What Disney’s Reduced Operating Hours Mean to You
During the pandemic, Disney has reduced operating hours across its parks.
The company has done this for several reasons ranging from reduced staffing to detailed cleaning concerns.
Of course, the primary reason Disney chose this path involves the mandatory limits on crowds.
With fewer people visiting, the parks don’t need to stay open as long to satisfy customers.
Still, I know that this change worries many potential vacationers. Should you worry about operating hours? Let’s talk it through…
About Operating Hours
Walt Disney World generally posts operating hours several weeks in advance. The company wants customers to know what to expect.
As I type this, Disney displays operating hours through the first week of February, which I appreciate since my next trip is the last week of January.
When I evaluate these hours, I cannot overlook the fact that they remain shorter than I can ever recall.
That’s a product of necessity. As I mentioned, Disney must clean its attractions more than ever before. It does this to protect guests during the pandemic.
Similarly, Disney has laid off thousands of employees, which causes staffing issues. However, this aspect gets overstated a bit.
Another two hours of staffing won’t make or break Disney. Instead, the critical component involves guest behavior.
During the pandemic, many park visitors get so much done during the day that they don’t stay the whole time.
This statement’s extremely important to the overall discussion here, but let’s focus on the ramifications of that statement.
All the sites that track guest behavior reveal the same pattern. Roughly two hours before closing, wait-times diminish on virtually all attractions.
Savvy visitors can do so much near park closing that they feel like they’ve had a full day.
From Disney’s perspective, the pandemic hits the hardest in these hours. They’re running the parks at full capacity, but attendance doesn’t justify it.
So, Disney understandably shortens operating hours due to a lack of demand. It’s the same reason clothing stores aren’t open at 2 a.m.
No business should be open when customers aren’t interested in shopping there.
Operating Hours from Your Perspective
You’re not worried about the business side of things. You know that Disney earned $65 billion during a pandemic year and figure it’ll be okay.
You care about your trip and want to know that you won’t miss out due to shortened park hours.
Let’s talk about what that means from your perspective.
Let me start by saying that I’ve studied the data exhaustively – yes, I have a spreadsheet – and have visited the parks on several days.
I’ve also watched many park videos from others, people who approach a visit differently than me.
What I’ve witnessed falls in line with what the data suggests. Shortened operating hours don’t matter as much as you’d expect.
The shorter wait-times for Disney attractions more than cancel out these current constraints.
For example, yes, Disney’s Animal Kingdom closes at 5 p.m. on some dates. However, you can ride everything in the park by 1 p.m. on most days.
Sure, you’ll need the right plan, but MickeyBlog’s got your back on that.
I’ve got two primary reasons why shorter hours shouldn’t bother you. The first comes down to Disney’s philosophy about guests.
According to park survey data, most people express satisfaction with a park visit if they can experience nine attractions during a day.
Right now, even the most casual Disney guest can knock out nine attractions.
The only place where it’s even a question is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That park comes with the longest wait-times and fewest operational rides.
The other reason involves personal behavior. You won’t wipe yourself out during a shorter park visit.
Those extra two or three hours come with thousands more steps that you must walk.
You’ll expend much less energy during a visit while accomplishing more than usual. Who wouldn’t take that trade?
How Should You Maximize Your Mornings?
You can maximize your park visits to counteract the shorter operating hours.
While each park comes with individual tendencies, general rules apply, especially at the start and end of the days.
During the pandemic, I’ve provided plenty of advice about how you should approach park visits. Much of it has evolved over time.
Disney crowd behavior has proven mercurial in 2020, and trends have changed significantly.
In July and early August, visiting at Rope Drop proved needlessly risky, as park officials hadn’t learned the best ways to address crowds yet.
Since then, Disney has opened the parks early on certain days but not on others. If there’s a rationale behind this practice, nobody knows it.
We went to Magic Kingdom twice in four days, getting in early both times. Unfortunately, the rides didn’t open early the second time.
What I’m telling you is that visiting before park opening involves a roll of the dice. You cannot count on early admission.
Still, since you’re not going to be at the parks as late, you might as well get up early and try your luck.
When you enter a park before it officially opens, the (Walt Disney) world is your oyster. We’ve done three rides before the official park opening!
You can even ride everything in the park when things go right.
The one important note here is that you shouldn’t jump in a giant line needlessly.
Keep an eye on wait-times on My Disney Experience.
Most of them are a bit longer than your actual wait, but they’re close enough to use as good guesses.
The attractions with the longest waits remain primarily static throughout the day. Others have an ebb and flow. You can capitalize on that!
How Should You Maximize Your Evenings?
Okay, the rules will change on January 1st, and we should talk about that first.
Disney will bring back Park Hopping on New Year’s Day, a glorious moment for park lovers.
So, I’ve got advice for the rest of 2020 and then different thoughts for 2021.
Right now, you should stay at the park until Disney kicks you out. The data here is irrefutable.
Once people have done enough on the day, they leave. About two hours before closing, wait-times shrink to where several rides are walk-ons.
Even Hollywood Studios will have some short lines at the end of most days.
You’ll get so much done during this two- or three-hour window that you’ll feel like you’ve won Disney for the day.
However, the situation will change a bit at the start of 2021.
Disney strategists have noticed this behavior, and they don’t like it. The company’s all about maximizing efficiency.
The return of Park Hopping signifies that Disney wants longer waits for its attractions.
When Park Hopping returns, you may switch parks at 2 p.m. You won’t need a Park Pass to do so, either.
Your goal here is to take advantage of shorter lines elsewhere. However, bunches of other people may have the same strategy.
As such, these super-short lines I’m mentioning may not be available during the winter of 2021. It’s an unknown.
Even so, once you’ve accomplished everything you want at your current park, you’re freerolling when you leave and head somewhere else.
The overriding point here is that you shouldn’t worry about reduced operating hours. If anything, Disney’s the one that it impacts.
The return of Park Hopping demonstrates how much the parks clear out long before they’re about to close.