The Peak Season at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

THE WALT DISNEY WORLD PEAK SEASON

I recently posted on the 2012 Spring Break season at Walt Disney World.

Because this period is during Disney World’s “peak season,” and there’s a lot of confusion about what “peak” means, I thought I’d clarify the peak season and its implications for crowds and prices at Walt Disney World.

The key messages?

  • While prices are quite high during the peak season…they get even higher! The peak season is not the peak of Disney World prices…
  • While some periods of the peak season are quite crowded, some are not…and other times of the year, not in the peak season, are even more crowded! The peak season is not the peak of crowds, and some periods within it are relatively uncrowded.

THE PEAK SEASON AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The only prices at Disney World that change a lot over the course of the year are Disney resort hotel prices.

Theme park admission ticket prices are the same all seasons of the year–although they often have an annual increase in the summer. Dining prices go up in the spring break, summer, and Christmas seasons, but only a little–a few dollars per person per night.

Hotel prices, however, are all over the map–sometimes changing three times in a month–and can vary as much as 90% for the exact same room depending on when you go to Walt Disney World. In addition to seasonal price changes, Disney World also often upcharges another $10-$50 dollars per night for weekend and holiday nights.

Disney has names for these hotel price seasons: value, regular, summer, peak, pre-holiday, holiday, mile long, thumper, etc.

However, most people can’t remember any of the names of these seasons except for the value season and the peak season, so this site’s material on Disney World resort price seasons largely ignores Disney’s season names and presents the numbers and the dates.

TYPICAL DATES AND PRICES FOR THE DISNEY WORLD PEAK SEASON

If Easter is early, Disney’s peak season goes from the Friday before President’s Day through the Saturday a week after Easter. Disney adds additional charges over President’s Day weekend itself, and from the Sunday a week before Easter through the Saturday a week after Easter.

A later Easter recently has led to a break in the peak season, after the week of President’s Day and into early March. This happened in both 2011 and 2012. I’m currently forecasting the same for 2013.

Prices in the peak season are 30-60% higher than they are during the lowest-priced seasons of the year–the value season.

Even so, prices do get higher than they are in the peak season–during the period of Christmas through New Year’s Eve, which Disney calls the holiday season, they are higher even than they are over Easter!

CROWDS DURING DISNEY WORLD’S PEAK SEASON

The peak season is not the peak of crowds at Walt Disney World–the peak of crowds is the holiday season, Christmas through New Year’s Eve.

That said, there are some very busy times during the peak season–particularly Presidents Day Week, later March, and the weeks before and after Easter.

Crowds during the rest of the peak season vary.

  • For example, the time after President’s day week through the first full week of March is typically quite uncrowded–expensive, yes, but uncrowded. Disney World calls this period “moderately crowded.”
  • Crowds during the rest of peak season vary based on the timing of Easter. In 2012 and 2013, no other March or early April weeks look good.

See this for more on 2012 Disney World peak season crowds, week by week.

PRICES AND CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Many assume that the higher the prices, the higher the crowds.

As noted above, this is not always the case. Disney sets its prices to maximize the total profitability of its total resort–including the profitability of Disney’s hotels.

This can lead to periods where prices and crowds work in different ways.

  • Late February and early March is one.
  • Late July and early August is another.

Click the image for more on the relationship between crowds and prices at Walt Disney World.

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39 comments

1 Santiago { 01.24.11 at 4:17 pm }

Hi !!

I have a question, me and my brother are starying in WDW during 19/20/21/22 of March. Is this the worst week of Spring Break ??
Is the most crowed week ??.

Please I need some advices to cut the wait lines of the major attractions ?

Thank you very much !!!

2 Dave { 01.24.11 at 4:37 pm }

Santiago–while that’s a busy week, the week before Easter in April is the most crowded week.

To beat the lines, get up early, be at the parks 30-45 minutes before they open, ride the most popular attractions first, and use Fastpass.

