Ask which hotel to stay at in Orlando, and you’ll get a different answer every time! The answer is going to be very subjective, and will totally depend on you, your preferences, and your personal needs. I will never forget the first time I logged onto Disney World’s website back in 2001 and marveled at all of the incredible options! The theming and details in the resorts has never disappointed me, and I know folks who have enjoyed every single one of them so know right now: whichever one looks good to you, will be wonderful indeed!
This is a question I see a lot, and today I’m going to share our personal answer as well as notes on each month. Because honestly? The “best time” is whatever time you can go! Ok but as that is not especially helpful I will explain when we go/why as well as why we avoid other months.
When we like to go: Mid November through February is our window. The two weeks after Thanksgiving used to be the sweet spot, but alas our kids are old enough that taking them out of school for extended periods is just too hard now. Yes, while in elementary school we’d fill out independent study paperwork and no absences were recorded. Awesome! For our next visit we will likely try President’s Day week or Thanksgiving week. Busy? YES! But we can work around that.
When we won’t go: April – October is hot, stormy, most of that time is hurricane season, and it rains. a ton. As I am typing this Orlando has been having rain daily for… well a long time. Reports I’ve seen from those there right now are that it’s been generally miserable. Why would we spend all that money to do that? I’d take cool and holiday crowds over hot and soaked by monsoon rains.
When should you go? We know a LOT of folks go during the large chunk of the year we won’t even consider going during, and we know they have a wonderful time! I believe there are a few factors to consider:
- heat & humidity tolerance. Be honest – how do you do? How will you do when it is hot and you can’t escape the high humidity?
- work/school schedules – most of us have to work around this, leaving few windows when its possible
- how are you with crowds? They can’t be avoided – but some times are lets say maxed out vs others. Will that be a problem?
Those three factors may narrow your choices down quite a bit! When narrowing to exact dates within a month, take a look at any races, festivals, local happenings, and other details that could swing the crowds heavily. That said, I wouldn’t avoid many dates (outside the week between Christmas and New Year, and 4th of July) for fear of crowds. There is one thing I always assume:
It will be busy, and there will be crowds
Going in with this mindset I am never disappointed about lines, upset about crowds, or expecting the place to myself. It’s Disney World, and they do their best to keep it hopping!
Month by month guide:
January: Crowds tend to be lower in general, weather cooler, and the start of the Festival of the Arts (in recent years) has been a plus. If you’re living in a cold weather location this could feel nice and warm! Some years our kids have the first week in January off, and I believe going New Year’s through then could be a great trip/time with the parks beginning busy and getting quieter as the trip went on.
February: Our personal sentimental favorite (honeymoon!) and now with Festival of the Arts (in recent years) happening for the first part of the month, a real contender for a top pick on when to go. The weather could swing cold… or warm. We’ve needed jackets some visits, and been in shorts other days. Florida winter isn’t steady cold!
March: Weather could be warming up – or not. This last year it seemed to stay a bit cool. Now for us, this is great! But if you’re wanting some heat you may want to wait a month. On the upside – the Flower & Garden festival will be happening at Epcot! If this is a good month for you, I can’t think of a single reason not to go this month.
April: Flower & Garden festival, and if you time it right maybe some Easter Eggs (assuming Easter is in April) – and weather is getting warmer.
May: Still Flower & Garden Festival… and weather still warming up. This year May saw quite a bit of rain – so remember summer and fall are the rainiest times in Florida!
June – July: It’s going to be hot, humid, and some days you should expect afternoon storms. It’s going to be crowded with summer visitors- though not necessarily any more so than other times of the year. The park hours should be long (yay) – but you’ll need it as afternoons are brutal and demand lengthy pool breaks.
August: I really have nothing nice to say about August. The weather is just getting more humid, storms more likely, and there are no special events to speak of. This would be my pick for worst possible month to go.
September: The upside is a full month of Halloween parties and fun.. and the epic Food & Wine festival at Epoct! The downside is that (for us) you also get oppressive heat, humidity, and threat of hurricanes. I’ve watched storms go through and while it might not be “that bad” at Disney World itself – have fun with your flights. I just would not want to be anywhere near any of that, it makes me way too anxious! If stormy travels don’t make you nervous or you can drive via car? This could be an ok choice.
October: If it wasn’t for the heat, humidity, and storms (oh yes, it’s still storming) I would seriously consider an October visit. The Halloween parade alone (at the special Halloween parties held a few times a week) looks worth a trip! Seasonal food, the Food & Wine Festival too! I think the last few days of October + first week of November could make a really fun trip!
November: The first half of the month you’ve got Food & Wine Festival winding down, and usually by around the 10th or so the Christmas parties have begun. Yes, they start the party early! It could still be quite warm… but less so. With days shortening there are a lot of opportunities for cool night touring and yet enough warmth for pools & fun. We’ve been this month before – and I dare say we’ll go again. On our last trip we took a Disney Cruise to Castaway Cay (worth it!) and then moved to Disney World where we enjoyed the final day of Food & Wine, then a week of the parks. I can definitely recommend this to you – even with Thanksgiving crowds. We’ve also been the week after Thanksgiving and that was absolutely lovely as well- though no Epcot festivals or fun was happening.
