Best Weeks for First/Only Visitors

Here’s the scoop. I’ve been saving up for a couple years for a trip to WDW and UOR. Kids are 13, 11, 8. Goals are low crowds, low wait times, value/fall pricing, good weather. Not interested in fireworks, parades, characters or special events (would like to avoid these, actually) - mostly rides. We figured from a BUNCH of research we’ve done over the last couple months (from too many websites to count and tons of opinions) that January would be a good time; however, I’m quite worried about ride closures now as a majority of the rides that differ from DL may be closed (Kali River Rapids, Test Track, Soarin’ World 4K, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Rock n Roller Coaster - the other closures we’ve been on in DL and wouldn’t bother us as much). We avoided the marathon week, MLK, the Celebration of Harry Potter and the NDA competitions (as hotels are booked out and pricey now). We are currently reserving hotels for UOR 1/19/17-1/23/17 and WDW 1/23/17-1/29/17 (though this is the weekend before Pro Bowl which also has me worried with it’s 5K and Parade of Players inside the park). We were hoping to take a trip before our oldest is in High School as pulling kids out during the school year and staying caught up gets more difficult then (that would be August 2017), but aren’t totally opposed to it. Because of cost, this would VERY LIKELY be our only trip to that area (we live in AZ), so we want to get it right. A side note, a big draw for us is UOR with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and 30 minutes is a long wait for us to ride a ride, IMO, which is one reason we will be staying at the Hard Rock for the Express Unlimited Passes. As I’m reviewing the crowd calendars for January, they seem high but still recommended as some of the best weeks of the year (particularly for UOR at 7/8), though September and parts of October/November/December see significantly lower crowd numbers. I just want to make sure for my 10K investment that we will have low crowds and smooth touring without surprises, like ride closures and runners. When does Disney post ride closures for January, because IMO, I kind of need to know before I book flights, and those are cheapest right now? Sorry for the novel, but any input is appreciated. We are nothing if not thorough when it comes to vacations.

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There is no rule for when they announce them. Sometimes it’s months ahead and sometimes it’s a week before. Heck when they permanently closed Maelstrom I think it was only a couple of days notice. You can probably bank on several water rides being in refurb. Usually Splash mountain is down every January.

As for best time the time you’ve picked is probably as good as any other ‘slow period’ week. Keep in mind that there really isn’t a slow time these days. What used to be considered slow is now non-existent and what is now considered slow is more like what a 5 or 6 used to be. And you can’t really throw a stick without hitting some kind of event that is taking place at WDW.

Our personal favorite week is the week after Thanksgiving. The holiday crowds go home, and the it’s too close to school break for most people to pull their kids out of school. And it’s a week before the Pop Warner kids descend. Plus all of the holiday stuff is happening though as you pointed out you don’t want anything special going on.

DLR and WDW are VERY different creatures so I would say just take a deep breath and go with your gut. Just be knowledgeable about the parks and how to navigate them by doing a lot of research and you’ll be able to adapt on the fly.

Oh and keep in mind that the express pass at UOR doesn’t apply to any of the rides in the Harry Potter areas.

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Oh and another reminder… Crowd Levels are based on ride wait times only not the actual feel of how crowded it is. We’ve been on CL 1 days before and the park still feels very crowded and full of people but the wait times were lower.

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Thanks for this input. Almost every trip we have taken to DLR has been during the holidays (low crowd times), late September for Fall Decor, Early November twice for Christmas (though we ran into an unexpected marathon that time that really though off touring, so we are being extra careful about events in this case, which is why pro-bowl scares me a little), and also once after Christmas with in-laws as a gift (mad house!). I personally LOVE the decorations and experience, but since we probably won’t be able to visit WDW again, we didn’t want that to hinder getting all the touring accomplished.

I’ve definitely been curious about the week after Thanksgiving in particular ( recommends it as their number one week for first/only visits, whereas the week we chose was like 48 or 50 or something), and do you have an opinion on how that would compare to January as far as crowds, hotel prices and wait times? I assume, in general, all rides would be up and going that week.

