Deciding when to go on your trip is the planning step that will have the biggest impact on your overall experience. As long as you know what to expect and have a plan, you can make the most of any trip, no matter when you decide to go.
Before you can decide when you’ll go, you need to first consider what is most important to you for your trip. Do you prefer low crowds or discounted pricing? Would you rather go when temperatures are more mild? Is it important to have extended park hours or special events? Do you want to experience the magic of Disney during the holidays? There are many things to consider, but once you’ve decided what is most important, you can determine what time of year to go.
If Crowd Levels Are Important…
As a general rule of thumb, any time kids have off school for a break or due to a holiday, crowd levels will be at their peak. If you have children, you may not have the option, or choose not to take your children out of school, unless they are on break. While crowd levels will be higher, you can still have a successful trip with proper planning. As an added advantage, the higher the crowd levels, the longer the park hours. There may also be multiple showings of nighttime entertainment during peak seasons.
While lower crowd levels mean shorter park hours, you often will have access to deeper discounts on hotel rooms. One of Disney’s most popular discounts – Free Dining – is available historically in the fall to increase park attendance when crowds are at their lowest.
Holidays also have a much bigger impact on crowd levels than many people prepare for. For example, many will assume President’s Day will have high crowd levels, but incorrectly assume that crowd levels return to normal the next day. This, unfortunately, is not the case. Those who are taking vacation time for work or removing children from school will often target these entire weeks to minimize the impact on their vacation balance or time their children are out of school. Expect crowd levels to begin to increase the weekend prior to key holidays and remain elevated for the remainder of the week following the holiday.
Important Holidays for 2017:
- January 16th: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20th: President’s Day
- March 11th – April 20th: Spring Break Season
- May 29th: Memorial DAy
- June 10th – August 20th: Summer Break Season
- July 4th: Independence Day
- September 4th: Labor Day
- November 23rd: Thanksgiving
- December 25th: Christmas
- December 31st: New Year’s Eve
Special Events can increase crowd levels as well, although the impact is usually not as dramatic or lasting as holidays and breaks.
I have outlined the current roster of special events for 2017. While I mentioned these events don’t have a drastic impact on crowd levels, mainly due to the duration for which they run, the exception is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Weekends during the festival are exceptionally busy as locals and those interested in long weekends solely to enjoy the festival offerings, flock to Epcot.
If Weather is Most Important…
Unless you’re already accustomed to Florida’s heat and humidity, you might find the weather in the summer months overwhelming. Florida summers also mean a lot of rain, so you might find you need to wear your poncho or rain gear more often than not.
If you are used to the heat and humidity, you may find the weather in the winter months disappointing. While all Disney pools are heated, it may not be an ideal time for those who are hoping to sunbathe.
Months with the hottest temperatures: June, July, August and September. Average high temperatures these months are 90 degrees Fahrenheit (33 centigrade) with lows averaging 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 centigrade)
Months with the coolest temperatures: December, January and February. Average high temperatures are 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 centigrade) with lows averaging 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 centigrade).
Months with the highest rainfall: June, July, August. Each of these months averages 23 days of rainfall.
Months with the lowest rainfall: November, December, January, February, March, April, May. Each of these months averages between 10 and 11 days of rainfall.
If Special Events Are Important…
Special Events are great, especially if you have previously visited Disney World. They can offer a great opportunity to experience new things, while taking advantage of your favorite attractions. 2017 is bringing a few new experiences to Disney World, as well as some tried and true favorites. Disney hasn’t released the dates for all events, expect these to begin filtering in during the spring and summer months.
Special Events in 2017:
- January 4th – January 8th: Marathon Weekend
- January 13th – February 20th: Epcot International Festival of the Arts
- January 29th: NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando
- February 23rd – February 27th: Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
- March 1st – May 29th: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
- April 20th – April 23rd: Star Wars – The Dark Side Marathon Weekend
- August 31st – November 13th: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
- September – October (Dates TBD): Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party
- November (Date TBD): Wine & Dine Half Marathon
- November – December (Date TBD): Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
- November – December (Date TBD): Candlelight Processional
If the Christmas Holidays Are Important…
It’s been said that Disney World is the most magical place on earth and that Christmastime is the most magical time of year at Disney World. It comes as no surprise then that the week between Christmas and New Year’s is the busiest week out of the entire year to go. Parks frequently close due to capacity issues early in the day and wait times for popular attractions can stretch to 2-3 hours.
If your sole goal is to go and enjoy the Christmas events, New Year’s Eve fireworks and the holiday decorations, then by all means, go and enjoy.
If you’re hoping to be able to go on as many rides as possible or get a great seat for shows and parades, you’re going to want to avoid this week. My recommendation is to travel the first two weeks of December, if you can. Crowd levels are significantly lower these two weeks, and you are still able to take advantage of all of the Christmas festivities and decorations.