No one likes to be stuck in crowds at Disney World, much less in the sweltering Florida heat. And no matter when you visit, you’ll probably end up in a few crowds. Walt Disney World is a bustling place that’s visited year-round.
With those thoughts in mind, we wanted to share with you our best tips to help you avoid crowds at Disney like a pro!
So get your notepad and pen ready! You won’t want to miss a few of these secrets!
1. Be choosy (if you can) about what time of year you go
I could probably write an entire article on this topic alone. Certain times of the year are MUCH busier than others. If your schedule permits, it’s a good idea to avoid peak times and instead plan to take your vacation when the crowds tend to be lower.
Steer clear of basically any holiday if you are trying to avoid crowds. Although these times of year are exceptional and Disney does a beautiful job decorating, it is crucial to keep in mind that these features will attract many other guests. These holidays include President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving weekend, and Christmas through the New Year.
Another time of year that travelers seeking to avoid crowds should be wary of is summertime. This one is probably a bit more obvious because everyone knows that summer is when kids are typically on summer vacation. Some professions, such as teachers, have this time off, making it convenient to visit Walt Disney World.
Late March and early to mid-April should be avoided as well for this reason. Disney is a scorching spot for families taking advantage of kids’ spring break.
So what would I recommend?
First, I recommend February. By this point, the New Year’s crowd has passed, and spring breakers have not yet begun to arrive in Florida. As a bonus, the weather can be enjoyable this month as the Florida heat and humidity are not in full force. According to Google, the average high/low temperatures of Orlando in February are 75/54 degrees Fahrenheit.
Second, I would recommend May. It can be a little warmer than February (Google puts the average high/low of this month at 88/69 degrees). But still, you are avoiding the blistering summer heat.
Furthermore, it’s after the spring break crowds have dispersed and before the summer vacationers have arrived. Personally, this is my favorite time to visit since the beautiful Epcot Flower and Garden Festival has annually begun this month.
Next, I would recommend the very tail end of summer going into early fall. This time I do not recommend quite as much as the other times because you tend to run a higher risk of encountering tropical storms during this time of year.
However, the crowds tend to be lighter than other times because, you guessed it, kids are back in school. You can also enjoy Halloween decorations before the bigger crowds arrive for the holidays. Disney usually starts autumnal decorating in August!
2. Plan to Arrive Early to the Parks
Arriving early at the parks is an absolute must if you’re trying to beat the crowds. This is especially true in recent times. From my own experience, having gone in April of this year, Disney often lets people into the parks even before the official park opening.
So, if you’re starting your day at Epcot, you may be able to squeeze in the high-demand attractions in Future World (i.e., Soarin’, Test Track, etc.) before the big crowds arrive. Then, when more people have entered the park, you can beat them on the way back to World Showcase while they are just getting their start at the front of the park.
The same goes for really any theme park at Disney World. Arriving early, hitting popular attractions, and moving on to distant or less popular ones is always a winning formula.
3. Take a Break in the Afternoon
If you follow my tip above and get to the park early, you can also open up your afternoon to take a break.
This time can be spent returning to your resort room and just getting some rest. I also highly recommend this when traveling with small children. The heat and excitement take a toll on them! Hotter times of the day make for a perfect time to escape for a nap!
4. Take Some Time to Visit Resorts
If you want to fit in more fun, there’s no reason you can’t do some more exploring. Take time during the afternoon to visit your resort or one of the others on the property. Most people will be away during the daytime, so you’ll get to visit when the resort is emptier. And the resorts have very nice restaurants, activities, and places to walk around.
Need a break from Magic Kingdom? Hop over to the Polynesian on the monorail and order a drink and snacks at the legendary Trader Sam’s. Or, you can visit the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, or Wilderness Lodge, which are all in the same vicinity.
If you’re at Animal Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is just minutes away. You can view a savanna with numerous real animals such as giraffes, zebras, ostriches, bongos, wildebeests, gazelles, and more.
When it becomes available again, you can also book the Wanyama Safari Tour, where you get to experience a private safari before dining at Jiko, The Cooking Place. All of this and more are available at the Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Around Epcot and Hollywood Studios, you can pop over and explore all that the Boardwalk has to offer. If you have not ridden the Skyliner yet, this is an excellent opportunity to do so. The Skyliner is connected to both of these parks and Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, Riviera, and Pop Century resorts.
