Choosing when to visit Walt Disney World usually means consulting statistical crowd calendars, seasonal events schedules, park hours, and more. This guide to the best & worst months provides info & tips to help you choose, plus our top 3 weeks of the year at Walt Disney World. (Updated September 3, 2020.)
Unfortunately, the closure and subsequent reopening of Walt Disney World has upended most crowd forecasting for the remainder of 2020 through Spring 2021. Seasonal events, school breaks, and more have been cancelled, travel (both domestic and international) has plummeted, and people are trying to navigate this ‘temporary abnormal’ time.
Consequently, everything that Walt Disney World crowd calendars take into account has been disrupted. We’re cognizant of the fact that none of these are reliable, which is why we’re no longer recommending readers use our 2020 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars. Instead, we’ve re-ranked the best and worst months to visit here based on a variety of qualitative factors. In so doing, we’re considering a variety of variables in conjunction with our expectations about how Walt Disney World’s phased reopening will gradually proceed…
If you’re still in ‘wait and see’ mode, determining when to book a 2021 Walt Disney World vacation, one thing we’d recommend is following our regular updates from the parks and WDW news to track what’s changing–because a lot is changing.
This will give you a good idea of what things are like ‘on the ground’ at Walt Disney World, as well as what to expect in the future. We regularly share big updates, discounts that are released by Disney, crowd levels change, etc., we send out email notifications. To receive these, subscribe to our free email newsletter.
As noted above, we’re eschewing the typical Walt Disney World crowd calendar approach for these monthly rankings. Those have become less reliable in the last few years, and are now essentially pointless during Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. Quite simply, too much has changed–and will continue to change. Instead, we’ll use a more holistic approach that takes into account more than just crowds when choosing when to visit Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately, Walt Disney World crowd levels can vary, and can not be forecast with 100% accuracy. As such, you should choose when to visit based on other comfort and enjoyment factors in addition to Walt Disney World crowd projections. Choosing when you’ll visit based on a mix of weather, special events, seasonal entertainment, and crowds is a more pragmatic and balanced approach.
Low crowds during a time when temperatures are sweltering, humidity is off the charts and there are no special events should not trump moderate crowds during a temperate time of year with a special event. Few people evaluate their vacation’s success by some statistical ‘fun quotient’, so why not do likewise when planning, and perform a qualitative analysis when choosing travel dates?
To cut to the chase, the point of this post is to rank every month of the year for visiting Walt Disney World in light of all variables that (we feel) are important with adjustments made for the ongoing reopening of the parks & resorts, operations scaling back up, capacity increasing, and entertainment returning.
While it’s impossible to say when fireworks, parades, character meet & greets, etc. will each return, we can more broadly assume that aspects of the normal Walt Disney World experience will gradually be restored between now and Summer 2021. Each month should offer more than the one before it. That’s our assumption, at least, and something taken into account for these rankings.
Anyway, here they are–the best and worst months to visit Walt Disney World for the remainder of 2020 through Summer 2021…
12. August – Feel like Mission: Space is insufficient at simulating a visit to Mars? Then you’ll love August in Walt Disney World, when every day feels like a veritable trip to the red planet! Hot, humid, stormy weather typifies August in Central Florida, and that alone makes August the worst month to visit.
August is qualitatively the worst month to visit Walt Disney World. In addition to the weather, it marks the end of “Peak Season” ticket prices, meaning people who postponed their visits to save money will start heading to the parks. On top of that, special event seasons typically start at the end of August, which cause crowd spikes (and unevenness) at both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. That did not happen in August 2020, but we anticipate things being back to normal for August 2021.
11. July – If you have no other options, perhaps you can feel better about a July trip to Walt Disney World by considering it your patriotic duty to go for Independence Day? (Just play a lot of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and pretend you’re saving Earth, Big Willie Style.)
Another upside is that for the last several summers, we’ve seen below average crowd levels for most of the month. Crowds will spike around Independence Day, then decline for the next few weeks before seeing a mild resurgence towards the end of the month. Suffice to say, Summer is No Longer Peak Season at Walt Disney World.
Still, July is not a good month to visit if only because of heat and humidity. Once you plan for the weather realities of a summer trip, remember: “even a rainy, potentially crowded day at Walt Disney World is better than a perfect day at home” so you don’t get too down on trip.
10. June – The next two months are 2021’s biggest wild cards, for pretty much precisely the same reasons. Both are could be when Walt Disney World turns the corner on restoring normalcy, with their respective travel seasons ahead. In both cases, that would make sense. However, there’s so much uncertainty making that impossible to forecast–and even if Walt Disney World does aim to accomplish that, it’s likely late May or March will be the actual targets. Both of which are markedly better options for visiting.
