Just the other day one of my friends asked me: “Ziggy, When is the best time to go to Walt Disney World?” The last time she went to Disney World was some years ago when she was young. Now she finds herself married, and they have a beautiful little girl that she wants to take to Disney World and re-live the same experiences she was able to have when she was young and went with her parents. Now all of a sudden she’s thrown into the role of planning to take her family on the trip of a life-time and hopefully only the first of many trips to Walt Disney World with her family…
I know many of you find yourselves in that same situation, now you’re in the role of Mommy or Daddy and you can’t wait to take your children to Disney World to experience all of the magic you had with your folks. For that reason, I’m writing a series of articles designed to help first-time planners going to Walt Disney World. You can check out my articles on Why you NEED to Stay in a Disney Resort on your trip, and also my guide on Buying Disney World Tickets.
So naturally the first question you have is like her:
“When should I go? When is the best time?“
That’s a loaded question and not one with a simple answer. When to visit Walt Disney World? The cop-out answer is: ANYTIME is a GREAT TIME to go! That’s because every time of year has something unique and makes it worth visiting. It really depends on YOU…I mean, each family or individual who is traveling to Disney has a unique set of circumstances or even preferences that will determine when a trip to Walt Disney World will be best FOR YOU!
So I’m not going to give you the standard run-of-the-mill answer you usually find, I’m going to break down each category for you so that you can make the best choice based on the needs and desires of YOUR FAMILY…
When is the Best time for:
Price/Crowds (These two go hand in hand)
This is a good one to start with because let’s face it, Disney vacations are NOT cheap. Now of course you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to go (well if you eat like me you just might) but going to Disney isn’t like going to the movies, if you’re like most families it’s a trip you plan probably a year in advance and you have to save some of your hard-earned money to be able to go. So if you can save a little bit of money in the process that always helps.
So is there a season where you can get a bit of a discount?
The most expensive periods/Busiest times of the year are:
- The week of Presidents day (in February)
- The 2nd – 4th weeks of March (Spring Break)
- From Memorial Day week at the end of May – 1st week in August (Summer Break)
- Thanksgiving week
- The last 2 weeks in December (Christmas week is the highest)
The cheapest/least busy times are:
- The month of January
- February (after Presidents Day till the end of the month)
- The second half of April -the 1st week in May (crowds are lower but hotels are moderate)
- Last two weeks in Aug – the end of September
- Last 2 weeks in October
- The 2nd week in November (before Thanksgiving)
- From right after Thanksgiving-2nd week in December
There are three different levels of hotel class on the Disney World property Value, Moderate and Deluxe. Let’s break down some examples during some different times of the year to see the price difference: (2016 prices, full rate including tax)
Value Resort: Art of Animation (standard room)
- From December 22th-Jan 2nd $228 per night (Total: $1,596)
- Instead from January 3rd-first week in February, from $128-158 for most of the nights (Total: $986)
- Savings: $610
Moderate Resort: New Orleans Riverside (standard room)
- March 20th-April 2nd $291 per night ($2,037)
- from the week after-December 10 $227-256 per night ($1,676)
- Savings: $361
Deluxe Resort: Polynesian (standard view)
- The week before thanksgiving $631 per night ($4,417)
- from the week after-December 10th $528-592 per night ($3,888)
- Savings: $529
Now some families don’t have to worry as much about money but for some saving hundreds of dollars can be huge for them and the deciding factor of whether or not they can go to Walt Disney World or not. That extra money can pay towards park tickets, airlines, or better yet…Food!! 🙂
What is the reason the prices are lower during those periods? Because children are back in school and not in the parks. September is one of the cheapest months of the year, because children just went back to school. The same with January and most of October. For that reason I suggest going during those times if you can as they are the “sweet spot” for low prices and low crowds. That’s what we did when I was young and it worked out great!
Now I know sometimes you have to keep to a certain schedule maybe for work or school or whatever, but if you want to save money and have the most relaxing time possible I strongly recommend coming during the listed times because your experience will be 10x times better. So many times I hear horror stories from parents and they swear they are never bringing their kids back to Disney and I think that situation can be avoided by going at the right time.
However keep in mind that when the crowds are lower is when Disney likes to do refurbishments to their attractions, so if you come when the crowds and the prices are low, expect that some attractions might not be running. I don’t look at it as super negative because will be coming back anyways so whatever you don’t get to the first time, you’ll get the next time you come!
- Tip: weekends cost more than weekdays and are more crowded, so if you are only going for 4-5 days try to avoid weekends altogether. If you are going longer than 7 days try going from like a Tuesday-Wednesday/Thursday, that way you only spend one weekend there and more weekdays.
