Choosing when to visit Walt Disney World in 2020 means consulting statistical crowd calendars, seasonal events schedules, park hours, and more. This guide to the best & worst months at WDW provides info & tips to help you choose, plus our top 3 weeks of the year at Walt Disney World.
Before we even get to wait times, weather, and crowds, one important thing to consider is construction and new things debuting. As of right now, not all 2020 Walt Disney World opening/construction dates have been announced (fortunately, some have!). When this info is released, we’ll be sure to update this and send out an email notification. To receive these, subscribe to our free email newsletter.
Some major openings have occurred recently. Notably, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open, including the hugely popular Rise of the Resistance (no matter when you go, that attraction will be popular–see our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Ride Guide for strategy). The next big addition comes March 4, 2020, with the debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. We’re thus now in a position to make predictions about 2020 crowds at Walt Disney World, including the best months to visit…
Trying to use Walt Disney World crowd calendars to save time is really popular among trip planners, and we think it’s a savvy move (hence this post). However, we also believe in a 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 change, and can never 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 calendar stats. 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?
That’s our approach, at least, and one that has proven popular with readers of our When to Visit Walt Disney World post, which we felt only scratched the surface of what people should be considering before choosing their dates. To provide additional we began writing monthly guides to delve into each month in greater depth.
These monthly Walt Disney World guides offer overviews of crowd levels for the month, what weather and temperatures to expect, special events occurring during the month, and historical information on the availability of discounts and pricing patterns. In this post, we seek to offer context to the monthly guides by sharing our own variation of a crowd calendar for Walt Disney World.
Not one based purely in statistics, but also in qualitative factors. The goal of our Walt Disney World crowd calendar is to rank every month and give a bit of insight into which times within the month are best…and why we like or dislike each month. Sometimes, it’s due to crowds, sometimes it’s weather or other factors.
Anyway, 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. We feel that this offers a much more helpful resource to everyone planning Walt Disney World vacations, and you can adapt it to your circumstances as you see fit…
August and September were particularly slow, leading us to write another article, “All Quiet on the Crowds at Disney World Front.” Crowds got progressively heavier towards the end of September, with October hitting its “new normal” of heavy crowds. November and December were likewise about exactly normal in terms of highs and lows.
In our most recent update to this post, we’ve revised a few of the month by month overviews taking these recent crowd trends into account. You can read more in-depth descriptions about each month by clicking the month name below, which will open that page in a new tab…
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.
The last week of August is potentially the qualitatively worst week of year 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, both Halloween and Epcot Food & Wine Festival “seasons” start at the end of August, which cause crowd spikes (and unevenness) at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It should still only be moderate in terms of crowds, but still worse than the two months that preceded it.
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 two consecutive summers, we’ve seen below average crowd levels, so we’re now prepared to call that the “new normal.” Crowds will spike around Independence Day, the upside there is added entertainment and special fireworks.
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 that “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 – Another summer month, another low spot on the list. The upside to June is that, like July, summer crowds are seemingly now a thing of the past (at least until Walt Disney World self-corrects with pricing model changes). 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 2020. 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. October – With each update to this post, October drops. If we were making this list 5 or so years ago, there would have been a solid argument for placing October in the #1 spot. Markedly improved weather as compared to September plus Halloween and Food & Wine Festival in full swing.
Nowadays, everyone and their brother seems to be celebrating Columbus Day, Rosh Hashanah, Halloween, Sweetest Day, National Dessert Day (of courseDisney celebrates this one), National Bologna Day, Moldy Cheese Day, and a whole host of other random holidays. Or maybe it’s an increase in schools having staggered fall breaks throughout the month.
Irrespective of why, October is now the busiest month of the year at Walt Disney World in terms of average wait times. It’s so busy that the entire month is blocked out for Free Dining and other discounts are difficult to find. The crowd levels coupled with lack of discounts push October into the middle of the pack. While it doesn’t see the same obscene wait times as New Year’s Eve or Christmas week, October is a month that is consistently busy, with no real reprieve. If you don’t mind rolling the dice a bit on weather, you should visit during September if you’re choosing a fall month.
