Skip the crowds and the high ticket prices by visiting during Disney's off-season.

Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.

If you’ve never visited Disney World before (or have somehow been living under Pride Rock for most of your life), we have some bad news for you: Disney vacations can be expensive. Even the most skilled Disney planners can’t get around the inevitable costs of on-site hotel stays, park tickets, dining plans, and unavoidable (but adorable) souvenirs at every turn.

Especially when traveling with the whole family, costs can quickly add up. However, those willing to do a little extra research may find that there are, in fact, ways to make that Disney vacation a lot more affordable.

For visitors with flexible vacation timelines, one of the best ways to render Disney World trips less expensive (and less hectic) is to visit during the parks’ “off seasons.” While the Disney parks are notoriously packed during holidays, school vacations, and the summer months, many other weeks and months of the year can afford a quieter and less costly visit.

Walt Disney World in Orlando
Credit: Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Looking at on-site hotel room costs, one-day theme park ticket prices, and general crowd calendars can point to these more desirable times. Choose wisely and you may soon find that your trip suddenly feels a whole lot more magical. Here are the cheapest (and the most expensive) times to go to Disney World.

Cheapest Time to Go to Disney World

Many argue that there is no true "off season" at Disney World anymore as crowds flock to the parks year-round. Generally speaking, the month of January and parts of early February are the cheapest times to visit Disney World each year. Because many families have just taken time off or traveled for the holiday season, the first month of the new year is often very quiet in the parks, making hotel room and park ticket prices lower. Additionally, the parks themselves are easier to navigate with fewer people.

When booking during the post-holiday time, however, be careful to avoid the Disney marathon weekends, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and schools’ February vacation, which often takes place around the third week of February, as these can all be busier times in the parks.

Additionally, much of September, October, and November (excluding the days surrounding Halloween and Thanksgiving), can also be reasonably priced at Disney World. While the holidays and festivals like Epcot’s Food and Wine can bring in somewhat large crowds, the absence of school holidays during this time will deter some families from visiting.

While the Christmas season is often an extremely busy one at Disney World, those wishing to experience the holiday decorations and festivities without the crowds can consider visiting in the weeks immediately following Thanksgiving as well. This two- to three-week period between the two holiday rushes can afford a relatively quiet and festive visit.

Most Expensive Times to Visit Disney World

As we’ve mentioned, the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day are some of the busiest and most expensive to visit Disney World. However, another notoriously busy time actually falls around Easter in the early spring — the time period when many schools are on weeklong spring breaks.

Thanksgiving is also an understandably busy time in the parks, making it a good general rule of thumb to avoid the holidays at Disney World if you’re looking to save a few bucks.

Additionally, the entirety of the summer at Disney World, starting in late May and extending until late August, can see big crowds and high prices. Children are out of school and adults often have more free time, making Disney World the perfect place to spend a day in the sun, especially around holidays like the 4th of July. While this three-month period may seem like a long stretch to avoid the parks, the intense heat and humidity that often comes with Florida summers should give you even more pause about booking a Disney summer stay.

Deciding on Specific Dates

A helpful tool in determining which specific days and weeks might be right for you is Disney’s one-day ticket pricing system. While you’ll likely be staying in the parks for more than one day (with ticket prices decreasing the longer you stay), the dynamic one-day ticketing system gives guests a good idea of what Disney considers to be an off-peak time. Looking at this year's ticket calendar, you'll notice significantly higher prices on weekend days and holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve compared to weekdays in September, for example.

As a general rule of thumb, crowds tend to be smaller and hotel room costs cheaper on weekdays (Monday through Thursday) than on weekends. If your schedule allows for a mid-week trip, you may find yourself getting a lot more bang for your buck.

Current Issues Impacting the Cost of a Disney World Vacation

When Disney World reopened in July after closing amid the coronavirus pandemic in March, the resort instituted a number of changes that may impact the cost and value of your Disney World vacation. While the advice given above is generally still applicable, there are a few major adjustments worth noting. The theme parks are currently operating at a reduced capacity with a limited number of guests each day, and guests can no longer use Park Hopper tickets to visit more than one park per day. Some hotels have not yet reopened, and certain experiences, such as live entertainment and character dining, are limited.

By Bailey Bennett and Elizabeth Rhodes