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The Best Time of Year to Go to Disney World

Traffic varies throughout the year, but the best time to visit Disney World depends on what you and your family are looking to get out of your vacation.

the best time of year to go to disney world

The Sanderson Sisters put a spell on the guests of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

(Photo: Ryan Kirkpatrick / Flickr / CC BY)

When planning Walt Disney vacations, the first question that many people ask is, “What’s the best time of year to go to Disney World?” The answer varies based on what you’re looking for, if you’re a repeat visitor, and when you can get the time off. There isn’t really a bad time to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., (it is the happiest place on Earth, after all) but some times of year are definitely better than others.

I am a former Disney cast member, and I used to live right in Disney World’s backyard. From my apartment, I could hear the Magic Kingdom fireworks. When I parked at work, the Tower of Terror loomed overhead. Like any local, I detested waiting on lines longer than, oh, I don’t know, 15 minutes.

I have seen every season and celebration to be had at Walt Disney World. I’ve battled crowds and ran down empty ride queues. And as a cast member myself, I’ve been on the front lines during the busiest seasons of them all, bearing the brunt of heat-addled crowds.

The short version is this: The best time of year to go to Disney World is in the early fall or midwinter.

The long version is this: The best time of year to go to Disney World depends on what you and your family want out of your vacation, what events are important to you, how much you are willing or able to spend, and how many FastPass+ reservations you can get your hands on.

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January

An easy, breezy, beautiful month in Walt Disney World. There are still a few Christmas decorations left over, but who can complain about tinsel? Once the New Year’s Eve crowd filters out, the parks are a ghost town. Take this opportunity to ride Soarin’ and get on Flights of Passage. Wear layers! The temperatures are wonky this month.

February

The beginning of February is mild in terms of crowds (and weather). In the middle of the month you’ll see a bump in crowds, because many schools in the Northeast take a week off of school for February break.

March

March is the month of moderate crowds. The sun is coming out again, and it’s the best weather Florida has to offer. The end of March gets a little scary, though, as the spring breakers start to filter in. This month, Epcot’s Flower and Garden festival begins. It’s similar to the Food and Wine Festival, with fruity cocktails and character topiaries thrown in.

April

Beware spring break. Easter falls on April 21 in 2019, and it’s the hot spot that many spring breaks are organized around. The parks will be full of families and college kids alike, trying to enjoy the season. In the Magic Kingdom you can meet the Easter Bunny, and on Easter Sunday you can see the Easter Parade, featuring all your favorite Disney bunnies, rabbits, ducks and chickens.

May

Other than Memorial Day weekend, which is notorious for heavy crowds, May is a moderate month. The weather is getting a little hotter, but it’s bearable. The annual 24-Hour Party usually takes place in this month, and it’s a great opportunity to dress like your favorite character and see how long you can last in the Magic Kingdom. As a veteran of the 2014 24-Hour Rock Your Disney Side event, I can say that things get pretty weird in the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at 3 a.m.

June

Moderate to heavy crowds, and hot, hot weather. To make the most out of your June vacation, go to the parks in the mornings and evenings. Use the afternoon for a swim in the pool or a well-deserved siesta.

the best time of year to go to disney world

Mickey Mouse leads a group of new American citizens at a July naturalization ceremony in the Magic Kingdom. (Photo: Josh Hallett / Flickr / CC BY)

July

The Fourth of July Fireworks in the Magic Kingdom are incredible, but that means that the park is jam-packed with sweaty people trying to see them. Folks camp out in front of Cinderella Castle as soon as the park opens just to get a good view. It’s a hot and crowded month, and you should use that FastPass+ for Splash Mountain right away.

August

The crowds in this month go from heavy to moderate, because August is the hottest month to spend in Disney World. Be prepared to melt away under the unforgiving Orlando sun. Be prepared to actually watch the Country Bear Jamboree for the sake of some air conditioning. Be prepared to smear ice cubes on your oily, sweaty face for a moment of relief.

September

Even though it’s still hot, September is a month of peace. The majority of children have gone back to school, and the parks empty out. The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot begins this month, and is not to be missed. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party also starts in mid-September, and it is an amazing night for the whole family. Frequent rains come and go during this season, so remember to bring a poncho!

October

October is perhaps the best time of year to go to Disney World. The crowds range from light to low-moderate, and the weather is gorgeous. No siestas necessary for this month. You don’t need anything but a pair of sunglasses. Food and Wine is still going on all throughout this month, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is really hitting its stride. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary is the best party at Walt Disney World, where guests of all ages can arrive in costume and trick-or-treat around the park. You can meet rare characters, get on rides with no wait time, and even see the Sanderson sisters from “Hocus Pocus.” If you can go any time of the year, go in early to mid-October. It’s a sweet spot.

November

Early to mid-November has pretty low crowd levels, and the weather is very mild. Many rides become walk-ons during this time. I would be surprised if you had to wait more than 30 minutes for any ride in the parks. I mean, Flights of Passage and Toy Story Mania might still be a little congested, but on the whole it’s a dream. Thanksgiving week and the weekend after are very crowded, however, because most people get off for work and school at that time. This is a good month to sneak in some early Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas parties.