Study one of the site’s itineraries for examples of how to run a day–links on the left side–or check out the touring plans at Touringplans.com

To find out what Fastpass is, see the FAQ page.

3 Amy { 12.08.11 at 10:19 am }

I was thinking of planning a trip with my 6 and 10 year old to arrive 3/28/12 and leave 4/3/12. I’ve seen a lot of comments about the week before Easter being a crowded time to go. Is this a bad idea from a crowds standpoint?

4 Dave { 12.08.11 at 10:58 am }

Hi Amy, yes, that is one of the worst two times of the year to go–extremely crowded and very expensive.

See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/07/11/disney-world-crowds-in-2012-spring-break-2012/

I would go almost any other time…for the best weeeks see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

5 krissie { 04.24.12 at 8:24 pm }

Thinking about a trip nov 30-dec 6. How are the crowds, typically?

6 Dave { 04.25.12 at 6:41 am }

Hi Krissie! That’s a low-crowd week, and one of my top-ranked weeks of the year! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

7 Amanda { 04.28.12 at 2:39 am }

We are starting to plan a trip for mid February 2013. The actual dates would be 02/14/13-02/18/13. What are you thinking the prices and crowds would be like?

Thanks!

8 Dave { 04.28.12 at 7:30 am }

Hi Amanda, I would not go those dates. You’ll hit President’s Day weekend, which is one of the most crowded and most expensive times of the year at Disney World. See this for alternatives: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

9 Mollie { 05.23.12 at 5:48 pm }

We are planning a trip for July 9 – July 17. What should prices and crowds be like?

10 Mollie { 05.23.12 at 5:50 pm }

A little additional info. – we are a group of 11 – 7 adults, 4 kids. We are thinking it would be best to stay on property (especially because of the smaller kids, 6 and 4). It is getting expensive, looking to be about 1000 per person (including hotel, quick dining and entrance to the parks). Are we in for a hellish time?

11 Dave { 05.24.12 at 3:08 pm }

Mollie, honestly it is pretty awful then. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/12/26/july-2012-at-walt-disney-world/ You can make it work…but it’s not a time I can advise going. See also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

It’s hard to find rooms for on-site hotels groups that big–unless you get several value priced rooms–that don’t cost an arm and a leg. See the links that begin here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/

Note also that there’s a couple of discounts out that covers the July dates–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/02/new-summer-2012-walt-disney-world-hotel-room-discount/

12 Julie { 05.28.12 at 10:35 pm }

Hi Dave. We are thinking about our second trip to Disney Thanksgiving week. I realize this is a fairly crowded time, but was wondering how bad it will be. Is it going to be so crowded that we will have wished we were willing to pull the kids out of school to go the week before? (our kids will be 10, 8, and 5)

13 Dave { 05.29.12 at 6:34 am }

Hi Julie! The short answer is yes, take your kids out of school and go a week earlier…for more, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/19/thanksgiving-2012-at-walt-disney-world/

14 Ana { 08.24.12 at 7:40 am }

Hi Dave, I loved your site! I’m going to be taking the month of March away from work. I want to take my 4 year old daughter for the very first time to WDW. I’ll be free to go any time around that month. It doenst seem to be the cheapest month, but what days during that time do you think would be the cheapest, with and without hotel expenses. I have some time to plan, want to know what my best options are. Thank you.

15 Dave { 08.24.12 at 8:57 am }

Hi Ana, sadly, March is not a great month. See this for the details: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/08/21/march-2013-walt-disney-world/ The last week of February is good though!

16 Elizabeth { 09.17.12 at 5:01 am }

A friend and I (my first time going. YaY!) are going to Disney around Oct 10- 15 2012. Will it be super busy around this time of the year??

17 Dave { 09.17.12 at 5:33 am }

Hi Elizabeth, that’s a wonderful time with low prices and low crowds except for evening crowding at Epcot because of the Food and Wine Festival–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/03/18/the-2012-epcot-international-food-and-wine-festival-at-walt-disney-world/ You’ll also have missed the COlumbus Day crowds and prices earlier in the week.