The upside to June is that, like July, summer crowds are seemingly now a thing of the past. The downside to June–in addition to the heat–is the rain. The average monthly rainfall in June at Walt Disney World is over 8+ inches, and the probability of rain on any given day is above 50%. June is the first month of the year that we see hotel choice (particularly in terms of pool-quality and proximity to the parks) really making a big difference, too.
9. April – James Franco could make a sequel to Spring Breakers set at Walt Disney World, and it would make the events of the original film seem perfectly tame. Okay, maybe not, but that doesn’t change the fact that Spring Break at Walt Disney World is a time to be avoided if you can. Ranking April is tricky. If Easter is in March, April leapfrogs both March and May as a better month.
However, our current rankings are based upon April 2021. Given that Easter will be in April every year until 2024, it’s a month that we recommend avoiding if you don’t like long lines. The entire month will be above average, but the weeks abutting Easter will be DEFCON 1. You’d better be ready for some intense hand to hand combat when racing to Frozen Ever After at rope drop! 😉
8. February – For the last few years, January and February have seen atypically high crowds at Walt Disney World. Aside from Presidents’ Day weekend, this would not “naturally” happen–it’s Florida’s off-season. However, Walt Disney World leveraged special and sporting events to boost crowd numbers. Those are highly unlikely to return by February 2021, making this (once again) an attractive off-season month to visit.
The reason February ranks #8 is simply because January is better. Nevertheless, it’s a good time to visit. The first week of February is definitely the best of both worlds, so if you’re planning a visit in February 2021, that’s the week to choose. (Or the very last week of the month–but we far prefer March 2021, for reasons identified below…)
7. September – When judged solely on the basis of crowds, September is the best month of the year. Aside from Labor Day weekend, September is relatively slow, especially earlier in the month. While Walt Disney World has been able to manipulate crowd levels in other off-season months, that has not happened with September (yet). After Labor Day, the entire month is off-season, with the lowest crowd levels of the year.
Normally, the biggest downside to September is the weather, but even that is trending in the right direction. Still, heat and humidity make being outdoors unpleasant, but it’s still a high point in the storm season. It can be worth a roll of the dice to take advantage of those low crowds, especially later in the month. We’ve had visits during September with incredibly pleasant weather and little rain. That’s not the norm, but it can happen.
September 15, 2020 is also the start of Halloween season, and when the Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival should kick into high gear. Those are two definite plusses, especially after Walt Disney World has felt a bit ‘plain’ during its first couple reopening months. For September 2020, reduced hours is the biggest downside–and the likelihood that October will offer all of the advantages of September with fewer downsides.
6. January – This is the “holiday hangover” at Walt Disney World. It’s sort of like Walt Disney World ate too many Christmas cookies and is too lazy to get off the couch and take down the decorations, with this mentality continuing long after the tree is dead to the point where its wife is embarrassed when it finally throws out the tree. (Not that I know from experience or anything.)
The tremendous plus side is that the crowds are also ‘lethargic.’ Late January, in particular, is one of our favorite times of the year at Walt Disney World. You get the low crowds, Christmas decorations are down, and delightfully pleasant weather. All things considered, January is still one of the better months to go, especially if you can avoid the MLK Day holiday.
5. May – After our descriptions for June, July, and August that weren’t exactly ringing endorsements, you might have similar worries about May. Fortunately, it isn’t as bad, as the entirety of the month falls before summer tourist season. In fact, there’s a decent amount of upside as May marks the start of summer, with park hours becoming longer and whatever new entertainment is on-tap for summer typically debuting by or before Memorial Day.
With all of that, our big hope for May 2021 is that it marks another milestone in Walt Disney World’s transition back to normal. Even with Memorial Day weekend factored into the mix, crowds are below average in May. The main downside is that heat and humidity can really start intensifying in May, and this is the first month of the year during which it’s not uncommon to see the temperatures broach 90-degrees and the humidity reach high levels.
4. October – For the last several years, October had been dropping. This was due to attendance growth fueled a bunch of questionable holidays like Columbus Day, Halloween, Sweetest Day, National Dessert Day (of course Disney celebrates this one), National Bologna Day, Moldy Cheese Day, etc. Or maybe an increase in schools having staggered fall breaks throughout the month.
Irrespective of why, October was now the busiest month of the year at Walt Disney World in terms of average wait times. Note the past tense. None of that should hold true in October 2020. School breaks are likely to be minimal, convention business is gone, and holidays won’t drive travel this year. In other words, it’s a return to the off-season crowd levels of yore. The only downside–and it’s a big one–is significantly reduced park hours.
3. November – Save for Thanksgiving and Veterans Day weeks, neither of which are as bad as the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks in terms of crowds, November is pretty similar to December. Mid-November is a great time to visit Walt Disney World, whereas the week after Thanksgiving was slightly elevated last year. (We don’t expect Jersey Week to have much of an impact on 2020 crowds–if it even happens at all.)
