If you’ve never visited Disney World before (or have somehow been living under Pride Rock for most of your life), we have some bad news for you: Disney vacations can be expensive.
Even the most skilled Disney planners can’t get around the inevitable costs of on-site hotel stays, park tickets, dining plans and unavoidable (but adorable) souvenirs at every turn.
Especially when traveling with the whole family, costs can quickly add up. However, those willing to do a little extra research may find that there are, in fact, ways to make that Disney vacation a lot more affordable.
The Price of a Disney World Ticket in 1971 Will Make You Want to Cry
For visitors with flexible vacation timelines, one of the best ways to render Disney World trips less expensive (and less hectic) is to visit during the parks’ “off seasons.” While the Disney parks are notoriously packed during holidays, school vacations, and the summer months, many other weeks and months of the year can afford a quieter and less costly visit.
Looking at on-site hotel room costs, one-day park ticket prices and general crowd calendars can point to these more desirable times. Choose wisely and you may soon find that your trip suddenly feels a whole lot more magical.
The Best Times to Visit
Generally speaking, the month of January and parts of early February are the cheapest times to visit Disney World each year. Because many families have just taken time off or traveled for the holiday season, the first month of the new year is often very quiet in the parks, making hotel room and park ticket prices lower. Additionally, the parks themselves are easier to navigate with fewer people.
When comparing the average price per night at Pop Century (a value resort) and Coronado Springs (an affordable moderate resort), the cost difference in visiting during the holidays versus just a few weeks later are sizable. For example, a night at Pop Century costs an average of $212 per night on December 21 through 26, 2018, with Coronado Springs coming in at $280 per night. Alternatively, a night at Pop Century during the days of January 25 through 29 only comes to $125 per night, or $176 per night at Coronado Springs.
When booking during the post-holiday time, however, be careful to avoid the Disney marathon weekend at the beginning of January, Martin Luther King weekend and schools’ February vacation, which often takes place around the third week of February, as these can all be busier times in the parks.
Additionally, much of September, October and November (excluding the days surrounding Halloween and Thanksgiving), can also be reasonably priced at Disney World. While the holidays and festivals like Epcot’s Food and Wine can bring in somewhat large crowds, the absence of school holidays during this time will deter many families from visiting.
While the Christmas season is often an extremely busy one at Disney World, those wishing to experience the holiday decorations and festivities without the waits can consider visiting in the weeks immediately following Thanksgiving as well. This two- to three-week period that exists between the holiday rushes can afford a surprisingly quiet and festive visit.
The Worst Times to Visit
As we’ve mentioned, the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day are some of the busiest and most expensive to visit Disney World. However, another notoriously busy time actually falls around Easter in the early spring. This year, an average hotel room cost over Easter weekend comes in at $202 at Pop Century or $270 at Coronado Springs.
Thanksgiving is also an understandably busy time in the parks, making it a good general rule of thumb to avoid the holidays at Disney World if you’re looking to save a few bucks.
Additionally, the entirety of the summer at Disney World, starting in late May and extending until late August, can see big crowds and high prices. Children are out of school and adults often have more free time, making Disney World the perfect place to spend a day in the sun, especially around holidays like the 4th of July. While this three-month period may seem like a long stretch to avoid the parks, the intense heat and humidity that often comes with Florida summers should give you even more pause about booking a Disney summer stay.
Deciding on Specific Dates
A helpful tool in determining which specific days and weeks might be right for you is Disney’s one-day ticket pricing system. While you’ll likely be staying in the parks for more than one day (with ticket prices decreasing the longer you stay), the tiered one-day ticketing system gives guests a good idea of what Disney considers to be “Value” time. While December 21 to January 3 are clearly priced as “Peak” days this year, most days in January are priced as “Value” or “Regular” days. More value days can be found in much of February, the first week of March, the last week of April and much of September.
Lastly, as a general rule of thumb, crowds tend to be smaller and hotel room costs cheaper on weekdays (Monday through Thursday) than on weekends. If your schedule allows for a mid-week trip, you may find yourself getting a lot more bang for your buck.