The Best Dates to Visit Walt Disney World {Updated for 2017}

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disney epcot in spring

What time of year you visit Walt Disney World can have a HUGE impact on both the cost and quality of your vacation experience. The first piece of advice I usually give about planning a Disney World vacation is to choose your travel dates carefully!

In this post I’ll share the three reasons you should choose your dates carefully, my most recommended times to travel, and a handy printable calendar to help you plan a 2017 Disney World vacation.

First, the three factors to consider as you plan your trip are cost, crowds, and weather. Since I am a cheapskate at heart, I’ll start with cost. 😉

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Ready for the pool at Disney’s Pop Century Resort

The price you’ll pay for a hotel room at Walt Disney World varies wildly depending on the time of year during which you travel.

As an example, the “rack rate” for a standard room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort (read why it is one of my favorite resorts here) fluctuates from $99 to almost $200 throughout the year. Yes, that same exact room costs 100% more during peak travel season than other times of the year. So we aren’t just talking about a few extra dollars; we talking about cutting the cost of your lodging almost in half by traveling at off-peak times.

It is also important to note that resort hotel rooms are almost always cheaper Sunday through Thursday night. If you are planning a 5 night stay, and can make it happen with work schedules, go during the week to avoid the additional 10-25% cost increase of Friday and Saturday night stays.


Avoid heinous crowds at the Magic Kingdom!

The second reason I suggest planning your travel dates carefully is to avoid horrendous crowds at the theme parks. Please just take my word for it that it can be miserable at the parks when they are ultra-crowded.

Nothing ruins a vacation like shuffling through the parks at a snail’s pace surrounded by throngs of frustrated tourists. Or seeing 2+ hour wait times for all of the popular attractions. Some people might not mind visiting the Magic Kingdom when it is at peak capacity, but I would rather… I don’t know, swim with sharks? Visit the dentist? You get the idea.


Enjoy some amazing Florida weather

The third reason you should plan your travel carefully is weather. Don’t underestimate the heat and humidity of central Florida in the summer months. It can be downright miserable, so I strongly suggest avoiding the summer months if at all possible.

If your vacation plans include pool time, you’ll want to avoid a visit in January or February, when pool days are rare. Also, traveling to Florida in hurricane season can be dicey, so all but one of my recommended times to visit fall outside of that time of year (roughly June until the end of October).

I’ll give you my four favorite times of year to visit the parks below, but be warned: they all take place when kids are traditionally in school. Now I will tell you what I told my students and their families if they informed me they would be missing a week of school to visit Disney World (I was a public school teacher for 10 years): Your kids will learn far more during a week at Disney World than they would have in school that week.

Blasphemous, right? But honestly, your kids will get SO MUCH out of a trip to Disney World in terms of new knowledge and life experience. It is the best possible learning situation for them, so please don’t feel bad or hesitate to take your kids out of school to travel to Disney. Just ignore anyone who says otherwise and send them my way for convincing. 😉

#1 Best Time To Visit: Early November


Desserts at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival

To me, this time of year has it all… fantastic weather, relatively low crowds, and low room rates. Plus you’ll catch the tail end of the hugely popular Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, my favorite event at Walt Disney World!

Average highs are around 80 degrees so you can likely still get plenty of time in at the pool without it being scorchingly hot when you are at the parks. Hurricane season is almost always over by now. Crowds are pretty mild (about 4-5 out of 10) and this time of year is part of the rate category Disney calls “Fall”, which is one of the lower-cost times of year to visit. For comparison, a standard room at Pop Century costs $110 during the “Fall” season, which is second only to “Value” season in January in terms of affordability (plus you can save even more by taking advantage of multiple discounts and booking on Orbitz).

PLUS, for the last few years, Disney has been releasing a “Free Dining” offer for this time of year, which could be a great deal for a family (see my Disney Dining Plan 101 post for more info). Note: There is a cost increase and surge in crowds associated with the Veteran’s Day long weekend, so avoid those few days if you can!

