Before I tackle this topic, I’d like to clarify what I mean when I say “Disney”. Disney is obviously best known for its theme parks in Florida and California; most people don’t realize, however, that Disney vacations extend far beyond these parks. From exciting cruises to a luxurious Hawaiian resort to guided tours all over the world, Disney offers high-quality vacation options to fit every budget and travel style, all of them providing the same superior level of customer service that Disney is famous for. While I plan to cover some of these vacation options in a later post, I’m going to begin by focusing primarily on the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. This destination sprawls out over 47 square miles and features 26 resort hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, five golf courses, and even a downtown shopping and entertainment area.
Once my clients decide on a Disney World vacation, they often ask my opinion on the best time of year to visit. Although the answer is somewhat subjective, depending entirely on how the client is defining “best”, I can offer them some guidelines. First, let’s talk about the times of year to avoid. Christmastime (specifically the weeks before and after Christmas) is one of the most crowded, most expensive times of year to visit Disney World. Parks often fill to capacity, wait times are astronomical, and “holiday surcharges” are added to all dining locations. The same is true for Thanksgiving weekend and for the weeks before and after Easter. Another undesirable time of year to visit Disney World is mid-summer, especially July and the beginning of August. Parks are extremely crowded, prices are at their peak, and the weather is uncomfortably hot and humid. Finally, the week before and after President’s Day in February is often packed, although it is more tolerable than the other times that I mentioned, and the weather is mild.
Conversely, my absolute favorite time of year to visit Disney World is in late September or early October. The weather is still hot, but it is slightly less humid. Crowds are low, discounts are often available, and the parks are beautifully decorated for fall and Halloween. Another great time to visit is during the week after Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of December. Although more people visit during this time of year than in early fall, crowds are still bearable and prices are more reasonable. Visiting during this time of year also provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the festive holiday decorations that adorn the entire resort (without having to battle the masses during the holidays themselves). Finally, consider visiting Disney World in early January when crowds and prices are at their lowest. Keep in mind, however, that park hours are often shortened and ride closures are likely during this time.
Predictably, the aforementioned “best” times to visit Disney World are during weeks that children are typically in school. So, what if you can’t (or don’t want to) pull your kids out of school for a vacation? Try taking your family to Disney World right after the school year ends in June. Crowds will be above average (as will prices), but they are manageable. Another viable alternative is the last week of August. Unlike Michigan, much of the country returns to school in early August. Consequently, crowds are lower and discounts are often available during the week before Labor Day, although the hot weather and the threat of hurricanes can be a deterrent.
Now, it’s your turn to chime in! What are your favorite times to visit Disney World? Least favorite times? Why?