Thursday, September 09, 2010

Disney Thursdays: When to Go

Every Thursday on the blog has been deemed "Disney Thursdays" where I'll be sharing tips, thoughts, and memories on vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida.

Walt Disney World draws an estimated 20 million tourists a year. Magic Kingdom's daily attendance can range from 20,000 to 90,000 on a given day. Obviously, if planning to go, you would prefer to attend on a 20,000 day rather than a 90,000 day. The internet is filled with sites and resources to help you discover which days/weeks/parks have the lowest crowds or best days to visit.
For my sake of fun, I will give a quick primer on things to consider... offers the following chart concerning Disney Crowd Levels.
Some general things to keep in mind with crowd size:
  • The Schools: An obvious rule of thumb is crowd size increases whenever there is a major break in schooling... Summer, Winter, and Spring breaks, Presidents Day Weekend create major spikes.
  • Major Holidays create a double whammy as it means breaks in school and work. The week between Christmas and New Years is considered an absolute nightmare as far as crowds.
Obviously, families planning to travel with school age kids face a dilemma... either pull the kids out of school or go at a larger crowd time. Larger crowd times can still be a good time to go, they just may require a little more planning in order to make the most of the trip... very doable.

Yet, there are some other things to consider when choosing when to go.
  • Weather: Summers are stupid-hot. December cools down. January-February can get downright cold (we've had to wear gloves and stocking caps on a couple days). Those wanting a guaranteed sunny/warm Florida vacation would be best to avoid these three months. September/October runs a risk with it being Hurricane Season. Want to know what your temps are like, check out's monthly/daily averages for WDW.
  • Ride Rehabs: January is considered to be the lowest crowd month by far, but it also equals a time where parks will close down various attractions to for fixes. For example, our trip the first week in February had Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Splash Mountain, Hall of Presidents, Living with the Land, and Honey I Shrunk the Audience were all closed. The main castle moat in Magic Kingdom was drained and there was scaffolding around the base of it to do some repainting. They cleverly disguised the scaffolding with a scrim that looked like castle walls.
  • Holiday Decor/Events: Christmas Decorations go up the first week in November and create a very different feel around the park. There are special Halloween and Christmas themed events at Magic Kingdom during their respective times, a Food & Wine Festival that takes place in EPCOT through October and November, a Star Wars Weekend, ESPN themed Weekend, Marathon Weekend, and Night of Joy (a Christian Music Festival in Magic Kingdom). For a complete list of special events, check here. (note: some events have special admission costs, while others are included in regular park admission).
  • Park Hours. When crowds are lower, the hours are less. When there are special events (like private groups that rent out a park, Halloween or Christmas Events) the park hours are less. Summer hours can run as late as 3 a.m. at Magic Kingdom if staying on site. So, this is worth taking into account. Disney World publishes park hours 6 months out on their site, but also you can see the past year's park hours here.
  • When with the ages: A common question is at what age to take your kids. Is there too young of an age or when do they get too old to enjoy the "magic." From a cost saving end, all kids under 3 are free on park admission and restaurant buffets. Opinions vary on the appropriate age. We have taken our daughter at 13 months, 26 months, and will again right over her 3rd birthday. She had a blast the first two times, and has told us multiple times she wants to "go to Minnie's Castle, meet friends, ride Dumbo, and go on the Merry Go Round."
    My personal opinion, any age is a great time to go, but you have to plan accordingly for that age. If you're going to only make one trip ever, I'd venture a guess that ages 5-12 are most ideal for memories and taking advantage of the most offerings.


Shelley said...

My favorite time to go is the first 3 weeks of November before Thanksgiving for the low crowds & Christmas decorations. The weather is still fall-like then too. I also like mid-October for the fall decorations, 70 degree weather, & low crowds.

And yes, I have gone over Spring Break. And yes, they did close Magic Kingdom at 10:30 am because it reached capacity at over 90,000 people. And yes, we arrived before the park opened at 8 am, were in front of the castle when the rope dropped, and stayed until the park closed at 1 am. And yes, I feel like I got my money's worth (almost $600 for one day for our family - of course I didn't pay that - travel agent discounts). And yes, Cousin Curt hated almost every moment of it. And yes, we never waited in a line the entire day because we know how to dodge the crowds, work the fast passes, & disappear into certain rides at peak crowd times. And yes, I will never go back over Spring Break, the summer, or any holiday because even though we made it work, it was exhausting.

But it was worth every moment of it. My kids have gone at least 5 times in their short lives, but I would like to go back in a couple years so they can experience a different side of Disney.

Bennett Family said...

You see that peak at xmas 10? that was us! We followed Shelley's plan and had a great time and rode everything we wanted to and more. We were suspected to be terrorists with a bomb in our cooler at one point, but that is another story.
We also have been there on the 4th of July. Yes, the park closed by noon with capacity crowds. The biggest difference was the heat. Crowds are much more bearable if it isn't 100 degrees out.
Great memories made both times though and thats what it is all about!