The best and worst times to go to Walt Disney World

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Matt Stroshane, photographer

Best: January from The best and worst times to go to Walt Disney World

The Best and Worst Times to Go to Walt Disney World

Know how to avoid crowds to have the most magical vacation ever
The best and worst times to go to Walt Disney World

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Matt Stroshane, photographer

The time of year you go to celebrate the holidays at Disney will either make or break your vacation.

Anyone who goes to Florida’s Walt Disney World with any frequency will tell you that there is no real “down time” at the parks anymore. One secret Disney won’t tell you is that it adjusts prices throughout the year, runs deals and hosts special events and festivals during what are traditionally slower times of year to get more people through the park gates. But even though Disney attempts to keep crowd levels consistent, there are still some times of the year when it’s ideal to visit and other times that you’ll want to stay away (unless you’re into sky-high prices and packed parks, that is).

To sort out the best and worst times to visit Walt Disney World, we consulted crowd calendars from Undercover Tourist and Kenny the Pirate and used our own extensive Disney travel experience. We also took into account Florida weather and the price of airfare, hotel rooms and park tickets, all of which fluctuate from day to day. While your experiences may vary and you may not always be able to avoid the busiest weekends and times of the year, this general guideline on when to go to Disney World (and when not to go) can help you plan your vacation.

Best: January

Best: January

Courtesy of Walt Disney World

What better way to start your year than by taking a trip to Walt Disney World? Temperatures in Orlando in January are mild, with an average high in the low 70s. As families settle back into their routines after the holiday season, travel in general tapers off and Disney’s theme parks are no exception, meaning that the parks will be less crowded and ticket prices and hotel rates will be lower than usual. Planning for cooler temperatures and smaller crowds is one of the best ways to have a stress-free Disney vacation. During this time, Epcot also hosts the International Festival of the Arts, featuring art displays and specialty food booths with whimsical treats to sample.

Worst: MLK Jr. Day Weekend

Worst: MLK Jr. Day Weekend

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Generally speaking, the worst times to go to Walt Disney World are going to be the worst times of the year to go anywhere, and that means long weekends. If you have a half-day on Friday and Monday off work, chances are a lot of the American workforce does too. While January is typically a great time to go to Disney World thanks to cooler temperatures and lower post-holiday crowds, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the exception.

Worst: Marathon weekends

Worst: Marathon weekends

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Every year, tens of thousands of runners flock to Disney to run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or full marathon (or all four) through the parks for the runDisney event in early- to- mid-January. (The exact weekend changes every year.) While that event is the largest, it isn’t the only Disney marathon. There is also the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon in early November, the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February and the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend in April. All of these events crowd up Disney’s hotels, making prices go sky-high.

Best: Early February

Best: Early February

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Gene Duncan, Photographer

Like January, most of February is going to be a great time to go to Disney World with warm but not stifling temperatures, the International Festival of the Arts and traditionally lower crowd levels. The exception to this, however, is Presidents Day Weekend, when travelers take advantage of their time off by hanging out with Mickey Mouse.

Best: Very early March

Best: Very early March

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Matt Stroshane, photographer

Spring at Walt Disney World can be tricky, but if you go to Orlando right before spring break kicks off across America, you can have an absolutely swell time as most families hold off for those school-sanctioned spring breaks to take their vacations. The first week of March can be a sweet time to visit Disney, especially if you happen to be there for the kickoff of Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival, which tends to begin during this time period.

Worst: Spring break

Worst: Spring break

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Matt Stroshane, photographer

The two weeks leading up to Easter and Easter week tend to be bustling at Walt Disney World while children are out of school for spring break. Thus, the hotels (especially Art of Animation, Pop Century and the All Stars) will be filled to the brim, and most of the best rides at Magic Kingdom will have lengthy lines.

Worst: Memorial Day Weekend

Worst: Memorial Day Weekend

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Matt Stroshane, photographer

Memorial Day Weekend unofficially kicks off summer at Walt Disney World, and the crowds follow during this three-day weekend with wait times soaring and restaurant reservations difficult to snag. Late May is also the start of true summer in Orlando, with temperatures that can easily rise to the mid-90s. If you can, try to plan your Disney vacation for later in the summer and consider another great weekend getaway instead for MDW.

Best: Summer

Best: Summer

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It seems as though summer should be one of the absolute worst times to go to Walt Disney World as Florida temperatures soar and kids all around the world are out of school for summer vacation. But one of the things Disney insiders know is that people have listened to all the advice saying to avoid Disney World during the summer months, meaning that crowds have been lower than usual during that time for the last year or two. Disney Tourist Blog explored this phenomenon, chalking up the lower summer crowds to high ticket prices, high temperatures and the lack of a festival at Epcot. But if you can brave those things, you’ll have a great experience and won’t have to pull your kids out of class.

Worst: July 4

Worst: July 4

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

Like many holidays, going to Disney World on the Fourth of July is a tradition for many families, and local Annual Passholders will have the day off, so they’ll spend their free time at the parks. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot have also been known to feature special, patriotic-themed fireworks shows on July 3 and 4. They’re some of the best fireworks in America, and people will flock to see the nighttime spectacular.

