As prices increase, more vacation planners might wonder when is the cheapest time to go to Walt Disney World? This post answers that, with seasons, weeks, and specific dates that are less expensive and less crowded than the most expensive and busiest travel holidays.
Note that “cheapest” is a relative term and not an absolute one. Walt Disney World is an undeniably expensive vacation destination, and the least expensive dates are still priced on par with traveling to Europe, Asia, or many tropical locales. Compounding that is the reality that total trip prices to Walt Disney World are up by thousands of dollars in the last couple of years–and had risen by around 5% per year in the decade before that.
Park tickets, hotels, restaurants, and more at Walt Disney World have all increased dramatically of late. That’s not to mention other costs, like transportation (airfare, rental cars, rideshare, etc.) or new expenses, like going from free FastPass to the paid Genie+ service. This trend of higher prices is unlikely to reverse itself anytime soon. To the contrary, pent-up demand, staffing shortages, inflation, and a lack of discounts mean visiting Walt Disney World in 2022 is more expensive than ever.
We first took a look at this topic in How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost in 2022?That was rather eye-opening for many people planning trips for the first time or returning from a hiatus of a few years. The comments from other readers are equally illuminating, as many reported spending even more than our already high budget ranges on Walt Disney World vacations this year and in 2022.
Consider this post an indirect “sequel” to that one. While this doesn’t help you cut costs or trim the fat from your vacation budget (see our Top 10 Money Saving Tips for Walt Disney World for assistance with that), it does aim to help you choose the most economical dates to visit!
Before we discuss specific 2022 dates that are cheapest at Walt Disney World, we should start by fully addressing the pent-up demand and staffing shortages that were briefly mentioned above. These are particularly relevant, as they’re throwing a monkey wrench into…pretty much everything.
In a normal year, the least expensive time to visit Walt Disney World would be the winter off-season in January and February. This basically encompasses these entire two months, with the exception of the very beginning of the year when schools are still on Christmas break plus the weeks around MLK Day and Presidents’ Day. There’s a bit more nuance to it than that, but the general rule is that January and February are the cheapest months of the year, on average.
At this point, it’s impossible to say with certainty whether that’ll be true in January and February 2022. If we’re going exclusively by hotel rack rates and ticket price charts, then yes, it is. As we sit here today, those two months of the year have the lowest numbers.
In a normal year, there’d still be a little more to it than that. Nevertheless, we could say January and February would mostly be the cheapest months of the year, with a small asterisk to account for discounts in the fall and other variables that can move the needle on a case-by-case basis.
For 2022, the asterisk is much larger. As with those smaller asterisks in prior years, discounting is the key–or rather, the lack thereof next year. Walt Disney World’s Early 2022 Discounts are now available, but the problem is that they’re not available to everyone–only Annual Passholders and Floridians.
This lack of discounting is not a totally new phenomenon–just new as of the last several months. It has never occurred in the winter off-season, or at least not in the decade-plus that we’ve been tracking Walt Disney World deals and pricing.
We’ve been covering this dearth of deals for months, and what it boils down to is an imbalance of supply and demand. There are a lot of people still itching to make up for lost time traveling, and Walt Disney World isn’t operating at 100% due to staffing shortages.
This is particularly pronounced on the resort side of the business, where there’s a lack of housekeepers, food court workers, and other key positions necessary to operate resorts at 100% guest loads. (If you haven’t already read it, we’d recommend What’s Up with Sold Out Hotels at Walt Disney World?)
As a result of that supply-demand mismatch, Walt Disney World has not needed to offer discounts for the last 6+ months. There’s no need to entice people to visit due to pent-up demand, and there are few unsold rooms to fill because the company cannot fill every room in the first place.
It’s impossible to foresee where this goes from here. New data suggests that many Americans are starting to find their savings dwindling, which could have the effect of reducing consumer spending and pushing more people back into the workplace by early 2022.
With regard to Walt Disney World, that could mean less demand and more supply–or normalizing operations. If that happens, there would likely be some lag before Disney reacted, but it’d be reasonable to expect some degree of discounting by mid-2022. In such a scenario, Fall 2022 would almost certainly be the cheapest time to visit Walt Disney World. In particular, late August through early September 2022 and late October through mid-November 2022.
Conversely, inflation could continue to run hot in 2022 as supply chain chaos continues and the “Great Resignation” causes more sluggish hiring in leisure and hospitality. Wage growth could accelerate as businesses are forced to pay more to attract hourly workers–rather than offering one-off hiring bonuses. On top of that, demand could remain strong at international travel resumes, group bookings jump, or 50th Anniversary marketing proves effective.
If most or even many of these scenarios play out, not only would that decrease the likelihood of future discounts–it’d increase the likelihood of more price jumps. Resort rack rates are already set for the year, but ticket, food, parking, and add-on costs could spike in February 2022 (the month when Disney normally raises prices).
