Our girls are 11 and 13 and have never been to Disney. Missing schools not an issue, but would like the optimal time to go. What do you find is best time?
Depends on what YOUR definition of "optimal" is.
Where do you live? Will excessive heat and humidity bother you?
Do you celebrate Christmas? Is seeing places decorated for Christmas exciting to you?
Do you are anyone in your family hate (or have a fear of) large crowds?
Do you have a budget you have to stick to? Then you'll want to find a "off-peak" time to go to maybe get a better rate on hotel stay and or dinning.
Like most things, it depends. We have been late October, late November, December and January. All were good trips. October has Halloween decorations while December offers Christmas. January has neither, some ride closures, particularly water rides down for maintenance and spotty weather, but the lowest crowds.
Personally I'd avoid Thanksgiving week, Xmas & New Year's plus Spring Break due to crowds and I'd duck the summer heat as Florida is hot & humid and you will wear out fast. Beyond that, any other time can be good and it just depends on how you want to roll the dice between some crowds, decorations, ride closures and weather. We'd prefer risking slightly cooler vs. overly hot/humid but you may prefer the opposite...
September can be good for crowds as most kids are just in school so families are less likely to pull kids out of school early in the year, but it's warmer & hurricane risk is higher. And of course there's when you can find the best deals to save some cash as well. If you can share what matters to you, we can likely narrow down the choices somewhat...
When to go is always an interesting not easy choice to narrow down for someone.
I have arrived on Jan 2nd with 3 other people, and was able to see the Christmas decorations but not have the big crowds - draw back park hours are less and did at times get to be chilly.
Went the 3rd week in May (myself and 1 other person) and that wasn't bad, the weather wasn't as hot as in the summer and not as crowded as kids still in school in many places.
Went after Memorial day last year (myself and 2 other people) and many years ago went the 3rd week in September (myself and 1 other person) - both of those had free dining and the crowds weren't as bad as school was back in for most of the country. Went in mid October (myself and other family members off property - this was first visit) - not bad weather wise or crowds.
And this year, going from 12/17 - 12/27 (my girlfriend who I will be proposing to and myself) we know it will be crowded and are prepared as best we can be. This is her first visit. We have plans but know that even though we have the plans, anything can happen and some of what we are planning or want to do won't happen (ride breaks down, weather, something gets cancelled, transportation issues) but we also have the mindset that we are going to be at WDW for 10 nights and it will just be us, that is what is important.
Another thing I will add, IMHO, is go for longer if you can, as you won't feel like you have to rush around as much and also you can get more done. Think of the sights and things you would like to see and do (Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, and many more) Along with how you handle the heat and humidity and even rain. This can help you narrow down times of the year you would like to go.
Make sure you make TP plans for each and keep checking them.
Also if you have never went, I suggest a travel agent that specializes in Disney. I've done it both ways and currently the one I use has been great in helping me.
I hope this helps you out.
Late January is our favorite time, even though the kids miss a day or 2 of school. Its not hot and crowds are light. Lines are never long and if you use a touring plan, the waits are very short if there is a line. Chances of rain are also lower in Jan.
Late Nov or early Dec is my favorite time because I love the Christmas decorations and activities. I have experienced the lowest crowds in January. March and April usually have decent crowds and nice weather, but make sure you avoid Easter and Spring break.
If you are looking at this coming year, Pandora: the World of Avatar is expected to open in AK in "the Summer of 2017". As I really am anxious to see that, personally, the earliest that I would consider going back is Nov 2017, but if the new "land" at AK doesn't especially interest you, then that wouldn't be a factor.
Because of the miserable summer weather (and crowds) I basically refuse to go June-October; being older, my wife and I just cannot handle the heat and humidity anymore - and we LIVE in (NW) Florida...
I seriously recommend avoiding the 2 weeks around Christmas and New Years, especially for first-timers. For folks who have been many times this can be an exciting time to go, but you would be dealing with some of the worst crowds of the year, and you will not be able to do as much.
We always do late mid-late January or early February. We like the chill in the air, the crowds are light, and the chance of rain is lower than at other times of the year. Also, going in Jan/Feb allows me to work the trip into Christmas (this year there will be magic bands under the tree with a countdown chain!)