Also, UOR says Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge do honor express pass, but not the other HP rides.

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I am headed to wdw this January 1-21 to 1-28 and crowd calendars are LOW on every site I check. Where are you seeing high CLs?

I can’t really comment on January as we haven’t been at that time. We tend to go in the fall every year. I refuse to go in the summer because it is face melting hot which is another reason we like December. That week is usually considered value week and most rides were open but really there are some refurbs and closures no matter when you go.

I can tell you that the last time we went that week we didn’t wait more than 15 minutes for any ride. Not that they didn’t occasionally have higher wait times than that but with using a touring plan we never encountered the higher times. Since you don’t like fireworks that’s always a good time to go on rides as the lines get shorter while people stop to watch the show.

I wasn’t aware that Flight of the Hippogriff was included. I’m not too surprised since it’s the kids coaster. And I forget Dragon Challenge is part of HP now since it existed long before and was just rebranded.

Just higher in comparison than expected being one of the low weeks of the year to go (though the overalls are higher than the individual parks we will choose - I’m not too concerned about touring, for the most part, at WDW based on what I’m seeing in my tentative touring plans, but am concerned about some favorite or new rides being closed), but in particular at UOR - they are 6-8 for 1/19-1/23. That just seems high to me when it gets down to half that in the fall, comparatively. Some sites are marking the weekend of that week “yellow” or “moderate crowds” because of the Pro Bowl. Although, I’ve never been to WDW or UOR, so it makes it hard for me to gauge crowds and lines having only experienced DLR and DCA.

Although I may be branded a heretic for saying this, I don’t put a lot of weight on the CLs anymore. TP depends on a large volume of historic data to make its predictions. For many years WDW was relatively stable, and the predictions were scary-accurate. Then Disney started changing the “rules”.

In a perfect world, the ideal situation for a theme park would be to have the exact same attendance every single day of the year. The reality, however, is that there will typically be larger crowds in the summer and over the end-of-year Holidays, with a few spikes around certain other holidays. Conversely, Jan/Feb and Sep-Nov were typically “lower crowd” times to go. Disney, however, has been aggressively trying to level things out by adding new resort/dining deals, tiered admission ticket pricing, special festivals and parties, etc. These changes have been coming so quickly and in such a haphazard fashion, that the TP stats just can’t keep up; the predictions are being made on historical data that may or may not reflect the reality of today. This is NOT a slam against Len and his staff!!! The algorithms that they have devised are probably the most sophisticated ever written, and as I said up front, for many years they were almost disturbingly accurate. But any model, regardless of how perfect it might be, is only as useful as the data entered into it; if the data no longer reflects the current reality, the predictions may not either.

And as more current data is added to the set, the numbers may change. six months from now a 4 may become a 7 and an 8 may become 6. I look at the numbers, but I don’t get hung up on them.


Just adding my 2 cents: I planned my trip for the end of this year at the beginning of this year (literally, I started doing this in January) based on crowd levels, and all my days ended up flopping around. I had 1-2 CLs up until last month or so, and then one morning I got an e-mail saying my tracked days had been updated and they had all switched to 5-8’s. I’m not saying TP isn’t accurate, I don’t regret being here, and I still believe TP is invaluable to us new folks, but just be aware: this stuff appears to change on the fly. I know it’s hard to predict things like this with so many variables (and Disney refusing to help by not announcing things until like 2 months before in some cases), so I’m not horribly upset, but as I (and many others, if chat is to be believed ;)) discovered, you can’t really rely on the crowd calendar (unless you’re willing to wait like 4 months before, and then you will likely miss out on the choice hotels). Especially since from what I’ve been understanding (this is also my first - and probably only, since we live in WA - trip to DW, so take me with a giant grain of salt); they’ve really started pushing people into those historically low times (early Dec, Jan, Feb, etc.) with promos, discounts and other special offers.