#2 Best Time To Visit: End of September

pumpkin mickey magic kingdom

Fall decorations at the Magic Kingdom

My second choice for the best time of year to visit is the last two weeks in September. I have visited Disney World this week for the last 3 out of 4 years for the following reasons:

1) Awesome pool weather (we spend loads of time at the pool)
2) Relatively low crowd levels
3) Food & Wine Festival (starting closer to mid-September in 2016) and
4) This is the cheapest time of year to stay at Disney if you are renting DVC points.

We love to rent DVC points this time of year for a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, our favorite resort. We pay around $125/night for a Deluxe Studio Villa which would cost almost $500 if we booked it directly through Disney (read about how you can do this too). It is pretty hot this time of year, with highs in the upper 80’s, making it sometimes unbearable in the sun. But as long as you plan for a break in the middle of the day, the heat is manageable (at least for me).

#3 Best Time To Visit: After Easter Until Memorial Day

compressed epcot spring

Another time of year that I find excellent for a trip to Disney World is the period after Easter up until Memorial Day. The weather is the big draw this time of year. Visiting the warm and tropical lushness of Florida after a cold, grey winter is just completely incredible. Plus no chance of a hurricane ruining your well-laid plans! Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival takes place this time of year, adding even more color and beauty to your trip. And crowds stay low, with averages of 4-5 out of 10 for the whole time period.

As far as cost goes, this is a slightly more expensive time of year to visit. The rack rate at Pop Century is $122/night, still far less than peak season. If you want to rent DVC points, I suggest visiting in May as opposed to April for significant savings. May is part of “Dream Season” which has rates only slightly higher than the two cheapest seasons. You will pay about 30% more in April, so wait for May if you can!

#4 Best Time to Visit: Late November/Early December

castle lights

Holiday Lights on Cinderella’s Castle

My final suggestion for a visit to Walt Disney World is the period right after Thanksgiving through the first week in December. The main reason for a visit this time of year is to soak up the incredible Disney World holiday magic without paying any more than you would other times of year!

This is one of the most affordable times of year to visit, whether you are booking a resort room with Disney or renting DVC points. Crowds are around 4 out of 10, though they spike a little on the weekends with locals visiting for the holiday decorations and special events.

The weather starts to get unpredictable this time of year, so you could catch highs in the 70’s or you could need parkas. But as long as you pack for anything, this is such a wonderful time to visit the parks. As a special treat, get a ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and spend the whole afternoon and evening at the Magic Kingdom.

Runner-Up: Value Season in January/Early February

I felt like I had to mention one more time of year to consider for a trip to Disney World. January and early February (up until President’s Day weekend) offer the lowest prices AND lowest crowd levels of the year. You’ll have to contend with “winter” in Florida, which is totally mild of course. But, if you aren’t concerned with visiting the pool and want to avoid crowds/save money, consider a trip in the first two months of the year! We love the warm weather and special events of the previously mentioned time periods, so we tend to avoid these months.

Below is a calendar with my most recommended dates to visit Disney World in 2017 highlighted in green. Click here to view this file as a pdf for easy printing.


Another great resource is MouseSaver’s Rack Rates for Disney World Resorts 2017.

I hope this post gave you some helpful hints for planning a trip to Walt Disney World!

Do you agree or disagree with my recommendations? Please leave a comment below!

Best dates Disney World 2017 - when you travel makes all the difference - Disney vacation planning tips

56 Responses to The Best Dates to Visit Walt Disney World {Updated for 2017}

  1. Lucio says:

    Hi Leah, thanks for your post, I found it very interesting since your point of view considers weather, crowds and price. My main concern is finding low crowds in the parks. I checked in 4 websites and I found the second half of august and first days of september has moderate to low crowds (and also that fits well with the time we have for vacation), but I don’t find that dates in your recommended times to visit. Could you tell me what is your opinion on visiting disney on late august?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Leah says:

      I think you will find overall low crowd levels in the parks after August 30th and throughout September. The exception would be Labor Day weekend (September 2nd through 4th this year) which will have very high crowds. It will be very hot but if you can handle the heat then its a great time to visit! Thanks for stopping by, Lucio!

  2. Chrissy van Doorn says:

    Hi Leah,

    When you stay at a resort, are you able to access all of the pools/public amenities at that resort, or only the ones closest to your room? For example, if we stayed in a Little Mermaid room at the Art of Animation Resort, would we be allowed to swim in The Cozy Cone Pool or the The Big Blue Pool–or would we only be allowed into the Flippin’ Fins Pool?


