Visiting Disney World in January is a great time of year for those who want to avoid crowds as much as possible. Other than the first few days of the month following New Year’s Eve and the marathon weekend, there are relatively less people than usual.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be any long lines and big crowds, but the crowds are more manageable during most of the month.
But there are a few things to be leery of when vacationing in January. So let’s begin the discussion by talking about the weather that you can expect.
Before you pack tank tops and shorts, check the weather! It might be hard to believe that the weather in central Florida gets cold, but trust me, it can. The month might have some days in the 70s, but other days could be below freezing.
It’s rare for the weather to get extremely cold, but it does happen. The beginning of the week could begin with sunny skies and warm temperatures, and the end of the week could end with cold breezes and clouds. Just be prepared and pack a variety of clothes.
This cold weather could have a negative effect on your vacation. If you’re planning on spending some time at the pool or water parks, you should probably choose another month to visit. Some days might be warm enough to swim, but it won’t be guaranteed every day during January.
This time of year is perfect for families wanting to spend all their time in the theme parks rather than the resort pool, beaches or water parks. With small crowds and colder temperatures, you can take advantage of walking around the parks without the sweat and hassle of maneuvering around crowds of people fighting for air conditioning.
Days to Avoid
There are some days during January that you’ll absolutely want to avoid if you’re expecting less crowds. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are some of the busiest days at Disney World all year. The busy crowds from these holidays last for the entire first week of January, so try to visit after the first few days of the year. If you are traveling with children, you’ll probably have to take them out of school to take advantage of these less busy days.
Every year, Disney hosts a marathon weekend in January. These races last throughout the weekend, so you can expect an increase of people visiting the parks. The crowds are still relatively small and nothing unmanageable. If you decide you don’t want to risk this increase of visitors, check online for the dates of the event. Another option is to make marathon weekend your arrival or departure day of the vacation.
There are several important events that occur at ESPN Wide World of Sports. These events cause an unavoidable increase in park visitors. However, some groups are more likely to add a more noticeable difference in park population than others. If it’s a national or international competition, you will probably notice more visitors in the parks. There’s usually not a significant rise in crowds, but you can tell that teams will travel in large groups around the parks.
Go to the ESPN Wide World of Sports website to check on event dates. These competitions and events only last a few days, and you shouldn’t try to plan the entire trip around them. Just be prepared to see these groups during some weekends.
Overall, the first week of the month should be avoided. The second week has low to medium attendance. The last two weeks of January tend to have very low attendance. Weekends will be more crowded, but weekends in January are still manageable.
Some sites have crowd prediction calendars that you can view to get a better idea of attendance, but crowds can vary by day and vary by park. It’s difficult to guess exactly how many visitors will be in each park, so don’t be surprised if there are more people than you expected.
The amount of Disney World visitors is noticeably less during most of the month of January. This seems too good to be true, and it kind of is. Because this month is considered somewhat of an “off-season,” Disney takes advantage of the small number of visitors to work on refurbishments.
This means certain rides, restaurants or shows could be temporarily closed during the time of your visit. Because of this, it might not be the best time for first-time visitors wanting the full Disney experience.
Do some research to find possible Disney World ride closures and refurbishments before you book your vacation. If it seems like all the rides you were looking forward to the most are going to be closed, wait a few months to visit.
Most refurbishments last about a month or two, but some can last a year or more! It’s pretty much inevitable that a few locations will be closed, but there’s still so much that Disney has to offer. Depending on what rides you are most excited for, you shouldn’t let a handful of closings determine your entire trip. Just be prepared for some locations to be closed for repair or alteration.
Another disadvantage of visiting during this month is the lack of special events. Other than a New Year’s celebration, Disney doesn’t offer any special events for holidays during this month. Other times of the year, you can buy a special ticket to events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These events mean longer hours, special shows and other unique park experiences. Don’t expect any fun events like that during January. It’s simply regular park hours with a few Extra Magic Hours offered to those staying in a Disney resort.
A great benefit of visiting in January is the short wait times. Less visitors means less waiting. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any crowds at all, but wait times are much more reasonable. Of course, the newest and most popular rides will have longer lines. This is unavoidable, but your family won’t have to spend precious hours of the vacation standing in lines for every single ride.
