When Should You go to Disney World

We get asked this question all the time.  When should you go to Disney World?  There is no easy answer for this question but I’ll try to give some recommendations here.  Ultimately you need to decide what works best for your family.  Many people looking to go are greatly hindered by their kid’s schedule at school.

The most difficult thing about your vacation to the most magical place on earth may actually be leaving.

disney-world-we-are-sad-to-leave

Crowds

I think the major thing most people consider is the crowds.  The day of entering a park at rope drop and having it to yourself is all but over, even when the crowds are at their lowest.  No matter when you go, you will have some crowds to deal with, but how those crowds affect you can greatly be mitigated.  We will have a comprehensive guide to the crowds at Disney World coming soon.

In the meantime, we will break the crowds down into four categories:

  1. Low
    1. Mid January through most of February
    2. The first two weeks of May
    3. The last half of August
    4. September
    5. The last half of October through the fist week of November
    6. The first week of December
  2. Moderate
    1. January 4 through Mid January
    2. The third week in February
    3. The first half of March
    4. The last half of April
    5. The last half of May
    6. The first two weeks in June
    7. The first half of October
    8. The second week in December
  3. High
    1. The second half of March
    2. The first week of April
    3. All of July through the first half of August
    4. Thanksgiving Weekend
  4. For the love of all that is Holy I can’t even walk around
    1. December 24th through January 4th

Low crowds are obviously ideal, but they are low for a reason.  Most people are not afforded the time to go during this time due to life’s schedule, be it kid’s school or work.  We typically try for Low or Moderate times to go which is a good balance.  We have also been during high crowd times and it is very manageable if you make good use of FastPass+ and dining reservations (more on that another time).

We have not visited during the “For the love of all that is Holy I can’t even walk around” time but April really wants to go for Christmas sometime.  Based on people we have spoken with and other reviewers it can be shockingly busy.  I know for fact that Walt Disney World does have a capacity limit and will close parks to entry of new guests when they reach it.  This has, in fact, happened in July which I would consider a High month.

christisn-with-tinkerbell

I think our best trip was the time we went for the first two weeks of December in 2012, but I’m probably biased because Tinkerbell landed on me in that trip.  But the crowds were good.  We even were able to walk on many rides, something that definitely would not happen later in December.  Early December can be considered Low – Moderate.  Late December is definitely High.

Special Events

Another consideration to make on making your decision is special events.  We love, love, love the Food and Wine Festival.  April and I always make a date night and walk around and sample a bunch of the great international food that the best restaurants have to offer in Epcot (not to mention the wine and… ahem… beer).  You basically get a bite or two for each sample but the price is reasonable.  Try the escargot at the France pavilion.  Thank me later.

There are several special events throughout the year.  Some of them require a special pass that you must purchase and others are included with your Magic Your Way Base Ticket.

No matter what your interests are, there is likely a special event that you will enjoy.  We will have an events guide page coming soon so please check back for a more comprehensive guide for events.

Weather

Florida weather can be unpredictable.  No, you’re not going to get snow, but no matter when you visit you are likely to see at least a little rain.  The summer months can be absolutely sweltering.  Couple temperature in the 90’s during the day with high humidity and you will be sticky.

Conversely, the day time temperature in the winter months can be chilly.  The average temperature in January is a high of 71 and a low of 49.  Now if you’re from Chicago, a 60 degree day in January is going to feel nice and warm, but will it be warm enough to visit Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach?  That is up to you.  I will go to the water parks any time.

The water parks do stay open year round and they keep the water heated to a comfortable level.  They do close for inclement weather and if the temperatures get too low to keep the water a comfortable temperature.  If the water parks (or water rides) are on your “must do” list, you may want to make sure you are planning your vacation for when you can really enjoy them.

typhoon-lagoon-water-slide

The pools are a bit of a different story, at least to me.  All of the Walt Disney World Resort pools are also heated so you can also enjoy them year round.  It’s not as bad to make the short walk to get inside as it is if you’re out of the water for long periods of time hiking two the next slide, like you would be at a water park.

