Choosing when to visit Walt Disney World usually means consulting statistical crowd calendars, seasonal events schedules, park hours, and more. This guide to 2021’s best & worst months provides info & tips to help you choose, plus our top 3 weeks. (Updated January 10, 2021.)
Unfortunately, the closure and subsequent reopening of Walt Disney World has upended most crowd forecasting. 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.
Given that our 2021 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars are less reliable for Summer 2021 and beyond, we’re recommending most readers consult this resource for the broad strokes on when to visit Walt Disney World. Accordingly, we’ve re-ranked the best and worst months to visit here based on a variety of qualitative factors. This considers 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. It’s more pragmatic to choose when you’ll visit based on a mix of attendance levels plus weather, seasonal entertainment, and special events–like Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary!
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 throughout this year. Each month should offer more than the one before it. That’s our assumption, at least, and something taken into account for these rankings.
We’ve already seen this start with the return of Park Hopping in January 2021. We expect another push ahead of Easter and Spring Break in March 2021 and one around Memorial Day for the start of summer vacation season. Then yet another on October 1, 2021 for the kickoff of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Anyway, here they are–the best and worst months to visit Walt Disney World 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 last August, but we anticipate Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party being back in 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 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.
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 have some fast fingers (and a fast internet connection!) when trying to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue!
8. February – For the last few years, January and February have seen atypically high crowds at Walt Disney World. Aside from the week of Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day (which will likely be packed), 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 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. 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.
6. 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.
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. 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 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. In essence, that’s our basis for dropping November from the #1 to #4 slot here. Still a good month to visit–just not as good as early to mid-December!
3. March – We’re foolishly optimistic about March 2021. After a rough winter, this could be the first month that Walt Disney World rolls back some temporary health & safety measures and starts bringing back major entertainment. A colossal step towards normalcy. Of course, this is assuming a lot, and those actual changes could come after March 2021.
Even if that doesn’t come to fruition by March 2021 (it’s an ambitious timeline at this point), it should be a good month for crowds. Even in a normal year, early March is one of our “sleeper picks” for low crowds. In 2021, schools are already starting to cancel Spring Breaks and discourage travel. We expect to see more of that, leading to lower attendance throughout the month.
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.
2. October – For the last several years, October had been dropping. Thanks to a variety of holidays, school breaks, conventions, and other events, October had become the busiest month of the year at Walt Disney World in terms of average wait times.
It’s unclear how much of that will occur in October 2021. At the very least, third party special events and conventions are unlikely to be drivers of attendance this year. As such, we’re expecting only slightly above average crowds, rather than heavy crowds for October 2021.
Moderate crowds are hardly a reason for October to rank as the #2 month of 2021 at Walt Disney World. That’s all about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which is October 1, 2021. We anticipate that will be the kickoff of a huge celebration with new and returning entertainment. It’s also likely to be another significant milestone in reestablishing normalcy.
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, the first two (maybe three) weeks of December 2021 should only see moderate crowds, which is not bad considering everything else the month has to offer.
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 28, 2021. 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 (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 and less travel in general, it’s entirely possible that the month will feature off-season crowds until December 17, 2021.
For week #2, I’d do the second week of March 2021. This would hit the start of the 2021 Taste of 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, 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, I would plan Trip #3 would be the last week in September into the first week of October. This starts September 26, 2021 and capitalizes on the lower crowds of September while also increasing the odds of milder and hurricane-free weather. This hits both Halloween and Food & Wine seasons.
Additionally, October 1, 2021 is Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. This is 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 weekend. We wouldn’t miss it for the world; for us personally, this is far and away the #1 week of 2021. If you’re averse to large crowds of Disney dorks like us, you might want to visit a week earlier…or at least avoid Magic Kingdom on the first of October.
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 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!