The Best Times to Visit in 2017


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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 Dads­ and Dave Shute from Your­ (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 dads­ and your­ for more great in­sight from these two Disney plan­ning ex­perts!

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