It’s important to know which rides will have the longest lines. Any rides that are new will have extremely long lines, even in January. Some guests like to arrive at the park before it opens in hopes of being in the front of a long line.
For example, Flight of Passage in Disney’s Animal Kingdom can have a line that lasts for hours. People will literally run to the attraction to stand in line. You could join the huge crowd of running people OR you could take advantage of the short lines at the rest of the attractions in the park.
If you get to a park when it opens, you can ride the attractions while most of the visitors wait in the line for the most popular ride. If you’re lucky, you could do a handful of rides in the same time you’d be waiting for one. Then, you can ride the busiest ride at the end of the day. The line will probably still be long, but it will be much shorter than it was when the park opened. This is a great strategy for first-time visitors who want to cram as many attractions and shows in one day as possible.
Here are some basic tips for spending less time in line:
- Make your FastPass+ selections as early as possible.
- Check the My Disney Experience app to see updated wait times throughout the day.
- Skip the popular nightly shows to go to attractions instead when the lines will be much shorter or even empty.
- Visit quick-service restaurants in-between regular meal times.
- Plan a basic route through the parks to avoid wandering and getting lost.
During the busiest days, it’s very frustrating to walk through crowds at Disney World. Just walking on the sidewalk can be difficult when you have to fight through flocks of tourists. If you’re wanting to visit with a large group or family, January is the perfect month to visit. There will still be crowds during shows or parades but walking as a group on the sidewalk can be possible. You hopefully won’t have to hold on to a family member’s shirt or backpack just to keep along.
Some areas in the parks can have heavy foot traffic, and it can become very difficult to move wheelchairs and strollers through fast-moving crowds. Crowds are often crammed and moved along like cattle. There can still be times when pushing a wheelchair or stroller through the crowd can seem like an Olympic sport, but it’s much less common in January.
When to Arrive
No matter what month you decide to book your vacation, weekends in the parks will be busier than weekdays. January weekends will be relatively less busy than any weekends during peak visiting times, but the parks will still be busy. If you are planning a short Disney vacation, the best idea would be to schedule your park days in the middle of the week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are usually the least busy days.
Mondays and Fridays tend to be a bit busier than the middle of the week, but not by too much. Weekends in January will be obviously busier than the weekdays. However, weekends can be such a convenient time to visit for busy families that you shouldn’t totally rule it out. The crowds are still manageable enough.
If you are wanting to keep weekend park visits entirely out of the plan, the best way to do so is making the weekend your arrival or departure time. You can get settled in to your resort during the weekend to make any last second reservations or a good night’s sleep.
If you check in to the resort during a weekend, there are several other places to explore before heading to the parks. You can stick to the Disney experience by shopping at Disney Springs, going resort hopping or eating at a Disney restaurant outside of the parks.
When you decide how many days you want your Disney vacation to be, figure out the parks you want to visit. You should know roughly how much time you want to spend at each theme park. There can be any combination of days and parks. Maybe you want to spend a day at Magic Kingdom and use a 2-day park hopper ticket to split between Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
Maybe you want to visit each park for an entire day. Whatever your plan is, research the parks and decide which ones have the most “must-dos” for you. You’ll want to reserve the park or parks with more “must-dos” on the list for the days with the least amount of people to have the least amount of wait time in lines.
After figuring out how much you want to do in each park, decide which days you want to spend at each specific one. If your vacation is a Sunday through Wednesday for example, visit the park with the least amount of “must-dos” on Sunday and save Wednesday for the park you want to spend the most time at. You can also plan around what parks have Extra Magic Hours during your trip if you’re staying at a Disney resort. This can add some time to your day.
Since this is considered the off-season for Disney, some days in January could be the cheapest time to go to Disney World. Ticket prices are subject to change, but most days in January can be around $20 cheaper per day than during the busiest days of the year.
These prices can change based on number of days and which days you plan to visit. Disney ticket prices are expensive no matter what time you visit, but if you have a large family or group the cheaper prices in January can help save some on the budget.
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