Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
There’s no bad time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando — but some times are better than others. In years past, there were predictable “slow seasons” and “busy seasons.” However, after the park temporarily closed in March 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, things became less predictable.
In addition to Disney adding more special events and upping the length of its festivals, Disney’s theme park reservation system has kept crowds in check by limiting the number of guests allowed to visit a park on any given day.
That said, there are still ways to avoid the most crowded days and make the most of your time at Disney World. A Disney World vacation is optimal when prices are lower, the thermometer hovers between 70 and 80 degrees, and the wait times are at their shortest. There’s no longer a true off-season at Disney, but there are times of the year when those favorable conditions are more likely to occur.
Best time of year for weather at Disney World
This will shock exactly no one, but Orlando is hot and sticky in summer. Temperatures typically sizzle in the 90s during the day, and humidity is through the roof. Those factors combine to create a heat index that can exceed 100, according to Weather U.S.
From June through August, you’ll get a break from the heat most afternoons for an hour or so … during monsoon-like rains with thunder and lightning. Once the storms end, you’ll be comfortable outdoors for about another hour before the oppressive heat returns — but expect some extra humidity while everything is damp.
Related: Best credit cards for theme parks
For the best weather at Disney, visit between October and December. By that time, you are less likely to deal with daily rain, and temperatures are more moderate. There are still plenty of warm days, but summer’s heat and humidity have passed. You likely won’t deal with the cold (by Florida standards) temperatures that come in January and February.
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Best time for certain activities
Price aside, plan your visit around what you like to do. Water parks are most appealing during the hot summer months when you’d rather not sweat it out in the theme parks all day. Golf is best in spring and fall — unless you’re an early bird who likes hitting the greens in the cool of dawn.
If you’re headed to the massive ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, time your visit by the calendar of events to watch tournaments you’ll enjoy. If someone invites you to a wedding at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion or elsewhere, bring a hat for the sun and a sweater for the air conditioning.
Seasonal events at Disney World
From themed parties to food and wine festivals, special events are big at Disney World. The best time to visit could be when your favorite event is happening.
Learn new gardening techniques and see detailed topiaries that resemble Disney characters at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. It runs for four months, from early spring through the start of summer. Not only does it features Disney topiaries, but it also offers festival-specific eats and concerts by your favorite bands from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
There are fewer events during the summer at Disney World. However, the LGBTQI+ community holds its Gay Days gatherings in Orlando. That event can draw tens of thousands of excited visitors and increase daily attendance at the designated park.
Walt Disney World has also added more separately ticketed after-hours events — such as the H2O Glow After Hours at Typhoon Lagoon — that let you enjoy more time in the parks with fewer crowds.
Culinary enthusiasts should time their visits with Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival. It features global food and drink stands, free concerts and more. The festival spans nearly four months, starting in late July and stretching into mid-November.
Don’t forget to pack a costume and join the ghoulish crowd at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a ticketed event at The Magic Kingdom that runs from August until Halloween.
Starting the day after the final Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Disney magically transforms overnight from a spooky destination to a winter wonderland. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at The Magic Kingdom is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.
This party is a ticketed event at The Magic Kingdom that runs from early November through Christmas. Disney also embraces the holiday spirit at the after-hours Disney Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios. Additionally, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays offers several global incarnations of St. Nick, plus a nightly Candlelight Processional.
When Disney World crowds are smaller
You can’t completely escape the crowds at Disney World. Its four theme parks received roughly 47 million visitors through the turnstiles in 2022, according to the Theme Index and Museum Index of the Themed Entertainment Association. That’s not even including folks who show up only for the golf, water parks, shopping, dining, spas, entertainment and conferences. The Orlando area, in total, received approximately 74 million visitors in 2022 alone.
On big holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Disney World gets so packed that The Magic Kingdom — the most iconic of the theme parks — can reach maximum capacity. The sister parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot, draw hordes, too, though not to the same extent. You’ll likely wait longer for rides, food and character encounters.
If you do visit on a holiday, try to visit a park other than the one where the main celebration is being held. On the Fourth of July, for example, The Magic Kingdom and Epcot hold special fireworks shows. If you visit Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios on those days, you will probably see fewer crowds and shorter wait times.
Although it isn’t always feasible, try to visit when most kids are in school to avoid the biggest crowds.
The ideal times are weekdays after Thanksgiving break and before families descend for winter break. The weather will be cooler, and the lines will be shorter than at other times of the year. Also, the weeks after Labor Day but before school breaks begin in the fall can also be good times to avoid crowds (but know that September weather is still steamy in Orlando).
Other less-busy times can be in late January and early May — again, especially during the midweek days before and after most school spring breaks.
Cheapest dates to visit Disney World
It’s no coincidence that when the crowds are lighter, ticket prices are lower. In late 2018, Disney World moved to a ticket pricing system that features higher prices on some dates than others.
On less-crowded midweek dates in August and September, for example, you can find single-day tickets for $109. However, during peak demand times between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, ticket prices can jump closer to $160 per day. Weekends also tend to cost more than weekdays.
More affordable airfare
If you have the luxury of flexible dates, you can find cheap flights to Orlando International Airport (MCO) during the less expensive times at the theme parks in August and September, according to statistics from the flight search engine Skyscanner.
Related: How to find cheap airfare
When hotel prices are lower
Disney has more than 20 resort hotels that provide perks, such as extended theme park hours and complimentary transportation to and from Disney’s theme parks. As with all hotels, prices ebb and flow with demand — including when you book with rented Disney Vacation Club points.
Walt Disney World’s value hotels, such as All-Star Sports or Art of Animation, offer prices that can start at or below $100 per night during the slower season. During peak season, even those value resorts can see rates climb higher than $250 per night.
If you have your eye on a deluxe resort — such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Contemporary or the Riviera Resort — prices can start under $400 per night during the slow season and soar to more than $1,000 per night during peak periods.
Disney also offers regular hotel discounts that can save you hundreds of dollars on your stay. Disney+ subscribers should especially be on the lookout for these offers, but you can check the Disney World website at any time for special offers available to the public.
How many Marriott points it costs to stay in the on-property Disney Swan or Dolphin properties also varies based on standard, peak or off-peak dates, so when you go will affect the total cost of your trip to Disney World.
We hesitate to say there’s a bad time to visit Disney World, but there are times that are definitely less crowded and easier to enjoy. By finding the sweet spot for your schedule, factoring in Disney’s slower seasons and any special events you want to experience, you can maximize the magic while saving money — and your sanity.
Additional reporting by Tarah Chieffi.