December: I could really argue this is the best month to go. Everything is beautifully decorated, there are parties, huge gingerbread displays, characters in seasonal attire… and the weather tends to be good. Celebrities host nightly Candlelight Processionals in Epcot, and I could go on. They really get into the season. Our 2016 trip we had 3 days where it was over 85 and a bit humid, but the rest of the trip was mild in 70s at most. We’ve had it dip into chilly – it is winter and the evenings can be cold especially- but that adds to the Christmas spirit!
Whether you take storm risks or battle summer heat or Christmas crowds a day at Disney World is better than a day most anywhere else… most of the time! Taking the time to visit some weather websites for historical information, reading up on special events, and really being honest with yourself about what you are getting into are all worth it when investing in a Disney vacation. There are sites (TouringPlans.com is my personal favorite) that have crowd calendars and predictions… but I really wouldn’t pick a week based on low crowds. I would avoid say race weekends or other events like that which raise prices on rooms and guarantee more crowds, but only if I had a lot of flexibility in planning.
I really believe that good planning of your trip and use of the fast pass system will beat a low crowd guessing game on every trip. But more about what to do in high crowds another day! As we begin planning our next trip (hopefully 2019!) I will continue to share posts here about planning, taking, and making the most of your Disney vacations.
When it comes to traveling to Disney World- it tends to be one big splurge. Treat ‘Yo Self to all the fun, act like kids, and soak in the enjoyment of a good vacation. It’s a huge reason why we only visit every few years! That said, there are definitely areas that we can (and often do) cut corners and save money on our trips!
1. DIY Breakfast is one thing we almost always do. We bring breakfast bars, and store some milk and juice in the in-room fridge. We generally book the earliest possible lunch (usually 11/1130) so we can just have a really inexpensive start, avoid the excess calories, and save time too! You can bring things with you (such as cereal, granola bars, etc), or you can make a grocery store run (or have groceries delivered) and include some afternoon snacks too.
2. Limit the souvenirs and don’t over spend on things you won’t still want at home. As much fun as new ears, toys, and pins can be – this is an area a lot of us could cut a ton off – and still be happy! Just be selective and set budget or item # limits. Remember that you can often get items (sometimes at a good discount!) on ShopDisney.com and the Shop Disney Parks app.
3. Don’t over shop before the trip! From custom etsy T-shirts to more new things than you really need – be careful! Those dollars add up quickly. While pre-shopping for some things can save you money – proceed with caution.
4. Skip car rental and just take the bus. From the airport Disney provides you transportation that is complementary pretty much everywhere you go. We always use Disney transportation (a perk from staying on site!) from monorail to boats to buses – and it’s so nice to sit back, relax, and just let someone else drive. Not to mention the money we save not renting a car.
5. Think carefully about your extras. From character meals to tours to picking a room with a view instead of a basic view- extras add up and quick! Often they are worth it – but since they can add up to hundreds of dollars just for one princess lunch these extras can double a budget.
Finally, one of the biggest pitfalls to avoid is not running the math. For example, the Dining Plan that many consider a good value, for us would have actually cost more than what we spent in reality on food. Another example is renting a car so that you can stay farther away for less and/or leave to eat meals someplace much less expensive than Disney. From parking fees to time spent getting to and from the parks – consider all the factors.
Overall, what we do is to cut expenses and save as much as we can at home, and only visit every few years when we’ve saved up enough money to enjoy the trip we’d like to have within reason. While a stay in a suite or with all the extras would be nice – we find that a middle ground of staying in a DVC studio and enjoying just a few extras suits us just fine!
From dining reservations to making payments on a cruise – as the main planner of the family I always have a calendar with dates, sticky notes, and reminders. But what about when the trip starts to get close? When you can really get excited? That’s when a Disney countdown calendar comes in handy!
First let’s talk DIY options – here are a few we have done:
- Countdown “chain” – make loops of cardstock, chain them together, remove a link each day until it’s time to go!
- Countdown sign – make two sets of 0-9 numbers and “count down” moving the day down each new day. Not a favorite but it works
- Printed calendar to hang on wall (DIY tutorial for this option in this post!)
- Simply marking the important countdown dates in a planner/family calender
Our favorite is a colorful and visual “countdown” calendar. You can use a ruler to draw your own, print a template, or what we did was to print 5 rows x 7 column EXCEL sheets to create approximately 95 days of counting down fun. This was by far the fastest easiest option to give us a blank template to play with.
note: we did make one whooooops (see above: there is only 1 square for 11 & 12…) but we left it. These things work out!
Once printed the “how-to” steps go like so:
- Tape together the sheets (if multiple used) so the squares line up.
- Add the numbers for countdown (hand drawn, stickers, stamps, etc)
- Add stickers and decorative elements
- Hang it up, and count it down!
We created a short YouTube video to share this process as well.
What we like about this is that it is fun, easy, and quick as well! It also lets us use up random crafty stickers and have a visual reminder of the vacation we are excited for.
You might notice this countdown is to Europe – we’re very excited to be in the final months before our trip to Disneyland Paris and a Disney Cruise! We have a lot of videos and blog posts planned about that trip including packing, character meals, and everything in between.
For this project one more thing I will note: If you want you can also include “Disney themed days” or plans. For example 101 Dalmatians, or watching Frozen 32 days (aka freezing!) prior. 7 days to go Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs… you get the idea!
If you have your own countdown traditions or ideas we would love to hear them. Share here!