Summer and vacations go together like Dole Whip and pineapple juice—kids are out of school, work schedules might be lighter, holidays abound… It seems logical that summer would be an ideal time to visit The Most Magical Place on Earth, right?
Picking the right time of year for a Walt Disney World vacation remains a complex task. The season you visit can determine everything from crowd sizes, to prices, to resort and reservation availability, even the intensity of the weather.
Historically, summer has long been known as Walt Disney World’s most infamously busy time of year—particularly on holidays like 4th of July and the days surrounding. The trend marking off summertime as a guaranteed recipe for vacation misery became so prevalent that crowd trends started to shift over the course of the last decade. Guests began moving vacations to other times of year like Spring Break, President’s Day, and Christmas week. Attendance in the summer lightened so much prior to the pandemic that Disney even started lifting blackout dates for some Passholders.
Following the pandemic closures, we are entering unknown territory. Park attendance is on the rise, and it’s possible summer crowds are making a rebound. Is visiting Walt Disney World a good idea now or a recipe for a sour vacation? Here are the top pros and cons to consider…
1. Con – The crowds can be a major problem
As mentioned, the summer months are no longer considered Walt Disney World’s busiest time of year (except for 4th of July and Memorial Day weekend). Trends continue to suggest that Spring Break and Christmas to New Year’s Day remain the worst times to visit, with other holidays trailing close behind.
Despite the shift, summertime continues to draw significant crowds to the Most Magical Place on Earth—maybe not capacity crowds every single day but still higher attendance numbers than you are likely to see once school is back in session.
Crowd levels can play a significant role in your vacation. Higher crowds means more congestion to navigate, longer queue waits, fewer available reservations, more competition for services like Genie+ (which can severely affect standby lines on peak days)… pretty much everything.
Most experts continue to echo the same advice: if you can visit Walt Disney World during a time of year statistically more likely to see low crowds, do so. While you might luck out visiting on a summer weekday, you will be taking a gamble on what crowd levels will look like, and that gamble could add stress to your park visits and vacation planning if you happen to land at a particularly busy week.
2. Pro – Summer crowds can be more reasonable than they used to be
The above being said, taking a chance on a summer Disney vacation can go either way—crowds may not be “light” per se, but you may find more moderate crowds than you would during other school holidays.
The reason this has become possible is that people are spreading out their Disney vacations more than they used to. The Parks Pass Reservation system is playing an important role ensuring that the parks aren’t being packed to “shut-the-gates-at-lunchtime” capacity anymore, and people aren’t all packing in at the same times of year. You could theoretically keep an eye on Parks Pass Reservation demand and use that information to try to land your trip on a quieter time of the summer. Avoiding holidays is a good practice that could help your cause.
Once again, there are some risks to planning your Disney vacation in the summertime simply because kids are out of school, but savvy trip planners can take a number of steps to ensure the best chances for a successful summer trip.
3. Con – That Florida HEAT!
Florida has a very special way of making summer feel positively soul-draining. As I write this article, I am currently nursing a surprise sunburn that feels rather like someone tried to cook bacon on my legs—a mistake made on a day when I underestimated the “sun” part of the Sunshine State. I’ve lived in deserts and in the Rockies, but I’ve yet to encounter anywhere where the heat is quite as jarring as Florida, particularly in Orlando.
The main thing that makes Florida’s summer heat so brutal is the humidity. At first glance, one may assume Florida’s weather isn’t as intense as other parts of the country if you just look at temperatures. The problem is that in Florida, the thing you want to watch is something called the heat index—how hot the day is going to feel due to the combination of humidity, UV rays, winds, and overall temperature. A Disney day with a high heat index is likely to feel like a tour of the inside of the Mad Hatter’s tea kettle.
There’s only so much you can do about Florida’s intense heat. Staying hydrated is essential, but other steps you can take include wearing lightweight, loose clothing, taking electrolyte tabs, or carrying a mini-fan. Despite these efforts, hacks will only take you so far on a really intense day. Your only choice may be to slow down, move from one air conditioned location to another, and pace yourself. If hot days make you miserable, you may want to strongly consider visiting Walt Disney World at a cooler time of year.
But, surely summer is best for ensuring access to attractions and activities...
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