Does Disney World Ever Sell Out?


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My family and I love all things Disney. But with everyone so excited about the new additions to the park, I’ve wondered, does Disney World ever sell out?

I decided to check it out since we’re overdue for a trip. Here’s what I learned:

Disney World does not ever stop selling tickets. However, there are days when one or more Disney World parks reach visitor capacity. When this happens, park visitors may face restricted access for a period of time until it’s less crowded and a significant number of people have exited. 

It’s reassuring to know that Disney World does not sell out of tickets.

However, this doesn’t automatically guarantee admission into each of the four main Florida theme parks at exactly the moment visitors wish to enter.

Disney World, like any other theme park, is subject to regulations when it comes to crowd capacity. So, it’s helpful to understand the operations of Disney World ticket sales and park capacities.

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Should I buy Disney World tickets in advance?

No. You don’t need to buy Disney World tickets ahead of time out of fear of them being sold out. Disney World does not sell out when it comes to the availability of ticket purchases.

That being said, you can save a little money by buying your tickets ahead of time vs. at the gate.

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Though Disney World does not sell out of tickets, there are time periods when one or more of the theme parks will experience a “phased” closure.

This phased closure is based on crowd capacity and maintaining guest safety. Therefore, one or more of the individual theme parks that make up Walt Disney World may have restricted access to guests at certain times of crowded days.

Guests then have the option of visiting a different theme park until access is once again granted.

What are the Different Types of Tickets at Disney World?

There are three primary types of ticket for guests visiting Disney World. Some tickets offer additional options, but the basic ticket categories are as follows:

  • Daily tickets: Base tickets are the most basic tickets available, allowing guests to visit just one of the four theme parks for a day. You can select 1 or more days, and it’s cheaper per day the more you do.
  • Park hopper tickets: Park hopper tickets allow guests to visit more than one park per day. For families with kids who may need naps or a mid-afternoon pool break, this option is a real life-saver.
  • Annual passes: Annual passes allow guests to visit the four parks as much as they want over 12 months.

For my money, being a Dad with 3 kids, a 3 or 4-day pass with the park hopper option is the way to go. Since we don’t live in Florida and don’t have family there, the annual pass doesn’t make sense.

The park hopper allows us to bounce between multiple parks in 1 day as opposed to having to only go to 1 park per day. Then since Walt Disney World is, by far, the largest of the Disney parks, it doesn’t make sense to try and do it in under 3 or 4 days.

You probably already knew that Walt Disney World in Orlando is the largest of all Disney parks (click to see my park comparison), but if you’re curious how they all stack up and how the sizes compare, definitely take a look at my article which details the specifics of all the parks worldwide.

Each Disney World Park and Their Capacities

Technically, Walt Disney World (WDW) features six “parks” altogether.

Magic Kingdom is the park that is most reminiscent of Disneyland. It’s also the only park at Walt Disney World that Walt Disney himself helped design. It opened in 1971. Since Walt passed away in 1966, he sadly never got to see the finished park.

Disney World includes four theme parks and two water parks:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • Epcot
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park

Many visitors to Disney World do enjoy the water parks, but let’s be honest. Most of us don’t go to Disney World for water slides. We go for the fun of the 4 main parks.

Walking between theme parks, or resorts and theme parks, like we do in Disneyland isn’t possible in the Orlando location.

So, plan to drive between the 2 or use Disney busses or even the monorail which mostly goes back and forth to resorts, but also serves Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

As I said above, Disney World is BIG; 25,000 acres. 

Don’t plan to try and do everything in 1 or even 2 days; you’ll wear yourself out. Disneyland is great because you can walk from Disneyland to California Adventure quickly and easily (although I still wouldn’t do it in a day).

However, there are benefits to the fact that Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom are huge and spread apart from each other—especially when it comes to crowd capacity and available choices for visitors.

In other words, visitors to WDW have options when it comes to attending the theme parks, which causes crowds to be dispersed somewhat evenly among the four.

This prevents Disney World from selling out of tickets and instead allows for just managing crowd capacity for each individual theme park.

Though Disney parks are designed to accommodate large crowds of thousands, during the busiest times of the year they can experience some levels of closure; especially right now when everyone is in a Star Wars frenzy over the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Disney does not release specific numbers as to park capacities due to several variables.

But, experts base their statistics on educated estimates. Here is a summary of each park and its likelihood for crowds and closure:

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom at WDW is what most visitors recognize as the iconic Disney theme park.

It features Cinderella’s castle as well as several well-known attractions divided into different “lands,” such as Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the theme park that consistently ranks the most crowded of the four. Experts estimate that the park’s capacity is between 60,000-75,000 visitors at one time.

Being the most popular, and most crowded, Magic Kingdom is likely to restrict access to incoming visitors at certain times during the busiest days until a significant number of people leave the park.