Best: Mid-to-late August

Best: Mid-to-late August

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Steven Diaz, photographer

While summer is generally a good time to go to Disney World these days, you’re still best off waiting until the peak of summer vacation has passed. That means mid-to-late-August is a prime time to go, before school and extracurriculars get back into full swing. The Florida temperatures will still be quite high during this period, but if you know where to find good air conditioning (hello, the American Adventure!) and stay hydrated, you’ll be fine. Epcot’s longest-running festival, the International Food & Wine Festival, also begins in late August, so you can catch the first few days of this experience if you’re lucky.

Best: September

Best: September

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Tom Bricker, photographer

Besides Labor Day Weekend, you’ll find that September is the best time of year to travel in general. At Disney World, that means relatively small crowds and budget-friendly rates. September is also a remarkably festive time at Disney as Halloween celebrations, including Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, are in full swing. Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival also runs throughout the entire month of September, with plenty of enticing dining options.

Worst: Labor Day Weekend

Worst: Labor Day Weekend

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Steven Diaz, photographer

While September is generally a great time to go to Disney, as kids head back to school and adults transition from summertime vibes to relaxing for the fall, Labor Day weekend is the exception. The Saturday and Sunday of this weekend tend to be exceptionally busy as everyone tries to squeeze in those last few precious moments of summer vacation.

Best: Early-to-Mid October

Best: Early-to-Mid October

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

October at Disney World is busier than it used to be, but it’s still a good time to visit as temperatures start to decline and Halloween celebrations continue. Try to plan your trip for the earlier parts of this month and for the weekdays to avoid crowds that can come with people looking to celebrate Halloween on October 31.

Best: Early November

Best: Early November

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Charlie Champagne, photographer

November, especially the early part of the month, is known as “shoulder season,” meaning airfare and hotel rates will be more affordable than other times of the year. If you’re crazy about Christmas, you can start to celebrate the season in November with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, which begins the second week of November and features cookies, festive stage shows, a special fireworks show and a holiday-themed parade. Epcot is still running the Food & Wine Festival throughout most of the month. As November goes on, Disney World gets busier. Be sure to avoid Thanksgiving Day and the weekend after.

Best: Early December

Best: Early December

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

Early December is particularly festive at Walt Disney World as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party continues through the month at Magic Kingdom. In fact, all four parks celebrate the holiday season: Epcot has the International Festival of the Holidays, Hollywood Studios has special holiday lights and fireworks and Animal Kingdom has illuminating lights and delightful holiday treats. If you want to celebrate at Disney during the holiday season, then make sure you plan your visit for early December. This way, you get all of the holiday decorations and delights without the absolutely massive crowds that come as the end of the year gets closer and closer. Knowing to go at the start of December is one of the best ways to do Disney on a budget for the holiday season.

Worst: Christmas Day

Worst: Christmas Day

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For many Disney fans, visiting on Dec. 25 is a beloved tradition, and the theme parks are absolutely swarming on Christmas Day. In fact, the Magic Kingdom is even known to reach park capacity regularly on this day. Why? Well, the “Most Magical Place on Earth” gets quite a bit more magical during the Christmas season. And in the immediate days leading up to Christmas Day, holiday-themed stage shows and parades that are typically only seen at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party run during standard operating hours. People will flock to see those while taking in the hundreds of holiday trees and festive decorations. While the Magic Kingdom is positively packed on Dec. 25, the other parks will swell with guests as well. And even though Epcot won’t usually reach capacity, it will experience larger-than-usual crowds thanks to the International Festival of the Holidays and the ever-popular Candlelight Processional.

Worst: The Week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Worst: The Week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve

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In an attempt to use up those final, precious vacation days, millions of Americans will take off the entirety of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and go on a little trip. Where do a lot of those people wind up? Walt Disney World. While Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are particularly packed, you’ll find massive crowds from December 24 through January 1 every year. It’s a notoriously congested time, and you will find yourself even struggling to walk through certain areas of the parks. While it may be tempting to use your final days off to have fun in the Florida sun, doing so is actually one of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make at Disney.

Worst: New Year’s Eve

Worst: New Year’s Eve

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

While you’ll find huge crowds leading up to New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 is always one of the busiest days at Walt Disney World. All four theme parks have special celebrations, food, beverages and countdowns to midnight that tourists and locals alike seek out en masse. DJ dance parties, live music and stage shows help to make the New Year feel even more festive and provide a unique experience for even the most frequent park goers. So while this experience can be really cool, be prepared to be surrounded by plenty of other revelers.

Worst: Fridays through Mondays

Worst: Fridays through Mondays

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Steven Diaz, photographer

Annual passholders, Floridians and people who just want to take a quick trip to Disney will be able to go to the parks more easily over the weekends. You can always expect all four parks to be busier on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, especially Epcot during festival weekends as locals eat their way around the world. The business of the parks on the weekends overflows into Mondays, especially at the Magic Kingdom.

Best: Mid-week days

Best: Mid-week days

Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Steven Diaz, photographer

If at all possible, try to plan the bulk of your Disney vacation for weekdays. With the exception of holidays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are almost always going to be less busy than weekends and the days surrounding them. Park tickets and hotel rates are cheaper during these days as well. If you can fly into Disney on a Monday night and jet out on a Friday, you’re likely to have a very pleasant three days that can be more productive than a longer stay over a long weekend. And now that you know the best times to go to Walt Disney World, you may as well know these tips and tricks for having the best Disney vacation ever.

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