Your personal perspective about the direction of the economy will almost certainly dictate where you think Walt Disney World’s pricing is heading within 2022. This is not a blog about consumer sentiment, and since there’s not even consensus among economists about what will occur next year, that’s beyond the scope of this post.
Turning back to normal times, it’s worth prefacing all of this by noting that rack rates for resorts–the most expensive component of most vacations–increase each calendar year. While it’s debatable whether January or September will be cheaper within 2022, it’s a near-certainty that both of those months will offer lower rates than their counterparts in 2023.
In other words, the advice here should be applied to dates or months in the same year. Unless you’re “banking on” another recession or some other cataclysmic economic occurrence, it’s a safe bet that the general trend line for Walt Disney World prices will continue its upward climb on an annualized basis.
Within each year, January and February are the cheapest months to visit. Specifically, January 9-13 and January 17 through mid-February. Prices spike for the week of Presidents’ Day, falling again the next week–but not as low as those early-year off-season dates.
Following that, early March is generally another sweet spot, as is the end of the month. Spring Break, Mardi Gras, and Easter all bring with them significant spikes to both pricing and crowds. In fact, attendance is almost always a good proxy for prices. If you consult our 2022 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendarand look for the least busy dates, you’ll also generally find the cheapest dates. As a general rule, higher prices do not deter people from visiting or “redistribute” attendance.
Fast-forward past Easter, and that week (after the holiday) through the week before Memorial Day once again see lower prices. This is technically considered “regular” season, but it’s on par with some dates in mid-February and is the cheapest Walt Disney World will be until early August.
About a week before schools go back into session, prices decrease again. This occurs earlier on the hotel side of the equation than with park tickets, presumably because locals continue visiting after tourists stop traveling–and only the latter books hotel stays.
Starting the third Sunday of August, prices return to near their lowest levels of the year and stay there until mid-September (with the notable exception of Labor Day weekend). Costs do get higher from then until early October, but it’s by a nominal amount. Technically, these rates are higher than off-season dates in January and February. As noted above, that can be further exacerbated by intervening price increases on tickets, food, etc.
However, it can also be more than offset by discounts that tend to be offered in the fall offseason. Again, Free Dining is the big one here–but not even the regular Disney Dining Plan has returned yet, so that’s a big wildcard for 2022. Assuming Free Dining does return, it’s usually blocked out for the entire month of October.
Prices for October through early December tend to be a veritable roller coaster depending upon whether it’s a holiday week/end or not. Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving all see spikes–some fairly massive. Same goes for runDisney race weekends.
If it’s not one of those weeks or weekends, pricing is near its lowest levels of the year through the first week of December. That gradually escalates beginning the second week in December, culminating in the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Beginning December 16 and lasting until the end of the calendar year, holiday season kicks in and prices hit their highest levels of the entire year.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about next year, but we can say with almost complete confidence that the most expensive dates to visit Walt Disney World in 2022 are December 16-31.
Ultimately, that should answer some questions about when it’s cheapest to visit Walt Disney World…and perhaps raise even more. Basically, the least expensive dates on paper as of right now are mid-January through mid-February and mid-August through September, followed by late April to late May, then October through early December–all minus long holiday weekends and the full weeks leading up to major holidays.
Of course, that’s a wide range of dates and even potential pricing depending upon where things go from here. While I cannot offer any credible predictions about the economy, my general sentiment is essentially this can’t go on forever.
Against that backdrop and with that bias, if forced to choose dates to visit Walt Disney World in the next year–for a range of reasons both qualitative and quantitative–I would not pick January or February 2022.
To the contrary, I’m already on record predicting that the winter “off-season” is going to catch a lot of Walt Disney World fans by surprise. Due to postponed trips, a return of international travel, resumption of runDisney and youth sporting events, and people remembering how low crowds were this year–for reasons unlikely to be replicated in 2022–there’s likely more demand this winter. The lack of discounts is already concerning and suggestive of more travel, and my expectation is that attendance will follow suit.
Instead, I would look forward all the way to September 2022. This is essentially a hedge, with the expectation that Walt Disney World operations will fully normalize by then as will real world circumstances beyond the berm. It’s not necessarily that I think it’ll take that long, but rather, that things have already moved slower than anticipated with more disruptions than anticipated that erring on the side of waiting longer is pragmatic. Plus, September is reliably the best month for crowds and deals at Walt Disney World.
Personally, I’d actually go beyond September 2022 for my travel target and book the week after Thanksgiving. This is nothing new and actually has nothing to do with pricing–our Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney Worldhas recommended that week for ages–that’s just our personal favorite for a mix of reasons related to pricing, crowds, weather, and the holiday season. It’s “objectively inferior” to September, but the reality is that humans don’t take vacations in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. That’s the better week on balance.
What do you think about this look at the cheapest times to visit Walt Disney World? Which would you pick in the January/February v. August/September dilemma? Think discounts will return later in 2022 and put a reality-check on runaway prices? Have you noticed these increases in 2022 Walt Disney World vacation packages? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!