When’s The Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?

Written by Chris Wood. Posted in Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on June 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm with 13 Comments

The holy trinity of a great Disney World vacation is the perfect combination of mild weather, low crowds, and discounts.   It can be difficult to get all three: Let’s face it, Orlando is really hot at least five months out of the year, so you’re fighting a pretty big battle with the weather as it is. But you can get close. Here’s how you can determine the best time to visit Walt Disney World:

January:

January is the ultimate off-season month to visit, with lower crowds, great discounts like free dining, and cooler weather.  You probably already know that the downside of visiting in January is that park hours are shorter and refurbishments are common.  What you might not know is that Orlando weather during this time of year can be downright unpredictable.  Snow, yes I said snow, has been known to fall on Main Street and temperatures in the low 30s are not unheard of, so if you’re visiting then, make sure you bring a variety of clothing that can be layered when temperatures fluctuate.

Discounts are the big draw in January, but be careful that you’re not checking in during Marathon weekend in early January or Martin Luther King weekend later in the month as those are peak times to visit and discounts are hard to come by. When you plan your trip for January, be a little flexible with your dates and you’re sure to get a great discount.

Get Park Wise:  Because the weather can be unpredictable, never add the water park option to your tickets until after you arrive at Disney World.  Even though at least one water park will be open in January, no one wants to swim when it’s 45 degrees out even if the pools are heated. Remember, you can always add to your tickets once you’re there, but you can’t get a refund for options you didn’t use.

February:

Gorgeous weather and the beginning of Disney’s spring break crowds make it difficult to plan a trip this month. Expect peak crowds for Valentine’s Day and at the end of the month, when kids up North start getting out of school. Because crowd levels vary this month, blackout date for discounts can be all over the place, but it you travel before mid-month, you should see the best combination of lower crowds and discounts. Like January, the weather is still unpredictable, so bring a variety of clothing.

Photo from http:disneytourist.blog.com

March:

Spring break is in full swing in March. Expect high crowds and fewer discounts. We’ve seen free dining and room discounts offered during the first and last weeks of the month, which also coincides with slightly lower crowds historically.   This is usually the nicest month for the Flower and Garden Festival.

Get Park Wise: As long as free dining is offered the day you check  into your resort, you will get it for your entire stay. This isn’t the case with room discounts.

April: 

Spring break crowds are at their worst the week prior and the week after Easter.  Not only will the parks occasionally close due to capacity crowds, the likelihood that Disney will offer discounts during this time is pretty much zero.  Despite the crowds, I actually prefer this month to July because the weather is often ideal, so if you can only travel in April or July, pick April. The great news is that by mid-April, the crowds will die down and discounts will be offered once again. If you’re worried about the cheerleading/dance groups that sometimes meet at the end of the month, just don’t stay at the All Star Resorts. Their events won’t noticeably bump up attendance in the parks.

May:

Oh, how I love visiting in May: Great weather, discounts, lower crowds, Star War Weekends. What more can you ask for?  While room discounts are common, getting free dining is unlikely.   This is a great time of year to plan an adult trip as the kids are back in school from spring break and won’t be out for summer vacation for a couple of weeks.   You won’t walk right onto rides, but wait times should be minimal for most of the month until Memorial Day Weekend.  Keep in mind that when Star Wars Weekends begins at the end of the month, Hollywood Studios will be very busy.

June:

Since many kids aren’t out of school until mid-month, early June is a great time to visit Walt Disney World.  Again, don’t expect free dining, but you will generally see plenty of room discounts. By mid-month, crowds, and prices, will pick up considerably.

Get Park Wise: If you’re not buying a package (as opposed to a room-only reservation) or you’re staying off site, make sure you buy your park tickets for your June trip prior to the price increase that’s normally announced the first or second week of this month. Your tickets are good indefinitely, so buying them early can save you anywhere from 3 to 13 percent.

