We won’t answer the most asked question about theme parks. But we will help you if we can add a short word to that query…
…is that OK with you?
That’s the word.
A tiny word but important.
And just what is the most asked question about theme parks?
The best time to go.
Lots of places have answers, too.
But there is no one best time to visit. No such thing.
Or a time good or best time for everybody. No matter what.
It depends on “if”…
“If” you want to visit when the crowds are not there.
Or if you want to get your Disney World tickets when there are other events to see, either at Disney or elsewhere in the area.
Or if you want the most ideal climate conditions for your visit.
Or the cheapest time of the year to buy your Universal Studios Discount tickets.
For most of us, the best time is when the parks are the least crowded and the least expensive. Those two elements.
So you see what we mean: best is not always best
Buying Disney world or Universal Studios Orlando tickets or anywhere else in the local theme park market is not exactly like buying tickets to the local movie theatre matinee showing.
So let’s look at when it’s best to visit…IF…
If you go when the parks are not crowded.
Really, sorry, not the right question.
Walt Disney World Resort, particularly, but Universal also…and to a lesser extend other parks are almost always crowded.
So the question is when crowds are less than normal.
As most everyone knows by now, any day that school’s let out is full of kids.
That’s particularly the case with Disney where many rides are geared for the very young, but also applies to other parks.
There are no single best days. But the three best general visiting times are:
---Mid-November until mid-December.
An added bonus is that Christmas decorations are up. There are some special events but crowds are generally moderate.
What to avoid: the week of Thanksgiving.
---The second week of January and into mid-February. This is one of the least busy times of the year.
An added bonus: hotel prices are lower.
What to avoid: the first week of January when there’s the very popular Walt Disney World Marathon.
---The last week in August and most of September.
Disney knows this is a less popular time and therefore offers various packages to encourage even more visitors.
An added bonus: hotel prices generally are at the lowest levels just about anytime.
What to avoid: Labor Day weekend.
If you go at worst times…definitely not your goal…but since we’re on the subject…
The week following Christmas is No. 1. Easily the worst.
But a matter of opinion, with some voting for Spring Break as a better choice.
Everyone wants to see Disney at both those times of the year.
It can’t be just the holiday decorations but the combination of time off for adults and children makes it not just the most festive time of the year, but also the busiest.
Did we also say most expensive?
If you do have to go, get survival tips from us or elsewhere.
Another bad one:
Easter week, either before the date or the week after.
Spring break for schools, you know.
Dates for that vary but it all adds up to about the busiest time of the year for just about all theme parks.
Any holiday weekends all year long.
Another expense to consider if you want to visit at say, President’s Day weekend is airfares. Often higher during holiday times.
Then, there’s Midsummer. It’s hot.
But so what?
Say June through early August.
The simplest explanation for why people sweat it out those times is that traditional family vacation times remain the summer.
That’s when it seems easier to get the entire family together for a trip to Orlando’s theme parks.
If you want the best days to visit.
Go near the end of the week. Thursdays and Fridays. There are generally more crowds Monday through Wednesday.
Weekends are the most crowded, naturally.
And so are holidays.
If you go when you know the weather is really wet.
Read this to be not normal afternoon showers but ongoing monsoon-style rain. Not common but occasional.
All the parks including Busch, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld have indoor attractions.
But the very best for major parks is undoubtedly Universal Studios Florida.
Sure, there’s a lot of walking.
But there are also a lot of indoor rides. In fact, a majority of them are sheltered.
As we said, forecasts for sustained downpours are not common. But if you encounter one, consider spending the day at Universal.
If you go during Bike Week.
The most famous local version is in Daytona Beach, only an hour’s drive from Orlando on I-4.
If you visit any park, you will see a lot of people wearing black motorcycle jackets. Virtually none of them mean any harm or are any threat at all.
But if you plan on staying overnight in Daytona, expect to pay higher hotel rates than any other time of the year.
The so-called “World’s Most Famous Beach” is free, though there are restricted areas and you can’t drive anywhere as you could in the past.
If you go when hours are longest so you can stay longer at the parks.
This is often not a consideration, but if it is an issue with you, the general principle is that less busy times of the year have shorter park hours.
In busier times, the parks stay open longer.
So if this is important to you, take a close look at Disney’s extended hours and deals from other parks related to time you can spend there.
If you go when the weather is best.
You will go during Orlando’s winters, of course. Cool temperatures, particularly at night. Little or no rain, sometimes for weeks on end.
If you go to see special events (either to avoid them or as participants)
Keep in mind these schedules are subject to change, but in general these are some examples during the year:
Jersey Week is usually the first or second week of November when that state’s schools have teacher’s conventions. School’s out. And we all know what that means.
Lots of parents also take extended vacation times with their families. And the biggest single market for Disney (possibly for other parks as well) is New Jersey.
