How do YOU pick park dates?

As I have to get up early for work every morning, which means I wake up early out of habit on the weekends, not having to do so is a luxury which adds to my enjoyment.

I’ll say again and again, the fact that I can go, if not exactly whenever I want, close to it, just about eliminates the urgency to maximize park time. And as Disney fireworks are something of which I can’t get enough, I’d rather be in the parks late than early. And to follow it with a nightcap &c, which means I’m seldom back to my room before about 1:00AM.

That’s neither a “better” nor “worse” approach to touring than arriving pre-rope-drop and leaving relatively early, but it is just as valid. And guests may choose either approach, or something entirely different, and still remain people of quality.

The truth may be out there, but the TRVTH really isn’t.


You really should read context.

CLs are a minor consideration, but truth be told other factors keep me away from the “traditionally” highest CL times. Although I am not able to go often, when I can plan a trip, I can go pretty much any time of the year that I want to.

Weather is the biggest factor. Even though I live in (NW) FL, I refuse to go to WDW June-October. When I was in my 20s it may not have been an issue, but a few months away from 60 it is. I have no desire to be away from home - especially in a hotel - over Christmas/New Years, and even if I did want to go, as I am the choir director at my Church, I don’t think it would go over very well. Same issue with Easter.

So stacking all of these factors, that leaves me with Jan-May, and Nov-Early Dec. Every trip I’ve made since 2000 has been in one of these two time slots. On trips where I plan on renting DVC points from a friend, I look at the point charts to see which weeks require the lowest number of points. The only time a CL might be a factor is in trying to avoid “Spring Break” - but for the most part that’s easy by avoiding most of March.

Finally, what events interest me; do I want to go during F&G, F&W, Christmas? For my 2019 trip, Christmas won out as I’ve never seen all of the post-Thanksgiving Holiday offerings (especially at EP) - but I may regret this decision as SWGE is likely going to open only a few weeks before I go and I fear the crowds everywhere in WDW will be worse than usual.


I’m a private tutor and work for myself, so I can in principle go during term time but I prefer not to because of the opportunity cost and / or the inconvenience of rearranging tutorials.

That being said, my Christmas trip was during term time. My 50th birthday trip this year would have been during my actual birthday, but this coincides with Easter weekend and the likely crowds did put me off.

Because I live in the UK my starting point is finding the cheapest flights. I fly Virgin, usually Premium Economy, and flight prices vary widely from one day to another. My next trip is in July rather than June, which would have been my preference, for this reason.

Initial allocation of parks to days is based on crowd predictions, but I’m not a slave to them. I shuffled around my July trip because I wanted to go to MK earlier in the trip.

Because FPPs for FOP and SDD are difficult to get I put AK and DHS in the second half of the trip.

ADRs play a big role, too. I like the restaurants and their locations determine where I need to be on some days.


My logic on when is like this: How many days of vacation is DH willing to use at work since he has less than me, which gets us 10 days at Disney if we fly out on a Friday. We can go during summer vacation so only June or July. July is the hotter month and DH isn’t as heat tolerant so it’s out. First full week of June is DD10 theater camp so that’s out. Don’t want to be at the parks rolling into July 4th, so leaves me with about 2-3 weeks to check crowd and availability. Arrival day we land by 8:30 am, I schedule non critical FP rides after noon at AK in case we want to visit a park before checkin. Departure day has always been spent at Disney Springs. MK and EP we need 2 days each, HS 1, AK1, and have 2 free days to rest or go to water parks. We don’t do early EMH so that knocks out 1 of each park a day, HS and AK have the hardest to get FP at the moment so they are mid vacation to get a better chance at snagging them. Then just choose the lowest crowd park to fill in days. Free/water park days I set extra FP at MK and EP in case the weather doesn’t cooperate with water parks or capacity issues. I don’t plan FP before 10am so I don’t feel rushed to get to the parks, if we make it at opening, awesome but family doesn’t get up too quickly. I’ve gotten DD10 to only plan to ride our FP selections, anything else is a bonus so she doesn’t feel that she’s missing things. Then leave the afternoons open in case someone (read DH) needs a rest, and plan to go back in the evenings. It doesn’t tie us down too much but we still manage to see and do what we want.

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I also do that gradual push back of the start time, otherwise my group will just be plumb wore out and grumpy.

It works out nicely on this next trip because we’re starting during the weekday and ending on Memorial Day weekend, so we’ll be taking it easy by the time the CL strikes 10.

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We’ve been staying at the Epcot resorts lately, so we end up spending a lot of time at Epcot. We have two boys, one who is in elementary school so we try to stick to the school calendars. I avoid Christmas and Easter weeks - any other time is fair game, as I think that the TPs work with any other crowd scenario. Those two weeks it’s more the congestion that bothers me rather than the wait times. Last year we went in April and had 4-6 CL. This year we are going President’s Day week and In expecting 8-10 CL. If it’s less, I’ll be pleasently surprised, but I’m prepared for whatever happens.

When first picking my days I do look at the calendars. I like MK to be our last day plus one other day, have a break day in the middle, and typically one rope drop in each other park. We take a mid day break (DS1 needs to nap!) and with PH, go somewhere else in the evenings, often Epcot because we’ve been staying at the Yacht or Beach Club our last couple of trips. We are a little light on the nighttime spectaculars now with DS1, but on our upcoming trip I may take DS8 to one or two while his little brother sleeps…

I do sometimes shift days a little based on changes to the CLs, but once FP selections happen I don’t worry about it anymore.


