When to Go? Part 2
by Steve Russo, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the August 21, 2007 Issue #413 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In this second of a two-part series, author Steve Russo takes a look at the importance of planning your Walt Disney World vacation, emphasizing the key factors to consider when deciding when to travel to Orlando. Part I of this article (Issue #408, July 17, 2007) can be found in our newsletter archives: http://allears.net/ae/issue408.htm)
Visiting Walt Disney World during a holiday week can offer mixed blessings. The holiday itself may provide some special ceremony or attraction (think Independence Day with fireworks on steroids) but, considering that the schools are out and nobody's at work, the place could be mega-crowded.
In some cases, for instance Christmas, you can visit during the holiday season and take advantage of all the Disney preparations without falling victim to the crowds on the actual holiday. Visiting between Thanksgiving Week and Christmas Week will provide you with resorts and parks that are decorated to the max for the holidays, holiday music everywhere, special attractions such as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, the Candlelight Processional and the Osborne Lights, with none of the crowds that will be there for the actual holiday.
My advice is to visit in December (actually anything post-Thanksgiving week) but avoid Christmas Week. Or, if you want to go a bit earlier, here's a special treat for you -- visit over Halloween and hit the Magic Kingdom on November 1. The previous evening, tons of folks will be at the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party -- and they'll stay late. I visited the Magic Kingdom once on November 1 and it was the least crowded park I have ever seen.
Personally, though, I would advise you to avoid the major holidays like the plague. The reports that I've read from folks who have visited on Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and the Fourth of July indicate a shoulder-to-shoulder stroll down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and the need to find a spot for viewing the fireworks at Epcot approximately eight hours in advance. That is certainly not my cup of tea, but it may be yours. If, like many people, you feel the need to be at Walt Disney World on one of these special days, please plan, plan, plan (and plan some more) so you're as prepared for what you'll face as is humanly possible. In the reports I've read, the folks that were most pleased with their holiday experience were those who knew precisely what to expect and planned for it.
You may choose to visit Walt Disney World to celebrate a special date in your life. It may be as simple as a birthday, anniversary or the day you had your wisdom teeth removed; or as complex as a large wedding and reception.
Not a month goes by without Walt Disney World providing you with a reason to attend: from the Christmas holiday season to Pirate and Princess Parties to the Flower and Garden and Food and Wine Festivals. If there's not a reason to attend in any specific month, they'll invent one or offer you some kind of great deal like the free Disney Dining Plan. There was a time that Walt Disney World had regular and predictable lulls in attendance. Typically, there would be a level of discounts offered during those periods designed to increase occupancy at the resorts. The frugal among us might sit back and wait for those discounts before planning a vacation. While this scenario still exists, it is certainly to a lesser degree than years past. The lines that represent sharp rises and drops in attendance have been smoothed considerably by Disney's marketing.
Should you be sucked in by these promotions? Absolutely; just understand what effect, if any, they will have on your vacation. As an example, the Food and Wine Festival is a lot of fun but it does attract more people to Epcot's World Showcase -- particularly on weekends, where there's a significant crowd boost from the locals. If you're truly not at all into the Food and Wine type activities, you may want to consider avoiding those dates, or at least avoiding World Showcase on the weekends. Ditto for the other scheduled functions and celebrations that occur throughout the year.
When you do your homework, you will discover that Walt Disney World will actually charge different rates for their resort hotels based upon the time of year. That shouldn't be surprising to anyone but it often is. Disney knows that a lot of people will want to visit during Christmas Week. As a result, they're comfortable in charging the highest resort prices while knowing they will be able to achieve maximum occupancy. On the other side of the coin, if they tried to charge the same rates in January, people would stay away in droves. My advice is to become familiar with Walt Disney World's pricing seasons while considering when to go. The specific seasons will vary from year to year and, sometimes, from resort to resort. The following is an approximate breakdown from least (crowded and expensive) to most:
Value Season After New Year's Day until mid-February
August and September
After Thanksgiving until Christmas Week
Regular Season Mid-April until mid-May
October through Thanksgiving
Summer Late May through early August
Peak Season Mid-February (Presidents' Week, typically) through mid-April
Holiday Season Christmas Week through New Year's Day
THINGS I THINK YOU SHOULD THINK
If you live in a cold weather climate, you should think about traveling to Walt Disney World in the winter -- you'll appreciate the break in the weather. No matter where you live, the period between Thanksgiving and mid-February (excluding the week from Christmas to New Year's) is a great time to travel to Walt Disney World. The crowds will, for the most part, be very light and the weather, while unpredictable, is usually fine. Even if you get a few of those chilly Florida days, you can dress for it -- unlike the summer where they enforce a limit on how much clothing can be removed.
If the winter is not for you, you can think about going whenever you please, unless you have school-age children. With school-age children, you should think about restricting your visits to school vacations... unless you're agreeable to pulling them from school for a few days. Do you need or want to be there during any specific holiday or special celebration? Do you need to plan for a reduced price season? All this will impact your selection of the dates for your vacation.
You should think about doing the necessary research and planning based on the specific requirements of your trip. Spend some time surfing the Web and visit a few of the online Disney communities. If you find one you like, take up residency there. Ask your questions and, above all, weigh the answers. Opinions are just that and they tend to flow freely on Disney-related sites.
Once you've made up your mind and selected the dates, then start thinking about where you want to stay...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Russo, an IT Consultant who lives in East Greenbush, NY, made his first trip to Walt Disney World in 1984 and was immediately hooked. Now a Disney Vacation Club Member, Steve and his wife Barbara have three grown children, a grandson and a black lab named Gunnar.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.