The 5 Worst Times to Vacation at Walt Disney World?

worst times to visit Disney World

Updated for 2016!

Years ago, travelers talked about planning a Disney vacation when it “wasn’t busy.” They wanted to travel to Orlando when lines were less than five minutes for average rides and less than 15 minutes for thrill rides. I took a couple of those fabled vacations myself, usually with my kids playing hookie from school. Man oh man, those were the golden days.

Now? Disney World is a very busy place. That’s probably an understatement; Walt Disney World can be an absolute elbow-to-elbow insanely crowded place for a vacation. Searching for those fabled “down times,” I have spent hours reading planning books and websites, and the general Mickey Mouse rules of thumb is that if the kiddos are out of school, you don’t want to go to Disney. But for some of us, pulling the kids out of school just isn’t going to happen, and to get our Disney vacation in, we have to travel when we can. Lots of people travel when the kids are out of school, and that’s why it’s so busy.

So if you choose to go to Disney World when the whole world will show up in Orlando, what are the “worst” of the worst times? Let’s take a look at five busy times at Disney World, in reverse order, from crazy to just pull your Mickey ears off insanity.

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best low crowd times to vacation at Disney World

5. Special Events

Disney has added all sorts of reasons for you to take a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth all year ’round, with celebrations, discounts, free dining,  and amazing events scheduled nearly every month of the year. Marathon weekends, Candlelight Processionals, any minor holiday when school lets out, and special events like Star Wars Weekends, Night of Joy, and Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas party days will always be more crowded than normal.

Is there a normal when it comes to Disney crowds?

While it may not be crowded for a week at a time, if the schedule says “weekend,” (i.e. Star Wars Weekend) there will be more people in town before, during, and shortly after that weekend’s events. It’s kind of a go early stay after mentality, and since you paid all that mont to get there, rightly so.

There is No “Bad Time” to Visit Walt Disney World. True or False?

are Disney World Star Wars weekends busy

4. Holidays Other than Christmas

If the kids are out of school, people are loading up their cars, catching flights, and heading to Disney by the thousands. This obviously makes the most scheduling sense, with work and school schedules, but it can cause you to stand in long lines and wind up parking what seems like miles away from the parks. Thank goodness for trams.

Thanksgiving week will be packed, as many schools, including my own school system, now take the whole week off. Any nationally celebrated holiday that gives you a Monday off, so that you have three days to play, will put you in the middle of streams of people all heading for roller coasters and Fastpass+ machines to get in one more ride.

Thomas left a comment about his Thanksgiving trip, “We visited during Thanksgiving week and the week after in 2012. Contrary to your expectations, the crowd level was extremely low. Only around December 1st did the crowds start picking up again. Also, the last few weeks in August before school are very hot, but the parks are deserted. In 2009, we were at rope drops for both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT that had less than 20 people (not families, total bodies) waiting to get in.

I believe crowd levels have increased in the last 5-6 years, despite numerous ticket price increases, and if the crow levels were that low during these times now, I’d take myself off from work just for some shorter wait times. You may get lucky on certain days in certain parks, but in general, holidays are a busy time.

If You Do This on a Disney Vacation, You May Totally Regret It Later

When you should not visit Disney World

 3. Summer

Keeping in mind that unofficial rule about when kids are out of school, from just about the second week of June when kids run out the school doors, through the second week of August when parents drag them kicking and screaming back to school, Disney will be crowded. Not only that, but summer means heat, humidity, and possible rain showers.

Traditional Disney planning wisdom tells you to get to the parks bright and early, take a break and maybe a nap after lunch, and head back to the parks late afternoon or after dinner. Summer offers many Extra Magic Hours opportunities that can save you time if you are staying at a Disney Resort.

If staying all day in the summer works for you, then so be it. I personally wouldn’t be caught on Main Street, U.S.A., between noon and four p.m. in the summer, because it’s brutally hot outside and the most crowded during mid-day. You’ll find my family at the pool or snoozing off lunch, nap-dreaming of heading back to the roller coasters after dinner.

Is Summer the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?

when to avoid Disney World because of crowds

2. Spring Break

You have a three-month period of schools letting out for spring break, which means thousands of pre-k to post-graduate kids, teens, parents, and grandparents will flock to Orlando. February through April are busy times at Disney, when the weather is somewhere between shivering and sweating, (some days are both) although it’s probably more crowded on weekends during these month.

“Easter week,” which runs from Easter weekend through the next week, will be especially crowded as people enjoy the  lovely weather and spring decorations at the resorts.

Did you know that Disney World’s Epcot Center made U.S.A Today’s 2013 Trashiest Spring Break Destinations? That’s because of something called “Around the World in Beer” that draws in college-age spring breakers, despite the family nature of this park. Tantruming toddlers vs. intoxicated college students…that’s a toss-up as to who you want to stand in line with you for a 120 minute wait for Space Mountain.

