Before we go any further, I need you understand something. Once upon a time, during certain times of the year, the Walt Disney World Resort had a lull in park crowds and resort guests. But Disney being the company that it is, found ways to all but alleviate those quieter months (hello Free Dining! waving at you Epcot Food & Wine Festival!). Now there are no slow times (so please stop asking).
The better question to ask is “When is Walt Disney World less busy?”
First of all, when planning your trip to WDW, it’s important to understand when the crowds are wall to wall and when you should avoid Disney at all costs (if you can). Some of the more busy times of the year historically are:
- Summer Vacation: Many parents frown at the idea of pulling their kids out of school during the school year and prefer to visit during the summer months (end of May-end of August). Teachers also fall into this category because of their work schedule. Not only are these months the hottest, they also tend to be packed with other like-minded families. Your best bet if planning a summer Walt Disney World visit is to plan it close to the end of the summer season (late August). Crowds will likely dissipate as many southern school districts are already back in session. (NOTE: While historically speaking, summer tends to be a more crowded time, this looks to be changing. If you don’t mind the heat, I’d roll the dice with a summer visit!)
- Holidays: What’s better than a holiday? Celebrating a holiday at Disney World of course! Some of the more crowded holidays times at Mickey’s house include Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. If you want to experience the holiday festivities with lower crowds, consider visiting before or after the holiday week if possible.
- Special Events: runDisney is a very popular event that runs on designated weekends throughout the year. A wide variety of marathons are held throughout the theme parks for guests who want to “discover the most enchanting running events on Earth!” During these weekends, the parks (and resorts) fill up very quickly so it’s best to avoid visiting during runDisney events if you can. Another event that draws big resort and park crowds is the Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading competition. This is usually held the first week of December and has the biggest impact on the crowds and accommodations at the value resorts, though these crowds tend to also spill into the parks as well.
- School Breaks: Beware of Spring Break, Jersey Week, and other school holidays when considering when to visit. Remember that different parts of the country follow different schedules, so just because your kids have off from school doesn’t mean the rest of the country is following the same calendar (and vice versa).
Less Busy Times to Visit Walt Disney World
Crowd calendars (and personal experience) says that in terms of crowds the less busy (notice I didn’t say slow) times to visit are:
- In between holidays and special events: If you can book your vacation when there are little to no special happenings at Walt Disney World, you would be less likely to encounter massive crowds.
- During Historically Low-Crowd Times: These include the entire month of September, early October, late November (after Thanksgiving), late January through mid-February, the entire month of March (assuming Easter doesn’t coincide), early through mid-May, and late August.
Tips for Determining Crowd Levels
- It’s important to reiterate that historically certain times of the year have been slow at Walt Disney World, but in terms of Disney crowds, this can still be busy (think 60-minute ride waits vs. 2-hour waits).
- Consider new attractions/events/land openings. For instance, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is slated to open sometime this fall/winter. When it does you can all but throw these historical stats out the window. The announcement of anything new at Disney will all but guarantee an upswing in crowd levels. The bigger the scale of the opening, the more heavy the crowds will be.
- Crowd Calendars are a good way to gauge crowd levels. There are plenty of Walt Disney World crowd calendars available online (some with a small upcharge to use). Don’t rely on these 100%, but they are good for getting a general idea. Also, consult more than one and average the information you gather, as they tend to vary.
- Educate yourself about what special events may be taking place at the time of your desired visit. Things like runDisney, Pop Warner, and various other competitions and special events will greatly impact crowd levels.
- Is Disney running specials? If Disney is running room specials or Free Dining deals, you can almost certainly assume that they are trying to fill rooms due to low capacity. What does this mean for you? Besides the potential for good deals, this is a great tell-tale indication of a potentially slow time.
- Make the best of it. Whether or not your visit is met with record-level crowds, there are some ways you can minimize your stress and make for an enjoyable vacation. Remember to make your dining and FastPass reservations ASAP, consider going back to your room for a mid-afternoon break, rope drop the parks if possible, and smile because you are, after all, at the Most Magical Place on Earth!