    • Leah says:

      Hi Chrissy! You can use all of the pools at your resort, regardless of your room location! At some resorts you can even use “sister” resort’s pools, such as you can use any pool at the All Star resorts if you are staying in one, or the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House if you are staying at Kidani Village. I’m actually at an All Star resort right now and can confirm that the sign at the pool says it is for guests of the All Star resorts.

  3. Norma Cinco says:

    Thank you for all your great tips. I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I am a teacher and therefore, cannot travel during your recommended dates you provided. This, of course, makes my heart very sad. So, we were planning on Thanksgiving week, what do you think? Also, do you think it’s best for me to go to a travel agency or try to book everything separately and on my own?
    Thank you!

    • Leah says:

      Hi Norma! I think of all the school breaks, Thanksgiving is the least crowded. Definitely less so than Christmas! Also the weather is usually nice and mild. It really depends on how much time you have to spend learning about all of the aspects of planning a Disney vacation. If you have the time and you like to DIY, then you can likely save money planning yourself. But if you don’t have the time or patience for planning the trip, a travel agent is the way to go! I recommend Small World Travel, an established no-cost agency that specializes in Disney travel:

  4. Jen says:

    Give me some good news..March 19-22 and we are staying at one of the other value resorts, that movie one, have you ever been there?

    • Leah says:

      Yes! All Star Movies is actually my favorite of the All Star resorts! Are you traveling with little ones? The kiddie pool area there is really fun. Be sure to walk around the resort and check out all of the areas, the Toy Story courtyard is fantastic. I think you will encounter moderately high crowds but nothing like Easter week. Be sure to plan your visits to the Magic Kingdom carefully. I generally avoid Saturdays and Mondays there.

  5. Megan says:

    My family is going March 2 thru the 8, any idea how this should be?

    • Leah says:

      Hi Megan! Should be great, especially at the beginning of your trip since it is before most spring break crowds arrive!

  6. laura says:

    We’re thinking about going October 8th-12th. I noticed October wasn’t recommended; can you tell me why?

    • Leah says:

      Hey Laura! October is overall a good time to visit since schools are generally in session. There are higher crowd levels in October than late September and early November due to both Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party being in full swing. If you use a crowd calendar to plan your park days carefully you will have a great trip!

  7. Sabrina says:

    I am planning on going either April 29th – May 6th or May 6th – May 13th for my birthday. I’m happy to see that these are highlighted in green! It will be my first time there 🙂

    • Leah says:

      That’s fantastic, Sabrina! After Easter and before school lets out is one of my favorite times to visit! I went the week after Easter last year and it was perfect. Hope you have a great time celebrating your birthday at Disney World.

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  9. Suzanne Maldonado says:

    Hi! Can you tell me what you think the week of 03/19/2017 might look like?? That is the week Im going to WDW for the first time. Im willing to move up a week or so if it will help to go during lower crowd times. TIA

    • Leah says:

      Hi Suzanne! You are looking at peak pricing at Disney resorts from 3/10 through 4/8. You would save pretty substantial money if you were able to go prior to 3/10, but pool weather can be iffy at the very beginning of March. Crowds will also be higher the second half of March compared to the first half due to spring breaks. The week of March 5th through the 11th looks great for crowds and prices. Hope that helps!

  10. Justi says:

    What about the first week in April? Is that a good time

    • Leah says:

      Hi Justi! It really depends on when Easter falls. This past year (2016) Easter was early, so we went during the first week of April which was AFTER Easter. We had a great time with overall low crowd levels. This upcoming year (2017) Easter is later in April, so it will likely be very busy and pricey the first week in April. Disney bases their prices on anticipated crowd levels, so the most popular times of year (such as the holidays and Easter/spring break) are going to be the most expensive. Hope that helps!

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  12. Julie says:

    Thanks for the great tips! We are planning to go November 12-18th in 2017. Just wondering why November 10-12 and 18 are not included in your green (i.e. “best time” dates)? Is something going on at Disney during that time that we don’t know about?

