22 May 2018

To All Who Come to This Happy Place

A question I get asked frequently is what time is the best time to visit Walt Disney World. While I can spout off that there isn’t really a great time anymore when there aren’t crowds, or that between the end of Marathon Weekend and Valentine’s Day tend to not be so bad, I more often than not use this to start a dialogue with the friend or family member who asked me. Everyone’s schedules are different. There are times of year than you just can’t get away, either due to work priorities, family commitments, or because there are kids that are in school. More importantly, however, this conversation always seems to come back around to one question where I find I can offer the most advice, “What is it that you’re looking for when you get to Walt Disney World?”

The variations of answers I’ve received from this question never cease to astound me and continually make me rethink how I look at the question. For some people it is cut and dry simple, they want to go when the crowds aren’t there or they want to avoid the heat at all costs (or be there when the heat is at its peak). More often, however, I find that there are nuances to what any person or family are actually looking to get out of their trip.

Dates tend to play a massive part in planning for a lot of people. Birthdays and anniversaries come in at the top of that list, but so too do holidays. Christmas, Halloween, Easter, or a national day of celebration (such as Bastille Day in France or Independence Day in Morocco) are all tops on that list. For some of us, like myself, that even extends to important dates in Disney history. I tend to like to be at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Earth Day, which is also the park’s anniversary. It helps that late April tends to be a bit quieter around the resort, but it is mostly because Animal Kingdom has captured my heart and I love celebrating with it.

Right alongside dates are decorations for some potential visitors. They want to see Christmas trees around every corner, a carol coming out of every speaker, and the smell of baked goods wafting from every bakery door. The patriotic bunting on Main Street, U.S.A. during the period surrounding the Fourth of July has been known to send hearts soaring, and the spookiness of Jack-o’-lanterns heightens the sensation of the Haunted Mansion or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror for some people. Some of these aesthetics that guests clamor for come from nostalgic memories of their childhood, both at and away from Walt Disney World, and it drives them to want to recapture that magic that exists only in memory for themselves, their families, and their friends. It speaks to them and drives them to want to visit at certain times of year, and they don’t even realize it until we start talking about it.

 Festival calendars also come into play. Between the holidays, Food & Wine, Flower & Garden, and the Festival of the Arts, Epcot has a lot going on during the year now. While there is a lot of bleed over between offerings, I’m looking at you food marketplaces, everyone has an opinion as to which is the best festival. Often times, the availability of one of these festivals will nudge someone towards a specific time of year. In my own preferences, the Flower & Garden Festival has always been a favorite of mine, and I tend to try and visit in the spring with the blooms are bursting right next to the fireworks.

Specific attractions tend to occupy a space in decision making as well. I’ve never seen someone not take a trip because an attraction is going to be closed for refurbishment, but I have witnessed the massaging of dates to try and visit just before or right after a favorite attraction is going to be refurbished. It also goes for the experience of the attraction. Splash Mountain is a classic example, as I know people who want the attraction water cannons and all, while there are those that love to visit when it’s a bit chillier and the attraction has turned the extra water spray off. Similarly, while there are water parks open all year long, there are dedicated fans of Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach and I have witnessed guests working to make sure their favorite water park is going to be open when they are there.

The last thing to talk about today is the weather. We’ve mentioned it throughout, but there are potential visitors who want all the sun they can handle while they are at Walt Disney World, and there are others who like a little chill in the air. There are also those who avoid the rainy season like the plague and also guests who stay away during hurricane season on the off chance a storm will disrupt their vacation. While weather is, by its very nature, fairly unpredictable, knowing what could be in store for some guests is like a warm blanket.

There are plenty of other little quirks that can help schedule or derail a planned time for visiting Walt Disney World. Each person, group, or family is different and they are going to be looking for different things in their trip experience. Being able to guide a conversation towards allowing the most number of positives to influence a trip is one of the things I love best about getting asked the question of when is the best time to visit. But what about you, what are you looking for the most when you start to plan a trip?

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