Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney theme park closure phase

There are a LOT of people taking vacations to Disney parks, which these days can pretty much be year ’round. There seem to be no “down” times to go to Disney with short lines and low crowds like in years past. And during holidays, things can be just downright crazy! If you are one of those people planning a trip to Disney, you need to be aware that all these visitors in one place at one time can affect your vacation in more ways than you may realize.

Walt Disney World will limit the amount of people they allow through the gates so guests have more fun and stay safe. What happens if you are vacationing during these crowd-intense times? Can you get shut out of the theme parks?

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Parking Lots Closing

The first thing to close when crowd attendance levels start to peak will be the Disney parking lots, because they generally reach capacity levels before the parks start closure procedures. At this point, your car may be diverted to an alternate parking lot. You will be provided bus transportation back to the park with the closed parking lot, provided that park is still open to visitors.

Time = Money. Driving over to another parking lot will take a lot of time, with traffic moving slowly, bumper to bumper. You will use up time getting to the new parking lot, plus time to get to your destination. When parking has reached the point of diversion, your day is going to get off to a slower start. 

Parks Closing

Now remember that the phrase “park closure” does not mean Cast Members simply shut the gates immediately; there are levels of closures.

Every single Disney World theme parks has reached a level of closure at some point, even if it was a lower level, and predictably because of its popularity, Magic Kingdom is the most likely to start closure procedures based on high crowd levels.

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are less likely to reach closure phases, but it is definitely possible because they are smaller parks with less standing around room than Magic Kingdom.

Epcot has massive amounts of space, so it’s less likely to close than the other three parks.

Even Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, can close due to high crowd levels, which can occur during Easter holidays and the week of July 4th.

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Disney World park closure phases

Phases for Closure

The Disney Company does not currently publish any specific information regarding park closure phases. What we assume about closure phases can change at any time with no notice to anyone, so this is our best guess guide. 

“Closure phases” are initiated by Disney to restrict the amount of guests coming into theme parks. There are four phases to closures. These closure phases also may not last all day long. If enough guests leave mid-afternoon or in the evening, closure restrictions can be listed and more guest will be permitted entry. 

Phase One

Guests allowed to enter:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Two

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Three

The only visitors allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots now:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying at a Disney Resort
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments

Phase Four

The theme park and the parking lot is now closed to all arriving guests. You can assume the entire world is now standing inside that park. 

5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

crowds during holidays at Disney World

How Can You Ensure You Get In?

1. Scheduling

So we really love celebrating holidays at Disney World, with all the decorations, music, and special fireworks. But traveling during really busy times means long lines, people standing elbow to elbow, waiting in traffic, etc.  Our first suggestion to beat the huge crowds is simply to avoid taking vacations during major holidays like Easter, July 4th,  and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Schedule a trip close to a holiday, but not too close, and crowd levels will be lower and more manageable, way below the point of initiating closure phases.

Use this guide: Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

2. Arrive at the Parks Early

If you want to secure a parking spot and get yourself through the park turnstiles, you need to get an early start.  Standing around before the park opens will be way better than sitting in a car stuck in traffic later on, hoping you don’t get directed to a different parking lot.

Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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3. Stay on Resort Property

Booking your stay on resort property has several advantages, even if you pay more for this privilege.

By waking up already located on Disney property, you can utilize Disney resort transportation. Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation are allowed through the turnstiles through a level two closure. 

Disney Resorts guarantee their guests access to a Disney World theme park. However, just because you are guaranteed to get into a park does not mean you will be able to get into the specific park that you want to visit. And just because you get in, standing side by side with all those people, this does not ensure you’ll enjoy the low-stress holiday you were looking forward to enjoying (see scheduling tip #1.)

Where to stay? Use this guide: *Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

4. Make In-Park Reservations or Appointments

Guests with in-park reservations get into the parks through a level three closure, so save up your money and schedule a special event or meal just to be sure. 

You can start making ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance of your trip. This is very important as dining reservations fill up fast during holiday seasons. Use this guide: Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Surviving Disney World at Christmas: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

 

 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you considering what you and the fam. are doing during Christmas vacation…

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Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.