I love Disney most because the possibilities are endless, and the resorts are no exception!
5. Stay Late in the Parks
If you return to the parks after your break, stay late! As the day progresses, some of the crowds have dispersed and returned to their hotel rooms.
When the park’s nighttime entertainment begins (for example, fireworks in the Magic Kingdom), you can cross several popular attractions off your list while everyone else is focused on watching the show. Other parts of the park are basically deserted because most guests are on Main Street, U.S.A., to participate in the evening spectacular.
6. Leave Do Not Linger at the End of the Nighttime Show
This tip comes courtesy of my dad. Growing up, he was always insistent that we leave just before the show ended, be it fireworks at the Magic Kingdom or the ending of Fantasmic over at Hollywood Studios. Now that I am an adult, I totally get it.
Sometimes it is worth staying till the very last spark and note of the show. But if your main goal is to avoid the crowds, this is important. When making your exit at the same time everyone else is, walkways become clogged.
Not only that, transportation can be super backed up. When I have not followed this tip, I have been stuck waiting over an hour to catch a bus back to my resort. After a long day, this isn’t fun – and you are often surrounded by grouchy, tired people.
My dad was right on the money. I don’t remember ever waiting long for Disney transportation growing up because of his whisking us off a tad early. This is especially worth it if you happen to be someone who has seen the shows over and over again.
7. Take Advantage of the Weather
You check your weather app and see that it is going to rain in the afternoon. Don’t let the rain ruin your day; this is your opportunity! Pack a poncho and plan to hit the parks at that time.
Typically, people head out of the parks and back to their rooms when the weather turns dark and stormy. But many attractions (especially the indoor ones) stay open! So continue riding or weather out the storm in a restaurant or gift shop. Disney has absolutely no shortage of those.
It’s Florida, so the chances are good that the weather will clear back up very quickly. When it does, the crowds will be mainly gone, leaving you able to enjoy yourself!
The advice I have commonly heard is to make your way to Disney Springs when rainy weather rolls in. Whether to take this route comes down to your preference. It is a good way to spend a rainy day because almost everything is indoors, of course, but do bear in mind that everyone else in Disney World will have that same thought. So, if your priority is avoiding the crowds, I do not necessarily recommend this.
8. Eat at Odd Hours
Trying to order food, pick it all up, and find a place to sit down and eat when crowds are swarming is not a fun time. To avoid that, I suggest dining at off times. For example, plan to eat a late lunch or an early dinner. It is much easier to make reservations at less common mealtimes, so you’re more likely to snag restaurants you want, too. As an added benefit, you’ll then be out at the attractions when other guests get their food during normal meal times.
If you get hungry while waiting for your meal, the good news is that Disney has no shortage of snacks and desserts all over their property! Personally, I see this as the perfect excuse to eat more on vacation. Win-win.
9. Take Advantage of Mobile Ordering
There’s no need to wait in long lines for food at many restaurants at Walt Disney World these days. You can order just about anything via mobile order right on your smartphone. Instead of standing in line with hungry and over-heated people, you can find a nice shady spot farther away from the restaurant to order your food on Disney’s mobile app: My Disney Experience.
You’ll log on, find the restaurant you want, and make your food selections. Then, the app will prompt you to indicate when you are close to the restaurant (they will not prepare your meal if you are on the other side of the park). Then, you’ll get a notification when your food is ready, and you simply pick it up.
Here is a link on Walt Disney World’s website of restaurants that participate in mobile ordering: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/#/mobile-orders/
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Crowds at Disney World
There are many ways to avoid crowds at Disney World if you are preparing to travel and follow these savvy tips. A big key to success is planning ahead.
As travel agents, we will tailor this advice and more to your own needs and what your family wants most. So, if you are thinking about planning a trip, contact one of our agents and get started today!
This article was contributed by Erica Seman of Firefly Travels, she specializes in planning Walt Disney World vacations.
For more of her advice, check out these articles:
- Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom (Lots of photos!)
- Chefs de France Review at Epcot
- The Top 4 Reasons Disney Experts Need a Travel Agent
Do you have any tips for avoiding crowds at Disney World? Share your thoughts and comments with us below.