Disney Vacation Planning: The Case for Early Extra Magic Hours

One of the things that I love about Disney vacation planning is that it really is not “one size fits all”. There are as many ways to plan a Disney vacation as there are families….and that is a good thing.

As a Disney World travel agent, I tell my clients this all the time…and if you have followed The Affordable Mouse for a while, you have heard me say it here too….whether it’s where to stay, when to go, what to eat, or how to visit, you really need to made decisions based on what is best for YOUR family.With this in mind, I am always interested in discussions about Early vs. Evening Extra Magic Hours. For those who are new to Disney World vacation planning, Extra Magic Hours are a perk that Disney provides to their resort property guests: different parks open 1 hour early or stay open up to 3 hours late every day, giving guests the chance to increase their value by having more park time.

It’s a great concept….in theory. In reality, it CAN backfire somewhat, as those extra hours do the obvious thing of drawing lots of extra resort guests to a given park, thereby making said park MORE crowded than it might otherwise be. And so discussions ensue all over the blogosphere about whether it is better to go to the morning hours, the evening hours, or avoid them altogether.

Judging by online discussions, as well as guidebooks and blog articles I have read, the consensus is that you should avoid the Extra Morning Hours like the plague, and embrace the Extra Evening Hours as a much better use of your time.

And this is great advice…………..sometimes………………..for some families.

For us, it is not. 🙂 And here’s why.

  1. If you find yourself traveling during busy seasons as we often must do, the parks with Evening Hours are still quite crowded until fairly late, while during the Morning Hours the parks are quite empty for the first 30-40 minutes. Yes, by 11 or so, they become very crowded….but by then, my family has probably visited half of Magic Kingdom already and is ready for lunch and then a relaxing afternoon at the pool. We’re gone by the time it gets to that point.
  2. If you find yourself traveling during the summer, I can promise you that it is a LOT cooler at 8 a.m. than at 11 p.m. 🙂
  3. If you find that you have more energy first thing in the morning than at midnight, then you won’t get much benefit out of staying at the parks that late. It’s just not enjoyable when you’re exhausted. Trust me on this one: I know of whence I speak. And this goes double for those of you with little ones, unless they will fall asleep in their strollers and you can keep on going. For us, when our daughter was done, so were we. 🙂

Now clearly, for many (apparently most) of you, these things don’t apply. And for you, I definitely understand the appeal of Evening Hours. It is nice to have the luxury of sleeping in, arriving at the parks mid-day, and staying past midnight. Because sure, once you get past then, the crowds do drop significantly, and even between 10 and 11 p.m. the crowds tend to thin out, as families leave with little ones. So you can get a lot done after that time, and I get that.

But my point here is that, just because everyone says “avoid Early Extra Magic Hours”, don’t just dismiss it without thinking about your family’s situation and needs. Because for those of us who are not night owls, and want to get the most for our Disney park dollars, hitting the parks early, when it’s cool and we’re refreshed and energetic is by FAR the way to go.

Now….I would LOVE to hear more of your thoughts on this! 🙂

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One Response to Disney Vacation Planning: The Case for Early Extra Magic Hours

  1. Mark Nordberg says:

    Love early EMH because there is so much more that can get done. Last trip in december with FP+, we hit big attractions first, then did medium and small ones and then used FP+ in the afternoon/evening. Or we would do one park with early EMH and then park hopped with FP+ at the 2nd park.

    BTW, evening EMH are only 2 hours now, not 3 as stated.

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