As prices increase, you might want to know when are the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World? This answers that, with seasons, weeks & dates in 2023 that have lower prices and crowds than the most expensive & busiest travel holidays. (Updated January 6, 2023.)
Note that “cheapest” is a relative term and not an absolute one. Walt Disney World is an undeniably expensive vacation destination, and the least expensive dates are still priced on par with traveling to Europe, Asia, or many tropical locales. Compounding that is the reality that total trip prices to Walt Disney World are up by thousands of dollars in the last couple of years–and had risen by around 5% per year in the decade before that.
Park tickets, hotels, restaurants, and more at Walt Disney World have all increased dramatically of late. While not totally unprecedented, menu and ticket prices increased multiple times last year. First in February, and then again in phases between last October and December 8. In total, Walt Disney World raised those costs by around 15-20% last year. On a positive note, resort rates went up by less than the historical average, with higher rack rates by about 3-4% on average.
However, that doesn’t take into account other costs, like transportation (airfare, rental cars, rideshare, etc.) or added expenses, like going from the free Disney’s Magical Express to paid airport transportation. It also doesn’t factor in the shift from free FastPass to the flat-rate Genie+ to date-based pricing for the line-skipping service. What was once free jumped to $16 per day and now is almost double that on busier days.
We first took a look at this topic in How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost in 2023? That was rather eye-opening for many people planning trips for the first time or returning from a hiatus of a few years. The reader comments to that are equally illuminating, as many reported spending even more than our already high budget ranges on Walt Disney World vacations. Consider this post an indirect “sequel” to that–and one that aims to avoid overspending.
While this doesn’t help you cut costs or trim the fat from your vacation budget, it does aim to help you choose the most economical dates to visit! Similarly, our recent Top 13 Money Saving Tips for Walt Disney World in 2023 offers assistance with reducing your vacation budget by eliminating expenses that do not enhance your trip. In fact, some of that advice actually improves your trip–for example, doing breakfast in your room (saves money and time–plus food court breakfasts generally underwhelm unless you like powdered eggs).
This post is similar in that choosing cheaper dates will generally also improve your trip and can save you money. That’s because the dates with the highest prices are typically busiest, and vice-versa. As a general rule, higher prices do not deter people from visiting or “redistribute” attendance. Crowds are almost always a good proxy for prices–the lower the prices, the lower you can expect attendance to be. Double win!
That’s one of the general “rules” when it comes to the cheapest times to visit Walt Disney World, and there are a few more. Another is that prices go up every single year. These increases take many forms, and are staggered across the calendar. Typically, the cost of snacks, sodas, and other pre-packaged items increases in late January or February and potentially again in September or October. Tickets and parking follow a familiar pattern; the last several years, those have gone up in February.
Vacation packages and resort rates for the following year are usually released in mid-summer, and almost always show higher rates. Other things, such as souvenirs and regular restaurant menu prices go up at random without any real predictable patterns. (This happened many times last year!)
Consequently, it is almost always less expensive to visit sooner rather than later. If you’re debating between 2023 and 2024, there’s a strong chance this year will be cheaper. If you’re waiting for prices to drop, history is not on your side.
However, there can be exceptions even to that. For example, if you book your vacation early and lock-in pricing on tickets and hotels, it will likely be less expensive to travel some dates in January or February 2024 than in November or December 2023. Granted, vacation packages for 2024 have yet to be released and no discounts are available yet for any of the aforementioned dates, but prices typically decrease in the winter off-season as compared to the prior holiday season.
Another wildcard is discounting and the broader economy. This is something we’ve been discussing quite a bit, most recently in What Does Walt Disney World Do During A Recession? The odds aren’t in your favor that Disney will drop prices with all else being equal. However, the case could be made that, right now, all else is not equal.
To the contrary, Walt Disney World has had almost two years of pent-up demand, strong spending, constrained capacity, etc. We’re optimistic that the dynamic is already changing as of early 2023. Walt Disney World has already released more–and better–discounts for 2023 than last year by this same point (see All Current Walt Disney World Discounts). It thus seems increasingly likely that this past holiday season was the “last hurrah” for pent-up demand. As that starts to fizzle out, household savings decrease, inflation stings more, and the economy slows down, it seems increasingly likely that Walt Disney World will experience its own slowdown.
With regard to Walt Disney World, this could mean less demand and more supply–or normalizing operations. Nevertheless, it’s still entirely possible that inflation will continue to run hot for the rest of this year. That could continue to put price pressure on restaurant menus, souvenirs, and more.
Wage growth could accelerate as businesses are forced to pay more to attract hourly workers–rather than offering one-off hiring bonuses. On top of that, demand could remain strong at international travel resumes, business travel and conventions resume, group bookings for youth events jump, or marketing for TRON Lightcycle Run (which opens in Spring 2023) proves effective.
If most or even many of these scenarios play out, that could increase the likelihood of more price jumps. Resort rack rates are already set for the year, but ticket, food, parking, and add-on costs could spike in February 2023 (the month when Disney normally raises prices).
Your personal perspective about the direction of the economy will almost certainly dictate where you think Walt Disney World’s pricing is heading in the next couple of years. Although there are signs of a looming recession, there are also signs of a resilient economy and American households. This is not a blog about consumer sentiment, and since there’s not even consensus among economists about what will occur at some point later in 2023, that’s beyond the scope of this post.
Normally, the least expensive time to visit Walt Disney World would be the winter off-season in January and February. This basically encompasses these entire two months, with the exception of the very beginning of the year when schools are still on Christmas break plus the weeks around MLK Day and Presidents’ Day.