It depends on you. If you want to save, you have to sacrifice. If money isn’t a problem and you don’t mind waiting in line then you will still have an amazing vacation!
If you’ve ever been to Orlando before you know that one minute you can be sitting by the pool in the scorching Florida sun, only to find yourself five minutes later feeling like an acting extra in a bad rendition of a movie about Noah’s Ark! Yes in central Florida it rains, that’s a fact of life. Me and my family always keep our ponchos in our back pocket or our bag or something because you just never know when it will rain.
The good thing is it often rains for a very short period of time. Usually you can run and find cover and then continue with the fun shortly after.
The official Hurricane Season is from about June 1st to November 30, and from June-September there are an average of 20-24 days of the month where there is some-kind of rainfall. So if you come in that period expect a regular chance for an afternoon shower but then it usually clears up. Also you don’t have to worry about hurricanes either, even during hurricane season, it’s rare for them to come as far in-land as Disney World. So rest easy if you come during that period.
- Tip: instead of waiting for the rain which will inevitably come at some point during your trip and spending $6-8 per person for ponchos in the park, go to your local dollar store where they can usually be had for $1 a piece and put them in your suitcase and bring them. Thank me later! 😉
As far as temperatures Florida is hot, very hot! Sometimes skin-melting hot! From May-September the avg high temperature is about 90 degrees. Even October has an avg high of 84. This is great for swimming, water parks, etc, but it can be brutal when you are in the parks all-day long, you can really feel the fatigue. So bring lots of sunblock and dress appropriately.
If you don’t like the heat I advise you to come in the November-March range as the temperatures are usually much more bearable.
Incredibly it does get cold at Disney World, you wouldn’t think so but it does, and December-February are the coldest months with avg temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Ok, it’s not exactly Minnesota, but if are here during that period of the year, you probably won’t feel like spending all day by the pool if that’s what you wanted to come for. Keep that in mind.
- Tip: Pack according to the season. If you are going from Dec-Feb sweaters and jackets, even scarves and gloves are sometimes needed believe it or not. Again it’s much better to bring them and not use them rather than be forced to spend $60 on a Goofy Sweater.
A lot of times people go to Disney World during times of special events. In fact the atmosphere can be really magical if you hit the right time of season. So what are some special events that go on at Disney World and when?
New Year’s Eve/Day: December 31st/January 1st.
The parks all stay open late on New Year’s Eve and offer extra entertainment, usually including live performances, extra parades and fireworks. Also there’s the exclusive Countdown to Midnight event at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort with 3 different themed party experiences. Also the Christmas decorations are all still up throughout Disney World through the first few days of the year.
Club Villain: About mid-January through March.
A frightfully fun dance and dine event with famous Disney Villains in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Join Dr. Facilier and his evil-diva co-hosts at this specially ticketed dining event at Sunset Showcase. Only available on select nights from Price is $129 a person and includes tax and tip.
Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival: March-May
Even though Epcot is always beautiful, for this festival Epcot is decked-out in flowers and plants (100 topiaries, over 200 floating gardens, and tens of thousands of bedding plants. During the event, Disney horticulturists and garden experts will conduct seminars, sharing tips and secrets for you to try at home. There are often live bands playing so you can catch a show too. The best part might be the food kiosks that allow you to snack your way around World Showcase! (much like during the Food and Wine Festival)
Easter: March – the beginning of April
- In the Magic Kingdom there are photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny.
- In Epcot there are Easter egg hunts daily
- The resorts offer Easter egg hunts, egg decorating and Disney characters in Easter costumes
Star Wars Weekends: Beginning of Summer
Each year in Hollywood Studios there are special Star Wars Weekends with autograph sessions, Star Wars parades and trivia contests. There are also special character meals where Disney characters dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters. In 2016 there are no Star Wars weekends because of the construction in Hollywood Studios.
Independence Day: July 4th
The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios offer special fireworks shows on the 4th of July (the Animal Kingdom doesn’t because they would disturb the animals). This is maybe the busiest day of the year so if you are planning to go make sure and be there very early because they sometimes won’t let you in if they reach the limit of people. It’s best to stay at one park the whole day or you might not get into another one later on.
Halloween/Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party: Labor Day – Halloween
- The decorations usually start going up by Labor Day and are ready for “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”. You can ask your resort if they are having any special events.
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is held on specific nights in the Magic Kingdom and requires special admission. The park stays open late to attendees of the event and closes to regular guests.
- Admission to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party includes trick-or-treating for adults and kids, costume parades for kids, character meet-and-greets, a unique holiday parade, many other activities and a special fireworks display. Plus, most of the major attractions are open.