Mardi Gras week may really be busy in New Orleans but when it’s here in February or March, crowds are also drawn to Disney and other parks.
Whenever TV coverage is taped for ABC’s “Very Merry Christmas Day Parade.” That is usually just after Thanksgiving, though dates vary.
You might be better off if you know the date and stay home to watch it on ABC on Christmas Day.
The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer& Dance Championships are both held at Walt Disney World Resort in early December.
Book ahead of time if you’re planning to attend, and expect bigger crowds, particularly in the evenings when contestants have free time away from the competitions.
In general, if your interest is cheerleading or dance competitions, these are often held from January to March. Actually, these types of events usually don’t have major crowd impacts.
Some lower priced hotels such as the Value resorts like Pop Century do get harder to book for others not part of the huge young girl traffic generated at these times.
These events include the College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships, Twirlmania, and the All Star Cheerleading and Dance Worlds competition (held usually in late April).
South American tour groups, usually in January and July. These are often Brazilian and Argentinian teenagers here for their own spring breaks. Numbers can be large for them, 100 or so.
If you go when hotel rates are lowest
Wait a minute.
We are assuming you want a hotel-motel.
If you are staying outside of the theme park’s own offerings, most rates in Orlando remain consistent for much of the year.
Unlike some places, such as Daytona Beach, known for dramatically raising rates at, say, Bike Week….you can expect the lowest rates during the hottest times. Here, that would be late August or even early September.
Times to avoid: The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
But don’t forget the non-hotel/motel option.
There are always the sites that rent local homes.
But even better for most: the online services such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
You know about them but perhaps have not tried them because they may still be new to you or for various other reasons.
What you need to know is that they are tried and true by now.
The bulk of them are either someone else’s vacation home and often unoccupied.
Home Away is said to have one million international listings with more than 12,400 in Central Florida. Orlando now accounts for 16 percent of that site’s Florida inventory. Customers typically are families or couples. Most rentals are for one week. Millennials are their best customers.
Rentals can range from one room to a large house.
Airbnb is another popular site. It has several million listings worldwide, with several thousand of them in Central Florida.
The major disadvantage of many such sites is some trust. They often require the total cost of a rental upfront.
Cancellation policies are often tougher than hotels.
But on the other hand, users often report a more personalized experience. With more local contacts.
And prices are usually considerably lower.
If you go to stay overnight at a theme park
Disney is typical.
Their “Value” seasons invariably offer the best rates. These are most of mid-August through mid-September.
No surprise there.
Also, early January through mid-February. Again, no surprise.
Fancier rooms at places such as the Grand Floridian cost much more. Still again, no surprise.
But expensive rooms can easily cost $300 more a night than the most basic lodging.
If you can afford it, the Disney Vacation Club resorts are comfortable at a posh level. Lots of space. Much more than a hotel room often with great views.
So remember your own budget.
Disney Value Resorts are the cheapest.
Or there’s camping at Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney, for one example. Rates start at under well under $100.
For the very cheapest rates, book your stay between Sunday and Thursday. Weekend rates generally can be 20 percent higher sometimes. But always look for special offers. They may save you up to 30 percent on moderate or more expensive rooms.
If you go to save money by avoiding restaurants or you are a very very eater who wants to be so picky that you always have groceries on hand.
Lots of people simply pack non-perishable items in their luggage. It’s there when you unpack.
What could be simpler and more convenient?
There are many options when staying anywhere at or near theme parks. The most obvious is Winn-Dixie or other lower priced grocery chains or somewhere like Whole Foods if you really want the highest quality (and prices, the joke is it is called “whole paycheck” for good reasons) food.
You may have to go out to and carry your groceries back to your room if you stay at some on-site hotels such as the Swan and Dolphin at Disney.
But otherwise there are various grocers who will take your orders and deliver such as WeGoShop or Garden Grocer, where you can shop at the web site.
Deliver prices are usually $15-20.
Tipping is optional.
There are minimum orders but you can get discounts for paying ahead of delivery times.
Check to be sure your grocery delivers to wherever you are staying.
You can even try the Speedway gas stations on-site at Disney. They cost more than grocers but also deliver. Selections are also more limited.
If you don’t have your own car to go out and shop, the Uber and similar services are convenient.
If you want to save money before you go.
Buy your t-shirts before you leave.
Same with other caps, stuffed toys, sticker books, anything else. Souvenirs, sure.
But also necessities such as rain ponchos. Get them beforehand. Anywhere will be cheaper than buying it at a park.
If you really really want to avoid any crowds, try to get there just before the park closes because of inclement weather.
This is hardly predictable for visitors. But it does happen occasionally. Rarely. Very rarely.
Most times, it is due to hurricanes.
Hurricane season in Florida starts in June and does not end till November.
So if you are thinking of this somewhat remote possibility, this could actally be your perfect time to visit.
Found, finally. ###