As I sit in my home office, banging away at my keyboard, the light coming in through the window is hurting my eyes. Because it’s bright white. All over. As in, everything outside is covered with snow. Waaa!!!
Also? I’ve been having dreams. Dreams about cold, creamy Dole Whip – the soft-serve pineapple miracle you can only find at select Disney Parks. Could it be because just one week ago, we were in sunny, warm and perfectly balmy Orlando, enjoying one of our best family vacations at Walt Disney World Resort?
Yeah, probably so.
As we arrived at the Contemporary Resort (our home away from home), I was surprised to find the hotel teeming with guests; you see, the wait times at the park suggested we were actually in “low season”.
“It’s the conferences,” a cast member said. “When the parks are empty, conference resorts are full.”
By why are the parks remarkably less busy in the months of January and February? All vacation planning websites point to February as being one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World due to the smaller crowds. And for Canadians, while the weather is *only* on the 20’s… it’s NOT in the -20’s, you feel me? So what gives?
It turns out that January and February are sandwiched between the Christmas holidays and March Break – two of Disney’s busiest stretches – and therefore, often overlooked in family vacation planning. And, because the beginning of the year is also considered “winter” in the sunshine state, many travellers opt for the intense heat of the Caribbean to ease their cold weather suffering.
But today, I want to show you why it’s the perfect time of year to experience Walt Disney World Resort. If you’re thinking of booking a last minute vacation or planning for next year, here’s what you need to know.
First, knowing that any vacation to Walt Disney World can be a sizable investment in time and money, let’s discuss the benefits of visiting over the winter.
1. Discounted Hotel Rates. Of course the very first point is that you can save money! The second week of January right through to the middle/end of February is considered value season at Walt Disney World. Staying at a resort hotel is attractive due to the cost savings – anywhere from 10-30% per family – and your choices for hotels and rooms are even greater if you plan ahead.
2. Off Peak Crowds. Who doesn’t want to visit their favourite theme parks without spending a huge portion of the day waiting in line? Walt Disney World parks in winter are frequently recorded as having the lowest park attendance of the year. In fact, if you are there for “rope drop” (the park opening) you can walk on most rides, or endure less than a 20 minute wait for virtually all attractions. (Even the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a 20 minute stand-by for the first hour! How’s that for time well spent?)
3. Perfect Weather for Theme Parks. Okay, it’s winter – even in Orlando – and it can get downright cold when the sun isn’t up. But I’ve been to Walt Disney World in the spring, summer and late fall, and let me tell you, walking around all day with a light jean jacket in 22°C weather is sooo much better than schlepping around the park when the thermometer reaches close to 40°C with humidity. You can get more done, the kids are happier, and heatstroke – a very real danger in Florida’s high summer temperatures – is rarely a concern.
4. A Healthier Vacation. When the weather is pleasant, you walk more. You spend less time downing calorie-laden soft drinks and frozen treats; you breathe deeper, you take fewer breaks. You can skip the bug repellent, and extra light layers provide extra protection from harmful UV rays. You’re less irritated and likely to have more patience in lineups. It’s easier to get tables in restaurants – even without reservations – so you eat more nutritious food as a family.
5. Darkness Comes Before Bedtime. One of the biggest struggles we have as parents of young ones is convincing them to go to sleep at night, especially while on vacation. In February, the sun sets at around 6:00pm. This ensures bed times are met – especially as the timing of the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular (Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show) is brought forward to 8:00pm. And if you stay at the Contemporary Resort with a theme park view, you can enjoy the show from the comfort of your room. Watching fireworks in your pjs? Now that’s magical.
6. Beating the January and February Blahs. It’s a real thing, yo – the technical term is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And if you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. There’s no better break from the every day than feeling the sun warm your face, while a thrill ride gets your heart pumping and laughter bubbling to your lips. And, popsicles! Popsicles in winter, friends.
Of course there are cons – if there weren’t, it wouldn’t be considered low season. But thankfully, I’ve only been able to identify two, as opposed to the wealth of pros discussed above.
1. Packing for Three Seasons. It can be winter-cold at night (as low as 6°C) and summer-warm during the day (we enjoyed temps of 24°C twice). Mid morning and late afternoon, you’ll probably experience spring-like conditions (a comfortable 18°C). This means that you’ll have to pack for three seasons – and one bit of advice: layers, layers, layers! And while the varying temperatures is not necessarily a huge hardship, it does mean that you’ll have to set aside extra room in your suitcase, and tote along extra clothing options to the park.
2. Closures and Refurbishments. If water parks are your thing, you’ll likely want to wait until after March 14th to visit. And, be prepared for some of your favourite rides to be closed for repairs; on our travels, only one such ride was closed (Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid), but if missing a ride will make or break your vacay, you may want to reconsider the timing of your trip. The good news? Walt Disney World makes their refurbishment schedule public to assist with your planning.
All in all, I will absolutely consider a Walt Disney World vacation at the same time next year – in fact, we’ve already started to plan! That, of course, is the very best thing about visiting Disney… dreaming of your next visit the moment you return!
(In the photo above, we told Reid it was our last day at Walt Disney World just moments before the photo was taken. Hence, #sadface.)
Questions about visiting Walt Disney World during the winter? Ask me in the comments!