You are, however, on the tail of the peak of hurricane season, which is why I don’t recommend the week overly highly–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/chance-of-cyclonic-storm-affecting-florida/

18 Leah { 09.20.12 at 9:59 am }

Hi Dave-GREAT site-thanks! We did our 1st trip early 12/10-so wonderful! Question returning 4-14-13 or 2-15-13 weeks but unsure what to choose. Budget a factor. 5 & 7yo kids, mom/dad. Flower week appeals; re: hotel-if value, worth choosing Animation over others re: $? Advice re: midweek travel? Have been getting PIN offers from wdw-so tempting-would love to pull off another trip! Many thanks Dave!

19 Dave { 09.21.12 at 7:51 am }

Hi Leah and thanks!

Avoid 2-15; that’ll put you into the Presidents Day crowds (and prices). I like 4-14–corwds low, prices OK, typically great weather. I would pick AofA for its kid appeal, even at the slightly higher cost. Midweek travel can be less expensive, and the parks are less crowded Tues-Fri…hope this helps!

20 Bill { 01.08.13 at 10:00 am }

Good Morning,
My family and I are discussing taking a trip to Walt Disney World this year and we were thinking about sometime in the middle of August, good time or bad time? Also my wife and I are currently discussing if it would be better to stay off site or just spend the few extra bucks and just stay on site in on of the resorts, your advice? Finally one last thing is it worth it to purchase a dining plan?

Thanks and btw great site!

21 Dave { 01.08.13 at 12:56 pm }

Hi Bill and thanks!

The best approach is for you to work down the list on the home page. It covers all your questions — http://yourfirstvisit.net But on your specific questions the middle of August is crowded hot, and near the peak of the hurricane season. See this for August last year–the details will be a little different this year, but the basics of crowds and weather will be the same: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/01/22/august-2012-at-walt-disney-world/

On staying off vs on site, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/01/27/the-tightwads-guide-to-staying-off-site-at-walt-disney-world/

The dining plan used to save a lot of money, but is now more of a convenience than a money saver. (You have to be on site to use it.)

Hope this helps!

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22 Bridget { 01.27.13 at 10:23 pm }

I went to Disney 1/5 this year and it was overcrowded and ridiculous. The lines were over an hour long. I was thinking about going again towards the end of May. Will that be any better?

23 Dave { 01.28.13 at 5:46 am }

Yup Bridget if you go during New Year’s week you’ll face among the worst crowds of the year. The week at the end of May that includes Memorial Day will be quite crowded–but not as bad as Jan 5. Earlier in May it’ll be fine. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/10/16/may-2013-walt-disney-world/

24 kendi { 02.06.13 at 3:40 pm }

I am going to disney universal and seaworld…march 13 through 19. Are those bad dates?

25 Dave { 02.07.13 at 7:09 am }

Hi Kendi, I’m forecasting high crowds those dates–see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/12/disney-world-crowds-in-2013/

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26 Kelly Powers { 02.26.13 at 10:03 pm }

Hi Dave! We are going on a very last minute trip to Disney March 10-16th. I would have chosen a different week, however my husband has a conference in DTDIS, so the whole family is going. Is this week terribly crowded. I know about spring break and Easter, and keep reading about the high levels at the end of the month- is this considered the end of the month? Any tips, traveling with 3 kiddos, 8, 5, 3!

27 Dave { 02.27.13 at 8:29 am }

Hi Kelly, yes, I’m afraid it is terribly crowded. There’s a lot of variability in spring breaks, and while most are the weeks befroe or after Easter, the third most popular time is your week. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/07/25/disney-world-crowds-2013-spring-break-2013/

The basics tips are as follows: 1. avoid parks on days they have extra magic hours, especially morning extra magic hours.. 2. Arrive at the turnstiles well befroe a park opens. 3. See immediately after opening the rides that build long lines quickly. 4. Use fastpasses to see other long-line rides you don’t get to right after opening.

