What Is The Best Time Of The Year To Visit Walt Disney World? We dream to hit that magical season when crowds are at their lowest. We scour message boards looking for insight, subscribe to crowd calendars that predict crowd levels based on years of scientific data, and buy wait time applications for our phone, all in an effort to enjoy that elusive thing, the least crowded time in the parks. And sure, that time you rode Space Mountain seven times in a row without a wait? It made all your planning worth it, but your dedication also did something else for you: It probably saved you money, because the slowest times of the year are quite often the least expensive as well.
Ideally, what every Disney fan wants is short lines and deep discounts. But how do you find that? Well first, just look at Disney’s own travel seasons. There are five, in order from the least to the most expensive: Adventure, choice, dream, magic and premiere.
Adventure: which is all of January, September, and the first half of December, is one of the least crowded times of the year and has the least expensive rack rates (that is, full price without discounts).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Premiere season, the busiest time of the year, is also the most expensive. Premiere season is the week before and the week after Easter and Christmas week, right up until New Year’s Day. Disney doesn’t have any difficulty filling rooms during this time, so you will almost never get a discount or pin code.
Obviously, not everyone can travel during that time, but you’re not completely out of luck regarding crowds and discounts. In recent years, Disney has been offering room and package discounts designed to keep resorts full despite the lagging economy. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you can find some pretty great deals. So what are the best times to go based on crowd levels and prospective discounts? Here’s a quick primer that can help:
January: Crowds are low and so are prices; well, relatively speaking. Watch out for “black out” dates like Martin Luther King weekend. Not only will you pay more, you’ll likely encounter large crowds as parents take their kids out of school to enjoy the nice Florida weather. Watch for discounts during this time on top of lower rack room rates. A good travel agent can help you stay up on Disney Discounts or you can check out a site like Mousesavers or the resort discount sub-forum on Disboards.
February: Low crowds and discounted rooms until mid-month, when Valentine’s weekend and the start of spring break put the kibosh on your discount mojo.
March-April: In recent years, Disney has offered discounts to keep guests on property during this lucrative time. Nonetheless, crowds are so high I can’t possibly recommend this as a merging of the low crowds/great discounts type of trip . If you’re interested in visiting during the slower months, you’ll want to keep moving along.
Early May: It’s the end of the Flower and Garden Festival and the kids aren’t out of school yet. The weather is almost perfect. The early part of the May is fantastic crowd-wise. I actually think early May is better than early December and is one of those great Disney secrets. I’ve gone two years in a row during this time and walked on almost every attraction.
June-August: I have a rule. I say “go when it’s hot or go when it’s crowded, but don’t go when it’s both hot and crowded if you can avoid it.” Those are the words I live by when it comes to Disney World. Disney offered pretty decent discounts this summer, but not enough to bring me into the parks unless that was the only time I could go.
Late August: Everything changes in August because many kids are now back in school. If you’re looking for free dining, this is when It most often starts. Room rates are still fairly high though, so you have to weigh the cost of free dining vs. paying full price for a room. If you look at the numbers, free dining works best from a saving standpoint for those who normally stay at the value resorts.
September: A great time of year to travel to Disney, but watch out for unpredictable weather. September is the worst month for hurricanes and the one month I always buy travel insurance if I’m traveling in the Southeast. If free dining is being offered, it will extend into this month.
October-November: One of my favorite times of the year to go. Keep in mind that while crowds are generally low, holidays will cause a spike in park attendance. This is particularly true Thanksgiving week. Also, Jersey Week, when kids from New Jersey get a brief break, will be crowded; this is usually the first or second week in November. You can get the exact dates from the Touring Plans crowd calendar. Fall discounts have not yet been announced for 2010, although I’ve heard reports of some pin codes (discounts personal to the individual who receives it as opposed to general public discounts) being given out. If you’re a Florida “neighbor”, that is from one of the states surrounding Florida, you might check for Florida neighbor discounts.
December: Early December used to be famous for having low crowds. Those days have changed somewhat, but it’s still a great time to visit. Disney usually offers rooms discounts, package discounts, or free dining during this time. Before you book, do the numbers to see if they’ll work for you. Free dining isn’t that great of a deal if you stay at a deluxe and you’re traveling as a family of two or three. In this case, you’re better off with a room discount, so shop around.
The weekend before Christmas marks the beginning of one of the busiest times of the year at Disney World. Definitely worth experiencing at least once, Christmas at Disney is not a time to look for discounts. You’ll pay full price for the privilege of celebrating the holidays with the Mouse.
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