When you choose to visit Orlando can affect the cost and quality of your vacation. During seasonal periods when visitation is high, costs for travel rise, the competition for hotel rooms and dinner reservations heats up, and the crowds and lines at theme parks grow long.
Weather is another important consideration, as there are certain times of the year when Orlando's subtropical climate can make your trip less enjoyable. Orlando is a year-round destination, but the number of visitors varies seasonally depending on school vacation schedules, local events and festivals, and the weather. Also, the number of business travelers in town for meetings can affect the availability and cost of airfare and hotel rooms.
- high season: March to April, mid-June to mid-August, mid-December to early January
- low season: May, September, November to early December, January
- shoulder season: February, late May to mid-June, mid-August to August, October
In subtropical Orlando, average temperatures range from a low of 48 degrees in January to a high of 92 degrees in July and August. Year-round, rain showers are common but usually brief. The months of June through September are hot and steamy, with sudden, heavy thunderstorms occurring almost every afternoon. Bring light, moisture-wicking clothing and a raincoat or poncho for travel during these months. Other months are milder and drier, so pack layers, particularly for trips during November through April. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and an umbrella are musts for any trip.
If you're planning to come in the late summer or early fall, be aware that there's a chance you may encounter a hurricane or tropical storm. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, the Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, with maximum activity occurring in September. After going years without experiencing much hurricane activity, Orlando was hit hard in 2004, with hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne causing park closures.
The theme parks swarm with visitors whenever kids are out of school: Spring break in March and April tends to be busiest, followed by the weeks around Christmas and New Year's, and then Memorial Day to Labor Day (peaking in July). You'll also see bigger crowds on weekends and other holidays when day-tripping Floridians pack the parks, and during special events such as the Walt Disney World marathon or Mardi Gras at Universal. At Disney, individual parks may be crowded on days when Disney resort guests get early admission.
Orlando doesn't slow down much—you can still visit water parks in January when it's 50 degrees out or spend Christmas Day with Mickey at the Magic Kingdom. However, during slower periods, theme park hours of operation are reduced; and in the winter, Disney closes one of its two water parks on a rotating basis for cleaning. Also, rides are more likely to be closed for maintenance when visitation is down.
When to Save
Seasonal hotel savings are fairly straightforward—you'll pay less when fewer visitors are in town. Overall, the most expensive time to stay is during Christmas week, followed by spring break. Expect high rates for stays over most other holidays and major local events as well. Rates at hotels that cater primarily to business travelers may be lower during the summer when convention bookings are lighter.
September sees the fewest tourists and lowest rates, but with hurricane season at its peak, other slow months such as January, May, and November (excluding major holidays) may be safer bets.
Prices for attractions and dining are fairly static throughout the year.
When to Book
There is no magic answer to the "when to book" question, but generally, you're more apt to get a better deal and have your pick of airline seats and hotel rooms if you book at least a month in advance, and even farther ahead for peak-season travel. You can still book at the last minute, but your options may be limited and you may have to pay more than you'd like, especially during peak season.
One area that does require plenty of forward thinking is dining reservations at Disney's popular restaurants and shows—some of the high-end experiences are booked solid months in advance. For information on when to book, or to make a reservation, call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).
Information provided by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc..