Believe it or not, if you properly plan, the answer is generally no, the time of year does not matter in regards to avoiding lines! (with one exception noted below.) I realize this flies in the face of many of the recommendations you may read, but it is true.
First, a caveat - the peak wait times will be longer at certain times of year (in the summer, spring break, and other peak times). However, if you plan properly, you will never be in the peak lines.
How can this be? There are a few reasons why "time of year" doesn't affect the smart Disney vacationer:
- Longer park hours. Even if you're not going to use the longer park hours, they help tremendously. Longer park hours spreads the crowd over more time. If the park is open until midnight, many people won't arrive until later in the morning. This means the early crowds may still be manageable.
- More capacity. When the park is likely to be crowded, Disney has some nifty ways to increase capacity (running more trains on the roller coasters, or having two showings of a major show or parade each night, for example).
- Smart planning still allows you to be a step ahead of the crowds. Who cares if the crowds are waiting 120 minutes for Toy Story Mania if you've managed two rides on it with no wait? To a smart park tourer, the 120 minute wait is a good thing - it means there a bunch of people in a line, not doing something else!
- A lot of smart planners go during the less-busy time of year. I can't prove it, but I believe that a greater percentage of Disney visitors during "busy" times of year are less savvy, which means there is less competition for the savvy tourers!
Going during a busier time of year means planning is even more important. (And no, this doesn't mean a handful of simplistic tips from spending a few hours with a guidebook or website - this means real, full-fledged planning). But you still can do pretty much anything you want, regardless of time of year!
There is one week that may be a bit of an exception - the week between Christmas and New Year's. The crowds are truly insane this time of year - it's hard to walk down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, and the parks often close due to capacity constraints! Believe it or not, you still can avoid the lines and do everything you want then, with extremely careful planning (I know - I've done it myself). But it is likely you'll be swimming through a sea of people, which can be less than fun. I advise customers, unless they simply cannot avoid it, to avoid this one week of the year, but for those who have no choice, we still can make park plans that will help you avoid the long lines.
Are there other considerations for time of year?
There are other considerations to take when deciding time of year to visit. Some to consider:
- If you go during an "off-season" it is more likely that a favorite attraction will be closed for refurbishment.
- It can be very cold in January and February. I was there when a record cold front went through - lows in the mid 20s! Be sure to bring gear for cooler weather in those months.
- It can be extremely hot and muggy in the summer, and intense thunderstorms can pass through in the afternoon. It's completely manageable (my plans usually avoid the parks in the midafternoon, or put you in air-conditioned indoor attractions), but it's something to be aware of.
- The "peak" times of year are considerably more expensive - hotel rooms, car rentals, plane tickets - even dining prices at some Disney restaurants - are jacked up during busier times of year.
Ultimately, I have learned that, yes, if you can go at a less-crowded time of year, it makes planning a bit easier, and it could be considerably cheaper. However, if you simply cannot take kids out of school and have to go over Spring Break, you still can have a fantastic time and avoid the crowds. All it takes is some extremely careful planning. And as you know, Optimal Magic is more than happy to do that planning for you! (We charge the same price regardless of season.)
As always, feel free to email me with any questions you might have