  13. Lisa says:

    My family just returned from our visit this past week (10/15 – 10/21). The weather was perfect mid 80’s and the evenings were gorgeous! It didnt rain once..not the norm for FLA weather. We did dodge the hurricane; however, I did have friends that were there that week and even when the parks closed for the day (which they never do), they said that Disney was more then hospitable and it all worked out fine. For us we were able to spend time at the pool and water park. Blizzard Beach had just closed to start renovations for next year. In fact, the only downside visiting during an off season is that attractions may be closed..but since there is so much to dont even notice! The one pool was closed at our resort as well but we were advised ahead of time. The crowds were fantastic! Of course we worked our fast passes along with the Disney App for wait times and took advantage of the extra magic hours; however, the lines were only long to see the characters. We rode several of the special attractions mutiple times! Many, many years ago my parents would take us the 8th week of the year (February was their timeshare week) and the crowds were similar to what we experienced last week..but no swimming! I will probably always stick to the fall and don’t forget Mickey’s not so scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom..the decorations were awesome! I have to first trip was at x-mas break when I was about 12… the only thing I could remember about that trip was standing in line! It was right up there with wanting to slit your wrist! Don’t forget ….not only are the hotel rates higher in peak the-park passes are higher to help swing the crowds. P.S. about missing school….my son is in K…the principal when she signed off on the excused absent with a smiley face…said “I am sure I will sign one of these every year for a vacation?” Yep! 😊

    • Leah says:

      I had a HUGE smile on my face reading your comment, Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing your experience at Disney in the fall! It is such an awesome time to visit, isn’t it!?! Where did you stay? So glad you had low crowd levels, I might have to adjust my calendar if I hear this is a pattern in mid-October.

  14. kendra says:

    um I need to leave a comment saying the calendar needs updated because the whole calendar is wrong look at January 2017 the 1st starts on Sunday not Saturday so the whole calendar is a day off

    • Leah says:

      Hi Kendra! The issue is that this calendar starts on Monday instead of Saturday. So while it is correct, it isn’t the usual Sunday through Saturday setup. I’ll look for something easier to read and get it updated. Thanks!

  15. Carissa says:

    Good to know, I wish I had this knowledge about the END of September earlier! I just got back yesterday, we spent the 13th-18th at WDW and the crowds were terrible! Well, terrible by MY standards lol. All the crowd calendars predicted a 2 or 3, lowest of the year for my dates at the parks, and they were more like a 5 or 6! Oh, and the humidity! We still had fun, but man you really have to NARROW down those dates! Thank you!

  16. Shelley says:

    Being East coast Canadians, by the end of January we are sick of winter. We took our dirt Walt Disney vacation in January 2014 and loved it! It was not too busy and not too hot (but much milder than the weather back home)! We went again in January 2016 and have January 2017 planned already!!! For us, it’s the best time to visit 😊

  17. Heather says:

    Any recommendations, or follow same reasoning, for Disneyland.

    • Leah says:

      Sorry Heather, I’m not familiar with crowd patterns at Disneyland. I’m hoping to make my first trip there next year!

    • Steph says:

      I do Disneyland at least once a year (this year I’ll have 4 trips!) My first choice is mid September. The fall decor is up, the weather is not as hot (probably low 80’s) and crowds are not bad mid week. My next choice is end of January-park can be u crowded and only once have we gotten rained on (but it may be too cool for outdoor swimming). I also have enjoyed a trip during the first week of December. Magical decorations and not crowded. I rarely visit on weekends, but even when I did Labor Day weekend and Mother’s Day (Disney half marathon weekends) it wasn’t insanely busy. I’m headed to DLR this weekend, so hopefully even though it’s a weekend, it won’t be too busy. Hotels near the park are always spendy, the best you can get at a decent place is going to be at least $100 (probably more like $149). I’m headed to Disney World the first week of November, so here’s hoping for no hurricanes!