Back to the heat.

If you have to go in July or August there are ways to beat the heat.  They have a lot of shaded places and the dining rooms are all climate controlled.  Another option is to return to your resort or hotel in the heat of the day.  Take a lunch break and go back to the park when the sun is lower in the sky and the temperature is starting to drop.

Rain, rain, go away…

You will get wet in Orlando.  I think that goes without saying.  The rainy season typically starts in mid-May and runs through October.  That’s a long rain season.  With that said, most days it’s going to be a passing shower.

Speaking of rain, you know what brings a lot of it?  Hurricanes!  And Florida gets them.  Disney World does have a good hurricane policy but if this is a major concern of yours I would avoid September and October.  Personally, I would not avoid these months for this reason.  To the best of my knowledge Disney World has only closed the parks due to hurricanes twice, once in 2004 and once in 2005.  They do have an excellent policy and work hard to keep their guests safe and comfortable.

There is a lot to consider when planning your trip to Disney World.  It will be fun regardless of when you go.  There is always something magical to do no matter when you are there.

 

 

Our Fist Trip to Disney World

Our first trip to Disney World was many years ago.  I’m going to recount this tale of grandeur, what we learned from it and how I fell in love with all things Disney on this magical trip.  I understand these types of vacations and experiences are not for everyone.  They certainly used to not be for me! But now I look forward to our Walt Disney World vacation each and every year.  We are leaving for The Most Magical Place on Earth in 94 long days from the time of this writing.  And I cannot wait!

Many, many moons ago I got a call from Hilton Grand Vacations offering me a stay at their new facility in Orlando at a discounted rate.  I cannot remember the exact figure, but it was something like $160 for three nights at their new resort in Orlando.  April and I had already been talking about taking the kids to Disney World for a few years and we figured this would be a good, cheap way to do it, even though we knew we would have to endure a timeshare tour and inevitable hard close from a pushy timeshare salesperson.  We bit anyway.

April started to plan our vacation almost right away.  She was very excited and had never been to Disney World, but grew up in Southern California and was a frequent visitor of Disneyland.  I had been to WDW once as a teen.  At that time, there were only two parks: Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  From my experience, I honestly thought three or four days was plenty of time and was concerned about the kids getting bored of going to the same old couple of parks for longer than that.  To be completely honest, I was going a bit begrudgingly.  I was not looking forward to it.  I enjoyed our beach vacations (and still do), but I felt that it was my fatherly duty to take my kids to meet the mouse (Mickey!) and the princesses one time in their lives.

As April got deeper into her planning, she came to me with a problem.  She felt like we were not going to have enough time to experience everything we wanted to.  Initially, I resisted her pleas to extend our stay.  I wanted to go down there for a few days, then to to a North Carolina beach for the remainder of our time.  I was trapped in what my experiences were as a kid.  But she made a good case and a happy wife makes a happy life, so I relented.

Let me state, that at the time my perceptions of what the parks were from my visit as a teen, were wrong.  Dead wrong.

Because we were on a budget, April set forth to find another timeshare resort stay for less expensive lodging than The Hilton Grand Vacations.  She found a 4 night stay at the Calypso Cay Resort that sounded nice and booked it.

Side bar, your honor: We do not recommend Calypso Cay.  At all.  The rooms smell of mildew, cigarettes and some unknown chemical they have used in a failed attempt to remove the cigarette smell and kill the mildew that failed.  The place was a strange mixture of a nice resort and a dump.  The rooms were absolutely lousy, but the pools were actually quite nice.  Unfortunately, we were not able to use them much because of the weather (March).  I have nothing bad to say about the staff.  They were actually quite nice and helpful.

