A lot of work has been put into researching when is the best time to go to Disneyland. A plethora of crowd calendars exist around the web to tell you exactly when you'll find the lowest crowds. I found that, while the calendars can be helpful, they're rarely accurate. A date listed "Empty" might be more crowded than a day listed as "Can't Breathe" leaving you saying, "But it wasn't supposed to be crowded!"
Crowd calendars are sometimes too specific, often leading to disappointment if they're wrong. Instead of telling you what crowds are like on any given day, my goal is to provide with a general idea of what each month looks like and the reasons why.
All of the information shared below is based on my own personal experiences as a Disneyland Annual passholder who frequents the park all year long.
The best months of the year to plan your Disney vacation are, from least crowded to more crowded, January, September and End of April/Beginning of May.
If you think about it for a minute, it has a fairly logical explanation. These are the times when kids are least likely to be able to get off of school. In January, everyone has just had their Christmas vacations. There are so many people that go to Disneyland over Christmas, that the weeks following are very low crowds.
My wife's birthday is at the beginning of January and we've gone to Disneyland with all the Christmas decorations and rides still up with less than 25% of the crowd level Christmas brings. Because all the kids have just had two to three weeks off for Christmas, very few people take their kids out of school the week they return to school.
The same logic is applied to September, when school has just begun. The kids have had 3 months of vacation, it almost seems wrong to have 5 days of school and then take a week long vacation, like they didn't have all summer.
The beginning of May is the reverse. School is about to end, final exams are going on. That's the worst time to take kids out of school to go on vacation. However, several schools across the country get out by Mid-May, so the last two weeks start to get busier.
If you can't make it to Disneyland during the best months (because your child's inability to leave school is contributing to the low crowds) then you need to plan for the next best thing.
February, April, End of May, End of August, and the Beginning of November, are all okay times to go to Disneyland.
February and April don't really have anything special going on in them, at least not holidays that people think of traveling to Disney for. The one exception might be an increase in couples on February 14th, but one day won't likely affect your entire vacation.
End of May is still early summer so some schools are out, but where I grew up in Pennsylvania, school is still in session until the beginning of June so the crowd levels are manageable.
End of August is the waning part of summer. Some schools, like those that ended early May, have already returned to school. Most families have completed their vacations by now.
Beginning of November is smashed between two holidays, and it tends to see a dip in the crowds as people would prefer to be at Disneyland during the "special" times of the year for celebrating.
The worst months you could possibly visit Disneyland are March, June-Beginning of August, October, and the End of November-Christmas.
March is spring break month, so you get a lot of people on vacation during this time. June through the beginning of August is very obviously summer and will draw lots of crowds. All indoor and water rides will have long lines as people try to get out of the heat.
October is an attractive time of year for people to go to Disneyland. Kids have been in school for a little while, so there's less guilt about pulling them out for vacation. It's a little cooler (not always, it was in the 90s this year) than summer. Though, probably the most important reason is a variety of holiday themed rides and attractions that crop up.
A particularly crowded week to avoid is the third week of October. This is when the Utah Education Assocation (UEA) Convention takes place. All schools in the entire state of Utah are off for the convention. UEA is often jokingly called Utah Escapes to Anaheim as that's how most families use their free time. My wife, a former Utah resident, told me about this, and I can confirm it as I noticed the increasing number of people wearing Utah shirts, sweaters, and coats during that time of year.
End of November through Christmas is fairly obvious. Holiday activities are still in full gear, and everyone wants to be a part of the fun. The absolute worst two weeks of the year for crowds are the week before Christmas and the week of.
I've never been to Disneyland over Christmas, but my wife has. It was so crowded, they told her family not to leave the park or they wouldn't be able to get back in because the park had reached capacity.
Obviously, you're going to have to go to Disneyland when it's most convenient for you and your family's schedules. But if you've got some options, try to plan your vacation during the times of year that prove to be less crowded.
Annual passholders, have you found my observations to be true? If you are not a passholder, when do you usually go to Disneyland and what's the main reason you go during that time?
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