All my itineraries are built around these–see e.g. http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/itineraries-for-the-rest-of-the-year/v2-of-2009-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary/

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news…

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28 katheryn { 03.28.13 at 2:54 pm }

Hi my fam is goin June 23-27 Sun thru thurs, what do u forecast from past history for that time of year.

29 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:08 am }

Hi Katheryn! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/11/18/june-2013-walt-disney-world/

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30 Jen { 07.08.13 at 1:00 pm }

Hi,
I am planning a trip to WDW the last week in March/first week in april. This is our first time with a family of 5. My children are 7,6,3. Which would be the best resort and most reasonable in price. I am torn between, ASM, AoA, and POR. Also do you recommend getting park hopper tickets with our kids being so young.

31 Dave { 07.09.13 at 7:06 am }

Jen, if this will be your only visit, I’d go with Art of Animation. You’ll appreciate the extra room, it has much more kid appeal than the alternatives, is more convenient than ASM and much more convenient than POR.

If you will be able to return, then I’d consider either of the other choices as well. POR has price going for it. For a detailed comparison of AMS and AofA, with some side notes on POR, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/09/05/review-the-family-suites-disneys-all-star-music-resort/

It’s pretty easy to make a trip work without hoppers, so I’d skip em! If it turns out, once you are on site, that you need them, you can buy them then, for no more cost than if you bought them today.

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32 George Hansen { 07.26.13 at 11:19 am }

I am planning on being at the Yacht club from August 29th thru Sept. 6th. Any idea what the crowd will be like then ?

33 Dave { 07.26.13 at 6:49 pm }

Hi George, they should be low! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/01/15/august-2013-walt-disney-world/

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34 SMM { 06.23.14 at 12:43 am }

Thanks for this site it is truly helpful. Couple questions. 1. We are going March 7-15, 2015 is this a bad time for $ and crowds? 2. We are 3 families going trying to stay near each other but not with each other so hotel ideas? 1 family is adults and a 17 year old the other is 2 adults a 12 year old and mine is 2 adults and a 15 and 12 year old…..and 3. For the room, tickets, meal plan, and hopper pass is it safe to assume we are going to spend 5k for the 8 nights? That is what it is looking like online without being able to look at my actual dates.

35 Dave { 06.23.14 at 9:00 am }

Hi SMM, yes, I do expect that to be a high crowd and high price week. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/12/08/2015-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ What you will pay will be drivne by your hotel choices, which will range from $160/night to $500++. My hotel recommendations, by price class, are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/next-best-resort-choices/ You can find 2014 prices for each here, and just add 5% to them to be close http://www.mousesavers.com/2014-disney-world-resort-room-rates-season-dates/

36 octavia { 06.23.14 at 10:17 pm }

When is teh cheapest dates to travel to stay 15 days from January 1st 2015 and February 25th? tks

37 Dave { 06.24.14 at 4:12 pm }

Octavia, the “real” prices should come out any day now. My forecast 2015 prices are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/10/13/projected-disney-world-2015-price-seasons/

38 Greg { 07.19.14 at 3:05 pm }

Hi Dave; Our family would like to plan a trip to Disney in Jan or Feb 2015. We have been many times, usually the week after Thanksgiving. We are planning a 7 to 8 day trip. What would you personally recommend week wise for these 2 months. The cheaper and less crowded the better. Resorts of choice are POP or Caribbean Beach.

39 Dave { 07.20.14 at 8:34 am }

Greg, I’m not keen on any of those weeks except the last week of Feb because of ride closures. But if you don’t mind missing a few rides, then the period from after MLK day ending the Thursday before President’s Day has very low crowds and very low prices. See this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/06/22/january-2015-at-walt-disney-world/ and also this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/07/15/february-2015-at-walt-disney-world/

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