Dan Anderson / Contributor
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Let’s face it: planning a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t easy. Even after you make the reservations, book the FastPasses, and pack up the family’s luggage, you could roll up to the parks only to discover 30,000 runners and their families have descended upon Orlando for a princess-themed half marathon.
These days, with the many events, openings, and seasonal celebrations at Walt Disney World there tends to be a busy season and a busier season with not much in between—except for a few pockets throughout the year that in-the-know visitors know by heart.
You’re unlikely to ever take an afternoon stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. without some assemblage of a crowd, but the soul-crushingly long waits, jam-packed walkways. and never-ending lines known for crushing vacation spirits are far from view if you stick to this sweet spot crowd calendar.
Attendance has seemingly ballooned at unexpected times over the past few years, so anything is possible, but historically? Your best bet for beating Walt Disney World crowds and enjoying a low-key stroll around Epcot or the rest of the parks is booking during one of the following:
While the month as a whole tends to be one of the slowest, the first week sees New Year’s Eve crowds and tens of thousands of attendees for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 4th – 8th). After that, the parks get much quieter. Even though Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Weekend (January 14th -16th) can get somewhat busy, it shouldn’t be overwhelming.
The first three weeks of the month are generally less busy, making for an easy visit. Avoid the end of the month, particularly February 23 – 26th, when participants and festivities for runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend wholly take over the parks.
Though traveling over Spring Break may be more convenient, the first two weeks of the month see much lower crowds, with most families waiting to visit just a few weeks later.
Both months tend to get extremely busy, but guests can avoid heavy traffic and long waits by visiting during the small sliver of time between the spring and summer school holidays. Anytime between April 24th and mid-May can be a welcomed reprise from the bustling park crowds on either end.
Wait times for even the most popular attractions dwindle significantly in the last two weeks of the month, with the parks emptying out as summer visitors head home.
The September holiday tends to see the lowest traffic for any three-day weekend throughout the year, but 2017 could be a gamble. For the first year ever, Epcot’s popular Food and Wine Festival starts two weeks earlier, overlapping the entire month of September. Still, if you’re looking for a holiday weekend to travel to Walt Disney World, we recommend this one.
Traffic ebbs and flows throughout the month, which can sometimes work in visitors’ favor. Many October evenings offer Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties, a ticketed event (with shortened ride lines) that sees the Magic Kingdom closing at 7pm a few times each week. Attendees adore the whimsical festivities—which are less busy towards the beginning of the month—but park-hopping guests closer to the 31st may grow weary of the restricted hours and inflated overflow crowds at the other three parks.
The beginning of the month can be busy due to runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November 2nd to 5th) and Food and Wine Festival (ends November 14th), but two weeks before Thanksgiving—right in the middle of the month—is golden, and great for getting an early dose of holiday festivities.
Walt Disney World goes over the top with yuletide spirit with decor and events, but visiting over the Christmas holiday can be nutty. Instead, view the gingerbread houses and oversized trees in their full glory in early December when the crowds can be somewhat sparse, especially during the week.