By Martha Nichols with Aladdin Travel
In my opinion as a Disney addict, there is no bad time to visit Mickey. That being said, there are pros and cons to traveling during each season. To avoid crowds, the best time to travel is while school is in session (teachers, please do not shoot me on the spot). If you have school age kids, you have to make a decision that is best for your family about kids missing school for a family vacation.
Summer (June, July & August)
Most people cringe at the thought of Florida during the summer. Heat, humidity, and daily rain storms are what you can expect, but if you plan for it, you can still have a fabulous vacation. Average High Temps are 91 to 92 degrees. Average Low Temps are 71 to 73 degrees. Average Rain Fall ranges from 6.3 to 7.3 inches per month. The wettest months in Florida are June & July.
Going to Walt Disney World (WDW) during the summer months are not for the family who plans to tour The World commando style. Getting out of the heat during the hottest part of the day (between 1 & 4 PM) is essential. Build in daily breaks at your resort for naps/rest time & pool time. Take advantage of the Morning Extra Magic Hour of the park of the day. This is where on-site resort guests are allowed to enter the park 1 hour prior to the park opening to the general public. By getting up and out to the parks early and taking a midday break, you will also avoid the parks when the crowds peak!
Parks are open late into the night during summer months. With Evening Extra Magic Hours (where 1 park is open to resort guests 3 hours after the park closes to the general public), you can continue to play until the wee hours of the morning. This may be a great choice if you are traveling with teens who want to stay in the parks late into the night, sleep in during the mornings, and hit one of the 2 water parks or Disney Quest during the afternoon.
The nighttime fireworks and parades at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are performed later during the summer months (because it gets dark later). This is not great if you have younger kids who crash early after a fun filled day. My family has missed the evening fireworks and parades during our last 2 trips because they were already asleep!
Special events during the summer include:
Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts Star Wars Weekends for 3 weekends in the end of May/beginning of June. This is a weekend full of parades, trivia challenges, behind-the-scenes presentations, and celebrity line ups.
All summer long, Epcot hosts the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series with tribute (sound-alike) bands.
Tip: Prices start to drop mid August making it one of the least expensive times of the year to travel. If you do not want to take the kids out of school, consider a trip right before school starts!
Fall (September, October, & November)
Disney Experts actually think that one of the best times to visit WDW is during late August and September. Crowds are lower because school has started across the country. You still battle the heat & humidity (September average high 90 degrees, average low 72 degrees). The daily thunderstorms are still a risk, but the monthly average rain fall starts to decline in September (average of 5.8 inches), but you risk hurricane season. Disney is located inland, so if a hurricane does hit, expect to loose a day or 2 of park time, but you shouldn’t worry about being evacuated.
In October, temperatures and rain amounts start to drop. Average high temperature is 85 degrees, with average low of 65 degrees, and average rain of 2.7 inches. November temperatures continue to drop to average high of 79 degrees, average low of 59 degrees, and average rain of 2.3 inches. Swimming can still be an option as the temperatures drop because all of the pools are heated to 82 degrees.
Once the sun starts setting earlier and crowds drop from summer levels, parks have earlier closing times and earlier parade and fireworks schedule. By late September, Magic Kingdom will have fireworks at 9 PM (rather than 10 PM). By November, the Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom will be at 8 PM. This works better with younger kids’ schedules.
There are some special events that happen in the fall:
Epcot hosts the Food & Wine Festival, starting late September and wrapping up in early November. During the Food & Wine Festival, guests can enjoy food, wine, and entertainment from more than 24 countries. There are Celebrity Chefs, Wine Seminars, Author Events, Culinary Demonstrations, and the Eat To The Beat! Concert Series. During the last weekend in September, Disney hosts the Wine & Dine Half Marathon to kick off the Food & Wine Festival.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party runs on select nights at the Magic Kingdom from mid September through November 1st. This is a hard ticket event, meaning that there is a separate admission fee. On party nights, Magic Kingdom is closed to the general public at 7 PM. Party guests enjoy trick-or-treating in the park, special parade & fireworks, characters in costumes, and select attractions from 7 pm until midnight.
Tip: September is considered a Value Season in Disney’s pricing, so it is one of the least expensive times of the year to travel. Mid November (2nd week up until Thanksgiving week) is a great time to visit due to lower crowd levels and Christmas decorations start to go up in the parks.
Winter (December, January, & February)
The winter months should be thought of as Holiday Season and non-holiday dates. The busiest week of the year at Walt Disney World is the week between Christmas and New Years. Magic Kingdom has a capacity of 100,000 guests and has been known to reach maximum capacity early in the day. When this happens, the gates are closed until people start to leave the park. This is also the most expensive time of the year to travel to WDW. Prices are raised for both resort rooms and dining. Unless you are determined to spend more money to wait in lines for hours with 99,999 of your closest friends & family, consider traveling at a different time of the year.
That being said, Christmas at Disney is magical! Decorations start to go up at the parks and resorts in mid-November, and is in full swing after Thanksgiving.
This is the season of special events at all of the parks:
Epcot hosts the Candlelight Processional Shows that run daily starting after Thanksgiving. This event is where the Christmas Story is told by celebrity narrators, with a mass choir and 50 piece orchestra.
Epcot also hosts Holidays Around The World, where storytellers share holiday customs and lore about their countries throughout the World Showcase.
Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights. This is a hard ticketed event that includes a special edition of parade and fireworks, a snowfall on Main Street complete with hot chocolate, and special entertainment.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts the Osborne Family spectacle of Dancing Lights where The Streets of America Backlot is decorated with 5 million lights!
The first weekend in January hosts the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This is a 26.2 mile marathon that winds its way through the 4 parks.
As for weather, you can expect average high temps in the low 70s and average lows in the low 50s during the winter months. You will take more of a gamble with the temperatures during the winter months because Orlando can get cold. Though the average high temperature for January is a comfortable 72 degrees, the reality was a cold and windy, high of 59 degrees, low of 35 degrees during my visit in late January.
This is a great time to visit with small children! Parks close early (around 8 PM) with evening parades and fireworks at 6:30, 7 or 8 PM, making it easy to keep kids on their regular schedules. The cooler weather makes it possible to tour commando style with no midday breaks (though your feet and legs will want the break).
Tip: The second week in January through mid February is considered a Value Season at WDW (meaning it is one of the least expensive times to visit). With low crowds and low prices, this is a great time to visit WDW.
Spring (March, April, & May)
The Spring Break Season at WDW actually starts in mid February with Presidents Day Weekend. The crowds begin to build through March with rolling Spring Breaks, and peaks with the week before and after Easter. Easter weeks are the second busiest time of the year with crowds.
The temperatures climb steadily during the spring. In March the average high temperature is 79 degrees, and the average low temperature is 56 degrees. April warms up to the average high of 83 degrees, with an average low of 60 degrees. May is a hot average high of 88 degrees, and average low of 66 degrees.
Special Events in the spring include:
Atlanta Braves Spring Training at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in March.
Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival in March through mid May. This festival is full of horticulture displays, celebrity guest speakers, seminars, demonstrations, exhibits, and the Flower Power Concert Series.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts the ESPN Weekend the first weekend in March. This includes a special motorcade, Q & A sessions with sports celebrities, live telecasts and radio broadcasts, celebrity game shows, and an interactive sports zone.
Tip: To avoid the crowds and enjoy WDW in the spring, consider the first 3 weeks in May.
What has been your experience? Share your tips as well!