Thursday, June 7, 2012

Disney with Kids - When to Go

Now that you know you want to take your kids to Disney, what time of year do you want to go? Well, here are some things you might want to consider.

First, if cost is a major factor for you, the off-season (non-holidays and non-summer) is definitely cheaper. Disney has several rate changes for different times if the year. Value season is the cheapest - January, February, August and September. Peak season, which is during most holidays and spring break, is the highest. The summer season is the next highest. Room prices can differ up to $40/night from value to peak season for values and moderates. You can save over $200 just by visiting during the off-seasons.

Check the Disney accommodations website and compare the rates to give you an idea of what different times of year will cost you. Prices will most likely increase in 2013 by $5 or $10 but it's a good place to start for comparisons.

Just a note - the above advice was obviously for those staying at a Disney resort. But most off-site resorts also offer cheaper rates during the slow season to attract more guests.

On an early February morning, we were cold!

Also, crowd levels might play a part in your decision of when to go. Obviously peak season is called peak season for a reason! The parks will be jammed with people seeking fun in the sun, especially during spring break! If you'd prefer not to deal with wall-to-wall people, consider the off-season times.

Here's some info from AllEars.Net about historic attendance levels to help you decide. Also, there are several special events throughout the year that will attract more visitors - Star Wars Weekend, marathons, concerts, and festivals to name a few. Check out Disney's special events calendar for more info. Just wanted to note that I've heard from several sources that the week between Christmas and New Year's is absolutely the most crowded week of the year.

The age of your children should also be taken into consideration. Are they old enough for school and do you want them to miss a few days or a week? Some teachers/schools are very understanding of family vacation time during the school year, others are not. Of course, we homeschool our children, so we use our Disney vacation as a great big field trip! And we can go any time of year.

Weather is a huge consideration, too. We've gone twice in February and had great weather both times. Of course, there were some chilly days, but the majority of the time was beautiful. It could just as easily be cold during that time of year. We joke that in February, you take your chances! We've also gone in October, and there were unseasonably high temperatures that week. So I guess you take your chances in October, too! We checked the Weather Channel's 10-day forecasts right up until the day we left to see what we might possibly have to deal with. And don't forget your rain ponchos. No matter what time of year it is, you will probably see a little rain. It's Florida, after all.

If you and your kids don't handle heat well, consider going in the late fall or even winter. If heat doesn't bother you, summer is perfect. Cause it WILL be hot! Our personal experience has been that it's easy to layer more clothing for cooler temperatures than to take clothes off in the heat. I mean, there's only so much you can take off before you get arrested! LOL. The Weather Channel has an average weather chart by month, so you can see what you might be in for.

Now, do you have a special occasion to celebrate? Disney World is the perfect place for a celebration! Plan your trip to include your special day, and Disney will make it even more special. For instance, both February trips coincided with Mr. Lego's birthday. He was given a birthday button to wear for the week, and nearly every Cast Member we came across wished him a happy birthday. He got special treats at several restaurants, too.

Mr. Lego got a birthday cupcake at the Liberty Tree Tavern, just one of many special treat
We celebrated our 11th anniversary at Disney in October 2009. We also were given lovely cupcakes at several restaurants. And at the Crystal Palace, we found a confetti heart waiting for us at our table! Cute, huh?

Special touches like this one make it worth going to Disney to celebrate a special occasion!
As much as we enjoy Disney during the less-crowded times of year, there are some downsides. Most attraction refurbishments take place during the off-season. In February, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, my favorite roller coaster, was closed for refurbishment. We also missed Dumbo, which was closed because it was being moved to another part of Fantasyland. It only makes sense for Disney to do this routine work while the crowds are lower, but it can be disappointing if you're counting on a certain attraction being open.

Working on the tracks of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Also, Disney hosts several national sports events during the off-season - cheerleading competitions, Pop Warner Superbowl, and the Disney Soccer Showcase. Accomodations might be hard to reserve during those times. Buses from the resorts will be crowded, too. Just a heads up, because we've been stuck waiting for buses with groups of 200 cheerleaders. Fun, fun, fun!

While crowds might be lower, don't go with the expectation that you'll walk onto every ride without a wait during the off-season. Popular attractions are still just as popular then as during peak seasons. Still, I think the longest we waited for a ride (Test Track) in February was 25 minutes, compared to an hour or longer during spring break. Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios always has an insane wait time, too, no matter what time of year you visit.

Our next trip is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving in 2013. Historically, that week has very low crowds. Since the Christmas holidays are right around the corner, many people schedule their vacations for later in December instead of coming to Disney right after Thanksgiving. One of the things I'm looking forward to is seeing the parks decorated for Christmas!

Bottom line, no matter what time of year you choose to go with your kids, you WILL have fun! Just plan ahead and be prepared.

See my other posts on Disney with Kids:

How old should they be?
Where to stay?

And here's my Top 10 Disney tips post. These tips are general and not necessarily kid-related. But you might find some helpful info there.

Next Disney with Kids topic - What to bring for the parks

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