I rank the weeks of the year for first time visitors to Disney World who might not be able to ever return to Disney World on this site—the 2017 Disney World week rankings are here, 2018 Disney World week rankings here, and draft 2019 Disney World week rankings are here.
Here’s an example, for 2018:
These rankings are meant to guide first timers who can never return towards better weeks, and away from bad weeks. They incorporate crowds and prices, as you might expect. But because they are meant for people who might be able to make only one visit, they also particularly downgrade the weeks of January and early February when rides are more commonly closed for refurb, and also view skeptically the weeks when the hurricane season is at its peak.
Both of these periods contain good weeks for returning visitors who might care less about these risks. So for this reason, I both include the crowd and price data in the chart, and also mark in green at the far right edge of the chart weeks that are good for returning visitors.
That way returning visitors can use the chart to pick their weeks, too—or they can simply focus on my crowd forecasts and price information. Disney World crowd forecasts for 2017 are here, 2018 here, and draft crowd forecasts for 2019 are here. Disney World resort pricing for 2017 is here, for 2018 is here, and draft price forecasts for 2019 are here.
Besides deprecating the ride closure and peak of the hurricane seasons, I also promote the lower-crowd part of the Christmas season, because it is such a magical time at Disney World.
So with that as the background, here’s the technical approach I take to ranking the weeks of the year for first time visitors.
HOW THE DISNEY WORLD WEEK RANKINGS ARE BUILT
First, I take the ride closure season weeks, and give them the lowest rankings of the year (because if you can only come once, why come at a time when some great rides predictably will be closed?)
In every grouping, including these weeks, higher crowd weeks get the worst ranking, and within equivalent crowd rankings, higher prices break the ties. This involves a bit of judgment, as the deluxes work to a different price seasons than the other resorts from July into the fall, and the moderates don’t show as much price variation over the year as the other price classes do. So if you are committed to a certain resort type, note also the price levels of your resort type among these weeks.
Next to be ranked are all the remaining higher crowd weeks, with the worst rankings going to the highest crowds, and ties sorted by prices.
Next to be ranked is the remaining weeks in the peak of the hurricane season. I have taken a lot of grief over the years for deprecating these weeks, as, like the January and early February weeks, they include a number of lower crowd and lower price dates:
After the past two years, however, I expect people to hold off a bit on the “hurricanes never affect Disney World” claim…
This leaves a group of moderate and lower crowd weeks of various prices that are in neither the ride closure season nor the peak of the hurricane season. The moderate crowd weeks get ranked by crowds the prices, in the usual fashion.
Then the remaining low crowd weeks get ranked the same way, with the expectation that the Christmas season low crowd weeks get privileged rankings. This set of weeks become my “Recommended Weeks”—usually 13 to 15 a year. (The number has narrowed over time as October has gotten more crowded; in any given year, an early Thanksgiving might add a fourth December week, and an early Easter might add an extra April week.)
The rankings are fundamentally based on crowd forecasts and actual or forecast prices.
The crowd forecasts are based on my actual experience—I’m in the parks 30-60 days a year over six to ten visits.
For example, in 2017:
- I’ll be going November for the Christmas Party and to see the Yacht Club refurb. (That Yacht Club room, incidentally, will be the 150th different Disney World-owned room, studio, villa, suite, cabin or campsite I’ve stayed in. So I’m pretty reliable on the Disney World hotels, too…)
- I went in September for the Halloween Party, the new film at Mission: SPACE, and the new Fantasmic dessert thingy
- I went in July for the new Copper Creek Villas and the rest of the new stuff at the Wilderness Lodge, the Pop Century room refurb, and the new Happily Ever After dessert party
- I went in June for Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, and the Caribbean Beach refurb
- I went in May for the new Magic Kingdom evening show Happily Ever After
- I went in February for the new Animal Kingdom evening show Rivers of Light
- I went in January for the Pro Bowl events at Disney World (and still haven’t written about them…) but did also see again the Disney After Hours event, and covered the new Festival of The Arts and the refurbed rooms at the Dolphin and Kidani Village.
This experience is supplemented by extensive analysis of school breaks—here’s an example from my analysis of spring breaks in 2018:
The prices are based on actuals for 2017 and 2018, and on forecasts based on recent Disney practice for 2019. I’ll be revising the 2019 rankings as necessary after the actual 2019 prices come out, likely in the summer of 2018, and based on a full analysis of 2018-2019 school year breaks, also in the summer of 2018 (too many districts don’t publish their calendars for the upcoming school year until May or June for me to do this earlier).
So that’s how the week rankings are built!