Back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

So, we now had a total of seven nights to stay in Orlando.  That’s plenty of time to get through everything in the parks (plus two timeshare tours).  I was sure of it.  Once again, I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  There is no way you can get through everything in one trip.  Our longest stay was at Animal Kingdom a number of years ago for 14 nights.  Even then we could not get through everything in every park and we were there in early December which is considered low season.  We will have a planning guide up soon, but in the meantime, just keep in mind that you will NOT get through everything you want in one trip.  Make a “must do” list and keep to it as much as possible, but even then, try not to be too disappointed if you miss something.  It’s about priorities and the needs of your family.

After we were through with all of our planning (and by we, I mean April) all we had left to do was wait.  Finally the day came and we got in our beloved Sienna, Bessy (may she rest in peace), for the 836 mile trip.  Our kids travel really well so the ride down was uneventful.

On day 1 we went to the Magic Kingdom.  I was unimpressed with the crowds getting into the park.  It’s not that it was busy, I’m just not big on crowds which is something I’ve been able to overcome since I now love all things Disney.  However, when we got to Main Street – USA, my vision of what Walt Disney World is was completely transformed.

We came in under Walt Disney World Railroad , walked through Town Square and landed on Main Street – USA.  From here we had a great view of the castle.  I was transformed.  I was seeing the sites and hearing the sounds and smelling the smells through my children.  And it was magical.

Iris, our youngest, was extremely excited about “going inside Cinderella’s Castle”.  We tried to explain to her that you could go through a tunnel under the castle, but not really “into” it.  Her young mind could not grasp it. So, we walked down Main Street past all of the sites and sounds and delicious smells.  As we walked, all the stress of work and everyday life melted away.  We went through the tunnel under the castle and came out the other side.  Iris seemed a bit confused about that, but not terribly disappointed.  After all, there is a bunch of stuff to distract you, so we just pointed out the next shiny thing.

magic_carpet

We made our way around the park for a little while, unsure of what to do.  We had no real plan (make a plan, folks).  At the time Disney was employing paper Fast Passes.  We had no idea what they were or how to use them, but we figured it out pretty quick.  After walking around aimlessly and enjoying the scenery and the immersion into Magic Kingdom (and it is magical) we finally decided to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

We all squeezed into one “carpet”.  The kids were still small enough for that (so was my waste line).  April, Josh and Iris sat up front and Kaelynn and I sat in the back.  Iris was enthralled that she could control how high the “carpet” went.  The delight on her face cannot be replaced by gold.

There were several things that happened that really made the experience magical for me.  April and I got to spend a lot of time with Kaelynn and Josh riding the bigger rides Iris could not ride yet.  We also got one on one time with Iris.  I got absolutely soaked on Splash Mountain.  To date, that’s the wettest I’ve been at a Disney World park,  other than a water park.

Iris and Ariel

Something also happened with Iris that I will remember for the rest of my life.  While I was off riding the big rides with the older two, April took Iris to the smaller kids’ area.  There she met Ariel in mermaid form, who at the time was Iris’ favorite princess.  That day was a slower day for Ariel so she took a lot of time with Iris.  They talked about how they shared red hair and what it was like to be a mermaid and all kinds of other things that were magical.  She even told Iris they could be sisters! A few days later, we were having dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Ariel came out in human form.  Iris sprung from her seat, grabbed Ariel’s hand, brought her to our table and  introduced her to Kaelynn, Josh and I, because we had not met her when Iris & April had a few days before.  *wink wink

Usually on our beach vacations, I need two or three days to decompress and completely forget about work.  I have found that at Disney World that happens immediately.  On our first trip (staying off Disney property) that happened when we entered the park on our first full day.  Since we have become Disney Vacation Club members, it happens from the time we hear the cast member checking us in say, “Welcome home.”

These vacations mean the world to me.  I know April and I are building magical memories that we will talk about and cherish forever.  Our kids will also remember them and how their daddy is transformed into something that he is not at home.  This is a place where we are all allowed to just be kids.  It is truly magical and I want all parents and kids to experience this.  It really is a magical place where dreams come true.