There’s a bit more nuance to it than that, but the general rule is that January and February are the cheapest months of the year, on average. There’s a little more nuance to it than that, as the fall has had better discounts (historically) and other variables that can move the needle on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, we could say January and February 2023 will mostly be the cheapest months of the year, with an asterisk to account for discounts in Fall 2023. (And in fact, some such deals have already been released through September 14, 2023!)
Again, it’s worth reiterating that rack rates for resorts–the most expensive component of most vacations–increase each calendar year. While it’s debatable whether February or September will be cheaper within 2023, it’s likely that both of those months will offer lower rates than their counterparts in 2024. Same goes for 2024 as compared to 2025. (Again, barring a recession in one of those years.)
In other words, the advice here should be applied to dates or months in the same year (with the aforementioned carve outs). Unless you’re “banking on” another recession or economic downturn, it’s a safe bet that the general trend line for Walt Disney World prices will continue its upward climb on an annualized basis.
Within each year, January and February are the cheapest months to visit. Specifically, January 8-12 and January 15 through mid-February 2023. Prices spike for the week of Presidents’ Day, falling again the next week–but not as low as those early-year off-season dates.
Following that, early March is generally another sweet spot, as is the end of the month. Spring Break, Mardi Gras, and Easter all bring with them significant spikes to both pricing and crowds.
Fast-forward past Easter, and that week (after the holiday) through the week before Memorial Day once again see lower prices. This is technically considered “regular” season, but it’s on par with some dates in mid-February and is the cheapest Walt Disney World will be until early August.
About a week before schools go back into session, prices decrease again. This occurs earlier on the hotel side of the equation than with park tickets, presumably because locals continue visiting after tourists stop traveling–and only the latter books hotel stays.
Starting the third Sunday of August, prices return to near their lowest levels of the year and stay there until mid-September (with the notable exception of Labor Day weekend). Costs do get higher from then until early October, but it’s by a nominal amount. Technically, these rates are higher than off-season dates in January and February. As noted above, that can be further exacerbated by intervening price increases on tickets, food, etc.
However, it can also be more than offset by discounts that tend to be offered in the fall offseason. Already, Walt Disney World Released a Summer & Fall 2023 Discount: ‘Free’ Dining Card Up to $150 Per Night. That discount begins in June 2023, with the best bonus and cheapest rates being in August and September 2023. These two months might leapfrog January and February for some families as a result.
Prices for October through early December tend to be a veritable roller coaster depending upon whether it’s a holiday week/end or not. Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving all see spikes–some fairly massive. Same goes for runDisney race weekends.
If it’s not one of those weeks or weekends, pricing is near its lowest levels of the year through the first week of December. That gradually escalates beginning the second week in December, culminating in the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Beginning December 16 and lasting until the end of the calendar year, holiday season kicks in and prices hit their highest levels of the entire year.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about next year, but we can say with almost complete confidence that the most expensive dates to visit Walt Disney World are December 15-31, 2023.
If you want more specificity in the least & most expensive dates to visit and the best & worst dates to visit, it can be useful to consult our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar. Look for the least busy dates, you’ll also generally find the cheapest dates.
If you want to comparison shop very specific dates, another great resource is the rate calendar for each resort on Disneyworld.com. Finding this isn’t easy, but we break down the steps with screenshots in 2023 Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Price Increases.
Even though prices vary considerably, every hotel follows more or less the same pattern. You can thus glean a lot just from scrolling through that calendar for Pop Century or Port Orleans Riverside.
Ultimately, that should answer some questions about when it’s cheapest to visit Walt Disney World…and perhaps raise even more. Basically, the least expensive dates on paper as of right now are mid-January through mid-February and mid-August through September, followed by late April to late May, then October through early December–all minus long holiday weekends and the full weeks leading up to major holidays.
Of course, that’s a wide range of dates and even potential pricing depending upon where things go from here. While I cannot offer any credible predictions about the economy, my general sentiment is essentially this can’t go on forever.
Against that backdrop and with that bias, if forced to choose dates to visit Walt Disney World in 2023–for a range of reasons both qualitative and quantitative–I would not pick the winter months.
I don’t think those months will be nearly as bad as they were this year, but they’re still too uncertain. My expectation is that things will slow down a bit by then, but there are several wildcards: international travel, snowbirds heading south, runDisney, youth sporting events, and more. I think there’s a decent chance winter is no longer the sleepy off-season it once was, and Disney has yet to fully adjust pricing to account for the new-normal of higher demand during those months.
Instead, I would look forward to September 2023. This is essentially a hedge, with the expectation that Walt Disney World operations will fully normalize by then as will real world circumstances beyond the berm.
It’s not necessarily that I think it’ll take that long, but rather, that things have already moved slower than anticipated with more disruptions than anticipated that erring on the side of waiting longer is pragmatic. Plus, September is reliably the best month for crowds and deals at Walt Disney World.
Personally, I’d actually go beyond September for my travel target and book the week after Thanksgiving. This is nothing new and actually has nothing to do with pricing–our Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World in 2023 has recommended that week for ages–that’s just our personal favorite for a mix of reasons related to pricing, crowds, weather, and the holiday season.
Late November and early December are “objectively inferior” to September, but the reality is that humans don’t take vacations in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. That’s the better week on balance. It typically offers superior weather (far lower likelihood of high heat & humidity…or hurricanes!), seasonal events, and more. It’ll be slightly more crowded and expensive, but that’s a worthwhile tradeoff in our view. Everything has a cost, whether in dollars or otherwise, and you could argue that the non-monetary costs of visiting in September are higher than in the lull between holidays.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think about this look at the cheapest times to visit Walt Disney World? Which would you pick in the January/February v. August/September dilemma? Think discounts will continue to improve throughout 2023 and put a reality-check on runaway prices? Have you noticed these increases in 2023 Walt Disney World vacation packages? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!