Ask a Disney Question: When is the best time to visit Disney World?
This question comes from Nelson, who asks “When is the best time to visit Disney World?”
Nelson, thanks for your question and for reading the site. This is probably the question that got me the most interested in planning my own Disney vacations. I think the time of year you go can greatly affect your experience, so I always tell people, put a lot of thought into it. It’s not just about crowds. It’s about saving money, the weather, and most importantly, when you can get the vacation time. It’s probably the first thing you decide when you go to Disney.
Since you didn’t ask specifically just about crowds, here’s a couple of preliminary questions to ask yourself:
- How important is saving money? Disney has five “seasons” that range from adventure to premiere. Go during the least expensive time of year and you’ll also probably encounter lower crowds.
- When is it most convenient for you to take a vacation? Do you need to go when your kids are out of school? Do you have a job that is particularly busy during certain times of the year? If you are going near the holidays, how will that effect your holiday plans when you come back home? A trip to Disney can take a lot of preparation in the days leading up to your visit. If you’re going during early December, for example, you may want to get all of your holiday shopping and decorating out of the way prior to your visit.
- How do you feel about hot weather? There are about six or seven months ouf of the year when it’s a good bet the weather in Orlando will be hot. If you don’t like the heat, consider going in the winter months.
- Finally, how important is it for you to avoid large crowds?
As far as crowds are concerned, the best months to visit Disney World and avoid crowds are usually January, September, and early December. In recent years, incentives and special events have meant increased crowds in December, so don’t expect to walk on every ride, but it’s still a great time to go. September is probably the slowest time of the year. This is what we’re hearing from the crowd gurus over at the Unofficial Guide; if you want to know a specific crowd level for any day of the year, visit their crowd calendar here. January is also famously uncrowded. If you’re looking for another slow time of the year, try early May. I’ve gone there during this time for several years in a row and I’ve walked on most rides.
So what are the downsides of visiting Disney World during the slower months? Well, bad weather (potentially), reduced park hours, and some attractions will be closed for refurbishment or rehab. To me, these are all gambles I’m willing to take so that I can tour the parks at a relaxed pace. Given a choice, I probably like January weather better (although keep in mind, it snowed last year during marathon weekend), but if you can handle the heat, you’ll probably get better discounts from Disney (free dining, room discounts, etc.) and experience lower crowds in September.
Ultimately, it’s what works for you and your travel companions. For me, crowds are my first consideration, but my preferences don’t always match my life or my wallet. In those cases, I’ll happily go when it’s more crowded, I’ll just make use of a touring plan to help me avoid long waits and still see what I want.
Good luck making your decision!
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