Just something I wish I’d known when I first started this marathon that is planning a DW vacation :slight_smile:

First week of May could also be a really nice time. It is not super hot yet and Flower and Garden at Epcot is still going on which is a lovely beautiful time to be there.

So based on my personal experience only, I can tell you I’ve been to WDW in January, February, March, August and November and all within the last 3 years with November 2015 being our last/latest trip to WDW and out of all those times my husband and I both agree that our favorite trip to WDW as a whole was in November, we were there the week before thanksgiving so around the 15th. Many factors play into that so I’ll explain why we loved it so much, first of I’ll say we absolutely loved being in the parks when it’s close to Christmas because of all the beautiful decorations and Christmas is our favorite holiday! It just brought the cheeriness of the parks to another level, I will say it seemed to have the normal crowds which we expected but wait times for the most part for rides at WDW and UOR were typically not high and the weather was pretty much perfect the whole time for us not too hot but not cold either I’d say it stayed between 70’s and 80’s maybe just a bit cooler at night, with little rain. There weren’t too many rides that we cared about under refurbishment and like you we don’t really care about parades, fireworks or events so that never played a part in our plans, we go to WDW for the food and the rides, but to be fair we’re just a married couple with no kids so our interests and experiences are different from those that have children for the most part. Well I hope I helped in some way, just remember no matter when you go you can still have a wonderful time with your family and make beautiful memories that will last a lifetime in the happiest place on earth with a good plan and a good positive attitude!:wink:
(p.s. I do want to warn you if weather is at all a concern January/February weather is pretty dreary in Orlando it’s best described as bi polar weather because one it can be sunny and 80 degrees and the next day it could be 50 degrees and cold and rainy, which happened a lot to us during that time)

The week after Thanksgiving would be perfect. With earlier park closures you would have time to tour deluxe resorts to see the Christmas Decorations. If you have been to DL, you will be surprised by how much bigger and how much more time it takes to go places in WDW.

From Epcot you can see Boardwalk area resorts. Take the boat to see FW and WL. On a AK day take resort bus to AKL to visit and maybe eat there. After, take a park bus or DS bus to get to a bus to get to your resort. Or call Uber. If you are renting a car, even better.

Good luck with your choice.

We did our first family trip during the first week of February 2014. We had just about the same scenario as yours - once-in-a-lifetime mindset, cared more about rides than events, wanted a low crowd time. We had a great week. I would return during that week every year if my boys could miss school again.

Yes, there were a few closures, but the rides that were closed for us seemed to be all water rides, Kali and Splash and one of the water parks, if I remember correctly. We didn’t mind that because I don’t like walking around wet. All the non-water headliners were open for us. Your mileage may vary, of course!

The early February weather was great for us. We are from New Mexico, so the humidity plays a larger role for us than it does for others. The only bad thing I can think of is that if it is going to rain, it will probably rain all day. The summer rain in FL tends to come and go for 5 minutes or maybe an hour, but winter rain is more of an all-day thing. Our AK day was very rainy. We brought out rain coats and just toured in the rain. It was quite cool, unlike summer rain, so we weren’t too sweaty in our rain coats. Plus, the crowds were even lower on this rainy day. The sunny days in winter will be lovely - upper 70s and low 80s.

I’ve also been in early November, and enjoy that time as well. It’s quite a bit hotter though.

You really can’t go wrong. Try not to make yourself crazy with your choice. Every week will have pros and cons.

I just checked back into this thread, and saw that the whole last paragraph of my previous post got cut off…

Even though I live in (NW) FL, I refuse to go to WDW Jun-Oct; I don’t have school schedules to work around, and the heat/humidity makes it just too unpleasant for me. I also will not go the last 2 weeks in Dec; the crowds are just TOO crazy, and I have church commitments. So when DO I go? My favorite is mid Nov to mid Dec (NOT Thanksgiving week) or between Jan and April (avoiding the main Spring Break crowds in March).