Ready to plan the vacation of a lifetime? One of the first decisions you’ll have to make before jumping headfirst into the details of your trip is what time of year you’ll travel to Walt Disney World. Here are some factors to consider when making this important decision.
8. Your family’s schedule
First thing’s first. Who’s going on the trip, and when are they free? Are you an accountant? Chances are good that you won’t be available to travel in March or April! In addition to considering work schedules, think about when your children’s’ school breaks are, or whether you are able and/or willing to take them out of school for a few days. Get out a calendar and highlight all of your possible travel times. Then, you can consider the other factors on this list.
7. Your budget & travel costs
If your budget is limited, you may want to focus on traveling during the off-season, when travel is cheaper. Once you’ve figured out what weeks you are available for the trip, play around with the numbers. Look at the cost of flights at different times, and investigate the hotel rates. This should give you a general sense of what your trip will cost and will help you decide when you should go. You’ll also want to determine how much you can afford to spend on lodging, so you know whether or not you need to take advantage of #6.
Walt Disney World promotions vary throughout the year. Two regularly offered deals are the “up to 30% off select resorts” and free dining. Free dining speaks for itself- you’ll receive free dining packages for your travel party if you travel during the promotion dates. This is a great deal, as food costs really add up on vacation. The resort promotion is usually tiered. For example, you will receive 30% off your room rate at Deluxe resorts, 20% off at Moderate resorts, and 15% off at Value resorts. If you’ve had your heart set on staying at a Deluxe resort, try to do so during this promotion!
5. Peak vs. Off-Season
Peak travel times at Walt Disney World include the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the weeks immediately before and after Easter, Spring break time (late February through March), June through mid-August, and long holiday weekends (President’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc.). January and February, early May, late August and September, and mid-November and early December are considered off-peak travel times. During peak season, resort rates and even dining costs are higher than other times during the year. On the other hand, you may find that if you travel during off-peak times, park hours are shorter and some of your favorite attractions may be closed for refurbishment.
4. Crowd levels
The amount of people in Disney parks varies greatly throughout the year. The most crowded times of year at Walt Disney World are during the peak season, as described in #5. You’ll see the longest wait times in the parks during these times. In fact, you can expect to see wait times of 1-2 hours for the most popular experiences. On the other hand, you’ll enjoy extended park hours. Reserving dining and Fast Passes is more important during these times and will have to be done as far in advance as possible to ensure the availability that you want. Heavy crowds also impact your ability to find a great spot to watch a parade or the comfort of your ride on a Disney bus! Check out “Top 10 Lowest Crowd Times To Visit Disney World.”
3. Special events
Walt Disney World hosts many special events throughout the year, such as the Food and Wine Festival, Mickey’s No-So-Scary Halloween Party, Star Wars Weekends, marathons, and many, many more. If one of the special events is particularly interesting to your family, you may want to visit at that time to enjoy the event. Of course, special events do draw extra crowds to the parks and many events occur during the peak travel seasons. However, if the event is a priority to you, it will be worth it!
Although Walt Disney World has only closed a handful of times due to hurricanes, be mindful of hurricane season (June through November) and consider purchasing travel insurance if your travel dates fall during it. If a storm does coincide with your trip, be prepared to brave some rain! You’ll also want to think about whether extreme heat and humidity bother you. Walt Disney World can be quite sweltering in the summer through Labor Day!
1. No matter when you go, it will be great!
No need to get discouraged if you can only travel during peak season. Sure, the crowds may be heavy, the weather may be hot, and you may not be getting the cheapest travel rates. However, I guarantee that you can enjoy a successful trip whenever you go, especially if you take advantage of planning resources (which you already are- kudos to you)! There is no BAD TIME to visit Disney if you know what you’re doing. A trip during peak season just requires a higher level of planning. (Check out our planning articles and you will be fine!) Sure, a family traveling in January has it easier. They don’t have to plan as much. Their Fast Pass selections aren’t as critical. Their ADR’s (advanced dining reservations) aren’t as impossible to secure. And yes, they are able to maintain some personal space in the parks. But a prepared family traveling during peak seasons is going to have just as much fun. Ultimately, you should choose the time that is convenient and appealing to you.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!