Ask a Disney Question: Which week in December is best?

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Ask a Disney Question: Which week in December is best?

This question comes from Joan, who asks:   

I am undecided on which week to visit this December. We are currently booked for Dec 5-11 because I am hoping that week will be less crowded (no free food).  They are offering free food beginning Dec 10 but not the week we chose.  What do you think?

Joan, thanks for your question.  I see this question a lot.  Traditionally, early December was one of the slowest times of the year. Unfortunately that’s changed with all the promotions and events that take place (not to mention the amazing weather most of the time), and while you won’t find huge crowds, you won’t walk onto every attraction either.  The biggest difference between the two weeks, and the thing that seems to make people question their choices, is free dining and Pop Warner.   Pop Warner is national football and cheerleading competition for kids that runs from December 4th through the 11th.  Most of the 16,000 participants and their families and coaches will stay on Disney property.  Free dining is not offered during this week.

As far as crowd levels in the parks are concerned, the first and second weeks are almost identical.  This might be a surprise given that Pop Warner is in town, but the kids rarely come into the parks during the day so they don’t really have a big impact on crowds. I’ve been during Pop Warner weeks and haven’t even noticed them.   You may however notice a difference in attendence levels at the  Christmas parties held in the Magic Kingdom during that week.  They haven’t announced it yet, but I believe this year that December 7th is the night Pop Warner families will be given a discount for the party, so keep that in mind.  It usually means a sold out event.  If you want a really detailed picture of crowd levels, check out the Touring Plans’ crowd calendar.  You have to subscribe, but they’ll give you a  projection of the crowd levels for that month based on years of data.  It’s well worth the $10.  Send me an email if you’d like to know what else the subscription gives you or just check out the site.  It’s very user-friendly.

Free dining gets people into the resort, but it doesn’t make the crowds in the parks bad because this is traditionally a slow week otherwise.  What it does is fill up the restaurants, so if you don’t already have advanced dining reservations, you may find them hard to come by, as most people will have made their reservations at the 180-day mark. The inability to get a reservation can give you the perception that the parks are very crowded when they aren’t.  

One thing to consider is where you’re staying this week.  The Pop Warner kids will be staying at the All Stars and at Port Orleans (at this point, word is both Riverside and French Quarter, although that may change).  Overflow guests can end up at Coronado Springs and the Caribbean Beach Resort.  They rarely stay at the deluxe resorts or at Disney Vacation Club properties.  While the kids are generally just being kids, you should know that many guests have found that they keep odd hours and can be loud, so you may want to avoid these resorts during Pop Warner. 

Finally, one of the most important considerations is what kind of discount you can get either of those weeks. Free dining is usually a good bet if you usually stay at a value and travel with a party of three or four. If you stay at a deluxe resort, go for the best room discount you can get.  Moderates will take a little numbers crunching to determine which is the better deal.

Overall, you should be happy with the crowds either week. Just keep in mind where the Pop Warner kids are staying and possible discounts.  Let us know what you choose and how it works out.  Take care.

Got a Disney question?  We have answers. Write us at Chip and Co. We answer every question.

Chris writes here and at Everything Walt Disney World.


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One thought on “Ask a Disney Question: Which week in December is best?

  1. Thanks so much for this!!! I am going the first full week in Dec and was very worried about the Pop Warner, and also wondering if I had made a mistake in weeks. I’m glad to hear that they should be about the same. Great post, thank you!!!!

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