Choosing when to visit Walt Disney World usually means consulting statistical crowd calendars, seasonal events schedules, park hours, and more. This guide the best & worst months in 2021 and the first half of 2022 provides info & tips to help you choose, plus our top 3 weeks. (Updated July 25, 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 this year, 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 mostly qualitative and some quantitative factors. This considers a variety of variables in conjunction with our expectations about Walt Disney World’s attendance for the remainder of 2021 and 2022…
If you’re still in ‘wait and see’ mode, determining when to book a Walt Disney World vacation between now and June 2022, 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!
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.
On that note, we want to emphasize that it’s very difficult to rank October through December 2021. All signs point to the final quarter of the calendar year being very busy due to the kickoff of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. Many longtime fans are making “homecoming” trips for the opening act of this event.
This is exacerbated by the fact that many people skipped holiday trips last year, and are making up for lost time. We already know many Walt Disney World hotels are sold out for October through December and there’s almost no DVC availability, so it’s going to be busy! If you’re concerned only with crowds and wait times, avoid the last quarter of 2021. It’s entirely possible that October through December 2021 will be the busiest three month stretch ever at Walt Disney World.
However, there’s also the qualitative side of the equation. A lot is debuting or returning on October 1, 2021 for “World’s Most Magical Celebration.” There will be new nighttime spectaculars, debuting and returning entertainment, and the new ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Moreover, we’re expecting a lot more to come back on or around that date, making it even more attractive.
Additionally, October is when Florida’s weather starts to improve. That plus the normal Halloween and Christmas seasonal offerings makes those final three months more fun even in the face of the potentially colossal crowds. That makes ranking October, November, and December really tricky.
Honestly, the entire list is a challenging. Even months with significant and obvious downsides might have tremendous upside. Take August, for example, which ranks #11. That’s not great, but depending upon what happens with pent-up demand fizzling out, the return of Annual Passes (or not), and restored entertainment, the second half of the month could end up being much better than the first half.
There are similar stories throughout the list. As mentioned above, October through December will likely be very busy, but will also bring with them a lot of new and returning offerings. You’ll have to decide for yourself how you weigh those countervailing factors–we’re just giving you a heads up about how we’re expecting the end of 2021 to play out.
Anyway, here is our personal assessment of the best and worst months to visit Walt Disney World for the remainder of 2021 and first half of 2022. We’d recommend reading the description of each month carefully to make an informed decision about which timeframes are best and worst for you…
12. July – In a normal year, July would not rank dead last, but it’s currently a month of growing pains at Walt Disney World. Rules have been relaxed, which is drawing more visitors. Those guests will likely have fewer issues being able to score Park Pass reservations, as the attendance cap has been dramatically increased. Growing crowds will collide with fewer things to do, as Walt Disney World has scaled up capacity faster than restoring substantive offerings.
Typically, Summer is No Longer Peak Season at Walt Disney World. However, there’s nothing typical about this year. Americans are making up for lost time this summer, and Florida is one of the top destinations. Consequently, expect heavy crowds for the remainder of the summer season at Walt Disney World. (This applies to the first half of August 2021, as well.)
Beyond that, 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.” Don’t get too down on trip–it’ll still be a great time so long as you go in with good strategy and realistic expectations.
11. August – Feel like Mission: Space is insufficient at simulating a visit to outer space? Then you’ll love August in Walt Disney World, when every day feels like a veritable trip to Venus or Mercury! August sees the mercury rising in Central Florida, and that hot, humid, and rainy weather alone makes August among the worst months to visit.
August is qualitatively the worst month to visit Walt Disney World. Quantitatively, it’s harder to say. August 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, Annual Passholder blockouts lift in August, causing a spike of locals.
In August 2021, there are two added wrinkles. On the one hand, there’s our expectation is that AP sales will resume in mid-August (see When Will Walt Disney World Sell Annual Passes Again?). There are a lot of Walt Disney World fans and new Florida transplants who are eager to purchase APs. If they are allowed to do so in mid-August, that could result in a spike of pent-up demand that comes close to offsetting the drop in attendance from schools going back into session.
Conversely, by mid to late August 2021, pent-up demand for summer vacation should start to burn out as families prepare to head back to (largely in-person) school schedules. This plus rising July case numbers in Florida plus many Walt Disney World fans waiting until October 1 could result in a serious drop-off in attendance and a lull in crowds from late August through the end of September. On balance, our expectation for August is a tale of two months–very busy with “growing pains” the first half, and significantly better–even with all those new APs–during the second half.
10. 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 2022 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!
9. June – Our expectation is that things are largely back to normal at Walt Disney World by June 2022. This means an ordinary summer season, which has become a moderately crowded time of year to visit. With that said, we do expect a slight spike over normal driven by a return of international tourism, the ongoing 50th Anniversary celebration, and likelihood that TRON Lightcycle Run or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will debut in or around June 2022.
Another normal downside to June is the weather. Obviously, it’s a hot month, and 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%. The upside to June is that it’s typically the less busy of the summer months, with most summer vacations happening in July or early August.