- The price of admission is from $66 – $111 depending on your age, date and if you are a annual-pass holder
Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival: Mid-September – Mid November
This is by far my favorite event in Walt Disney World. In the World Showcase in Epcot there are already many countries from around the world represented, each with their own unique buildings, shops, and FOOD! And already during the year there are many unique restaurants to snack-away at. Well during the International Food and Wine Festival they set up many more than 25 kiosks with unique food from each country, giving you a sampling of the local cuisine. Prices are usually from $3-8 per item. Sometimes I literally go there for hours at a time snacking and drinking my way around the lagoon. It is truly an amazing experience and lets you try some things you might never have tasted before.
Almost 300 chefs, including Disney chefs and world famous chefs come from across the country to host culinary demonstrations, tasting events and dinners. There is a weekly Party for the Senses grand tasting event where you can try many tasty treats from renown chefs, try many different wines and beers and listen to live entertainment. There is also a list of widely known musicians that come to play concerts every evening.
- Tip: Go during the week and avoid weekends if possible because they are always more crowded. Also go early in the day, before lunchtime if you can as it always fills up later in the day.
Christmas: 1st week of November – After New Year’s
- Decorations start going up in the beginning of November and are completed by Thanksgiving. All resorts and parks are decorated for the Holidays.
- Each park will have an enormous Christmas Tree and so will each Deluxe resort lobby. Resorts like the Beach Club and Grand Floridian have gigantic Gingerbread Houses on display too. You can get delicious treats such as: peppermint bark, lollipops, cookies and special truffles in the Grand Floridian location and also the special Gingerbread Bake Shop in Epcot.
- Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom is decorated with over 200,000 lights to look like it’s covered in ice, with a special lighting ceremony with Queen Elsa from Frozen. It’s an incredible sight to see.
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a celebration in the Magic Kingdom from about mid-November till the week before Christmas. It runs from about 7:00pm till midnight on selected nights. There are carolers, holiday stage-shows, parades and a special fireworks show. Prices are from about $78-$110 depending on age, date and whether or not you are an annual pass holder.
- Various other holiday activities throughout the parks and resorts.
If any of these special events interest you then I recommend planning your trip around that time of the year. Again be aware that they will always be the busiest times to visit Disney World.
Best Days to Go to Walt Disney World:
Now that your here at Disney World which days are the best to visit each specific park? Well in general the Weekends are the busiest for the parks because besides thousands of Disney World guests there on vacation, there are many locals that come to the parks on Saturday and Sunday. So your best bet is to avoid the parks on weekends if possible.
Generally the best days to visit each park are:
- Magic Kingdom: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
- Epcot: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
- Hollywood Studios: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
- Animal Kingdom: Thursday and Friday
So a good schedule historically for your park schedule might be:
- Monday – Magic Kingdom,
- Tuesday – Epcot,
- Wednesday – Hollywood Studios
- Thursday – Animal Kingdom.
- If you are there on the weekend, a couple relaxing days by the pool might be a good choice.
Also later in the day crowds tend to die down a bit as well, children get tired and families start heading towards the exits in the late-afternoon. So sometimes even though our natural instinct is to be there right when the gates open in the morning, sometimes that’s when the crowds are the worst and it’s better to go in the afternoon. This is especially true for water parks.
- Tip: If you don’t mind being out in bad weather, that can be the best time to visit the parks. Many people will go back to their hotels, and if you stick it out, you will find the lines for the attractions can be much lower than normal. (especially at Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach)
So when is the best time to go to Walt Disney World then?? Again it depends on you. If you really want to participate in some of the special events that Disney offers then by all means go during those times, you will have a blast.
If you aren’t really interested in those and you are more interested in going when it makes the most sense economically and when you will have more freedom in the parks without millions of people then my recommendation is:
- Mid-late February
- Mid-late April
- Mid-late October
- The week before Thanksgiving
- The week after Thanksgiving – Mid December
- Also January if you don’t mind the risk of refurbishments
Those dates are when you will find the best mix of best prices with best crowds and also not super-hot weather. Again Disney World is ALWAYS AMAZING, but if you listen to me you will have an even better time and a vacation you will never forget!!
So those are some tips to help you plan your trip to Walt Disney World. I hope they helped you out! Check back with me for updates to the site and more First-time planning articles like Everything about FastPass+ Explained, Tips and Tricks to Buying your Walt Disney World Tickets, and Why you Need to Stay on Property when you come. These will help you to make the best of your time and money in Walt Disney World.
I want to know what you think the best time to visit Walt Disney World is in the comments section below! What Months have you gone in the past? What’s your family’s favorite time to visit? Let us know in the comments section below!
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