Updated for 2016!
One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, has a great bit describing his family trip to Walt Disney World. “If you haven’t been to Disney as an adult, just imagine you are standing in line at the D.M.V., and that’s it. Actually it was Orlando in July, so it’s kind of like standing on the surface of the sun. Why would we do this to ourselves? When you were a kid and you’d go on vacation, you’d wonder, ‘Why is Dad always in such a bad mood?’ Now…I understand. How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my children complain and whine? Disney!”
If you have spent more than 10 minutes talking to someone headed for or just back from a Disney vacation, almost surely the timing will come up. When did you go? Was it really busy? How was the weather? And then you compare your BEST TIME to their BEST TIME, trying to figure out the real best time to head to Orlando.
Let’s be honest here. As the world’s most visited vacation destination, Disney is crowded all the time. But it’s just crazy side-by-side steppin’ on people crazy at other times.
So when should you go?
When is the VERY BEST time to take that highly anticipated trip that will cost almost the equal of half a year of college for one of your kids? Well, holidays will be busy, and to go along with Mr. Gaffigan, summer may not be the best time either. Thousands of people go during summer because school is out and this fits in well with taking time off from work.
Very few people come back from a Disney vacation at Christmas or in July stating it was the BEST TIME to go; it was just a time slot that worked out with their schedule.
Taking into account resort prices, which are lower during “off-season” times, and crowd levels, here are our Cheapskate Princess recommendations for your next Disney Vacation.
April – last half
May – up until the last week. Just before and after Memorial day, things get busy.
June – maybe the first week, and it will be hot.
You will notice no other summer dates are listed. Even if this may be the best time for you to travel, it’s the same “best time” for every other person in the U.S. with kids out of school, which makes it a “non-best time.”
Melissa Cassada tells us “As a teacher, we have found it too hard to travel to Disney during the ‘off times.’ We tend to go at the end of May right after school gets out. We have also been in the middle of summer, Thanksgiving week, and on New Years. Anytime can be fun for the family if you are patient with lines or take precautions with the heat/rain. Disney is what you and the family make of it! The memories can be priceless anytime of the year!”
August (the last half, though it will be hot) to October (middle to the end)
November, just not during the first week and Thanksgiving
December, but be gone by the week before Christmas
January – avoid Martin Luther King weekend (around the 21st)
February – avoid the President’s Day holiday
What you may notice here is that school is in session during these times, just like it is in April and May. The general consensus among Disney planners is that if school is in session, the parks will be less crowded.
And as far as taking kids out of school, the Cheapskate Princess moms we heard from on Facebook felt like missing school was easier when the kids were younger, and that there were lots of things you could learn while on vacation. But this does become difficult as children have more and more homework and assignments in upper level classes.
Several of our Facebook followers shared their opinions.
Amber says, “My family’s thought is you are spending a lot of money to go to Disney. It could be your only time going. Do you want to fight with crowds and lines? We have been three times as a family and go during a low attendance. We have ridden every ride we want every time we went and some two or three times. To me it is worth it, I want to enjoy my money doing the things I paid to do.”
Stephanie told us, “We’ve visited Disney World during the first week of November, and it was wonderful. You do miss the Christmas decorations by a week, but the low crowds made for a great trip! We went the last week of April this year thinking the spring break crowds would be gone, but I think they decided to stay a bit longer. It was somewhat more crowded than we expected (45 min for Tinker Bell!), and the weather went from mild and rainy to HOT…but we still had fun. This is Disney World! Our next trip is scheduled for February 2014, so we’re hoping to miss the big crowds this time.”
Angie, “We’ve gone around January 20 the last 3 years, although unintentionally, because we didn’t plan to go same week. Great time to go! This year MLK Jr Day fell later, so we arrived the holiday weekend which was a little busier, but still pretty low crowds. We made reservations 2 weeks before we went this year and they still had military rates available at Pop so obviously it was not too busy! High temps ranged from low 60s-mid 80s (nights can be quite chilly!) between the years so that’s a little unpredictable, but much better than the summer heat!”
And some of our readers stopped by to share their opinions on the best time for an Orlando trip.
Jay, “My family tends to visit in mid September, which is considered the off-season. We do that to take advantage of the dining plan, which is only if you stay at a Disney resort, so we usually stay at a Value Resort.“
Julia, “I’d love to go in the off-season, but my husband and I are both teachers so we can’t. Our school year doesn’t begin until the end of August, so we’re going to try to take the kids in mid-August. I know it’ll be hot, but hopefully it won’t be as crowded as June and July.“
Christine, “Mid January was always my favorite time to visit. The Christmas season was packed, but it seemed like everyone had a little extra cheer to share, so we didn’t mind as much. But if you are looking for low crowds and lower temperatures, September/mid October are for you!”
Christy, “As a long time Florida resident and fan of WDW, I would say the best time to visit the parks is late January to early February (before Valentines Day), or late September early October. However, an important thing to note is that September and October are the peak months for hurricanes. If Florida gets hit, chances are it will fall somewhere between those months. Even if the wind doesn’t affect the park, the torrential rain will. I went on a Youth trip with my church to Night of Joy in September 2009 and we got absolutely drenched on our way from the parking lot to the ticket area. Sadly the water does not drain well from some of the areas and we had a youth slip and fall outside on the balcony of the Tomorrow Land Terrace. I ended up spending the evening at the wonderful Celebration ER. Even though Disney refunded our tickets and gave us complimentary tickets, as just a word of caution, be careful! Nothing ruins a Disney vacation faster than sitting in the ER!
So in my own humble opinion, stick with late January and early February after the rains are gone, and the weather is cooler if not outright cold in the evenings. That’s good if you are doing the Magic Kingdom, MGM, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. You may want to opt for late April and early May if you want to do the water parks as the weather is warmer and the snow birds are gone. Also Spring Breaks usually end in April so early May is ideal too. Just keep an eye out for when Easter falls too!”
So what do you think…is there a BEST TIME to visit Disney World, when the lines are magically shorter, cool breezes are blowing, and you still have money left in your wallet from paying lower accommodations?
Leave us your thoughts and tell us your BEST TIME!
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. 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.
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