Top Ten Cheapskate Tips Every Disney World Visitor Needs to Know

is Disney World crowdwd in the summer

1. The Day After Christmas to New Years.

This is it ladies and gentlemen, the time the Disney Resorts and Parks are the most crowded, ultra crowded, and with good reason. School is out, lots of businesses are closed or people have just taken time off, and “The World” is alive with Christmas music and twinkly decorations. There may be no more beautiful time at Disney World than when the Christmas decorations are hung by the resort chimneys with care.

Yup, from Christmas to New Years is the most crowded and most expensive time of year. To see a price comparison, use this link: Can a Cheapskate Afford to Stay at Disney World During the Week of Christmas?

Daily crowd levels will increasingly steadily, as you move to standing room only on the monorails and easily over 120 minute waits for busy rides, from around December 20 and running through the New Year.

It takes a special person with a get-it-done attitude to vacation during this week.

Cathy, “We learned the lesson about Christmas and the week after by mistake one year. We took our then four and six-year-old to Disneyland as a surprise. Surprise to us, it was so crowded you couldn’t see from one end of Toon Town to the other! We talked to a Cast Member, and they informed us of what you said….Christmas Day and the week after is the most crowded time of the year.”

Ready for Christmas at Disney? You May Need Some Advice…

is Disney World really crowded at Christmas

If the kids are out of school, they are hoping their parents will take them to Walt Disney World. Not to open a can of school make-up work worms here, but if you ever took the kids out of school so the Space Mountain line would be shorter, and your vacation patience level would be higher, then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! We don’t advocate doing this multiple times each year, but if your Disney trip is just occasional and the kids are younger, well, you’ll enjoy a trip where you fight less crowds. 

We had a lot of thoughts about missing school from our readers, so we’ve added them into the article.

Lena commented, “There is no reason to take your kids out of school for a vacation. Please don’t ruin their education for a shorter ride line.”

Several parents commented in response to Lena’s thoughts.

Sarah, “Taking the kids out of school will not ruin their education! I am a teacher of 20 years, and I take my own kids out of school to go. Keep in mind, there are many things one can learn while at Disney.

1) Learn about the different countries at Epcot
2) Map skills- my 5-year-old became proficient at reading maps because she wanted to know where everything was
3) Math skills- keeping a budget of their money
4) Animal Kingdom- learn about animals
5) Magic Kingdom- Hall of Presidents teaches one about US history
6) Epcot- Spaceship Earth-history of the world

I could go on and on! Please remember that one can not only have a great time at Disney, but one can learn a lot!”

Disney World Tips for Kids: “Free Day” Fun Activities

great times to visit Disney World and Disneyland

Angela, “We went to Disney Land last September. My kids were four and three, so it was perfect. We hit the first Halloween Party of the year, which was busier than the rest of the week had been but it was doable. We just didn’t ride anything until 11 p.m. We hit all the trick or treat stations; it was the best Halloween EVER!

This year we are going the week after Thanksgiving. My oldest will be missing a week of school, but she’s only in first grade and I figure she’ll survive. Plus the decorations will be up and hopefully the crowds will be lower. I’m tempted to go at Christmas, but I think I’ll wait until the kids are older and more tolerant of long waits.”

Emily, “Being a K-2 school librarian, I used to be of the mindset DO NOT TAKE THEM OUT OF SCHOOL! You have ALL summer to vacation (and so does every other kid in the world!)!!! We went this past September for a week (yes, I missed a week of school, too), and it was the best decision and trip we had in a long time! We didn’t feel rushed, we enjoyed our trip more as a family, the parks were less crowded. FREE DINING was in also effect! The kids had the opportunity to learn, too! One week shouldn’t make or break their education (but DON’T go during State testing), and chances are, their teacher will be glad, and a little jealous, they went. Family memories are important, too!

Michele, “Took my son out for a week of school several years in a row. He just graduated at the top of his high school class and just started college on a full scholarship. Go figure!”

How a Walt Disney World Trip Alters Your After-Vacation Reality

Never go to Disney World these times of year

Susanne, “Seriously…’Ruin’ their education! One week, or maybe a little longer, missed from school is totally worth the family fun you can have at Disneyland or Disney World.. We did it more than once, and our kids came out just great. I wouldn’t trade those times for anything!”

Glena,School is important but in the grand scheme of life, there are a LOT of years to sit in a classroom. A trip to Disney might be a once in a lifetime experience for a family. There is no reason that a child can’t get the work they missed and make it up when they return in the evenings or during recess.

We all need a break every once in a while and putting school on such a pedestal exempting all the rest of life for it, well seems pretty boring to me. Life is learning and children learn everywhere, not just in the classroom!”

In fact, we asked our  Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans if they took their kids out of school, and their answers could help you plan your next vacation. Use this link:

Should You Pull Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?

busy vacation times at Disney World

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you on vacation during the best times visit Orlando. When is that you ask? We can tell you that as well.

What Are the Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World?

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


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Amanda Major Cheapskate PrincessAmanda Major is the creator of She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Julie, Elizabeth, and Erin. You can also e-mail them at


  1. LB says:

    This is one of the great benefits of homeschooling my kids. We took our first family trip to Disney in September of 2011. We simply started our school year earlier than everyone else to make up for the time we’d be gone. One thing I’ll never forget was my then kindergartener learning about an okapi with the letter o the week before we left. She was so excited to see an actual okapi at Animal Kingdom!

