The Worst Times to Go to Walt Disney World

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation requires a lot of legwork — but the first decision you’ll need to make is when to go. This decision might also be the most difficult to make. Many guests have only certain times they can travel due to school and work schedules. Others may want to avoid the sweltering summer months, while still others will eschew the holiday crowds.

And now with date-based ticket pricing, you need to wade through more information than ever before when making your decision — even if you’re still locked into a certain time of year because of other factors.

Most visitors to Walt Disney World will agree, though, that exploring the World is better when crowd levels are low. Based on that, we’re going to take a look at worse times to visit, that is, some of the times that typically see higher crowds. Some of these times are obvious — like Spring Break and the holidays — but others might surprise you!

Major Holidays

The most crowded major holiday to visit the parks is always going to be Christmas. With many schools and businesses having a block of time off then, a trip to Walt Disney World fits a lot of people’s schedules. Plus you get to go to sunny Florida in the chilly first days of winter and experience the parks dressed up in their finest!

Main Street USA Christmas Night

Except… traveling to the World this time of year also means being elbow-to-elbow with many thousands of like-minded guests. If the winter holiday season is the only time your family can travel, be sure to plan far ahead. Line up Fastpass+ for rides with notoriously long lines (we’re looking at you, Flight of Passage and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train!), and book Advance Dining Reservations to ensure you’ll get a table at the restaurants you want.

Spring Break isn’t precisely a holiday, but many school districts around the country align their Spring Break with Easter. Subsequently, Disney World has become a popular place to hop off to for the holiday.

Other busy holidays include New Year’s Eve, when the nighttime shows at Magic Kingdom and Epcot are wildly popular; Thanksgiving week, when many guests will extend the holiday through the early part of the week; and July 4th, when lots of folks are getting time off for the summer.

But even more minor holidays see elevated crowd levels if they create a long weekend. Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day are all busier times than normal — but don’t quite reach the level of Christmas.

School Breaks

Spring Break over the Easter holiday isn’t the only school break time you have to watch out for. There are high crowd counts on weeks from late-February through mid-April due to the different breaks offered in various regions of the country. Summer vacation is another time that families travel, although the heat may keep some folks away.

Special Events

Special events at Walt Disney World are a huge draw and almost guarantee higher crowd levels.

In recent years, it seems that Disney may be selling more tickets to special events, like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Because the offerings at these events are sometimes a one-time deal (like a meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington!), the parks may be more crowded than you’d expect.

Star Wars day is a Disney-created fan day that draws crowds. Other events to consider are fan days that are not necessarily created by Disney, even though Disney World may acknowledge them in a small way (with pins or special cupcakes, for example). Bats Day, Dapper Day, and Gay Day are all events to consider when you make your plans. The dates for these events vary from year-to-year.

Other Days You Might Not Think About

Jersey Week, the first week of November, is when most schools in the state of New Jersey have a couple of days off for teacher workshops. Not surprisingly, lots of travelers from that state will flood into Disney World during that time.
Pop Warner Football and Cheerleader Championships take place during early December. This means many, many kids in matching team t-shirts swelling the lines of every popular ride in the parks, not to mention filling the rooms at Disney World’s value and moderate resorts.

Overall

No matter when you take your trip to Walt Disney World, planning ahead will help ensure you have a great time. Sometimes just knowing what to expect in terms of crowds can help to mitigate some frustration. And if you are a bit flexible and can take advantage of the lower prices offered by date-based pricing, you might be able to cut out that stress altogether! Remember that some crowds might be easier to swallow than others (for example you might prefer the cheerfulness of Marathon runners to the frenetic energy of teenage cheerleaders).
Whenever you’re in the World, make the most of it, and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Planning your next Disney vacation? Be sure to check out our Rate and Review section to read honest observations from AllEars.Net Readers!

The Worst Times To Go To Disney World

Sarah has built a career in communications and marketing that started when she was the editor of her high school newspaper. She has written for AllEars.net since 2018, and enjoys sharing Disney news and updates with the AllEars community. She's been a Disney fan ever since her first visit to Walt Disney World when she was 5, and has been known to arrange trips around visiting a Disney park!

14 Replies to “The Worst Times to Go to Walt Disney World”

  1. We went this summer for the first time in four years. I used to love planning the trips when it came to deciding where to eat, but now that it is scrambling to plan fast passes and extra magic hours and dining, the task just became too daunting. Our trip planner asked us what rides we like and what restaurants we wanted and she was the one who stressed about the 180 day early-morning window of time to book. Made our trip stress-free knowing that everything we wanted was scheduled and planned for. She even linked it to the My Disney App for us. I suggest reaching out to a travel planner – at no cost to you.

  2. Remember that the South American youth tour groups are there at the start of July, added to the general July 4th extra traffic, it can be a nightmare. DHS can be unbearable, particularly if Fantasmic is operating.

  3. People who are not from NJ have no idea about Jersey Week. I can tell you from working for Disney, Jersey Week is definitely very very busy. Rooms aren’t available for that week from like April onward. Same thing with the first 10 days of December.

