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NYC School Holidays: Fall and Winter Disney World Recommendations

The bright flowers and palm trees at Walt Disney World are a welcome sight once NYC's winter has set in.
The bright flowers and palm trees at Walt Disney World are a welcome sight once NYC's winter has set in.
Natalie Keller Reinert

Planning a Disney World vacation during the school holidays? New York City's 2014-2015 public school calendar is up, so it's time to take a look at those dates and start planning. Let's take a look at Fall and Winter dates -- it's never too early to plan a getaway from the frosty days to come. Here are my NYC School Holiday Fall and Winter Disney World Recommendations:

Thursday, September 4, 2014 is the first day of school in New York City public schools. Last year, kids went back to school a little later, giving us an extra week in September to take advantage of low crowds. This year, Rosh Hashanah falls much later in the month, bringing kids in early.

September 25-26, 2014, Thursday and Friday, are school holidays this year, so a long weekend is still a possibility. Crowd prediction calendars do project a bump from the slow September season on this weekend, but since Rosh Hashanah is not a school holiday in most of the United States, this could still be a great choice for a Disney getaway. This weekend will also see two Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties (Friday and Sunday nights) which will close the Magic Kingdom at 7 PM to guests without special-event tickets. Over at Epcot, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will be in full swing, which bumps up attendance on weekends.

September Recommendation: Visit the weekend before school begins for lessening August crowds (Southern schools will already have started) or leave Wednesday night for a Thursday-Sunday holiday weekend. Be prepared for summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms, and note that this is still hurricane season.

Columbus Day: Monday, October 13th, 2014 marks the second long weekend opportunity of the year. Columbus Day Weekend crowds have been growing in recent years, thanks in part to some states that have week-long school holidays over this period. But the majority of school districts only offer Monday (NYC included) which means that if you can swing a few extra days, you can enjoy the parks with cooler October temperatures. Friday, October 10 and Monday, October 14 will offer Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will still be going strong.

October Recommendation: Take along the costumes and join in the Not So Scary fun. Columbus Day is semi-busy, but it's also a beautiful time of year to visit Florida. Afternoon thunderstorms are not so numerous and the temperatures are easing up, but keep in mind that this is still hurricane season.

Thanksgiving Recess is November 27th and 28th. Every year, people say "I'll bet no one goes to Disney World on Thanksgiving!" and every year, these people are disappointed. Thanksgiving week is very busy at WDW, although not as busy as Christmas.

November Recommendation: If you must travel over Thanksgiving, try to make it the weekend after the holiday. Crowds lighten and hotel room discounts can still be found. Be prepared for temperatures ranging from the 40s to the 90s -- pack a little of everything!

Winter Recess is December 24th to January 2nd, falling on Wednesday through the following Friday. Christmas week is extremely busy at Disney World, with early morning openings, late night closings, and as many as four parades a day at the Magic Kingdom.

Holiday Recommendation: The last weekend of the break, from January 2-5, could be an excellent opportunity to visit Walt Disney World after the Christmas rush. New Year's Day is usually the first slow day after the holiday crush, with the rest of January tapering down to some of the lightest crowds of the year. Weather is typically moderately warm and sunny, but a cold front could bring severe weather and a day or two of rain, plus plunging temperatures.

Remember that anytime you plan a trip to Disney World during school holidays, you are not going to be alone--these are the busiest times of year. Planning your days is a must--keep in mind that dining reservations at table-service restaurants open up at 180 days before travel, and FastPass+ selections, which allow you to beat the regular line at popular attractions, open at 60 days before travel for Disney Resort hotel guests and 30 days for off-site guests with tickets. Be sure to consult a Disney travel planner if you're not sure how it all works, and they'll help you have a seamless, worry-free vacation.

Even if you don't plan, though, most effective thing you can do on a Disney vacation is get up early. Consult the park hours and arrive about 20-30 minutes before park opening. You'll see more of the park and do less waiting in the first few hours of the park's operating hours than the majority of guests, who won't arrive until after ten or eleven A.M. It's a great way to tour the parks and see it all, even during busy school holidays.

Further Reading: NYC School 2014-2015 School Year Calendar (PDF)

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