    • Christine says:

      BINGO…. we homeschool now as well and don’t worry about the school year. As long as they get their hours in, and learn what they need to its all good. They can get their work done on the weekend, or evenings if they choose, as long as it gets done. We also go year round instead of the public school year so it allows for more breaks. But you can plan lessons into your vacation, that will make learning exciting. Learning without realizing they are which is even better.

  2. Thh says:

    I’m with Amanda. It was ridiculously crowded. We were there the same time. Never will do that again.

  3. Natalie says:

    We went to WDW during Oct last year. ( Our kids go to a school with a modified calender, so they were on break). Weather was high 70s-90. No rain. No lines ( the longest was 55 min for Toy Story Midway Mania). Often the regular lines were as fast as the FastPass. The parks did close earlier, but we had Park Hoppers and planned our days around that. Our boys had a blast, we saw everything we wanted to, with little to no frustration.

  4. Danielle says:

    I just scheduled my first trip for my family to go to WDW we were scheduled to go Columbus Day week and heard the weather is great in oct until my travel agent called and asked if I wanted to change my date to sept 14-21 and save over $1,000 due to free dinning so of course I took it and we wrote excited the trip was closer, saving money but I’m concerned weather wise peak hurricane season and daily rain and thunderstorms 🙁 hope I made the right choice – does anyone have any feedback – much appreciated Danielle 🙂

    • Anna says:

      I am going sept 18 to the 21st and have been going at that time for many trips. The weather is nice, still fairly hot with scattered rain showers, but they only last a little while. The crowds are low, as school is back in, and all the attractions and shows are still active. I love going at this time because they have the Halloween celebration at MK and decorations up. I definitely recommend this time!! You practically run up and load the rides, and can even go multiple times with out getting off!! I went on July 12 for the day to MK and it was great, but as the day went on the crowds got heavy. By the parade at 9 the park was full! I still enjoyed the day though. But September is a great time to go! Also the beginning of May, too! Spring is beautiful there and they have the flower and garden festival! I live three hours away and have annual passes( which if you live close and can go more than one time a year, it’s worth it!). We are planning on going a couple more times for the day before our sept trip. I hope you have a wonderful time!!

  5. Meta says:

    Thank you for all your input. I have chosen to take my family on their first ever Disney trip next April/May and I have a 5th grade and 8th grader. I had earned some free airfare vouchers so I needed to do this at lowest price of year and after tax time so this was best time for my family. Have any of you gone during end of April first of May?What should I expect for crowds? I do plan on the boys learning a lot on history and science at Epcot. I think this will be both fun and educational. I was there for 2 weeks 18 yrs ago.
    Thanks for your input.

    • Tanisha says:

      I went last year for the first week in May. The crowds weren’t that bad but it did rain everyday. Normally there are small showers in the afternoons but we did run into a few days were it rained all day. I would suggest making sure you have ponchos before hand. The shops tend to get real crowded once the rain comes from those visitors trying to grab one.

    • Meta Van Skiver says:

      We did go the last week of April and it was great. We only did 4 days but with fast passes and my son got a disability pass since he has Autism. The weather was great just one day of showers, so we did Disney Quest. While my boys ages 10 and 14 missed 8 days of school, they learned about budgeting, mapping, countries of the world, science at Epcot. I highly recommend end of April.

  6. Jheidemann says:

    Our last couple trips to Disney were over Halloween. Light crowds and nice weather. We usually hit the parks right when they open and head back to the hotel around noon. We grab some lunch and swim. Back to the parks in the evening and stay till close. Its a great way to spend the week! 🙂

  7. LB says:

    We’ve taken 3 trips to Disney during the month of September now. This year, it was a lot more crowded than previous years. That aside, I was reading back over the comments about whether or not it’s a wise decision to take kids out of school for a Disney trip. This year we bought our tickets through Disney Youth Education. It was an amazing learning experience for my kids! You chose at least one Disney Education class for your child according to their age range, then choose the number of days you want tickets and whether you want basic or hopper passes. You can also choose additional classes for other days as well. The class does take up 3-4 hours of your time, so if your kids are close in age and have similar interests I would choose 1 class they can attend together. Added bonus, your tickets are at a discounted price! We saved about $300 on 5 day tickets for our family of 4!

  8. JP says:

    My daughter will be just starting school in August and we’re taking her to WDW for her birthday in September and because of lower crowds. School is important, but it’s not everything. Everyone takes vacation days. Just because you get national holidays off from work doesn’t mean you should never take a separate vacation day, children and school aren’t any different. I want my child to have a good life, not just an education. You just have to use common sense and balance when planning any vacation.

  9. Jess says:


    My parents took me out of school a few times for vacation during elementary and middle school. I’m a medical student with scholarships now. I don’t think missing a few weeks of school really affects your over all success. It’s how much support you have at home and how much emphasis is put on learning. My parents taught me to see learning as fun. They also taught me to love Disney and vacation during the off season. There really isn’t a conflict there.

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