A Disney World vacation is extra enticing in 2024, with some of its final COVID-era restrictions now lifted. Vacationers can more easily plan their days in the theme parks now than in the previous few years, according to USA Today.
Requirements and limitations on “Park Hopping” that restrict guests’ ability to enter multiple parks in one day are suspended as of Jan. 9, 2024. With the parks returning to pre-2020 normalcy, it is time for many to start planning their next Disney World vacation.
Deciding when to take a Disney vacation is one of the earliest choices travelers make, considering factors like family calendars, holidays, crowds, and weather. People associate Disney’s theme parks with soaring temperatures, long lines, and high costs, but experts point out there are ways to mitigate each of them, at least partially.
Whether a family visits Orlando or Southern California, it ultimately comes down to deciding when would be the most convenient time to travel. If your travel dates are flexible, that may alleviate some of the potential issues you need to consider when selecting a vacation window to the Disney theme parks.
The Best Time To Travel Varies
The optimal time to visit a Disney theme park depends on various factors. For starters, which of the two resorts does a family want to visit? Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort attract different groups at different times of the year.
Walt Disney World sits within a major tourist destination prone to busy seasons like school vacations. Disneyland Resort has a robust market of local attendees.
Lindsay Brookshier, Content Director of Mickey Visit, emphasizes the differences between these two resorts and how their crowds fluctuate. “Many guests assume that the most crowded time of the year is the summer months … Surprisingly, October has easily outpaced the summer season and even the holidays to become the busiest month at Disneyland.”
On the other hand, crowds at Disney World peak at different times of the year. Brookshier shares, “We’ve seen April and July with some of the largest crowds Walt Disney World has seen in the past few years. This makes sense from a couple of standpoints as both coordinate with popular school breaks like Spring Break and summer.”
If travelers want to bypass crowds at Disney World, avoid times in the year when schools are on break. Disneyland’s surge in crowds in October can be attributed to other factors. Holiday decorations and seasonal offerings appear to drive more visitors to the California parks.
Don’t Be Deterred by Crowds
Many families must take their trips during busier seasons. Disney crowds increase in spring and summer for a reason — that is the time when families can more easily travel. Images of overcrowded theme parks and hour-long lines for rides can deter anyone, but experts advise some people to take the trip anyway.
While Disneyland Resort is keeping Park Reservations and limited Park Hopping hours into 2024, fans still have plenty of reasons to visit this year. From food festivals to seasonal events, there’s something to enjoy no matter what time of year the trip takes place. Prioritizing those experiences instead of bending backward to dodge crowds can lessen the disappointment when rides have longer lines.
Alex Caspero, freelance travel and food writer at Delish Knowledge, agrees crowds are often unavoidable. Instead of focusing on those factors, consider a time of year when the weather is more agreeable. Even if the parks are busy, cooler temperatures will minimize the stress.
Caspero shares, “Don’t let the idea of crowds stop you from visiting. It’s less hot in the spring and fall, which can be nice for families, especially young children who don’t enjoy the heat.”
Disney World and Disneyland both go all out during the holidays. Often the busiest time of the year, there is a lot to see and do, which adds significant value to the vacation. Scott McConkey, nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of Miles with McConkey, loves visiting around Halloween and Christmas.
He notes, “Each season yields delightful decorations, parades, and food. The atmosphere in Magic Kingdom is even more festive than usual.” With seasonal parades, fireworks, and decor, visiting during the holidays can add more bang for a family’s buck.
Opt for Convenience and Plan Accordingly
Finding the perfect vacation week without crowds is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Travel journalist Megan duBois encourages travelers to shift their mindset when planning park visits. She advises, “Instead of trying to pick a time that you think may be less busy and get to the gates and find a packed park, consider picking a season that you want to experience at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland.”
Sarah Gilliland, founder of On The Road with Sarah, warns those idyllic quiet weeks in the parks are disappearing. Gilliland shares, “The theme park landscape has changed dramatically over the last ten years, and so has the way most Americans vacation. It seems like no one is concerned about pulling their children out of school for a few days for a family vacation, whether to a Disney theme park or not. Gone is the supposed ‘offseason’ at Disney theme parks.”
Gilliland recommends, “Families should go when it is most convenient. If spring break is the best time to go, that’s when you should go. Expectations should be adjusted accordingly.” Gilliland adds that her preferred times to visit the theme parks are winter and spring, when temperatures are most comfortable.
No matter when a family chooses to visit the theme parks, strategies are available to make the most of the crowds. Break up busy days by being in the parks early and late at night when crowds are lighter.
Caspero notes, “Early morning is the best time to visit the parks regardless of the time of year – get there right when they open and loosely plan your schedule before you arrive so you know what rides you want to head to first.” Remembering tips like the ones Caspero shares mitigates heavy crowds’ impact on a family vacation at the Disney theme parks.
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.