  4. Ken, you are right, since fast passes I think the lines have become longer. Also dinner reservations have become almost impossible because people book way in advance then cancel at the last movement. I have found people making multiple reservations for the same day and time using multiple email address. Disney’s dinner reservation system is flawed.

    1. The thing that is the strangest is hearing people going on about Disney being unaffordable when the increasing crowds throughout the year says otherwise.
      I am a bit on the fence about things, it’s not the size of the crowds that really bother me, it’s the behaviour of some guests. Another poster mentions South American kids, and is absolutely right, especially as many come in unsupervised groups. They are not alone, the other type of guest that can spoil Disney are the entitled ones, the ‘I have priority over the rest of you because…..(fill in space) They forget that we all paid for our vacation too.
      As for the technology, well, I love FP+, it’s better than the paper version by a million miles. But, like most things, you have people who will abuse it and good on Disney for cracking down on it.
      Anyway, I have a trip in two weeks, being a Brit, I completely forgot about Spring Break, but, I’m prepared for it, then I have another trip in September, which I’m hoping will be not so busy as many will hold off until Galaxy’s Edge opens. That will probably be the last time Disney will not be uber busy ever again.

  5. Visited WDW second week end in September and found it Disney time for Florida residents. Usually do Monday to Friday and should have stuck to that as crowds much smaller Monday to Wednesday. Used to go mid-October but find the South American teen-agers swarming and obnoxious through that time. Still pretty good in May and the Garden Fest is charming.

  6. As long-time DVC members, we used to go every year. But now, with the need to plan everything down to the minute–including those very few days of the year when the crowds aren’t horrendous–we’ve cut back and haven’t been back for two years in row. (We probably won’t go next year, either.) A vacation to WDW used to be a wonderful way to relax and de-stress…we could wake up each morning and decide what we felt like doing. Sadly, there’s no such thing as spontaneity anymore. And while it’s fun to plan…some…we don’t want to think about which park we want to be at, what rides we want to ride, and what we would like to eat…30, 60, 90 and even 180 days in advance. We wonder what Walt would be thinking about all of this…

    1. Adrienne! I agree with you 100%. We have been DVC members since 1993 OKW and used to just plan our days upon waking up with dining, parks and attractions. This does not exist anymore and miss those days immensely. We have our last December trip upcoming Dec. 1st-9th and expect it to be more crowded than ever. Although we are visiting relatives during this time, this will be our last trip this time of year. Future trips will be May or early January, early February. We also have AP but this may be our last renewal. Don’t even think of going when Star Wars Land opens next year!

  7. Anyone ever notice the one word that shows up in every article about planning and/or visiting Disney World…………………….STRESS…………………. there was a time, not too long ago, when you went to Disney World to relieve stress. Those days are now far, far away in the rear view mirror.

    1. Honestly, I feel like it’s only as stressful as you make it. People get caught up in the idea of the “perfect” vacation where everything goes as planned, smoothly, no issues. But that’s not how life works 99% of the time; acknowledging that and having a very general idea of what I want to do and how long I’ll be somewhere is how I keep my stress levels down when planning a vacation.

      1. Shaun, I agree with you that there are things people can do to not add to the stress of a vacation. But, my point is that it is the way Disney chooses to do business, that Guarentees stress. From having to plan every ride, meal, character encounter out months in advance. Having to constantly be on your phone in the parks to check line times and book fast passes and all of the other stuff that Disney requires a phone and app for. And knowing that the place is going to to be crowded, or worse, regardless of when you go. It doesn’t have to be like that. The place worked great before fast pass, before advanced dining, before the Magicbands, before managed character meet and greets. Before Disney forced everyone to be hyper-organized. Just because the latest technology is available, doesn’t mean it has to be used or that it’s use is an improvement.

        1. I see it the opposit. I am a DVC/AP member who answered survey after survey for years.. I continued to ask for the experience we have today!! I feel my voice was heard and I love it.

          As someone who loves technology, loves planning and goes 3x a year to WDW I couldn’t be happier. Not only do I know the restaurant I want to eat at 180 days in advance, I know the exact meal I want too.

          And for FastPasses, we do parks different then most anyway… 3 FP rides, 2-3 non-wait rides (People Mover, etc) and we hit some shops, grab a Mickey bar and call it a day. Back for pool time before dinners at signature dinning spots in hotels. We never spend more than 4-5 hours at a time in the parks. We don’t wait in long lines or mess around with that stuff.

          Even advance quick service ordering now cuts down those lines. I really feel our family never waits for anything anymore and it’s glorious.

          Doing Early Morning Magic and Themed Parties at night help get on extra rides without wait too.

          It’s all about planning and right now families like mine seem to have a huge leg up on some older generations of Disney goers and those who don’t go often. Which is a huge bonus and makes things stress free and magical every time.

          To each their own but for me, the “new” Disney is what I want!!

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