiling of a new attraction.  This is the time of year where due to the enormous influx of guests heading to the parks for the holiday season the crowds start to swell and may even reach capacity levels on Christmas week itself.





There are only a few times a year where incoming guests may be under threat of not having access to the theme park of their choice because it is simply “too full”.   These are Easter Week, 4th of July and of course Christmas. So if you are planning on heading to the theme parks for your destination Christmas,  here’s a heads up on what you might expect and also some tips to make sure that you aren’t left out in the cold during days where a theme park may be facing a closure due to high crowds levels.

A good place to start is to have an understanding of how Disney manages these large crowds.  This is done through a Phased Closure Plan. On busy park days, Disney reserves the right to enact these phases to help them curb the numbers of guests that may enter the parks each day. These phases are as follows:





Phase A: This is the first step as parks start to reach an unmanageable level.  At this phase, the park is only open guests that fall into the following categories:

  • Those with Park Hopper Tickets and are re-entering or hopping from another park.
  • Walt Disney Resort Hotel Guests (also includes Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green)
  • Those staying at select Good Neighbor Hotels
  • Golden Oak Residents
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passholders
  • Guests with Advanced Dining Reservations including dessert parties.
  • Guests to Magic Kingdom with appointments at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League and Harmony Barber Shop
  • Guests who purchased Memory Maker

No admission to guests with single-day non-hopper ticket (even with FP+ reservations).





Phase B: If Phase A has been implemented and crowd levels are still high, Disney may go to Phase B.  This means that walk-ups will still be turned away as well as those staying off-site with single day ticket. Guests hopping parks will also not be allowed in unless they meet the following criteria:

  • Guest of a Walt Disney World Resort (including Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green)
  • Those staying at Select Good Neighbor Hotels
  • Residents of Golden Oak
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passholders
  • Guests with Advanced Dining Reservations including dessert parties.
  • Guests to Magic Kingdom with appointments at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League and Harmony Barber Shop
  • Guests who purchased Memory Maker

Phase 1: During this stage, guests with single-day tickets or walk-ups will be turned away at the parking lots. The same goes for Cast Members with Main Gate and Silver Passes.  Guests that may still enter includes:

  • Guests with multi-day park tickets
  • Guest of a Walt Disney World Resort (including Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green)
  • Those staying at Select Good Neighbor Hotels
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passholders
  • Guests that are Park Hopping
  • Guests relying on Disney Transporation (buses, boats and monorail)
  • Guests with Advanced Dining Reservations including dessert parties.

Phase 2: This is when things are starting to reach fever pitch.  At this stage admission is limited to:

  • Guests that have purchased 1-day Magic Kingdom Park Tickets in advance
  • Guest of a Walt Disney World Resort (including Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green)
  • Those staying at select Good Neighbor Hotels
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passports
  • Guests with Hopper Tickets coming from another park
  • Guests re-entering the park
  • Guests with Advanced Dining Reservations including dessert parties.
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League

Phase 3:  At this point, the park is inching ever closer to a complete shutdown. Those sill allowed entry are as follows:

  • Guest of a Walt Disney World Resort (including Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green)
  • Those staying at select Good Neighbor Hotels
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passports
  • Guests with Advanced Dining Reservations including dessert parties.
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League

Phase 4: At this stage, the Disney theme park that is reaching Phase 4 is pretty much on lockdown.  The park will no longer allow guests entry.  It doesn’t matter if you are staying on site or off or whether or not you have reservations.  Though Disney doesn’t reach a Phase 4 very often, if the Magic Kingdom were to reach this on Christmas Day, any guests not in the park before Disney declares the Phase 4 would need to make alternate plans.

How will I know if closures are starting to happen?  Guests travelling the week before Christmas or the week between Christmas and New Year’s are advised to check My Disney Experience and disneyworld.com for any possible closures before heading to the parks.  If you are staying on-site your resort concierge will also be able to provide these details for you.

A Helpful Piece of Advice: As we near important holidays, the Disney rumor mill goes into overdrive with murmurs about closures.  These rarely prove to be true.  If you’re visiting on a busy park day, do the research and try to find info directly from Disney and other reliable sources to avoid having your holiday impacted by false or inaccurate reports.

Helpful Tips to Ensure You Aren’t Turned Away During a Phased Closure: 

  • Stay onsite – Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort means that even if the park hits a phase 1, 2 or 3 closure, you will still have access to that park.  There are also many other perks to staying onsite like free Disney transportation as well as the ability to purchase a Disney Dining Plan and take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.
  • Plan on visiting a less busy park – Particularly on Christmas and New Year’s Day, Magic Kingdom will be heaving. When it comes to Phase 4 closures, Magic Kingdom will most likely be the park that is the most affected.  So why not give it a miss?  If your schedule permits, plan on visiting another park during these days. This may save you having to come up with a last-minute Plan B because you aren’t able to gain entry to your park of choice.
  • Arrive early – The parks rarely go into a phased closure first thing in the morning.  Like any other day at the theme parks, the early morning usually starts slow and then builds with parks reach capacity around lunchtime.  Therefore, to improve your chances of gaining entry to a park during a busy day, plan on arriving at the park at least an hour before opening.  It may mean getting up a bit earlier than you planned but it will be well worth it when you aren’t in the crowd that start to get turned away a few hours later.
  • Have a dining reservation, a tour, or other bookable appointment in the park during a busy day – Phases 1, 2, and 3 allow access to guests that have booked an appointment at the theme park during that day.  You are less likely to get turned away from the Magic Kingdom on a near capacity day if you have for instance a lunch reservation at Crystal Palace, a Bibbiddi Bobbidi Boutique appointment or other event like a tour.  All of these options are awesome anyways so do a bit of forward planning and not only will you have a more robust day at the parks but you may be able to still squeeze in as the park is nearing capacity.
  • Leave your car at the resorts  – When parks start to reach capacity the first thing to be affected is usually parking.  The lots will start to fill up even before a park reaches capacity making in a gridlocked nightmare.  Also if you show up in a car but Disney has run out of parking spots you’ll be among the first to be turned away.  So if you are staying on site during peak periods then definitely take advantage of free resort transportation.

With a bit of forward planning even the busiest of Disney park days can still be fun-filled times to remember.  However, it does require a thought out game plan s well as careful monitoring of crowd levels.  So, make sure your Fastpasses and Advanced Dining Reservations are booked, that you have a plan for how you’ll handle the parks and check regularly for updates and closures.

 

Click here for your FREE no obligation quote!

Are you planning on hitting the parks this holiday? There still plenty of great rates and package options available.  Fill out our form and get your FREE quote.

Why not consider working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  As an agent with MickeyTravels, I can help you get the best discounts for your Disney World vacation package, assist with making dining, Fastpass and Christmas Party reservations and can even help you plan an itinerary filled with extra special Christmas touches. Best of all my services are absolutely FREE! Contact me at 1.800.801.4025 via email at mroden@mickeytravels.com or on Facebook and let’s get planning!

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