The best time to go, of course, is when heat, crowds, and prices are at their lowest, but these stars rarely align. If you don’t have school-age kids, consider going when everyone else is in school. Personally, if I have the choice between missing a few days of school and experiencing calmer crowds and better weather, we’re missing school — but not everyone feels that way — which is why it’s good to go when everyone else is in school!

Gone are the days of predictably low crowd levels during less popular months. Disney has become increasingly popular year round, with factors such as Latin American travelers during winter, special events that draw Florida locals, and even Cheer and Dance competitions that flood the ESPN center and spillover to the parks.

As Disney invests in innovative ways to equalize crowds — with MagicBands, FastPass+, and even huge park expansions — you should expect feeling a bit like a fish swimming in a fairly dense school of fellow fish. This is why a park touring strategy is essential to planning your perfect Disney vacation.

Factors to consider when planning your trip include:

Crowds — the busiest days are during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and popular spring break weeks.

Special events — be aware of seasonal events that you may either want to enjoy (because they are super fun) or avoid (because they are crowded). Star Wars days, International Food & Wine Festival, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are a few examples.

Special promotions — can offer up to 30% savings off resorts or even free dining. Several are offered throughout the year.

Weather — winter months are the most temperate but parks close earlier, and crowds are not as low as you’d hope. Summer heat can be brutal but if you don’t mind rain ponchos, spontaneous thunder showers (and don’t have small kids), then early mornings and evenings can be good times to go, if you can’t miss school during the year.