One of the very first things you decide when planning your Disney trip is when to go. There are several things that affect my family’s decisions. You have to look at several factors such as crowd calendars, seasonal rates, weather, school schedules, etc.
On our previous trips, seasonal rates and when a Disney offer would be released was our main deciding factor on when to go. We tried to plan our trips when we knew Disney would be offering discounts. The first time we went, we went when we knew we’d get a great room discount. Our second trip we went when we knew (or hoped) that the free dining would be offered. That was a huge savings for us.
Free Dining is typically the end of August through December with a couple of black-out days or a black-out week or two. Typically being the keyword in that sentence. You can always view current Disney offers here.
Disney also has a Value season. This could also affect your decision on when you should go. They have multiple seasons per year, Value, Regular, Summer, Fall, Peak, and Holiday. As you can imagine the prices change with each season. Going during a Value season can definitely save you and your family money. Here is a link to a list of resorts where you can view the seasons for each.
Our next trip will have an additional factor weighing in: school calendars. My daughter, Anniston, starts kindergarten this year. We’ll have to take into consideration her school calendar and whether or not we think she’ll be able to miss school. Our next trip is this December (shhh, don’t tell her; it’s a surprise!) and we took that into consideration when planning our dates.
If we work around school vacations, then we also need to consider weather. Other than available discounts, and now school calendars, weather is a big issue for me. While there are many people that the only time they can take a Disney vacation is summertime, which is one time of the year I hope to avoid completely. Which pretty much limits school holidays to Christmas or spring break. While I’d LOVE to go at Christmastime, I’m just not sure I’m willing to fight the crowds.
I’ve read in several places that the absolute busiest time the year to go is the week of Christmas through New Year’s. I’ve always heard early November was great and early December was also good. October was fantastic while we were there. It was warm enough to swim and the parks were not crowded at all. But since we’ll be taking into account school calendars, I’m not sure this will be the optimal time for us to go.
Crowd calendars are also important. I mentioned above that Christmas is busy. So is summer. And it’s hot. Crowds and heat do not go well with this girl. They aren’t my overall deciding factor but it is something that I rely on when I’m planning. Jenna has written a post all about crowd calendars and how to use them.
And last but not least, budget. Budget is a BIG deciding factor for us. If we can’t afford it, we don’t go that year. We take a realistic look at our budget and see when will be the best for us, what types of things we can afford, etc. For us, this typically helps us decide which year we are going to go. Let’s face it, sometimes saving up for a Disney trip can take a while.
So if you are like me and like step by step instructions, here is what we do:
1. Look at the budget. We determine how much we can spend on a vacation and how long it will take us to save that amount of money.
2. Once we know how much to spend, we’ll take a look at the school calendars. We’ll find a week, taking into consideration weather, which coincides with a Disney offer that we can use to help us save money.
3. We’ll start saving and working towards that vacation!
That is what we do. If staying in the Value season is important to you, you might work that in there during step number two. It’s all about what works for your family. These are just some factors to help you to begin to decide when the best time to go is.
When is your family’s favorite time to go?