July: 

My least favorite month to spend in Walt Disney World is July. What can I say about this month:  Humidity, heat, high crowds, and tour groups.  Even worse, discounts are non-existent.  Unless it’s the only time of year you can visit, brave the spring break or Christmas crowds. At least you won’t be hot and crowded.

August:

As much as I dislike visiting in July, you’d think I’d advocate avoiding August as well.  Quite the contrary. August crowds go down by mid-month and discounts start popping up all over, but if you’re waiting for free dining (and really, who isn’t?), don’t expect it to be offered until the last week in August.  Yes, it’s still hot, but the lower crowds make it worth waiting if you can.

Get Park Wise:  August is also the height of hurricane season. While I almost never recommend trip insurance for park vacations, it’s not a bad idea to consider it during this time of year.  Orlando doesn’t get the full brunt of hurricanes, but the outer bands and associated flight delays around the region can spell big trouble for travelers.

September:

While still hot, lower crowds make this month a great time to visit Walt Disney World. Keep in mind, this is still hurricane season so plan accordingly.  The great news is, you’ll see discounts offered for most of September, including free dining.  While free dining does not greatly increase attendance in the parks, it does mean that guests are more likely to make their advanced dining reservations early, so make sure you get in and make yours at the 180-mark if possible.  September is a popular month for refurbishment, but having one or two attractions down would not deter me from visiting during this fantastic time of the year.

October:

October is tricky.  The Food and Wine Festival means that Epcot will be crowded every weekend, but overall crowds are manageable during this month. Expect discounts the first and last week of the month. Canadian Thanksgiving means that the middle two weeks of the month will be blacked out for discounts. So yes, you may blame our friends to the North for this one. I love the weather during this time of year. It’s still hot enough to swim but very comfortable for touring the parks.

November:

I’m calling it: November is the perfect time of year to visit.  Except for Thanksgiving week, crowds are never bad. You may have heard about Jersey Week in November: Forget about it. Yes, lots of good folks from New Jersey come down because their kids get out of school each year during this time, but this doesn’t result in a a huge bump in park attendance. The only problem with Jersey week is that Disney is smart and they black out discounts for that week. Try to pick your check-in dates before Jersey week is in full swing and you’ll stand a better chance of getting a discount.

This actually leads me to what I think is the best week of the year to visit:  The Monday after Thanksgiving. Perfect weather, Christmas is in full swing, all the Thanksgiving guest are going home, and discounts like free dining are readily available.

Get Park Wise: You can find out when Jersey Week and groups like Pop Warner will be in the parks before even they publish their schedules by using the Touring Plans Crowd Calendar . Touring Plans estimates their visits based on years of past schedules, so they’re usually a reliable source. You’ll  need to buy a subscription to access the entire calendar but it’s well worth the $10 or so you’ll pay and it gives you access to their mobile app as well.

December:

I love visiting in December and as long as you’re out of the parks by the weekend prior to Christmas (say around December 18th), you should be able to enjoy low crowds and also get a nice discount on your room or on dining.  You’ll see a lot of discussion online about Pop Warner, which is a large football and cheerleading competition held the first week of the month on property. Don’t believe much of what you read in this case. I go every year during Pop Warner and I’ve never really noticed the kids in the parks. Yes, if you’re staying at a value resort (they usually stay at the All Stars), you’re going to hear a lot of noise. Avoid those resorts and stay at Pop Century or Art of Animation if you’re planning on staying at a value resort.  Otherwise, the only issue with Pop Warner is that Disney won’t offer free dining that week, but you can usually get a room discount at some of the resorts.

Just like in January, the weather this month is unpredictable. Even if the forecast for your trip says it will be perfect, I’ve learned not to trust it.  Pack a variety of clothing that you can layer, especially for kids.  One night at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party it was so cold  that we saw people walking around covered with blankets they’d brought from their hotel rooms!  Better safe than sorry—pack a coat. And gloves too, while you’re at it.

