Deciding when to go to Disney World comes down to two major factors: heat and crowds. Many visitors have to balance those major factors with school and work schedules, special events and money issues.
If you don’t have any school age children, the answer to this question is easy: go whenever school is in session, avoiding summer and major holidays. When you’re bringing kids along, there are a few more tradeoffs involved.
Visitors flock to Orlando all year long, with temperatures ranging from wintertime lows in the 50s (F) to summertime highs in the 90s.
Summer can be brutal in Orlando. July is the hottest month of the year, with June and August right behind it. Afternoon thunderstorms are common. It’s also the most crowded season, with seemingly every kid in the U.S. out of school and visiting Mickey Mouse. Lines for popular attractions can stretch out for two hours. On the plus side, theme park hours are extended, and nearly all the attractions are open for business.
Winter brings cooler weather and lighter crowds (except around major holidays). Theme park hours are shorter, and many attractions are closed for refurbishment. Winter, particularly January, is personally my favorite time to visit the parks.
Fall and Spring can still bring warm weather, but moderate crowds. Special events (like the Flower & Garden Festival and the Food & Wine Festival) can add fun activities into the mix.
Pick Your Dates
Within each season, there are good times…and there are bad (read: crowded) times. Once you’ve narrowed down the season, picking the right week can mean the difference in how relaxed and fun your vacation will be. One of the most helpful tools is on the Disney World web site. The “Wonderful Weeks of Disney” are times when attendence is lower and rates at the resorts drop. The week before Thanksgiving, most of September, and the second week of December are all included.
Pick Your Days
A surprising factor in how crowded the parks will be? What day of the week it is. Weekends are always more crowded at the parks, bringing more locals. Saturdays are typically more crowded, although Sunday is historically the most crowded day at the Magic Kingdom.
There’s one important fact you need to know when planning your Disney itinerary: whatever theme park has morning Extra Magic Hours is the one you should avoid at all costs. Why? Because with Disney’s latest ticketing policy, a large percentage of guests can only choose one park per day in which to spend their day. If Epcot opens early on a Tuesday, then that’s where everyone’s zigging. You should zag, perhaps to the Magic Kingdom.
There is one exception to this rule: if you plan to get to the Extra Magic Hour park as soon as it opens. You should then plan to ride as many of the most popular rides as you can, as early as you can. The rest of the day should be taken slowly, or spent at your resort by the swimming pool.
In general, these are the best days for each park:
Magic Kingdom – Tuesday
Epcot – Wednesday
Animal Kingdom – Friday
Disney Studios – Saturday
Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon – Saturday