The other upside to November are that the weather is generally more temperate. The biggest downside is that not all Christmas entertainment starts until after Thanksgiving, and some resort hotel decorations are not up until then. For November 2020, that downside is likely to be amplified–if Christmas follows the precedent set by Halloween, the holiday season won’t start until later than normal this year. In essence, that’s our basis for dropping November from the #1 to #3 slot here. Still a good month to visit–just not as good as early to mid-December 2020!
2. March – This is a month on the rise, and we’re incredibly optimistic (perhaps overly so) that March 2021 will be one of the absolute best times to visit. If current timelines hold true, this could be the first month that Walt Disney World rolls back its temporary health & safety measures, returns attractions to full capacity, and brings back major entertainment. A colossal step towards normalcy. Of course, this is assuming a lot, and those actual changes could come before or after March 2021.
In terms of crowds, March 2021 is anyone’s guess. In a normal year, there would be elevated crowd levels. At schools that don’t use the Easter holiday as a proxy for their Spring Break dates, the bulk of these breaks fall in the second half of March. Easter does not fall in March again until 2024, meaning that March should not be terrible crowd-wise for 2021, even assuming the worst. However, it’s also entirely possible that many schools cancel their Spring Breaks or discourage travel.
Aside from crowds, weather is typically temperate by March, as evidenced by the start of Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival at the beginning of the month. Regardless of the year, we are big fans of early March dates as a great time for cool weather, low to moderate crowds, and Epcot coming into bloom. For March 2021, we’d probably gamble and move our travel dates towards the middle of the month.
1. December – If Disney Vacation Club is the “Best Kept Secret,” the beginning of December being the best time to visit is “Disney’s Second Best Kept Secret.” Unfortunately, there’s just a pinch of sarcasm here. It’s as if the both ‘secrets’ were entrusted to Harvey Levin, and have been plastered everywhere.
The secret has gotten out about early December, and that coupled with Disney’s more strategic use of blockout dates and dynamic ticket pricing has shifted attendance somewhat. Crowds are still nowhere near as bad as other peak seasons, but it’s no longer the ghost town that it once was. We still view the first two weeks of the month as very desirable times to visit, even despite being about as “secret” as the In-N-Out Secret Menu.
Low crowds, pleasant weather, plus Christmas decorations & entertainment are the big highlights here. On top of that, December 2020 won’t see the special events that have become normal and have elevated crowds in the last few years. While it might see reduced hours and less entertainment than normal, we’ll gladly trade that for what should be the least-busy Christmas season in over a decade!
The culmination of all of this? That our favorite week to visit Walt Disney World is the Sunday after Thanksgiving through the first Saturday of December. For this year, this means arriving on November 29, 2020. We think that’s the sweet spot for the best prospects of good weather, moderate crowds, and experiencing all of the Christmas festivities.
We should emphasize that crowds for both this recommended week and the next week are generally moderate rather than low. If you want truly low crowds, go the first or third week of November 2020 (skipping the weeks of Veterans Day and Thanksgiving). The downside to those is Christmas isn’t quite in full swing for either week.
That’s generally speaking, though. Without Pop Warner in 2020 and less travel in general, it’s entirely possible that the month will feature off-season crowds until December 18, 2020.
For week #2, I’d do the second week of March 2021. Assuming the event happens, this would hit the start of the 2020 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, which is a lovely and not too crowded event. More importantly, it hits the sweet spot of “Spring 2021” when crowds are not heavy, safety measures and capacity limitations should be relaxed, and big entertainment should be returning.
Again, when things will return to normal is anyone’s guess, but given comments from Orange County health experts and where things stand in terms of other timelines (plus the likelihood that Walt Disney World isn’t going to bring entertainment back during the January/February off-season regardless of anything else), this seems like a logical target. Hopefully Space 220 Restaurant will be ready to blast off by then and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will have scurried to opening!
If I were going for two additional trips in the next two years, I would plan Trip #3 would be the last week in September into the first week of October. This starts September 27, 2020 and capitalizes on the lower crowds of September while also increasing the odds of milder and hurricane-free weather.
It hits both Halloween and Food & Wine seasons. As an added bonus, October 1, 2020 is Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s anniversary, which is a neat experience. (If you want the lowest possible crowds, go a week or two earlier. The only downside to that is potentially worse weather.)
Note that if you’re planning even further ahead: October 1, 2021 is Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Then, it goes from being a “neat experience” to a huge event that will undoubtedly be one of the busiest days of the year at Magic Kingdom, with super fans descending upon the parks that week. Plan accordingly if you’re already looking at 2021.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you agree or disagree with our 2020-2021 Walt Disney World month by month rankings? Are there any months you think are better or worse than we have them ranked? Any specific ideal weeks that you’d recommend people visit Walt Disney World? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!