8. February – For the last few years, February has seen atypically high crowds at Walt Disney World. Aside from the week of Presidents’ Day, this would not “naturally” happen–it’s Florida’s off-season. However, Walt Disney World leverages special and sporting events to boost crowd numbers. These are likely to mostly return by February 2022, spiking the year over year average attendance levels.
The reason February ranks #8 is simply because January is better. If you can avoid the weeks around holidays, February is still a decent time to visit. The first week of February is definitely the best of both worlds, so if you’re planning a visit in February 2022, that’s the week to choose. (The very last week of the month won’t be attractive since it’ll overlap with Mardi Gras in 2022.)
7. March – Usually, early March is one of our “sleeper picks” for low crowds. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras occurs at the beginning of the month in 2022, and that will cause a spike in crowds. After that, there should be a brief respite before spring break, but not long enough for March 2022 to rank highly.
On the plus side, 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 fans of March dates as a great time for cool weather, moderate crowds, and Epcot coming into bloom. For March 2022, we’d move our travel dates to the second week of the month–trying to avoid Orange County’s spring break (March 11-18, 2022) to the greatest extent possible.
6. May – After our descriptions for June, July, and August that weren’t exactly ringing endorsements, you might have similar worries about May. Fortunately, it is a significantly better month to visit. This is mostly because 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.
Our big expectation for May 2022 is it’s entirely back to normal. Even with Memorial Day weekend factored into the mix, crowds are typically below average in May. The main downside to May is that heat and humidity can really start intensifying in May, but still not as bad as the summer months that follow. However, May 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.
5. 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 similar to December. Mid-November is usually a decent time to visit Walt Disney World, whereas the week after Thanksgiving is elevated.
The upside to November are that the weather is generally more temperate. The downside is that not all Christmas entertainment starts until after Thanksgiving (specifically at Epcot), and some resort hotel decorations are not up during the first half of the month. In essence, that’s our basis for dropping November to the #6 slot here. Still a good time to visit–just not as good as early December.
4. 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 significant drivers of attendance this year. However, that will be more than offset by fans visiting for the kickoff of the World’s Most Magical Celebration the first week of the month. After that, crowds should drop off a bit for the remainder of the month–but still be much heavier than normal.
Significantly elevated crowds are the reason for October to rank as the #5 month of 2021 at Walt Disney World. It’s much higher from a qualitative perspective thanks to the kickoff of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which starts October 1, 2021. It will begin a huge celebration with new and returning entertainment. It’s also likely to be another significant milestone in reestablishing normalcy.
3. 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 not 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 desirable times to visit, even despite being about as “secret” as the In-N-Out Secret Menu.
Pleasant weather plus Christmas decorations & entertainment are the big highlights here. It also helps that Pop Warner has moved to Universal, so that won’t contribute to crowds. However, a lot of Walt Disney World fans delayed annual holiday visits last year, and that plus it being one of the first few months of the 50th Anniversary could lead to a December that’s well above-average.
2. 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. (If it happens–and we think it will–you’ll also want to avoid the 2022 Walt Disney World Marathon; so basically, don’t visit before January 10, 2022.)
1. September – Two years ago, we made the bold prediction in the lead-up to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that the blockbuster land’s first full month open would be the least busy of the year. Very few readers believed us, with many cancelling their trips because they believed it would be a crowded mess. September ended up being dead–there hasn’t been as good of a month to visit since then. History is going to repeat itself.
Admittedly, the prediction is not so bold this time. Summer vacation season and pent-up demand will almost certainly have fizzled out by September 2021. It’s also the month before the “World’s Most Magical Celebration” kicks off on October 1, and many fans will delay trips until that begins. So really, this is a much safer prediction than the one we made for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The boldness here comes in our expectation that by mid-month, much of what’s returning or debuting for the 50th Anniversary will already be running. That’s a gamble, though.
When judged solely on the basis of crowds, September is always 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.
The biggest downside to September is the weather. Heat and humidity make being outdoors unpleasant, and it’s 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.
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 in normal years. Of course, 2021 is not a normal year, and it’s likely post-Thanksgiving will see elevated crowds due to the 50th Anniversary. If you want truly low crowds, you are going to have to wait until January 2022–it’s unlikely any day between October and December will see below average crowds.
I would plan Trip #2 for 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.
Most importantly, 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 should visit one week earlier (September 19-25, 2021) as anniversary crowds will start arriving on the following Sunday. You’ll benefit from significantly lower crowds, and might be able to catch a soft opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and anything else debuting for the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
For week #3, I’d look much further forward–to the second week of March 2022. This would likely hit the start of the 2022 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, which is a lovely event. It also hits the gap between Mardi Gras and spring break season, which should be advantageous from a crowd perspective. (If you’re primarily concerned with crowds or weather, consider the last full week of January 2022 instead.)
Most importantly, it’s a time when everything will be entirely back to normal at Walt Disney World. No health safety protocol whatsoever and all entertainment restored (that’s going to be restored). The sea of construction walls in EPCOT should also be starting to part by then, and Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration will still be in full swing.
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 2021-2022 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!