Honestly, my nights are more important to me these days. On the nights that I am not doing a special event my plans say: late night Raglan, BlueZoo Lounge…

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That was how it was for me before kids… What we did at night was most important, although we still often rope dropped and took an afternoon break. But with two kids now who get us up at 6, we are exhausted by the end of the day! Someday…


When you get there we will give you lots of recommendations!


I just realized I didn’t say how I choose my actual dates of travel. I teach in a public high school. My daughter is only in 1st grade, so I don’t mind yanking her out. We go during school breaks, but only if they’re not at prime time. For example, my daughter’ spring break “touches” Easter this year, but mine is 2 weeks before Easter, so we are going on my break. I am scared of Hurricane season but maybe someday I’ll go late August.

I’m 34. In 32 years, when I retire, if WDW is still open, I will go in early September.

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I think based on the response to the CL change, many many people rely on CL predictors to choose both when they go and what park they do each day. The people commenting in this thread are more experienced WDW visitors. It’s easier to not care what the CL looks like if you know you’ll be back or have already done everything a few times over.

I think the average planner, just getting started on TP or a similar service, who is making their first trip (or first trip in a while) requires more data points to make their decisions.

We are going at the end of the month for the first time in 5 years and first visit for near 5yr old twins. We might as well be first timers since the twins are the focus. I used every tool possible to pick the best days so I’m stuck in the least lines with two active kids.

My plans are set so the changes didn’t impact anything, and UT and KtP are much more optimistic than TP for my trip, but I was a little anxious when I first received the emails. The part that puts me at ease is I’ve done my research, set my plan, and am as prepared as I can be. At least we will make the most out of anything the “world” can throw at us.

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The thing is, to those of us who are veterans, many of us have found that crowd levels don’t have much impact on how long we end up waiting in line for things. I rarely, if ever, wait in line more than 30 minutes and I usually see everything I want to see. A good Touring Plan and knowing the basics of how crowds ebb and flow at WDW go a long way to really letting you accomish everything you want at any CL, with the possible exception of the craziness of Christmas (although even then, I know someone who went on almost all the attractions at MK on Christmas day by arriving at 6 AM EMH, blitzing rides until 11, eating an early lunch, watching the parade, breaking for the afternoon, then returning at night…)


I’d also argue that veterans aren’t trying to do as much as possible on each trip making avoiding lines easier. That’s not as true for the typical visitor.

Your point is also true for close CL days, but some weeks have parks predicted at 2 then 7 later. I’ve done touring plans on each. It’s a difference. I’m not saying I’d choose a 6 over an 8 based on CL predictors. But if I see AK at 8 one day with EMH and the next 3, it will factor in

It’s not really a debate since it’s my opinion. Every bit helps me decide. I manage projects so I’m detailed, which means I use much more than CLs but it abundantly clear by the reactions this week that many on this site take CL’s very seriously.

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My very first trip to wdw was in 2005. That was just when online resources and crowd level predictor tools became available. I downloaded the TP and UT apps with my first smart phone. At that time I planned my trips every couple of years. I just assumed that everyone in the world was using these tools to make plans since I always seems to be in the wrong park. I can do less these days at wdw since I spent a few years going from rope drop to close. I still do that at Universal, and Busch Gardens. Although my first trip to Universal was about 18 months ago, I would ignore those crowd calendars too. Always, always plan that Disney will make an adjustment that there will be wall to wall people (such as free dining when they are not booking rooms or staff cut backs).

Anyone here is so ahead of the game. There are so many people here that are willing and able to help/talk us through any unexpected situation. This is the value of TPs.


This is the big thing to keep in mind… CLs are predictions based on the past. They can be valuable up to a point. But Disney is constantly changing things, so suddenly all that data can get a wrench thrown into it because Disney decides to do something different (cut capacity, free dining, etc). TP works the best IMO because they continually adjust based on new data (while most others create their calendars and set them in stone). But still, it’s a guide, not an absolute. I like what @PrincipalTinker says - plan for a 10. Whatever it ends up being will be a bonus.


You don’t say?


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And to reverse some of the thread drift I caused:

I choose based on when friends are in town. Also, less commonly so, if there is some kind of special event (usually culinary in nature) in or near the bubble. Work limits me to mostly three day weekends, with the occasional bonus of a fourth day. As my time in the Sacred Spaces is more limited than that of my friends, I defer to their plans. Which means I frequently get the benefit of Fastpasses without the work of getting them. However, if I find those same friends’ plans aren’t my thing, we split up for awhile and meet up another time.

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This 100%. Just perusing this site leading up to a trip puts anyone in the top 5 % prepared for a great vacation. No matter how you actually chose your days.


We usually go 2x a year. Easter break and Sept/Oct. As kids are getting older and schedules change, who goes and when we go might change. We RD and use EMH whenever possible. Since we have been to WDW many times we don’t need to do every attraction. Instead, we do what’s new and sentimental favorites. We like to get back to resort to have some pool time, relax and get ready for dinner. Whatever we do at night is a bonus. There is no right or wrong plan. The best plan is to do what’s right for your group and one that maximizes the pleasure of your trip.