Off Peak Travel: Why it is Worth it to Go During Low Periods
I am not a person who enjoys crowds. My friend and I once spent the day in New York City tracking down the building that was used in the opening shot of the show “Friends” (another obsession of mine) and somehow we ended up near the Rockefeller tree. If you have never been to see the tree, let me tell you that the crowds are insane! It was awful and all I wanted to do was get away from the huge crowd of people who were pushing their way past us to get to the tree. It was a mess, I just don’t like being in a huge crowd like that. People will inevitably start to shove and push their way to where they want to go, then you end up pushing and shoving back, and it just doesn’t make for a happy time. Luckily we found the building we were looking for before all the pushing and shoving.
Okay, sorry, back on track. Sometimes “Friends” can make me get as sidetracked as Disney. My point with all of that is…I don’t like crowds. So, when we make Disney plans, the crowd levels are what help us decide when to go. Our last trip was in January 2014 around marathon time. We had two friends running the Goofy, so we got there the Thursday before the races and stayed until the following Friday. The crowd levels were definitely low after the races. We didn’t do any parks the weekend of the races, because (1.) our friends were wiped after running a half and full marathon back-to-back and (2.) weekends tend to be a little busier.
The first thing I will do is buy The Unofficial Guide to Disney World. They have crowd calendars and use research and statistics to write these books every year. I have found them to be pretty reliable. No one can be 100% right when you are trying to predict something, but if it is close then that’s good. When we went in January the crowds were predicted to be low and they were low, so our group was pretty happy.
During low crowd times your chances of a room upgrade may increase as well. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some people get upgrades and others don’t. I would assume it depends on how many extra rooms are available, the mood of the cast member, and the attitude of the guest. It just makes sense that your chances would increase during an off peak time, because there will be more empty rooms than during busier times. People have been upgraded to presidential suites at Disney. That’s some serious pixie dust!
The biggest bonus for me is just the low crowds. Even if nothing else comes from the low crowds (no shorter lines, no walk-ups to restaurants, and no upgrades) I am still happy about the low crowds. This means you don’t have to fight your way through the crowds in the parks and you don’t feel like you are going to get run over if you are not walking as fast as the person behind you. Plus, if you go to the food court or cafeteria in your hotel, the crowds will be less there and it will be easier to find a table. If you need a wheelchair, scooter, or stroller, the low crowd times make it so much easier to maneuver around the parks. Not having to worry about being in huge crowd of people is a major bonus for me.
Low crowd levels will also make it easier for you to get Fastpasses, because the lines at the kiosks won’t be as long. Some rides will have long waits no mater what time of year (e.g. Soarin’, Peter Pan’s Flight, Toy Story Midway Mania!), so it is good to know that you actually have a chance to get a Fastpass for these rides.
Even if you go during an off peak time, you can still enjoy some of the extras that are associated with busier times. For instance, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) started on September 1 this year and the Food and Wine Festival started on September 19. So if you planned your trip right when the Food and Wine Festival began, the crowds will probably be lower than once you get farther into October closer to November, and you will still be able to experience both MNSSHP and Food and Wine Festival. Though I did hear that this year the crowds were much busier than usual, they are still lower than the crowds will be later this month and into December. It is possible to enjoy some of the special events Disney offers without having to go during the busy times.
When you go during an off peak time you will have to expect that there will be some rides and attractions down for refurbishment. When we went in January, my favorite ride (Splash Mountain) was down the whole time we were there. I checked a refurbishment list before we left for the trip, that way I wouldn’t be disappointed by any surprises when we got there. The water parks will close down (one at a time) for a couple of months at a time during the winter for refurbishment. So if you go in the winter, expect one of the water parks to be out of commission. Definitely check the refurbishment schedule before you leave for your trip, because at least you will have a warning if a favorite ride won’t be open when you are there.