Late January through early February is our favorite time of year for a Walt Disney World vacation. We find this mid-winter time to be the perfect combination of great weather, fewer crowds, and low prices that is best for our family.
Every season at Disney World has its advantages. Park hours are longest in the summer and the hot weather provides great reason to enjoy the resort pools. Fall has holiday parties, decorations, and festivals. Epcot is gorgeous in the spring with the Flower and Garden Festival. Christmas at Disney World in late fall and early winter is not to be missed (and perhaps my favorite time of year for a special visit!). I highly recommend visiting Disney World during every season to experience what the parks have to offer at all times of the year. However, for our typical annual, week-long family vacation, our favorite time is the middle of winter.
We’re fortunate that our kids are in year-round school with four shorter breaks scattered throughout the year instead of one long break in the summer (I’ve written about my love for year-round school) which allows us to take vacations at non-peak times without excusing them from school. Of the four seasons when they have these three-week breaks, we head to Florida in the winter.
I lived in southwest Florida for 20 years and have spent my fair share of hot, sticky days in Disney ride queues. No more! Even in the middle of winter, Orlando temperatures can regularly reach the low 80’s, but the heat and humidity are never close to summertime’s sweltering days.
During cool days in the Disney parks, we don’t get nearly as tired and the lovely outdoor terraces at many of the quick service restaurants (which we prefer to table service) throughout the parks and resorts are so much more enjoyable when it’s not 90 degrees!
Rain can fall in Florida any day of the year, but the almost-daily summer thunderstorms and downpours for which Florida is famous are practically non-existent in the winter. We’ve encountered rain during our mid-winter trips, but they have always been the all-day light rains which are easier to endure and plan around than the unexpected downpours that no umbrella or poncho can protect against! And we have never experienced rain during more than one day during a week-long winter trip.
Winter is also outside of hurricane season so there’s no threat of a storm affecting travel plans.
Disney World crowd trends have been changing in recent years but we still find late January through early February to be a sweet spot for low crowds. Early January is still busy with the leftover holiday crowds and marathon weekend. Holiday weekends in both months (MLK Birthday, Presidents Day, etc.) can also draw crowds. The weeks between the long MLK and Presidents Day weekends is perfect.
Not only do lower crowds make park days more enjoyable, but they make FastPasses easier to reserve (and those 4th, 5th and more day-of FastPasses are easier to snag) and restaurants aren’t as full.
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Disney resort prices fluctuate throughout the year with mid-winter being some of the lowest prices of the year. This is one of the times when resort rack rates are lowest and I’ve gotten the best discounts. For example, standard room rates at Disney’s Pop Century Resort during this time are $50 lower per night compared to the spring. That savings adds up fast when multiplied by 6 or 7 nights!
Park ticket prices used to be a constant but even those have changed now and offer lower park ticket prices during non-peak times like winter.
Mid-winter is a great time to visit Disney World both due to the lack of certain special events and inclusion of others.
The Halloween and Christmas parties that cause Magic Kingdom’s early closure at 6:00 PM on many nights from August through December don’t affect the January/February schedule. We’re free to visit Magic Kingdom on any evening in mid-winter.
The parks DO stay open later at other times of the year (often until midnight in the summer) while the Magic Kingdom typically closes at 8:00 PM daily in the winter, but for a family with small children like ours, we’re usually ready to end our day then anyway. After Hours events now exist in three parks but these do not affect the park’s usual closing time like the parties do.
We also love EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts which runs from mid-January through February. This newest festival features great food and fun activities without the crowds of the longer-running and more popular Flower and Garden Festival and Food and Wine.
What is your favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World?