The Best Times to Visit in 2017
AN INTERVIEW WITH CARL TRENT AND DAVE SHUTE
As is tradition here at WDW Magazine, at the end of the year we like to look ahead and help you plan when the best time to visit Walt Disney World is based on crowds, weather, special events, and more.
Carl Trent from Dadsguidetowdw.com and Dave Shute from Yourfirstvisit.net (and co-author of The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit) have all the answers you need to plan your most magical vacation ever in 2017.
Carl – Before we get started, I just have to say that when it comes to WDW crowds in 2017 I’m a little reluctant to make any big predictions.
This year (2016) was just different when it came to crowds at Walt Disney World. Historically, slow times were crazy busy and busy times were much slower than usual. For example, the week of the 4th of July, crowds were down at least 10%, and maybe more like 25%. And January and February were really, really busy. Crazy.
But I guess I’ll wade in and make some predictions since that’s why I get paid the big bucks.
Dave – I agree with Carl, something not yet fully explained is going on. For example, many reported longer waits each month, January through June, but attendance was actually down (a bit) the first six months of the year and in both of the quarters that made them up.
With 2017 just around the riverbend, I have to ask – what do you predict that January will bring for crowds at WDW?
Carl – January was one of those months that was crazy last year. Big crowds during typically slow times. My prediction for January 2017 is that 2016 is probably the new normal. Disney marketing is doing a good job of filling the parks during the slow times.
My guess is, that will continue in 2017. So January 2017 will be a moderately busy month, and very busy the first few days, and on Martin Luther King Weekend.
Oh, and the Pro Bowl is on the 29th in Orlando. This is the first time that the Pro Bowl has ever come to Orlando, so we have no clue what that will do to the crowds.
Dave – I still think that the month after MLK day will be fine. The Pro Bowl festivities at ESPN may even draw people out of the parks.
February is pretty chilly for most of the world, and people may be looking to escape to the warmth of Florida, especially as a Valentine’s Day treat – what will the parks be like then?
Carl – February is always a nice, quiet, relaxing time between the craziness of early-january and the big Spring Break crowds. All you have to do is avoid President’s Day Weekend. That’s what all the crowd predictions and history has been for YEARS. Not in 2016. Crowds were moderate-to-heavy all month. Crazy!
So what will happen in 2017? Again, who knows, but I’d guess that we’ll see much of the same as we did in 2016: busy crowds all month—especially over Presidents Day weekend.
I will say that Valentines Day 2017 will be a lot less busy than 2016, when it was on Presidents Day Weekend.
Dave – President’s Day breaks at some schools begin the Thursday before, and at others—especially in the Northeast—extend until the Sunday after. I’d avoid this whole Thursday-before to Sunday-after period, but expect the rest of the month to be fine.
March signals the start of Spring Break crowds – what can our readers expect at this time of year?
Carl – This is an easy one. It will be busy in March. Drop the mic.
Dave – The first week will be fine—less than 2% of kids are on break then—but I agree with Carl, it’ll be rough after that!
In April there is a lot going on–the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival means it’s warming up in Orlando–for temperature and crowds, am I right?
Carl – Yes, and no. Yes, the first three weeks through Easter Week will be crazy busy, then everything will stop and take a little breather. The end of the month crowds will back off a little.
Dave – I agree with Carl! Avoid dates before April 22nd.
The crowds in May of 2016 were surprisingly busy, especially the last 2 weeks... Do you see the same thing happening again in 2017?
Carl – Yep.
Dave – May starts fine, and then crowds, heat, and humidity build, especially late in the month.
Nothing really special happens in June at WDW – so what’s it like to visit then?
Carl – Nothing really special? Really? Then why are all the crowds flocking to WDW in June? in 2016 it was busier in June than in July. Yes, that includes the week of July 4th.
Historically, the first couple of weeks of June have been some of the slowest times of the summer. That certainly wasn’t true in 2016. What will it be like in 2017? I dunno, but I think it will end up not quite as busy as 2016 but still pretty busy.
Dave – I’m with Carl—i dunno. Was June 2016 an anomaly or a new normal?
Last year we saw a shift in summer crowds – what do you see happening this July?
Carl – The same. I see the July crowds being down again this year. Shoot, for the first time I can remember the 4th of July crowds weren’t totally out of control. July crowds have been trending down for a few years. (Those October crowds have to come from somewhere.) I think that will keep happening.
Dave – I agree with Carl that summer crowds have been trending down—but July 2016 was a sharp change even in that trend line. So many variables came into play this summer (Zika, Pulse, Brexit) that, like June, I don’t know if it’s the new normal or a one-time thing.
August has got to be the hottest month at WDW, so how does that affect park attendance?
Carl – There’s nothing to see here, move on. That’s the way August crowds work. It’s the month when everyone goes back to school. As the month goes on, so do the crowds. By the end of the month the parks are empty.
August has nothing to do with temperatures.
Dave – Yup.
With Disney announcing that the Food and Wine Festival is going to start on August 31, do you see crowds the first couple of weeks of September being big?
Carl – Nope. September is slow for a reason. It’s September. Kids are back in school and no one goes to Walt Disney World.
Dave – No for me too, with the first half of the month even less crowded than the second.
Halloween is more popular than ever at WDW, so what does that mean for guests?
Carl – October has become one of the busiest months of the year. It’s pretty much on par or busier than July. I’m not sure that it’s Halloween-related because it’s all month. But for some reason, October has gone from being nice and quiet to crazy.
Dave – The week that includes Columbus Day is a zoo, and the weeks before and after are no picnic. But the end of October should be OK.
November kicks off holiday season at the most magical place on earth – should folks visit then to experience the season?
Carl – Yes. Everyone should experience the Christmas season at Walt Disney World. It’s truly magical and November is (except for Thanksgiving Week) the best time to visit. The crowds are low and the weather can be spectacular.
Dave – Agreed—especially the weeks before and after Thanksgiving!
I know you guys are both partial to a Christmastime visit to WDW – tell me why and when you suggest families visit during December!
Carl – I’m a Christmas nut. I love Christmas colors, decorations, music, etc. and Disney knows how to do Christmas! Everything is all dressed up. Everything. Not just the Magic Kingdom like Halloween, but everything. The parks, the hotels, Disney Springs, the rides, the shows—everything. Even the background music changes to Christmas. It’s just incredible.
My recommendations for when to visit is basically the first three weeks of the month. If I had to pick one week, it would be the second full week of December.
Dave – Completely agree with Carl!!
Any other trends in crowds, discounts, or operating hours that you think our readers should know about for 2017?
Carl – It’s really dangerous to make predictions on any of those items but that’s never stopped me before.
Disney crowds were down quite a bit in 2016. My guess is, that will stabilize in 2017 but there won’t be a lot of growth. I do think that discounts will be better, or at least there will be more rooms available than in 2016. Either that or Disney should just quit offering discounts.
Park hours? Ha. Nope. I’m not touching that one.
Dave – In the past year, Disney has shifted to managing the parks for operating income, not for attendance growth, and has been willing to raise some prices enough to drive some people away, and cut some park hours and ride capacity—increasing waits—if it can save some money. This has made discounts harder to get and waits more unpredictable than in the recent past. At some point, Pandora – The World of Avatar will open at the Animal Kingdom, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect that has.
Thanks so much for your time, Dave and Carl!
If you have more questions about when to visit in 2017, be sure to check out dadsguidetowdw.com and yourfirstvisit.net for more great insight from these two Disney planning experts!