Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disney Days: Timing Is Everything

Carl Lewis once said "Life is about timing." Well, this blogger says that Disney trip planning is all about timing too. A great part of your trip experience will be determined by when you visit the World, and for those who don't get to visit often (or at least as often as they'd like) this bit of the planning process can be crucial. But how does one pick the perfect time? How do you choose the days that will give you the most bang for what could end up being quite a lot of bucks (more on budget later)?

The first area of consideration when it comes to timing of a trip is you. Your family has its own schedule and obligations. Only you know when you are and aren't available to pack up and head off to the Happiest Place on Earth. I'm lucky in that the only factor my little clan has to consider is work, of which there are no restrictions to the times of year Mark and I can take off. But many people don't have that luxury. You may need to avoid holiday travel if you work retail, fall vacations if you have kids in school, or mid-June trips if you're a regular attendee of the World Pork Expo (mmmm, bacon). So begin by mentally, or literally if it suits you, crossing off all the dates on your calendar when you know you're not available. Now that that's done, the real planning begins...

Just about everything in life is a trade-off, and the timing of your trip is no exception. There are a lot of variables to consider and the key is prioritizing what is most important to you. Here are a few areas that I'll be hitting on in upcoming paragraphs that will all help determine the right time of year for you. Be thinking now about which areas are make or break for your group.

Crowd Levels
Special Events
Park Hours

Singin' in the Rain may work for Gene Kelly, but it's usually not what you're hoping for on a Disney trip (save for the below glimpse that you'll get on the Great Movie Ride). The weather can vary drastically during different times of year, so if that's important to you make sure you take it into consideration. The winter months are cooler with less rain, but may warrant wearing multiple layers which can make packing difficult. The summer months are hot as can be, but frequent rainshowers can be really refreshing and often drive crowds away. Take a look here at the historical weather patterns for the World.

Ever hear about parks closing their doors (or turnstyles as the case may be) because of ridiculous crowds? Well, it rarely happens. But that doesn't mean that there aren't days where the place gets so packed that it feels like it should. If you don't handle crowds well, you may want to choose your dates based on crowd level alone. Disney reports that the lowest crowds can be found from early-January to mid-February, mid-September through mid-November and the first few weeks of December (and their lower rates during those times reflect that fact). The weeks of Christmas and Thanksgiving are notorious for having the biggest crowds, followed by Spring Break and the summer months. Learn more about attendance levels here.

As mentioned above, the cost of a trip varies during the year. Not only do room prices vary by season, they also vary by day of the week (weekends being costlier than weekdays). And travel costs can skyrocket during peak travel times too. If you're deciding between different times of year, running the numbers may be the deciding factor in what time to go. Special discount offers may also sway your decision. Disney occasionally offers free dining or discounted room rates, so be sure to check various Disney-related sites (The Dis is a good one) to see what is available for your proposed trip time.

Disney knows how to party! If want to take part in the action, planning your trip around the special events they offer may be the way to go. Some of the major options during the year are the Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot (March through May), Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom (September though October), Epcot's Food & Wine Festival (late September through early November) and various Christmas-themed celebrations (mid-November through December). But there are lesser known events that may pique your interest too, like the Walt Disney World Marathon or the Night of Joy. You can also use this listing of events to determine times you might want to avoid (ie. Pop Warner conventions or Grad Nites).

But perhaps the most important factor for you is how much time you can spend in the parks. Hours of operation are varied, so certain times of year will have greater hours than others. If your family is like mine (sleeps in and stays out late) extended hours may be the top priority. But if you prefer to hit the parks at rope drop and spend your nights relaxing poolside or (gasp) sleeping, the parks hours might not make a hill of beans difference to you. You can check out detailed hours (subject to change of course) here, or just know that as daylight increases so do the hours.

Has talk of crowds and special events been too much too handle? Feeling overwhelmed as you try to juggle all the options? Well rest assured there is no perfect time to visit the World. The trip will be what you make of it, no matter what time of year you go. But, if you need a little more direction than what I've given above, below are my favorite times to go.

Mid-January: The weather can be chilly, but I'd rather layer than sweat. Rooms and airfare are cheaper and the parks close early, great when you have kids who need to get to bed on time.

Early-May: The weather is warming up, but not ridiculously hot. The Flower & Garden Festival is still in full bloom and the parks seem to have slightly less kids in them since the school year is wrapping up and parents aren't willing to pull their rugrats from their studies.

Late-September: With careful planning you can hit the trifecta - free dining, the Food & Wine Festival and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party. Crowds tend to be low since it's hurricane season.

Join me next week as we tackle... The Dreaded Budget.


marie said...

Great information shared in fun way! Great post.

It's a good thing I don't want to go to WDW in June ~ 'cause I sure wouldn't want to miss the World Pok Expo.

Heidi said...

Thanks so much for the informative disney posts! The grandparents are so excited to take our family there in a few years they went on a mini vacation (just the two of them) to scope it out! Ha! I'll be bookmarking this for future reference!

Also, thanks for visiting my blog via DYI Thursday!

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