December

This month is … complicated. Very early December sees light to moderate crowds, and the rest of the month slowly builds and builds, more and more people coming, less and less people going. The pressure comes to a head during the last two weeks of December – Christmas and New Year’s Eve being the most crowded days to be at the parks ever. EVER. Disney can be fun at Christmastime. That’s true. The decorations are beautiful. The festivities are beyond compare. But it’s difficult to enjoy when you have less wiggle room than a sardine.

What’s the best time of year to go to Disney World for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Click here for more information on Walt Disney vacations and Disney Parks discounts with AAA. 

This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated. 

Comments
  • Robert S.

    I found that one time when I arrived at Disney World at night on my first day there; Driving into the park at night trying to read the road signs was difficult because they were not lit and the traffic was too fast pushing you along. Hopefully this has been changed as I have not been in a few years.

    • Sarah H.

      Hi, Robert!
      Fortunately, Walt Disney World has massively improved their infrastructure in the past few years. Now that the largest parts of construction are over, it’s much easier to drive around the property. It’s also a lot less congested.
      – Sarah

  • Your Aaa R.

    We love the first three weeks of December for less crowds, great weather and beginning of Christmas season. Our son’s birthday is the 15th and when he was young enough to still take out of school, we’d plan our trip around this time and leave before the higher holiday hotel prices went into effect (usually Dec. 20). We were able to take advantage of all the Christmas festivities and decorations beforehand. It was extra magical!! We also went the first week in May and it was already hot and crowded.

  • Kevin M.

    I hate to disagree but, my wife and I have been going to Disney for years, with the kids and now that the kids are grown, just the two of us. We’ve found in the past few years that there just aren’t any times anymore when the parks aren’t crowded. We went the first week in March last year and every park, even Epcot, was so crowded that it was exhausting just fighting the crowds as you walked around, never mind getting on rides! We tried again the week before Thanksgiving this past fall and it was better, the Food & Wine festival had just ended and we did see some improvement although we only spent an hour at Magic Kingdom because is was very crowded.
    We had a conversation with the rental agent at a Disney property on the Boardwalk (where we always stay) and he admitted that the parks are always crowded these days and there just isn’t any time that’s much better than another. Btw; my sister and her family were just there in January and told us it was crowded, Magic Kingdom again to the point that they left after a short time.
    We love Disney but we’re reaching the point that we’re not sure how many more times we’ll go. It’s not that enjoyable when it’s wall to wall people and you only manage to get on three or four rides during a visit to a park. The powers that be must agree because they’re raising park attendance fees again to try to winnow down the crowds.

    • Sarah H.

      I agree that the parks have gotten steadily busier over the last couple of years. I think this is due to the constant events Disney is pushing, from all the different Epcot festivals to the near-constant RunDisney marathons. I wish that they would set a lower limit to how many people can enter the park instead of raising the ticket prices. Part of the reason events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are so fun is because of how limited the ticket sales are. Even if the event is sold-out, the lines and crowds are very manageable. Mid-Jan and September/October are still good months to go relative to the crowds the rest of the year, though. I think the fall is my personal favorite time to visit WDW because of the temperatures and the calmer crowds. It’s also the rainy season, which means that many (unprepared, cowardly) guests clear out when it starts pouring. Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment, I really had a good time responding to it. Also, the Boardwalk is a great place to stay. I’m jealous!
      – Sarah

  • Anita M.

    Everything Kevin said is correct. We’ve been going to WDW since 1980, my husband & I just having been there Jan 21-28 and the crowds everywhere where thick to say the least. I’ve been there before in January and the parks were ghost towns, not anymore. These are simply my observations from our latest trip. Many guests seemed to be from other countries as its summer elsewhere. I understand that they’re probably not familiar with how to navigate the parks, it’s not easy! Lines were long, restaurants were crowded all day and the bathrooms weren’t able to be kept up on. Walking was a challenge due to the crowds and “family vacation” groups walking next to each other. It was difficult to get around them without bumping into guests walking the other direction trying to get around the crowds! Even with some fast passes, we waited almost an hour to get on the popular rides. (Disney calls them “experiences” now). We didn’t go on a lot of rides because the lines were too long. We waited 2 hours and 20 minutes to do Flight of Passage (Avatar) and we got to the line at 9:30am ( couldn’t get fast passes). When it’s crowded, you lose a lot of your day waiting in line. In the past for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Disney was extremely diligent in keeping people standing when the park lights dim for their safety, not this year. People were allowed to sit on the curbs and in the street during the fireworks pre-show but a cast member finally came by and made them stand as the fireworks started. Of course they complained. We had kids climbing on the fence behind us to get to a better vantage point on the high cement bases of the lamppost, they were never told to get down. That lack of attention by Disney very much surprised and disappointed me. It seems the old Disney is long gone. BUT, for me, a bad day at Disney is better than the best day anywhere else. I’m already planning to visit again for the 50th anniversary celebration but it may just be my last trip if it’s too crowded again to fully enjoy it. And they’re pricing me out of being able to afford it. But I’ve had many great trips so you need to have yours.

    • Sarah H.

      If you want to avoid crowds, I would not suggest going to the 50th anniversary celebration (but I understand that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing that you might not want to miss). The 45th anniversary was crowded enough! I can’t imagine what an actually important anniversary would be like!
      – Sarah

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