In Step 1 of Planning your Walt Disney World Vacation, you learned how to create a profile, using My Disney Experience. You now have a place to organize your tickets, FastPass+ reservations, dining reservations, and more. But, before you begin planning those elements, you should decide when you are traveling.
If it were up to me when I could travel, the answer would always be, “now!” But the commitments of life are the true dictators of my vacation time, as they surely are for you, too. There are eight factors to consider when choosing which of your 365 days will be spent at Walt Disney World.
1. Work Calendar
This one is often non-negotiable. There are limited vacation days, annual budget reviews, client meetings, conferences, seasonal shifts, and countless other requirements that limit our availability. Mickey won’t let you go for free so you better figure this one out first.
2. School Calendar
When children are part of the travel party, this is also a top consideration. Contributing factors include their ages, grade levels, current performance, family philosophy on missed days, school regulations, standardized testing dates, and special events.
3. Family Commitments
Check with family members for dates of graduations, weddings, performances, and other milestone events that you are obligated (or wish) to attend. Or use your vacation as an excuse to miss these events. I won’t judge.
Now I’d like to pause and congratulate you if you still have any time left at all to travel! And if you hit it big and have your choice of when to travel, then consider the remaining factors to nail down your dates:
Large crowds are the norm at Walt Disney World. Having a plan will keep you ahead of them.
4. Hotel Prices
See Crowds and Weather below. Bottom line is that low crowds and nasty weather equal lower hotel prices. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas can boast the most pleasant weather for the least amount of money. Most families have already taken time off school and work for the holidays, leaving the few days between quite lovely.
When the crowds are high, the prices go up! This is especially true when school is out of session during milder weather seasons such as Spring Break, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Many visitors also take advantage of long weekends during days off for Columbus Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, etc. Surprisingly, summer is no longer considered a peak travel season at Walt Disney World. See Weather for more information on that. Other factors to consider, on a somewhat lesser scale, are special events held by Disney throughout the year.
Airline prices follow the same schedule as the highest crowds. They know when your city will be on Spring Break, and they set their prices accordingly. Your best chance at low fares will be outside of the holidays listed above. Fortunately, they don’t generally care about Disney’s special events and prices won’t change much based on those.
Have you ever sat inside a sauna for an extended period of time? If so, then you know exactly how Orlando feels on most days from May through October. There is little relief in the morning or evening, and you can bet there will be a thunderstorm almost every afternoon during that time. August and September are probably the worst, when hurricane season is at its peak. Those two months also see some of the lowest prices and attendance for the year.
Yes, Disney has offered discounts on rooms, room/ticket, and room/ticket/dining packages. This does not mean they will continue to offer these discounts, but hope is always there. It is advised to book when you know what you want and find it available. Familiarize yourself with the cancellation policies and be prepared to re-book if you find it available later at a reduced price. It is wise to book the new, discounted reservation before you cancel a prior reservation. Discounts cannot always be applied to existing reservations.
So there you have it. Days of homework to set your vacation schedule. Once your dates are set, the fun part of the planning begins!