The Seasons of Disney – Planning Tips

The Seasons of Disney – Planning Tips

For anyone planning a Disney World vacation it is vital that you know and understand their “seasons.” As with the rest of the world they do indeed have four distinct seasons, but Disney seasons are not based on climate. Rather they are based on statistics of vacationers’ habits and average attendance at the theme parks.

The four seasons are:

• Value Season

• Regular Season

• Peak Season

• Holiday Season

Timing is the key to a truly enjoyable Disney vacation. Attending during the peak seasons means you will spend an inordinate amount of time in the long lines and will pay top dollar for everything. Consider each season and then plan accordingly.

Value Season

The value season can be broken into three blocks of time:

• January 1 through mid-February

• All of September through the first week in October

• Thanksgiving Sunday through mid-December

The very best of the three is after the Thanksgiving weekend up to the week before Christmas.

Attendance is the lowest during the Value Season because of school schedules and winter weather. Hotel rates will be lower and better deals are available from Disney than at any other time of the year. Also keep in mind that with smaller crowds, you will spend less time in lines, and have more quality time to enjoy the parks.

Winter in Central Florida can be warm or freezing – sometimes within only a few hours of each other. Come prepared.

Regular Season

What is known as the regular season is broken into two blocks:

• Mid-April through August

• October through Thanksgiving Saturday

Summer is often the only time a family can plan a Disney World vacation. If that’s true in your case, the first two weeks of June and last two weeks of August will be the best choice.

Summer means not only larger crowds, but extremely hot days, and those pesky afternoon showers that seem to arrive like clockwork. A word of caution: if you have preschoolers or babies, avoid summer if at all possible.

Peak Season

Spring Break dictates the time of Disney’s Peak Season and it occupies one block of time:

• Mid-February through mid-April

Even though Spring Break draws incredible crowds (as does spring events of President’s Day week, Mardi Gras, and Easter) the weeks in early April usually have light attendance. March is the typical month for Spring Break. Factor these events into your pre-planning.

Holiday Season

This season means Christmas Magic at the Magic Kingdom with special decorations, shows, and activities. It takes in only one block of time:

• Mid-December through December 31

Many families have made Christmas morning at Disney World a family tradition. This, however, takes much pre-planning since most hotels fill up fast – both those on-site and off-site, and there will be few, if any, bargains. If the Christmas magic is what you’re looking for, visit during the post-Thanksgiving Value Season. The breathtaking decorations are all in place, but the crowds and prices will be much lower.

Trade Offs

As with anything there are trade-offs in choosing the off-seasons. The first is shorter hours. In the fall the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and MGM may close as early as 5 PM. The evening parade in the Magic Kingdom may only be scheduled on the weekends.

Refurbishing of many of the attractions takes place during the off-seasons and they may be closed. Again, it’s a trade-off. Check ahead and see if those closings will upset your plans. You will still be shaving about one-third off the time spent waiting in lines which means you’ll have more time to visit more attractions. If a few are closed, so what?


Contrary to popular belief, weekends are often the slowest days because many people travel to and from Disney World on weekends. That means Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are the busiest days. (The exception to this rule includes Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and River Country, since they are popular with the locals who frequent them on the weekends.)


Operating hours can be tricky to keep up with as Disney World bases their opening and closing times on the crowds. If heavy crowds are expected, they open early and close late. If the crowds are lighter, the opposite is true.

A general rule of thumb is during summer and during holidays the theme parks stay open late – sometimes as late as 11PM or midnight. In the winter, the park closes around 6 or 7 PM.

On certain days, Disney will open the Magic Kingdom early to those staying at a Disney resort. If they expect larger than usual crowds, they may open the parks to everyone 30 to 60 minutes before the scheduled time. The key is: always arrive early.

Of course, that’s a rule that everyone knows – but the truth is, most don’t do it. An early arrival truly will maximize your time, as you may be standing at the end of Main Street while the other tens of thousands are still creeping along I-4 highway.

Keeping in mind the “seasons of Disney” as you plan, will ensure that your Disney World vacation will be a dream vacation. Not a nightmare.

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