      • Leah says:

        Awesome advice, Steph! Thanks so much for sharing, now I am even more excited to check out Disneyland. The first week in November is my hands down favorite time to visit WDW! Nice choice. 😉

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  19. LauraB says:

    I totally agree with your best dates! I also would rather swim with sharks than deal with crowds and heat, so my family and I have never visited in the summer. I would love to spend Christmas at Disney World, but never have because of the crowds and prices. About five years ago, before Veteran’s Day crowds were crazy, we went over Veteran’s Day and were at Magic Kingdom when they turned on the holiday lights at the castle for the first time that holiday season. It was magical. We’ve also visited at the end of September and the beginning and end of January. Recently my husband and I went for a few days at the beginning of February. I think it’s the most affordable time and crowds are at their lowest. I am hoping to plan another February trip for he and I in 2017. My daughter and I went in early May and enjoyed the Flower and Garden festival with low crowds. I also totally agree with you that it is worth it to take the kids out of school for a week to go when crowds are low. And I am a teacher!:) The memories you will make as a family and the experience they will get is definitely worth it. Thanks for continuing to give great advice on how to make a Disney World trip affordable!

    • Leah says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences at Disney, Laura! Glad you too have had good trips during these times of year. I really want to get down next spring for Flower & Garden festival at Epcot as I haven’t been to that event in years.

    • Carissa says:

      Ditto on the sharks! I love January at Disney World, it has been so much nicer to us.

  20. Anastasia says:

    We went September 13-20 in 2015. I loved it! Crowds weren’t bad, and I pretty much walked right up to the Space Mountain ride. Their were some waits, we did a lot of kiddie rides for my 2 year old daughter, I think our longest wait but most enjoyable wait was the Winnie the Pooh ride, thankfully they have tons of activities while you wait. 🙂 Stores weren’t crowded heavily either and Downtown Disney was a dream! I really dislike large crowds full of arrogant people who seem clueless of manners. That being said the most crowded area was main side, we double timed it the castle and the crowd reduced greatly.

    • Leah says:

      So good to hear, Anastasia! I am heading down for a quick trip September 17-19 so I hope for similar low crowds!

  21. Ellen says:

    Planning my first family Disney trip for next year. Just curious, why not October? I was thinking first 2 weeks of Oct. Would it be worth it to plan for sept or nov? Also: when does the free dining generally run?

    • Leah says:

      Hi Ellen! The reasons I suggest end of September or November as opposed to October is crowds and availability of Free Dining. It is slightly more crowded in October with both Food & Wine AND Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party in full swing. But October is still not nearly as crowded as other times – maybe a 5 out of 10. The dates for Free Dining change every year and the offer is typically released in the spring (April/May). For the last two years, most dates in October have been excluded. For example, this year the dates for Free Dining were 8/14-10/1, 11/15-11/21, and 12/10-12/21. It is likely the dates for Free Dining next year will be similar, if Disney does indeed offer the promotion again next year! Hope this helps!

      • Nicole MacFarlane says:

        hello, just wondering where i would find the info about the free dining. Also do you know when the halloween stuff starts? we were looking to travel in mid october for that particular reason so the kids could enjoy all the halloween things. and one more thing, having only visited disney once briefly is it best to book at an actual disney resort or a condo nearby? any info/tips much appreciated!!

  22. Monica says:

    I would have to disagree with the end of September. I’m a Disney travel agent, and I sell a lot of vacation packages during that week. I would recommend arriving the day after Labor Day for a week. I have gone several times during that week, and the crowds are about a 1-2, and the weather is almost perfect! The last week of September/first of October is a lot more crowded.

    • Leah says:

      Thanks Monica! I’ve never been during those weeks since it is before Food & Wine starts and that is our favorite event of the year. F&W Fest begins a week earlier this year (on September 14th) so we are going to try going during that week this year. Maybe the crowds will be less than we are used to? Thanks again for your input!

      • Deanna says:

        From Cali. Planning a NY/PA road trip next year then Florida on our way home. Which will put us in Florida first week of October. What do you think?

        • Leah says:

          The first week in October is a great time to visit Disney, Deanna. The only reason I don’t suggest October is slightly higher crowd levels than surrounding dates (though the crowds are nothing compared to peak times of year!) and the fact that free dining hasn’t been offered in October lately. The weather will be great though still very hot (highs around 85). Perfect for the pool!

    • I disagree with mid October it’s too hot I know because I was there last year going in late March through early April next year

      • Leah says:

        You are right Brenna, it is still pretty darn hot in Florida in mid-October! I bet you will like the weather in late March better.

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