Get Park Wise:   Disney tapes their yearly Christmas parade in the Magic Kingdom the first Friday and Saturday of December, with a make-up day on Sunday. You will have a difficult time getting into the park, but once you’re in, you’ll find that crowd levels are manageable until taping ends that day.  You may also watch the parade and performers; the procedure for that changes from year to year but guests are usually able to see quite a bit.

What if you can’t visit during an ideal time?  Well, here’s the thing: You’re still going to have a great vacation. Just use a touring plan so you can cut down on wait times and be especially mindful about the heat. Slather on sunscreen, drink a lot of water, and take breaks. Disney World is incredible during any time of the year and while I have favorite times to visit, I would never turn down a trip. So if you can’t go when the timing is perfect, you can still have a perfect time. Just plan—that’s half the fun anyway, right?

What about you? What’s your best time of year to visit? If you can’t visit during an ideal time, what do you recommend to make it easier?


Park Wise is written by Chris Wood.

You can find Chris at Everything Walt Disney World.

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About Chris Wood

Chris Wood is frequent Disney traveler and travel agent. She considers Walt Disney World to be her home park.

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13 Comments

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  1. As a Jersey Boy, I can tell you that Jersey Week is always the same week as election day… so the week that has the first Monday in it. (Elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November – so if Nov. 1 is a Tuesday, the elections are a week later.) Most of the public schools in NJ are used as polling places, so a lot of schools close that day — and then at the end of the week the NJEA (Teacher’s Union) holds their convention in Atlantic City, so the schools are closed on Thursday and Friday. You could get a 9 day vacation in there and only miss 2 days of school for it – so a lot of families take advantage of it!

    • Thanks for the information, Razor Roman. And thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks Chris
    I know that a lot of SoCal schools are out around the first 2 weeks in June or last week in may

    • Thank you. Would you say that Disneyland follows a similar crowd pattern? I’m thinking of visiting for the first time next summer and I’d love to catch the slower times if possible.

  3. While I agree with your statement regarding visiting in April versus July, I will disagree when it comes to the cheerleading/dance groups affecting theme park crowds. If you go to Epcot when there is a competition going on then those groups will be everywhere, clogging up traffic and walkways. You don’t notice them too much at the other parks but Epcot will definitely feel the brunt of their presence. Being a DVC member, fortunately, we don’t stay at the All Stars anymore.

    • Thanks for your input Sam. Congrats on owning DVC–I would so like to buy.

  4. Thanks for that overview of when to go, Chris!
    I need advice, please!

    My main priority is going when as many attractions and shows are open as possible.
    I’ll avoid July as many have suggested, but
    I don’t want to travel from California and find the Peoplemover,
    the Haunted Mansion
    or the Carousel of Progress closed.
    I know that any attraction can close without warming, but there are certain times a year that tend to have more refurbs than others. So I’m thinking that mid-June & Mid-August might be best.

    What do you think?

    • Thanks for you comment. As long as you avoid September and January, you shouldn’t hit a lot of closures. Summer is great for longer park hours, so that helps. I like the sort of “shoulder” season of early to mid-June and mid to late August. You really can’t go wrong with that time.

      Good luck!

  5. Jersey represent!

    Ill have to agree with you about November, Chris. We went last year the Saturday right after Thanksgiving, and the entire week was amazing. It was a little chilly at times, but the crowds were very low, and we really didn’t have to wait that long for anything. We got to see the Christmas decorations and enjoy the low crowd levels. I will definitely be going back there at that time again!

    • Thanks Jeff!

  6. They aren’t kidding about how unpredictable the weather in Disney World can be during January. I went this past January and there plenty of cast members telling me how unseasonably warm it was during my stay. The crowds weren’t bad at all. For a first timer, it was nice to get a great time to survey as many rides and attractions as well as the smaller nooks and crannies without having to rush to get into a line before the crowds do. I loved it so much, I’m in talks with a friend about planning another trip the same time in 2013!

  7. thax jeff now i think i will plan noveber to go to walt disney world next mabey ill go this year if i could more monney

  8. Is there a Disneyland California Best Time to Visit article?