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. 😉
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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!