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Epcot

Epcot is the largest of the four theme parks at WDW when it comes to attractions.

Most people liken Epcot to a World’s Fair. It features “pavilions” that showcase several different countries with attractions, cuisine, and shopping. Epcot also features a “Future World” area with attractions that explore innovations in science and technology.

Due to its size, Epcot is the least likely to experience any closure or restricted access as a result of crowd capacity.

Hollywood Studios


Hollywood Studios theme part at WDW is designed to allow visitors to experience attractions reminiscent of Hollywood films and animation, as well as a Southern California vibe.

It’s estimated that Hollywood Studios has a park capacity of about 65,000 visitors at one time.

However, Hollywood Studios is still less likely than Magic Kingdom to restrict access to incoming visitors and would only be subject to capacity closures during the very busiest of days.

For some reason, Hollywood Studios is the least popular of the 4 parks at Walt Disney World. That’s changing, of course, with the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land.

But there’s a TON of stuff to do at Hollywood Studios (click to see my comprehensive guide), not even counting the Star Wars stuff, so if you’re not sure, take a moment and check out all there is to do in one of my most popular articles.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom theme park is the largest of the WDW four when it comes to acreage, but the smallest when it comes to available attractions for visitors.

The theme of Animal Kingdom is a natural environment and animal conservation. Guests can enjoy animal exhibits, shows, and other zoological attractions.

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom’s park capacity is estimated at 55,000 visitors.

It is less likely to close than Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, but may still be subject to restricted access during the busiest of days.

How Likely are the 4 Disney World Parks to Reach Capacity?

All 4 of the Walt Disney World theme parks have reached capacity at different points in their history.

It’s worth noting, however, that this isn’t common.

Since it is, in fact, the most visited theme park in the entire world, Magic Kingdom sees the most frequent temporary closures due to crowd size. On average, Magic Kingdom reaches capacity and doesn’t let new visitors in until the crowds diminish, about 6 days each year.

New Year’s Eve tends to be the day most likely to see that at Magic Kingdom.

Since it’s huge and has plenty of room for guests to spread out, Epcot is the least likely of any Disney World park to close or reach capacity. It’s been years since the last time that happened.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom rarely close (once every few years on average). But of course, right now, with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Hollywood Studios, it’s a safe bet that ISN’T the case.

The good news is that, at least for right now, with everyone flocking to Star Wars Land, the other parks have been reported to be way under capacity.

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What are the Disney World Closure Phases?

Disney World has different closure phases to help manage crowds on busy days. In most cases, it isn’t a hard yes or no as to whether you can enter. It’s more of a gradual restriction.

Their closure system has 4 levels, 1 through 4, with 1 being the least restrictive and 4 being the most.

It’s also worth noting that if you encounter one of the 4 phases, that doesn’t mean you’re done for the day. So it pays to check back periodically but while enjoying one of the other parks in the meantime.

Phase 1 

Those who did not purchase tickets ahead of time may not enter the park until capacity reduces.

It’s worth noting that there has only been a handful of phase 1 closures over the past decade, so it’s very unlikely you’ll encounter this.

Phase 2 

You may only enter the park if you meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You are an annual passholder
  • You’re staying at one of the Disney Resorts
  • You have a park hopper ticket
  • You’re re-entering the park having previously left that same day
  • You previously made a reservation inside that park

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is putting park capacity to the test, but generally speaking, it’s been years since any Disney World park has experienced a phase 2 closure.

Phase 3 

Even more limited access, only for people who:

  • Are staying at one of the Disney Resorts
  • You previously made a reservation inside that park
  • You are an annual passholder

Again, while Star Wars Land is pushing the limits, it’s been over 5 years since the last time a phase 3 closure happened.

Phase 4 

A complete closure including the parking lot. No access to anyone whatsoever until crowds subside.  In all honesty, I wouldn’t want to be in Disney World packed in like sardines anyway.

This has only happened once in the past decade.

 

Did I cover all you wanted to know about whether Disney World ever sells out?

Though Walt Disney World does not sell out when it comes to tickets, the four themed parks may experience phases of closure or restricted access for guests at certain times during the busiest days.

The busiest time periods for Disney World are as follows:

  • Weeks before and after Christmas, including Christmas Day
  • New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
  • Spring break (usually the 2nd or 3rd week in March for most schools)
  • Easter weekend
  • Fourth of July

It makes sense that the holidays would be the busiest time periods for the WDW parks.

People are on vacation and taking the opportunity to travel and celebrate. Also, Disney World offers experiences during these holiday weeks that are unavailable at other times of the year.

Knowing the busiest time periods for visiting Disney World as well as the ticket sales options and theme park operations can help families plan their trips.

Having this understanding will prepare visitors for potential crowds and park closures, so their expectations don’t result in disappointment, and they can make the most of the magic.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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