If you've ever been to Disney World, you know that the crowds can be brutal and have a direct impact on how much you enjoy the parks. I get a lot of questions on my blog, Everything Walt Disney World, about when is the best time to visit Disney World. I tell them this: Go when it's hot or go when it's crowded, but don't go when it's both hot and crowded. That's fairly simple advice and it does work help alleviate many of the stresses of touring the parks, but unfortunately, work and school often dictate when we can go. With that in mind, here's a brief primer on Disney World crowds.
Not surprisingly, Disney World is the most crowded when school is out. This means that summer vacation is one of the busiest times of the year. If you must travel during summer vacation, the early part of June and late August are the least crowded times. Holidays, particularly the Saturday before Christmas until weekend after New Year's day, will occasionally see the parks reach capacity, which means that after a certain point the park closes to more guests. Finally, Disney's busy spring break season runs from mid-February until about mid-April, with the week before and the week after being the most busy.
So when are the best times to visit Disney and avoid crowds? September and January are usually the slowest months of the year. Keep in mind that certain events, such as holiday weekends, may have an impact on crowd levels during this time, but otherwise expect to enjoy relatively uncrowded parks. Keep in mind that while you won't have to deal with large crowds, September is hurricane season and January can be downright cold. Plan accordingly. I'm a big believer in trip insurance, particularly anytime I travel in the Southeast during hurricane season.
Fall in general is a great time to visit Disney World. In October you can take advantage of the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot as well as beautiful weather. Although the days have passed when you could walk on every attraction, early December is still one of the best times of the year to go to Disney World, with low crowds, great weather, and beautiful holiday decorations.
Of all the months to go to Disney World, I'd have to say that the one "secret" time of they year I've found is early May. The kids aren't out of school yet and it's not too hot. It's just a beautiful time of year to go and take advantage of low crowds and good deals. I've literally walked on every ride with my oldest son in the Magic Kingdom on Mother's Day--who knew that most moms don't want to spend their special day in a theme park?
A couple of final thoughts. Watch for room discounts and free dining from Disney during less busy times of the year. In the last few years, Disney has even offered discounts and incentives during the summer due to the economy. You should begin looking as far out as possible, as these offers often sell out quickly. A great source to keep up with discounts is Mousesavers, which should be required reading for anyone visiting the World. Remember that even during the slower months, certain events like Pop Warner or Jersey Week will bring in large crowds, if only for the weekend. Finally, even if you have to visit Disney during a busy time, there are ways to avoid long lines. I'm a huge fan of the crowd calender and touring plans from the people behind the Unofficial Guide, one of the best Disney travel guides available. Their website, Touring Plans, shows you how to tour the parks, see everything you want to see, and cut your wait time in line.
Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World starts with deciding when you are going to visit. Figuring this out can be challenging though, as there are so many things to consider: work and school schedules, weather, and even special Disney events that may be occurring all play a part in your decision. And if you are trying to make your Disney vacation as affordable as possible, then that is another consideration to throw into the mix, as the time of year will radically affect your costs. Here are … more