We recently wrote a report about the real start of Spring Break season at Disney World, typically one of the busiest stretches of the year. The week in question in that report was expected to be the busiest of the season, with many colleges as well as local K-12 schools in Florida having that week off. Based on early reports from this current week, however, we might have a new contender for busiest week yet.
The week leading up to Easter is always one of the busiest of the season, but doesn't always reach the heights of the local, earlier break. It's too early to draw any conclusions in full yet, but I plan to circle back to this next week when all the data is available. But a few things have happened recently that lead me to believe this is the peak of the peak season. We'll discuss a few of these here.
The first and most important piece of information revolves around Genie+. Up until now, the highest daily price for this add-on had been $29 per person (plus tax). Starting Monday, April 3, that ceiling was shattered, as the cost went to an unprecedented $35 per person. That Disney would push the envelope to that degree meant that they expected a large crowd for these days. The pricing, while not revealed to the public until the day comes, is set by Disney based on crowd expectations. It stands to reason that the busier it is predicted to be, the higher the price Disney feels they can charge.
The "date based pricing" for Genie+ started in October 2022. Up until then, the price was set at $15 per day. It probably goes without saying, but on no day since then has the price been LESS than $15, but it has certainly been more on a regular basis. Hitting the $35 mark is a big deal, because even at the holiday season last year, it never eclipsed $29.
The other side of this, of course, is the demand aspect - would guests be willing to pay this ever increasing price? Based on this week, the answer seems to be yes, as Genie+ sold out on Monday by 10:00 a.m. To put that in perspective, Genie+ had never sold out before noon on any prior day. So Disney bet correctly - at the highest price point to date, the demand has never been greater.
There is no indication that Disney has changed the amount of Genie+ reservations available for purchase (at least not recently). They are still looking for the "sweet spot" of having enough reservations that the purchase is worth it to those guests who use it, but also so that it doesn't overwhelm those guests who don't use it. If the amount available hasn't changed, the only thing that did change would be the demand.
How can it be that guests would buy Genie+ faster than ever given the higher price point? This comes back to crowd levels. If guests see long lines, they throw money at the problem in an attempt to "beat the crowds." If word gets around that Genie+ sells out, that's even more incentive for people to buy, as they would worry that they wouldn't be able to purchase it in the future.
I've said this before but it's worth reiterating - if you are purchasing Genie+, you should have it purchased early enough in the day to make your first reservation before the park opens. This doesn't have to necessarily be right at 7:00 a.m. (the first available time for most guests) but it should always be before the park opens so that you a) have the chance to make the best possible first selection (a big part of maximizing the use of the service) and b) so that you can make another selection two hours after park opening. If you're waiting until noon (or 10:00 a.m. in this case), you're already probably not getting your "money's worth" out of the service anyway.
In any case, the pricing and availability (or lack thereof) is a good indicator of crowd levels at this point. We'll monitor that to see if the trend continues in the future; there could always be adjustments to the supply end by Disney, or the service could reach a price point where guests balk at purchasing it and it won't sell out. I honestly don't know what that price point would be, but Disney appears to be pushing the envelope to eventually find out.
In addition to Genie+, two other factors this week have probably had a hand in the large crowds. As we discussed here, the 50th Anniversary celebration has now officially ended and Disney was prepared with some new offerings as the page was turned on that era. One of these things is the official opening of Tron: Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom. There had been a soft opening for the prior couple of weeks, and before that there had been various previews but the official advertised opening date was April 4.
I question whether the opening of Tron was enough to move the needle on crowds. I think in and of itself, the answer is no. If you were a local and/or annual passholder, you likely would have visited during one of the previews. But it's certainly possible that out of town guests planned vacations around the announced opening of the ride. Or perhaps they were already planning on going this week since it was the only time they could anyway, and therefore benefited from a shiny new attraction opening.
More ride capacity is always a good thing but I suspect the net result was probably a negative in terms of crowds in this case. Since there is no standby option, guests either had to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane or utilize the virtual queue to ride Tron. In that latter case especially, guests waiting for their boarding group to be called would presumably be inside Magic Kingdom, taking up actual physical space (as opposed to the virtual kind) at other attractions, thereby inflating those wait times.
The other big change recently were the return of two nighttime spectaculars, Epcot Forever at (obviously) Epcot and Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom. I suspect Epcot Forever, a return of a temporary show for a temporary amount of time, probably made little to no difference in terms of crowd levels at Epcot.
Happily Ever After, however, is a different story. This is a beloved nighttime show that many hardcore fans have clamored for and rejoiced upon its return. Plenty of local visitors would want to be in the park in the first day (or days) of its return. The already packed hub at Magic Kingdom was full to bursting on the (re)opening night of the show.
We'll be back to take a look at the actual crowd numbers next week and compare them to that week in March that was the start of Spring Break. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues of having busier weekdays and lowered weekend crowds. The Easter holiday itself might make a difference there. Until then, if you're visiting now, pack your patience and do anything you can to skirt the massive crowds.
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