Do Slow Crowds in Disney World Mean the END of Revenge Travel?

One of the least magical parts about The Most Magical Place on Earth can be the CROWDS. No one wants to navigate a sea of people on their way to find a Dole Whip or ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Although it’s definitely possible to have a great trip even when there are big crowds in the parks, it’s much more relaxing if you can find a time to visit when there aren’t a lot of people there.

Main Street crowds | mid-August 2022

Recently, however, it’s been tricky to find a time when Disney World isn’t packed to the rafters. Even when it was supposed to be Disney’s “slow” season, we’ve been seeing the big crowd levels remain pretty much constant. But this week we’ve noticed a major change in the parks — we can stretch out our arms and NOT hit 18 people in the process. Seriously, the parks haven’t just been slightly less crowded — sometimes they feel like a ghost town. So what brought on this shift? Could it be that revenge travel is FINALLY ending? Let’s take a look.

What Is Revenge Travel?

Revenge travel is a newer term (coined in 2021) for the trend of people traveling more frequently due to their plans being put on hold previously for the COVID-19 pandemic. Because many people put off vacations during the pandemic, they were anxious to get out and travel once the restrictions were over. It’s kind of like people were taking “revenge” on the pandemic for delaying their plans by vacationing more than they usually would.

Southwest Flight

CNN reported that May 2021 saw the “single highest increase in average travel search traffic” on travel booking site Expedia with a 10% increase. This happened just a week after the European Union extended its contract with Pfizer and approve the vaccine for teenagers. At that time, 60% of Expedia consumers had plans to travel domestically and 27% had plans to travel internationally in 2022.

Orlando International Airport crowds

Not only did more people plan to travel than usual, but those people planned BIG trips. CNBC reported a trend to “go big” on 2022 vacations, as more people planned extravagant trips. They attributed this trend to a mindset of living in the moment and taking advantage of the time you have, which resulted from the pandemic. According to a survey of 12,000 travelers in 12 different countries, “65% of respondents [planned] to ‘go big’ on their next trip” (CNBC).

Travel picked up

The US Travel Association recently noted that travel spending in July 2022 was roughly at July 2019 levels, “which marked the fourth consecutive month that spending was at, or above, 2019 levels.”

Despite higher travel prices (resulting from staffing shortages and other global issues), people want to get out and take the vacations that they lost over the last couple of years. That trend has lasted for almost a year and a half now, but it may be slowing down now.

Learn more about why travel is more expensive now.

How Has It Affected Disney World?

A Disney World vacation definitely qualifies as “going big,” so it follows the trend mentioned above that more people have visited the parks than usual over the last couple of years. Not only are we seeing BIG crowds during the normally busy seasons, but we’ve seen those crowd levels remain consistent through the “slow” seasons as well. 

Crowds in Hollywood Studios | early August 2022

For example, late January and February are usually a slow season in Disney World, as many people are going back to school and settling into a normal routine after holiday travel. We initially saw lower crowds in the parks around mid-January 2022, but those crowds picked right back up by the end of the month.

Crowds entering Magic Kingdom

Even through February, the crowds did not let up. Disney World’s park passes sold out on multiple days that month, which means all 4 parks reached capacity. This is normally a very slow time in the parks, so the change was shocking at the time.

EPCOT entrance

As the year continued, we saw some Disney fans reporting that they wouldn’t travel as much over the summer due to inflation, price increases, potential new COVID-19 variants, and other factors. However, the Disney World crowds reflected a different story as park passes continued to sell out and visitors continued to fill the parks.

Crowds in Animal Kingdom

During a recent earnings report, Disney executives shared that they were confident the parks would continue to draw lots of visitors. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company sees “nothing in the future indicating anything to the contrary of what we’ve seen” in terms of guest demand for the theme parks. He claimed that the new trend of constant big crowds was “resilient and long-lasting.” In other words, Disney expects demand to remain high. And so far, they’ve been right. But now we’re seeing that start to change.

Learn more about what Disney executives said about demand here.

So What’s Different Now?

For the first time in a LONG time, we’ve seen a major dip in crowd levels in the parks. Although we normally expect this to happen around the beginning of September (as summer ends, kids go back to school, and some people wait for their holiday vacations), we’ve become used to the constant crowds no matter the time of year. So it was a bit of a shock to walk into a half-empty Magic Kingdom this week!

Where’d everybody go?

Could this be the start of back-to-normal crowd trends? It’s possible that now — a couple of years after COVID-19 restrictions began being lifted — most people have taken their revenge trips and are now returning to a normal vacation schedule. More people have also returned to in-office jobs where they previously may have worked from home (as working from home typically allows more flexibility to vacation during different times of the year).

An empty walkway in Animal Kingdom

Other factors may be contributing to the current dip in crowds. For example, many people are concerned about a potential recession in the U.S. and could be saving their money instead of spending it on a vacation. In addition, credit card debt has hit some all-time highs recently, which could also prompt some people to stay home. Inflation has impacted many travel-related costs, such as airplane tickets, gasoline, and hotel stays.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Washington Post reported that some Americans are starting to hold off on spending their money on things like booking flights, building pools in their backyards, replacing their roofs, and even getting haircuts. In the past few months, some households have pulled back on certain purchases, due to price increases and other factors.

EPCOT “crowds”

All of these factors seem to be coming together to create lower-than-normal crowds in Disney World right now. We’ll have to wait and see some broader trends to really determine whether revenge travel is officially over, but this is the first sign that we could be returning to the usual crowd trends in the parks.

Click here to see how the low crowds have affected Disney World ride wait times.

So it seems that normal Disney World crowd patterns might be returning. Having those consistent trends allows you to prepare for the expected crowds and potentially even plan your trip around the busy and slow seasons in the parks. Of course, you can still have a great time even if there are lots of crowds. Check out these posts to see how you can deal with the crowds:

And keep an eye on DFB to see the latest updates from Disney World as you plan your upcoming trip. You can check out the blog and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

Click here to learn the biggest reasons some people DIDN’T travel this summer.

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The post Do Slow Crowds in Disney World Mean the END of Revenge Travel? first appeared on the disney food blog.