My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disneyland expert! He’s been there many times and plumbed the park for all kinds of fun experiences. He’s written a number of posts for the site over the past month (see my Disney page for all of them), and he’s back at it today with a new post for you! So, Disney fans, here’s Mike:
Disney does a great job of making us all dream about our next great family vacation. But as dreaming becomes planning, the first big question is “when to go?”. As a travel agent who specializes in Disney, I get this question a lot. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear cut answer. If you just throw out the time when hotels will be at their lowest price, you will probably find at least one or two reasons those exact dates don’t work. For others, cost isn’t the only factor when they consider “best” time of year.
The best way to discuss when to go is probably to present the most common scenarios when pick optimal time of year.
Best Time to visit without skipping school
For many folks, their biggest consideration is school breaks. Some families do not feel pulling kids from school to go to Disneyland is being very responsible. A point I can appreciate, though don’t abide by personally. However, this is a major consideration for many who travel. With that, best time of year for those families can be difficult. When school is out, crowds are high. And when crowds are high, discounts are few and far between.
With that in mind, I’d pick the very last week of August, as close to the start of school that you can do. Most people use the few days before school to finish preparing supplies, last minute clothes shopping and getting kids back on to school focused sleep schedules. Thus crowds go down at the parks. And the rates you can get for hotels is lower than any other summer time, spring or mid-winter breaks. The biggest downside of this time is you’re in Southern California in August. Which of course means warm temperatures. If you’re wondering how hot, to quote one of greatest modern day poets, “you might as well be walking on the sun.” Also some of the rides will already be going down for any Halloween makeovers that might be coming up (we’re looking at you Haunted Mansion).
Best Time to Visit to Save Money
We all are looking to save a buck (or a few hundred, whatever). Predictably, the cheapest times of year will always be when the kids are in school. The problem is, Disney has repeatedly filled those times of years with special events.
September and October used to be considered value time, but the Halloween offerings have become wildly popular (and for good reason). Other slower times have gotten busier thanks to Run Disney races. Even more recently, California Adventure has brought back its version of the Food & Wine festival that was received with much fan fare.
With that in mind, the lowest priced time of the year for the resorts are the last week of January and first week of February. This also should be the lowest crowds of the year as well. The downside will be many attractions will be down for refurbishment. This usually includes any attractions that involve water and even possibly rides that need to have their holiday decor taken down. Park hours will be probably also be at their lowest as well.
But who cares if you can’t get a ride on Splash Mountain and the park closes at 9. While others are suffering with gloomy winter weather, you will be enjoying a Dole Whip and thinking of all the money you just saved….. until you find that new Haunted Mansion Dooney and Bourke bag. Curse you amazing merchandise!
Best Time to visit for Holidays
The holiday season is an extremely popular time to come to Disneyland. Of course, Christmas and New Years Eve specifically are extremely crowded in the parks. Though for some visitors, dealing with the exorbitant crowds is worth how special the parks look with their holiday decorations. But most are surprised to find out that Thanksgiving weekend can be shockingly crowded as well.
Still the draw of handmade candy canes, holiday lights, special parades & fireworks and the miracle of snow in Anaheim is quite the reason to plan a visit to Disneyland. The best prices and crowds will be found the first two weeks of December. But it’s not only the winter holidays, Disneyland puts a pretty great display for fall/Halloween time. This effectively makes the “holiday season” from mid-September to the beginning of January.
It isn’t just the cool fall colors that adorn the Halloween season which makes September and October hugely popular for guests. Disneyland offers holiday overlays on some of their most beloved attractions, a variety of the best specialty treats and exclusive Halloween parties.
So when is the best time to enjoy all that is offered in the autumn? Crowds seem to flock to the start and ending of the fall time festivities. If you would like to save money and find the lightest crowds, plan your vacation for the first two weeks of October.
Best Time to visit for “Foodies”
Many already love the food options that are available at Disneyland. One of the nice things about the resort, is they have several great options for every type of palate and budget. Not only that, but they make fairly frequent updates to the menus throughout the year.
For those, like myself, who are excited to taste new things and savor classic dishes, places like Napa Rose, Cafe Orleans and Carthay Circle are year round amazing options. However, there are several different limited run events that can bring with them some specialty foods. Halloween ends up having many great dishes throughout both parks, as does Christmas.
But when it comes to food, the big winner will be the Food & Wine Festival newly returned to Disney California Adventure. Featuring samplings of fresh culinary creations using the best the West Coast has to offer, it is a food lovers’ not-to-miss event. Not only that, but Spring is a perfect time weather wise to see Southern California. With the assumption that it returns at the same time, the month of April, as it was held last year, finding the best week can be difficult. You don’t want to run into Spring Breakers, so your best bet might be the third full week of April. This will also allow enough time to read what items are must-do’s. Bonus will be the later in April you come, the more attractions will be off refurb as Disneyland gears up for the busy summer months.
Best Time to Visit for those “Adding On”
Disneyland is a great standalone vacation. But there are many who make Disneyland just one part of a bigger vacation. Some of the most common combos are doing Disneyland prior to visiting Aulani Resort and Spa on Oahu or before a west coast Disney Cruise. Others want to visit both Disneyland and Universal Hollywood. So when is the best time to combine Disneyland with another vacation option?
There is a common held myth that there is a bad time to visit Hawaii. Even a rainy day in Hawaii is a better day than most places. But having said that, rain is more common in the winter months. So if you wanted to get low crowds at Disney, and the lowest chances for rain on Oahu while you visit Disney’s Aulani resort, you should consider late April and early May. For many, stopping at Disneyland for a couple days is a great way to break up the flight to Hawaii. And there’s nothing like some fine relaxation after a busy trip to the parks.
If you’re starting your Disney Cruise Line vacation by visiting Walt’s original park, your times of year are limited. Most west coast cruises leaving out of Southern California are in the fall. So assuming you just want to get the best prices on both your cruise and your Disneyland vacation, I’d recommend the second week of September. Halloween time hasn’t yet started, so crowds will be low at the park. Then you can get yourself down to San Diego and take a nice 5-Night cruise seeing ports in Mexico on the luxurious Disney Cruise ship.
Lastly, for those visiting Universal Hollywood, you’re probably excited to see the new Harry Potter attractions.
But the other big draw at Universal are their amazing Halloween Horror Nights. This hard ticketed separate event takes some of the best of the best when it comes to scary and throws you in the mix. Their mazes can change every year, but who doesn’t want to be chased by zombies from the Walking Dead or dropped in the middle of an American Horror Story? If seeing the “Boy-Who-Lived” and then later screaming at the top of your lungs sounds like a good time, then the best time of year will be to visit in mid-October to hit both Disneyland and Universal Hollywood.
So how about you? When is your favorite time to visit Disneyland? Need help? Shoot me an email and I’ll help you plan and book your next Disneyland vacation!
For more tips on saving money in Disneyland, please see our Disney page.
Mike Rinehart is an independent travel agent affiliated with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MikesTravelThoughts/ View more of this travel thoughts at mike-rinehart-e3x2.squarespace.com Or request your free no obligation quote on your next Disneyland, Disney World, Aulani, Disney Cruise (and any other cruise line) vacation by emailing him at Mike.Rinehart@mei-travel.com. Mention “The Coupon Project” and receive a free gift with your completed booking.