7. February – The beginning of February is off-season, but things get progressively worse. This is especially true the week of Presidents’ Day, which is typically the first truly bad week of the year for crowds. The week before that should be moderately crowded, and is still a decent time to visit.
On balance, crowds are higher than January, but this is often negated by the improved weather and the parks all having hit “reset” on the Christmas decorations. While it’s not a good time to go in terms of seasonal events, it is a good time to see Walt Disney World in its “unblemished” state, without added decor. The first week of February is definitely the best of both worlds, so if you’re planning a visit in February 2020, that’s the week to choose. (Or the very last week of the month–but we far prefer the first week of March 2020, for reasons identified below…)
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 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 transition to summer, with park hours becoming longer and whatever new entertainment is on-tap for summer typically debuting by or before Memorial Day.
Even with Memorial Day weekend factored into the mix, crowds are below average in May. You have some people trying to beat the Peak Season pricing, while others cannot visit before school is out. The 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.
5. January – We often describe January as the “holiday hangover” at Walt Disney World, and that’s perfectly apt. 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.)
After the New Year’s and WDW Marathon crowds head home, it place feels hungover. The downside is that Christmas decorations are up long past the holiday’s conclusion–to the point that they are awkward and overdue for removal. Weather can be cold, but it beats hot and humid!
The plus side of that is that the crowds are ‘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 the best chance at (slightly) improved weather. All things considered, January is still one of the better months to go, especially if you can avoid the MLK Day holiday.
In terms of crowds, March is below average at the beginning of the month and above-average thereafter. 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 2020, but it won’t be good either once mid-March hits.
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 the late February, early March dates as a great time for cool weather, low to moderate crowds, and Epcot coming into bloom.
3. September – When judged solely on the basis of crowds, September is one of the better months of the year. Aside from Labor Day (which is actually less crowded than you expect), September is relatively slow, especially earlier in the month. Think of September as the calm before the storm that is October, with crowds getting heavier towards the end of the month. September also is the first full month of Halloween and Food & Wine Festival seasons, which are definite plusses.
The 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.
2. 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.
Unfortunately, the first week of December is not the respite from crowds that it once was. The secret has gotten out, and that coupled with Disney’s more strategic use of blockout dates and dynamic ticket pricing has shifted crowds to the first week of December. Crowds are still nowhere near as bad as October or 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 and Christmas decorations & entertainment are the big highlights here. The only thing keeping December out of the top slot is the hellacious crowds that descend upon Walt Disney World the week leading into Christmas and don’t relent for the rest of the year.
1. November – Save for Thanksgiving week and Jersey Week, neither of which are nearly as bad as the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks in terms of crowds, November is pretty much like how early December used to be. Mid-November is a great time to visit Walt Disney World, whereas the week after Thanksgiving was slightly elevated last year.
The other upsides to November are that the weather is generally more temperate (whereas December can be downright cold at times) and Food & Wine Festival is ongoing. The biggest downside is that not all Christmas entertainment starts until after Thanksgiving, and some resort hotel decorations are not up until then.
If low crowds and more temperate weather speak to you–and why wouldn’t they–then it should be easy to see how November sneaks into the #1 spot on our list for months to visit Walt Disney World.
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 next 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. (It also typically avoids Pop Warner.)
We should emphasize that crowds for both this recommended week and the next week are 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.
If I were going for two additional trips, whether in a single year, span of years, or in my entire life, I would plan trip #2 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.
For week #3, I’d do the first week of March 2020. This would hit the start of the 2020 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, which is a lovely and not too crowded event. More importantly, it puts you at Walt Disney World for the opening on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and gives you a few days to experience that attraction. (Plus any soft openings that might happen.)
Aside from the Sunday after Thanksgiving timeframe (you do not want to start the trip any earlier than that), you can tweak the timeframes of these 3 sets of dates to fit your travel needs. Just don’t tell anyone about these weeks. Let’s try to keep this an actual secret.
Do you agree or disagree with our 2020 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 in 2020 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!